ANIMATION SPIN
February 17, 2015 posted by

Terrytoons on Records

Two vintage RCA albums span nearly 30 years of Terrytoon shorts, capturing the transition of the studio from a traditional to modern approach.

TV Terrytoons Cartoon Time 500

TV TERRYTOON CARTOON TIME
A Junior Original Cast Album
The Terrytoons Players with Tom Morrison and Roy Halee
RCA Bluebird Children’s Records LBY-1031 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono / 1959)
LP Reissue: RCA Camden CAL-1031 (1960); Also released on 45 RPM singles
Download Reissue on amazon.com (2014)

Story Adaptation: Tom Morrison. Musical Score: Phil Scheib. Musical Direction: Bill Simon. Sound Effects: Ralph Curtis. Running Time: 36 minutes.

Stories:
Farmer Al Falfa in “The Mechanical Cow” (Based on the 1937 Cartoon)
Heckle and Jeckle in “Cat Trouble” (Based on the 1947 Cartoon)
Gandy Goose and Sourpuss in “Dream Walking” (Based on the 1950 Cartoon)
Dinky Duck in “Flat Foot Fledgling” (Based on the 1952 Cartoon)
The Terry Bears in “Nice Doggy” (Based on the 1952 Cartoon)
Little Roquefort in “Mouse Meets Bird” (Based on the 1953 Cartoon)

By the very late ‘50s/early ‘60s, the major record companies continued to release children’s records primarily on their budget labels. Columbia had Harmony, Decca had Vocalion and RCA had Camden.

RCA transitioned their Bluebird kids’ product into Camden just as “TV Terrytoons Cartoon Time” was released, so it was available for a time on both labels. It might come as a surprise to Terrytoons fans that Sony Legacy—which houses both the Columbia and RCA libraries—reissued it as an amazon.com download. Maybe if sales are good, they’ll trot out things like “Roger Ramjet” (mono, please!) and “Hector Heathcote” as mp3’s too.

Farmer Al Falfa 45 RPMAs per usual with cartoon records, they don’t always deliver the genuine articles. In the case of “TV Terrytoons Cartoon Time,” it’s about 50/50. The six stories are not soundtracks lifted from the original cartoons (dated from 1937 to 1953), but instead studio-recorded adaptations narrated and voiced by Tom Morrison (hopefully it provided him a tidy little paycheck, as Paul Terry’s sale of the cartoons to CBS did not yield a penny to Morrison nor his studio peers).

The album plays out much like Colpix’s Ruff and Reddy and the first Huckleberry Hound soundtrack albums, except that those records contained the actual cartoon vocal tracks. In this case, Morrison narrates and does most of the voices especially for the recording—with an assist from Roy Halee. An organist provides accompaniment credited to Phil Scheib as composer. But the bonafide Scheib music is much missed, as it is such a familiar component of Terrytoons.

Aside from that, it’s certainly a treat to hear Morrison on vinyl. This album exemplifies a curious characteristic of early records adapted from cartoons: the narrators tell the stories in the same manner as familiar fairy tales, giving a bit of a classic sheen to the cartoons. No longer attached to visuals, they become modern folktales.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
Heckle and Jeckle in “Cat Trouble”

Not all of the cartoons adapted for this album are available for viewing, but “Cat Trouble” is, so this was chosen so that a comparison could be made between the actual finished film track and the manner in which Morrison transformed it into an audio story. It’s also neat to hear Heckle and Jeckle’s voices in such a crisp, high fidelity presentation.


heathcoteLP-600

THE HECTOR HEATHCOTE SHOW
Original TV Soundtrack
RCA Camden Records CAL-1053 (Mono) CAS-1053 (Rechanneled Stereo) (12” 33 1/3 RPM)

Released in 1964. Album Producer: Brad McCuen. Executive Producer: Bill Weiss. Story Supervision: Tom Morrison. Stories: Larz Bourne, Eli Bauer, Tom Morrison, Bob Kuwahara. Music: Phil Scheib. Production Coordination/Additional Dialogue: Arthur Pine. Running Time: 39 minutes.
Voices: John Myhers (Cartoon Narrator, Hector Heathcote, Winston, Hashimoto-San, Joey-San, Hanako, Saburo); Dayton Allen (Album Narrator, Sgt. Benedict, Magician, Cat, Silly Sidney); Lionel Wilson (Cleo Giraffe, Stanley the Lion, Camp Counselor).

Stories:
Hector Heathcote in “A Bell for Philadelphia” (1963), “Riverboat Mission” (1962) & “Hats Off to Hector” (1963)
Hashimoto-San in “Cherry Blossom Festival” (1963) & “A Strange Companion” (1961)
Silly Sidney in “Send Your Elephant to Camp” (1962)

The Hector Heathcote Show represents big changes for Terrytoons, reflecting the modern UPA influence (what cartoons didn’t?) and fresh approaches, particularly by such artists as Gene Deitch. These are not Terrytoons in the classic mold, though there are sonic elements of earlier cartoons as the album presents original soundtracks, complete with background cues and some of the opening and closing music.

Hector Heathcote (The Minute-and-a-Half Man) is a klutzsy, lovable participant in the fringes of the Revolutionary War. He did not exactly explode as an iconic character in the early days of ‘60s kids’ TV. Neither did Hashimoto-San, a character easily dismissed as mere political incorrectness (his voice is not provided by an Asian), yet is actually based on the cultural background of its creator, Bob Kuwahara.

Gene-Deitch-Terry-Logo 175Voicing both Hector and Hashimoto is character actor John Myhers, a frequent visitor to such sitcoms as The Lucy Show and Bewitched and in particular, the movie version of How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying.

Though he was often cast as a banker, executive or other figure of authority, Myhers played a romantic lead in an independent film called Weddings and Babies—only a year before he voiced Hector Heathcote.

It’s one of three exquisite movies filmed on New York locations, the other two being Lovers and Lollipops and the highly acclaimed The Little Fugitive. Directed by Morris Engel, these films are credited with influencing the French New Wave cinema and are highly recommended gems.

As a character, Sidney the elephant seems to have had the most exposure of the three cartoon segments. His visage appeared in various ways long after the cartoons were no longer seen in theaters or on TV. These cartoons featured Dayton Allen (Howdy Doody, Deputy Dawg) and the underappreciated Lionel Wilson (Tom Terrific, 1969’s Winky Dink and You!).

One of the most delightful things about the album is Phil Scheib’s music, performed in a wide range of styles that mirrored the creative transition of Terrytoons. Some of the cues sound like collected cues from a library of previous Terrytoon music, as the more elaborate orchestrations (elaborate for Terrytoons, anyway) were likely out of the price range for modest little cartoons by 1959.

RCA released this album in mono and stereo. The soundtracks are mono, so the engineer created very slight variations in tone between the right and left channels. It’s so subtle as to be virtually inaudible, but of course that’s a good thing as so many records of that era were ruined by poor stereo enhancements (like RCA’s Peter Pan cast album with Mary Martin, which was changed back to mono for the CD). Maybe RCA thought consumers of that day simply expected to see “stereo” on record jackets whether or not they really were.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“The Hector Heathcote Show” Opening & Silly Sidney in “Send Your Elephant to Camp” (1962)

This selection is notable for the varied voices of Dayton Allen and Lionel Wilson and the music of Phil Scheib. Movie buffs will detect impressions of actors like Hugh Herbert and Ned Sparks among the characterizations. Scheib’s music marks a departure for the standard Terrytoon sound, a rhythmic score that sounds like early UPA and independent cartoons.

15 Comments

  • Could one do an album with studio-recorded adaptations of actual Harveytoons (Paramount cartoons) much like the TV Terrytoon Cartoon Time? Did one ever exist?

  • I remember a Mighty Mouse LP from Peter Pan Records in the late 1970’s or early 80’s; it actually used the original cartoon soundtracks with Phil Scheib’s music, but added additional narration on top of the original narration and mixed the music track way down.
    Presumably, “minus tracks” existed at one time for all but the earliest Terrytoons, but who knows if anything still exists now? (I visualize them stowed away in some vast warehouse of the Viacom/Paramount/CBS empire, looking like a scene from “Raiders” or “Citizen Kane.”)
    …Wouldn’t Phil Scheib be an interesting project for a group like the Beau Hunks Orchestra to try?

    • You’re correct about the Peter Pan Record. There were 2 Peter Pan Mighty Mouse albums. One was “The Adventures of Mighty Mouse” (8200), another non-soundtrack with 6 stories told by Tom Morrison. The other is the one you’re referring to — “The NEW Adventures of Mighty Mouse” (1118). This one was odd because it contained six narrated soundtracks (like “The Jonestown Flood”), but the cover art was from the then-current Filmation series on CBS.

  • “Maybe RCA thought consumers of that day simply expected to see “stereo” on record jackets whether or not they really were.”

    The extra dollar they usually charged for the stereo version surely didn’t hurt either.

    • In the late 60’s, Warner Bros. Records sold off their inventory of monaural LPS for peanuts, to a promoter who printed stickers to be attached to the shrink-wrap on each album, which read “Playable on STEREO Phonographs!”

      Of course, that’s not a false claim, as they certainly were; but it did tend to leave the wrong impression.

  • For some reason, “Send Your Elephant to Camp” seem to be funnier than the last time I saw it.

  • 2/18/15
    RobGems.ca Wrote:
    Interesting that RCA didn’t mention the fine print “Stereo-Electronically Reprocessed” like they did on many of their fake stereo albums throughout the 1960’s (ask any Elvis fan for bad memories of that monstrosity known as “electronic stereo”), they just printed “Stereo” as if kids aged before 10 didn’t know any difference. Of course their parents would have settled for mono in 1963 just to save that extra dollar. At your average Kresge’s or Woolworth’s store in 1963,it would be (at least 99 cents to $1.99 for mono, or S2.99 for Stereo, or if you waited until the album was out of print in the late 60’s, you could have gotten this as a cut-out ranging from 49 Cents-$1.00.) The album was out of print at least by 1968. The “Stereo-Action” panning (an RCA term actually used from 1961-63 wasn’t worth the effort.

    • Actually, RCA Victor’s “Stereo Action” had nothing to do with the pan-and-echo of “reprocessed stereo.” “Stereo Action” was a series of LPS of what would now be called space-age lounge music; recorded with gimmicky engineering that sent whole sections of orchestras sliding across the room from the left to right speaker and back again. The records came in jackets made of HEAVY! mat board with abstract-shaped cover cutouts designed to reveal graphics printed on the inner sleeves.

      The ultimate example of this stereo silliness was probably Esquivel’s “Latin-Esque,” which, to achieve perfect stereophonic separation, placed half the orchestra in one studio and the rest in another, with Esquivel and Stanley Wilson (of Revue TV) conducting the two groups linked by walkie-talkie headsets! (Cartoon composer Dean Elliott did something similar at Capitol, called “Heartstrings,” only he conducted both studios himself via a closed-circuit TV hookup!)

    • I have one of those “Stereo Action” LP’s, and loved playing that over and over!

  • 2/21/15
    RobGems.ca Wrote:
    Re:Jeff Missinne: Point well taken. The fake stereo of the “Hector Heathcote” album upon second listening doesn’t sound at all like RCA’s “Stereo Action” series of LPs that are in genuine true stereo. I have at least 4 LP’s of these “Stereo Action” albums (though I have yet to find the Esquivel one; the one by The 3 Suns (“Movin’ & Groovin'”, 1962) is also on my want list.) The “stereo” on the “Hector Heathcote” album is most definitely fake stereo. It just seems like a bum rap to stereo collectors by efforts of RCA Victor to trick listeners into believing that this is a “true” stereo album, by which it is not. the majority of children who bought the album wouldn’t understand the stereo separation (or lack of thereof, by adding a dull echo chamber to the mix) at least until they are pre-teens, then they’ll get the idea that they have been had by the record company. Not printing “Electronically Reprocessed” on the sleeve was a lack of viable information and truth in advertising.

    • For what it’s worth, the Hector Heathcote LP may have been released before record companies were legally obliged to label “reprocessed stereo” as such; I think that happened in the mid-60’s. Some of RCA’s fake stereo was pretty bad, though I think Mercury’s and Roulette’s were the worst. Capitol’s “Duophonic” was maybe the best; at least brighter-sounding. Some records I actually like better in fake stereo; Hugo Winterhalter’s 50’s instrumental “Vanessa” for example, the original mono sounds too “dry” to me. But anyway. The Esquivel “Stereo Action” LP was also included, along with ones by Dick Schory and Marty Gold, in ADVENTURES IN STEREO, a huge 11-LP (why 11??) box set RCA Victor apparently offered at one time as a free premium to those who bought their (really, REALLY huge) color-TV-stereo-radio consoles. (Found a mint box set in a charity thrift shop for a buck…imagine all that music for only pennies a pound…)
      Not to be outdone (well, maybe not, anyhow…) Columbia put out an LP called “Voices In Motion” that tried the same gimmicky left-right engineering with a choral group. The end result was something like putting a 20-voice mixed chorus on roller skates and having them chase each other around an oval track!

  • I’d just like to correct the above; the box set contained 10 LPS and a booklet. Sorry ’bout that…

    • 3/7/15
      RobGems.ca Wrote:
      The Elvis Presley albums, as mentioned above as well as some Eddy Arnold, Glenn Miller, and Mario Lanza albums were among the worst sounding in RCA’s Electronically Reprocessed Stereo. Beatle songs as well as Beach Boys songs also sounded awful in Capitol’s “Duophonic” stereo processing. The Dave Clark 5’s Epic albums in fake stereo on Epic Records must remain to me the worst sounding fake stereo of all; they sound one second off the other in two different mono doubling in separations as they bounce off one another; “Try To Hard”, for example from the 1967 album “Dave Clark’s Greatest Hits Volume Two” is a prime example in re-channeling wretchedness. The Hector Heathcote fake stereo sound almost normal compared to the extreme examples I’ve mentioned on this thread. It is interesting that while RCA issued the “Hector Heathcoate” album in fake stereo, the TV show itself was presented in RCA/NBC’s “Living Color”, with the Laramie Peacock opening and so on, as RCA owned NBC TV from 1927-1986,then NBC was bought out by General Electric, while BMG music wound up with RCA. This lasted until 2008,when Sony purchased BMG. Nowadays you can get RCA hits from the past on a same CD/app as hits on Columbia/Epic Records . The Hector Heathcoate show may have not been much in humor in the scripts or in the spending budgets by way of limited animation, but the Living Color was amazing.

  • I’m surprised that Scheib’s successor Jim Timmens didn’t work on any of the Terrytoon albums. Timmens would later be known for kid-friendly tunes such as “Aren’t You Glad You’re You?”

    I recall listening to a Carter Family album (the original group: AP, Sara, Maybelle) that had an echo effect added in addition to the “electronically reprocessed stereo.” I think it was on Columbia’s Harmony label.

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