ANIMATION SPIN
March 25, 2014 posted by Greg Ehrbar

The Day “Alice” Fell Through Her TV: The 1966 HB Special

48 years ago this Sunday, ABC broadcast Alice in Wonderland, or What’s a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This? It was one of Hanna-Barbera’s best specials — and best record albums.

HBRAlice600

THE NEW ALICE IN WONDERLAND or What’s Nice Kid Like You Doing in Place Like This?
From the Hanna-Barbera T.V. Special
Hanna-Barbera Records / Cartoon Series HLP- 2051 (12” Vinyl 33 rpm / Mono / 1966)

Executive Producers: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera. Director: Charles Shows. Writer: Bill Dana. Adaptation: Charles Shows. Song Arrangements: Al Capps. Original Background Music: Hoyt Curtin. Editors: Milton Krear, Dan Finnerty. Engineer: Richard Olsen. Art Direction: Harvard Pennington. Cover Art: Iwao Takamoto, Paul Julian. Hand Lettering: Robert Schaefer. Running Time: 44 minutes.

Voices: Janet Waldo (Alice, The Queen of Hearts); Bill Dana (The White Knight); Scatman Crothers (The Cheshire Cat); Mel Blanc (Caterpillar/Barney Rubble, The March Hare, Prosecuting Attorney/King’s Son); Henry Corden (Caterpillar/Fred Flintstone); Daws Butler (The Mad Hatter, The King of Hearts, Game Announcer); Don Messick (Narrator, The White Rabbit, Jailer); Allan Melvin (Alice’s Father, Humpty Dumpty); Doris Drew (Singing Voice of Alice).

Songs: “Life’s a Game,” “What’s Nice Kid Like You Doing in Place Like This?” “They’ll Never Split Us Apart,” “Today’s a Wonderful Day,” “I’m Home” by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams.

rexall-aliceNo other Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Series Record had a bigger budget, a bigger cast and more solid production values than this vinyl adaptation of the one-hour animated ABC-TV special, originally airing on Wednesday, March 30, 1966.

Hanna-Barbera Productions was on a roll. Multiple TV series, tons of merchandise, a feature film with one on the way and a high-profile North Hollywood studio complex where we believed that Bill and Joe arrived by helicopter every day to make cool cartoons.

Like Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear coming two years earlier and The Man Called Flintstone just ahead of it, Alice in Wonderland (the record album added the word “new”) was a step toward positioning Hanna-Barbera as a full-service entertainment company, eventually moving into live-action and theme park attractions. The sky seemed the limit.

So, even though the animation quality was noticeably uneven in Alice in Wonderland (as were the technical aspects of 1967’s Jack and the Beanstalk), they went all out on the music and cast some of the best voice actors in the business as well as a handful of celebrities.

It also offered a very imaginative twist on the Lewis Carroll story: In this version, the book already exists, Alice lives in contemporary times and she meets updated (for the 1960’s) versions of the Wonderland characters, as if they always lived there and just changed with the times. It’s a bit dated now, but no less entertaining than a Monkees episode or a visit from groovy Serena to the Stephens’ house.

The best thing about the new story—at least for kids like me back then—was the idea of falling through the TV set, down a flashing, twinkling portal, to another world. Making Alice’s TV a portable unit was especially fantastical, since it didn’t sit against the wall and made the whole thing even more impossible and therefore more inventive. (In the actual special, Alice simply disappears through the TV screen. On the record, the screen breaks first, which seems less fanciful and a little uncomfortable—Alice might cut herself on the broken glass or maybe get an electrical shock!)

This record album, while largely a re-creation of the story and songs, came along when Hanna-Barbera Records were getting into more retail stores and showed the possibility of becoming an all-around recording company, just like H-B.

alice-scene300That puts The New Alice in Wonderland LP at the zenith of the HBR history. The actors most associated with animation reprised their roles, including the glorious Janet Waldo, Mel Blanc, Daws Butler and Allan Melvin. Contractual issues and/or high prices nixed the appearances of Sammy Davis, Jr. (who was signed with Reprise Records); Harvey Korman (just becoming a “name” in TV); Alan Reed (with Henry Corden subbing again) and Zsa Zsa Gabor (who, as far as I’m concerned, could not play herself as well as Janet Waldo plays her on the record).

Bill Dana is given star billing on the record, but his dialogue is completely lifted from the soundtrack. Mel Blanc’s Barney and Henry Corden’s Fred dialogue is not from the soundtrack, but their singing is, even though the orchestra is different. Howard Morris’ exclusion from the vinyl version as The White Rabbit actually led to a falling-out with Joe Barbera (read Mark Evanier’s fascinating account here)stones Modern Stone Age Melodies CD, but that was a direct soundtrack recording with the full orchestra.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Alice and The White Knight”
Every voice on this album was recorded especially for HBR, except this sequence, which used the actual speaking and singing tracks from the film. Note that Janet Waldo recorded a few extra lines for the benefit of the listeners, and also that the album’s song orchestration has a smaller orchestra but still suggests Marty Paich’s TV arrangement.

Alice-tv-close-up

Delightful_Doris_Drew

DELIGHTFUL DORIS DREW
Mode Records (12” 33 1/3 Vinyl LP / 1957)
Reissue: VSOP Records MODE-126 (Compact Disc or Download / Mono / 1995)

Producer: Red Clyde. Arranger: Marty Paich. Musicians include: Dan Fagerquist, Dave Pell, Herb Geller, Max Bennett, Marty Paich, The Hollywood Strings.

Songs: “I Got the Sun in The Morning” and “(Just One Way to Say) I Love You” by Irving Berlin; “Cabin in the Sky” by Vernon Duke and John Latouche; “There Will Never Be Another You” by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren; “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (And Dream Your Troubles Away)” by Harry Barris, Ted Koehler and Billy Moll; “He’s My Guy” by Gene DePaul and Don Raye; “Once You Find Your Guy” by Kay Smith; “You and the Night and the Music” and “Something to Remember You By” by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz; “If I Should Lose You” by Ralph Rainger and Harry Robin; “I Only Have Eyes for You” by Al Dubin and Harry Warren; “I Cried for You” by Gus Arnheim, Arthur Freed and Abe Lyman.

Doris Drew sang the songs for Alice in the Hanna-Barbera Alice in Wonderland special (credited as “Doris Drew Allen”). Like other busy and highly regarded Hollywood studio soloists of the ‘50s and ‘60s (Bill Lee, Robie Lester, Marni Nixon, B.J. Baker, Gene Merlino, Loulie Jean Norman, etc.), Drew could be heard in countless commercials, recordings and films, usually uncredited.

Like the fantastic singers in the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom, artists like Drew, also a popular West Coast jazz artist, tried their hand at a solo career for several years and appeared on TV variety shows, in addition to records for Mercury, Mode and several budget record labels—including some tracks conducted by a certain John “Johnny” Williams.

Marty Paich—a stellar arranger/conductor/musician who worked with the biggest names in the mid-20th century—including Barbra (like butter) Streisand and, as his website states, “Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Mahalia Jackson, Sammy Davis Jr, Mel Tormé, Lena Horne, Linda Ronstadt, Carly Simon, Ray Charles and a hundred others.”

Paich also arranged and conducted the songs for Hanna-Barbera’s Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear!, The Man Called Flintstone and Alice in Wonderland — in which he worked with (and probably recommended) Doris Drew. All three benefitted from his talent for creating that big, spectacular “showbiz” sound.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (And Dream Your Troubles Away)”
Recorded nine years before Doris Drew sang in Hanna-Barbera’s Alice in Wonderland, this is a very similar, “sunny side” song that accents the similarity between the performances, but also points up the difference between singing as a character (as Alice) and singing through the various shades of one’s own personality. The best studio vocalists were adept at both.

26 Comments

  • I never thought Doris Drew was quite a match for Janet Waldo. It always seems whenever someone tries to fill in for Janet Waldo in singing, they end up sounding kinda nasally.,

    I wish this special would get put on DND or blu-ray, but my understanding is there WAS an attempt at some point, but Sammy Davis Jr’s estate wanted too much money. I’d guess right now releasing this special has fallen off their priority list.

    It’s probably because both had the same character designer, but it amuses me that in the busted TV pilot “Sally Sergent”, the title character (during the intro, anyway) looks a lot like Alice here, albeit older.

    • I wish this special would get put on DND or blu-ray, but my understanding is there WAS an attempt at some point, but Sammy Davis Jr’s estate wanted too much money. I’d guess right now releasing this special has fallen off their priority list.

      Even getting Warner Archives in on releasing this and “Jack & The Beanstalk” would be nice.

      It’s probably because both had the same character designer, but it amuses me that in the busted TV pilot “Sally Sergent”, the title character (during the intro, anyway) looks a lot like Alice here, albeit older.

      Thank you Iwao!

  • i remember it like it was ystdy! (And i, severely, thought the Alice was quite “hot!!,” too!!!!! A great memory. And how does one GET this special, AND “Jack!” They are both great!!! (I found some Rexall commercials for it the other day on y.t.!!)

    • I remember it like it was ystdy! (And i, severely, thought the Alice was quite “hot!!,” too!!!!! A great memory. And how does one GET this special, AND “Jack!” They are both great!!! (I found some Rexall commercials for it the other day on y.t.!!)

      Greg kinda hinted it in the first sentence above, though if you needed it spelled out, here you go… http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xw0yiq_hanna-barbera-s-alice-in-wonderland-or-what-s-a-nice-kid-like-you-doing-in-a-place-like-this-1966_creation

      I did however one time found a copy of this version special with it’s original Rexall commercials intact. It was a fun watch.

    • The full album is on YouTube; it’s not great quality but better than nothin’. (YouTube took down the video, sadly, but it’s good to see it on DailyMotion.)

      I found what appears to be a 16mm-to-VHS rip of the Rexall version on an obscure private tracker. It was hilarious to see Alice’s trial and imprisonment interrupted by a visit to “Rexall-land” where she and the other characters hawk shaving cream and Coca-Cola and whatnot.

      “Rexall! America’s Best Known Name in Drugs!” *snicker*

    • “The full album is on YouTube; it’s not great quality but better than nothin’. (YouTube took down the video, sadly, but it’s good to see it on DailyMotion.)

      The DailyMotion link looks very cropped I noticed (you’ll only really notice it during the end credits I suppose).

      I found what appears to be a 16mm-to-VHS rip of the Rexall version on an obscure private tracker. It was hilarious to see Alice’s trial and imprisonment interrupted by a visit to “Rexall-land” where she and the other characters hawk shaving cream and Coca-Cola and whatnot.

      Yet they were fun.

      “Rexall! America’s Best Known Name in Drugs!” *snicker*

      Well it use to be. There use to be a Rexall location a mile from me. The brand name still lives on in over-the-counter medicines and other supplies offered by Dollar General today.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rexall

    • I, too, thought Alice (and her knockoff Sally Sargent) were quite hot, too!

  • welllllllll, thank God for y.t. I am enjoying it right NOW! (I had totally forgotten the “tv” aspect….a Twilight Z episode….that later, of course, transcended into “Poltergeist!” LUV it!!!

  • Brandon: As you may know from our conversations on Facebook, I’ve agreed on Doris Drew (Allen!) versus Janet Waldo and the Sally Sargent looking like Alice issues. Probably , Greg here should as well as the higher profile types that were absentee should have included Howard Morris, though he does (without explaining why) get to Morris’s absence later down the way. I wonder if that was just for budgetary concerns, too, but anyway it wouldn’t have mattered after Morris had a sentiments that he did about the replacement..

    • I can only guess that it was either budgetary, as the album was already expensive, or that the session was booked based on who was readily available and Morris wasn’t. Session time is expensive and it figures into the cost as well.

  • I walked around singing “What’s a nice kid like you………” for a week after the special aired.

  • So what happened with Hanna-Barbera Records? How long did the label last and what happened to it? They seemed to be doing well at one time.

    • Hard to say Dave, it only lasted those two short years from the looks of it. Still what they tried to do during that time is rather fascinating to many of us. This link does provide some idea of that history.
      http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2007/08/the-vinyl-side-.html

    • I can’t land on a definitive answer, but I have pieced together some clues over the years. First of all, the children’s record market was getting soft by the mid-sixties. Kid’s records actually used to chart in the ’50s, but by 1966, bubble gum and other pop was attracting kids as much as children’s records. The age range began to narrow for the market. Even Disney’s records had become less lavish in the mid-sixties has costs went up and sales leveled. Only megabits like The Jungle Book and Mary Poppins would really hit big and those supported the other projects.

      Another reason was that some might have felt, “Why buy a record of this show when I can watch it for free?” To folks like us, that’s ridiculous, but I have heard that sentiment. Sesame Street Records, while having some big hits and Grammy winners, still had to compete with itself in a way.

      And finally, Hanna-Barbera wanted to be a major independent label. The Cartoon Series was for kids, but many of their other albums and singles aimed for a teen and adult audience. Kliph Nesteroff chronicles it here http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2007/08/the-vinyl-side-.html.

      Liberty/UA Records seems to have taken control of the HBR library by 1968, releasing two more cartoon records (The Flinstones Meet The Orchestra Family and Shazzan and the Evil Jester of Masira) on their Sunset budget label. Sunset stickers were placed over the HBR logo on previous albums.

      Columbia released a handful (mostly the fairytale tities) with less than stellar results. Rhino expressed interest in reissuing the HBR’s through Handmade, but it didn’t happen. Only the Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Christmas album ever made it to CD.

      But as Clarice sang, “There’s always tomorrow for dreams to come true.”

    • Another reason was that some might have felt, “Why buy a record of this show when I can watch it for free?” To folks like us, that’s ridiculous, but I have heard that sentiment. Sesame Street Records, while having some big hits and Grammy winners, still had to compete with itself in a way.

      Of course with records you still have that ability to play it whenever you wanted (unless you werent a geek with a tape recorder and simply recorded those tunes off the TV speaker and that tied you over).

      Liberty/UA Records seems to have taken control of the HBR library by 1968, releasing two more cartoon records (The Flinstones Meet The Orchestra Family and Shazzan and the Evil Jester of Masira) on their Sunset budget label. Sunset stickers were placed over the HBR logo on previous albums.

      It’s fun when they can’t cover over the previous logo on the original masters for those covers when that was a simple solution.

  • this special was one of the reasons i wanted to become an animator ( i was 5 at the time )….. i poured over and drew the characters from the tv guide article forever…still have it….and the record…and the comic….and the rexall merchandise….while working at hanna-barbera i even found a copy of the special with all the rexall commercials in it….love this special…it had a major impact on me ….one of the best things H-B ever produced!

    • So great to learn that about you, Scott. This special — and the album — plays a MAJOR role in my life, too. I know every groove of the record and have gone through three copies. It was my first Hanna-Barbera record and i would sit and stare at the cover for hours, noticing every detail, then look wistfully at the back cover and wish I could have all the records pictured in black and white.

      My dad, who passed away ten years ago, loved music and one of his all time favorite songs was “They’ll Never Split Us Apart.” It became an anthem for our family as we had some obnoxious relatives who tried to do just that. When I would get better stereo equipment as I got older, this was one of the records I would rush to in order to see how much better it would sound.

      Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Steve….thanx to this post (AND my youtubing today)…..i have BEEN singing the damn song ever since this MORN, haha

  • In many ways the vinyl version of The New Alice is superior to the TV special. It is true that Janet Waldo does a much better impression of Zha Zha as Queen than the real Zha Zha, and also Scatman Crothers really gets into the Cheshire Cat character in a way that Sammy Davis Jr. doesn’t. Don Messick is also first-rate as the White Rabbit, a better performance for my taste than that of Howard Morris. I think that the Hedda Hatter character (who appears briefly at the Mad Tea Party) is a little obscure for kids to recognize, so it’s as well she was dropped from the vinyl recording. Hedda Hopper may still have been going strong in the mid-60′s, but a kid like myself at the time had no idea who she was, although it was clear that somebody famous was being parodied in that sequence. I also had no idea who Bill Dana was, even though his name was aggressively listed in the credits and promotions for both the special and the album.

    The animated version is, however, a gem of H-B in the 60′s, with its modern, hip rendition of Alice. The Disney cartoon version had been shown a year or two earlier on the Wonderful World of Color, so the timing of the H-B special was just right for a fresh new take. Including Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble as the caterpillar just put it over the top for me. I absolutely adored this cartoon when it aired and I still have fond memories of it.

    The two recordings differ in many aspects, but notably in the trial sequence. The animated version goes on for some time with the trial, which while hilarious doesn’t advance the plot much. The vinyl version keeps the trial at just about the right length. The Queen’s changeability and unreasonableness come off very amusingly in Janet Waldo’s Zha Zha interpretation. By comparison, the real Zha Zha sounds tired or maybe bored on the TV soundtrack.

    Are you sure that ANY part of the album was lifted directly from the TV soundtrack? I have listened to both, and I hear differences in Bill Dana’s voice work as well as in the renditions of “They’ll Never Split Us Apart.” There are so many subtle changes in the dialogue and tone of the story in the vinyl version that it seems like a complete re-do to me. However, if you have certain knowledge that portions of the TV soundtrack were used on the album, I will not dispute it. It’s just that I have long thought of the record as a distinctly separate production from the TV version. (Actually, that’s the way I prefer my audio versions–not directly lifted from the soundtrack, but specifically re-created in a recording studio for the benefit of audio listeners. It makes for a richer listening experience.)

    This is definitely unusual quality even for the generally high-class production values of the HBR records. It has long stood out for me as an all-time favorite recording.

    Did Howard Morris do ANY voice work on the HBR label? I don’t recall that he ever did. Sam Edwards (unbilled) took his place as Mr. Peebles on the Magilla Gorilla album. Maybe soon, Greg, you can give us your take on THAT album, which ostensibly is another retelling of the Alice story, but which deviates so strongly from its source material that it makes this TV special seem faithful by comparison.

    Thanks, Greg, for giving some blog time to these classic Hanna-Barbera Records. They have been ignored for too long. (For many, many years there was NOTHING on the internet about them. ) It is also a treat to get more complete listings of the credits for each of these albums. You are doing this HBR fan a great service!

    • Thanks, Frederick! I am delighted that you — and the others who comment here and on Facebook — are enjoying these romps through records as much as I do rhapsodizing about them (though I will throw in some vinyl clunkers just for fun once in a while).

      I don’t have any evidence that the vocal tracks of Bill Dana, Henry Corden (singing), Mel Blanc (singing) and Janet Waldo (in the Knight sequence) are direct soundtrack lifts, except from my human ears, so you may be correct and maybe there are alternate takes. They sure sound the same to me, but that’s just me. I do hear a slight hiss under Dana’s and Waldo’s dialogue and a slight difference between Waldo’s TV script lines and her “for listeners who can’t see the action” lines for the record.

      I love the way Janet Waldo’s Queen says, “How dare you in-sult me like that, darling! Vait till I get you home.” That makes me laugh while Zsa-Zsa’s doesn’t. The sign of a master of vocal range and skillful timing.

    • Frederick, Hedda Hopper appeared in other youth -oriented projects around this time, such as the 1964 Jerry Lewis vehicle,The Patsy(“Who-dda?”), and later that year, an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies(“Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood” 10/14/64), so I wouldn’t be surprised if she still had some name recognition among the pre-teen set.

      She died from double pneumonia the month before ‘Alice” premiered .

  • Bill Dana’s “Jose Jimenez” character was still current; almost surprised that name isn’t on the cover. Then again, the sitcom where he played Jimenez was titled “The Bill Dana Show.”

    Dana was a busy writer but I don’t know if he did any other animation work. He did turn up in Disney’s syndicated “Mouse Factory”, hosting an episode of clips from bullfighting cartoons. He wore a matador’s outfit but didn’t use the now-retired “Jose” character; evidently somebody assumed people would still make the connection.

    I vaguely recall a strange TV special of a Hanna Barbara arena show from Australia; very much along the lines of “Disney on Parade” (sort of an ice show without ice, highlighting costumed characters with pre-recorded voices). At one point a teenage version of Pebbles Flintstone runs into the Cheshire Cat, who leads a production number of the title song. This would have been some years after the TV special — did it or the song have any kind of afterlife down under?

    • “Bill Dana’s “Jose Jimenez” character was still current; almost surprised that name isn’t on the cover. Then again, the sitcom where he played Jimenez was titled “The Bill Dana Show.”

      Not to mention somehow getting another animated appearance in a theatrical Paramount short the same month.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDAcbuBj7wc

      “I vaguely recall a strange TV special of a Hanna Barbara arena show from Australia; very much along the lines of “Disney on Parade” (sort of an ice show without ice, highlighting costumed characters with pre-recorded voices). At one point a teenage version of Pebbles Flintstone runs into the Cheshire Cat, who leads a production number of the title song. This would have been some years after the TV special — did it or the song have any kind of afterlife down under?”

      Sounds interesting, though I’m sure that’s probably not the special I’m thinking of called “Hanna-Barbera’s All-Star Comedy Ice Revue”.

  • Like Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear coming two years earlier and The Man Called Flintstone just ahead of it, Alice in Wonderland (the record album added the word “new”) was a step toward positioning Hanna-Barbera as a full-service entertainment company, eventually moving into live-action and theme park attractions. The sky seemed the limit.

    God, way to put your hopes up too high! But I can see what that felt like looking back at that year when it seemed like it could have gone that direction surely.

  • Tremendous post for an underrated TV classic, Greg! Thanks so much: I’d only become acquainted with the H-B “Alice” via You Tube, but would gladly plunk down the cash for a proper DVD/Blu-Ray and Official Soundtrack re-issue. “What’s a Nice Kid Like You” and “Life’s a Game” would be welcome additions to my H-B audio library.

    An interesting development for “Alice” (which I first saw on your own MouseTracks blog) was the use of Yogi Bear as the Mad Hatter, for which I’ve since seen other layout drawings at various Animation Galleries. I remain curious if there was an initial push to use other established Hanna-Barbera stars versus new characters in the roles of Wonderland denizens for the special? It would make sense at that time as a motivator for syndication of their existing library of shows that had completed their network runs. It’s a fun casting game to play for those of us familiar with the H-B stars up to 1966.

    To augment your post just a bit, here are two links to Mark Christiansen’s blog, with some great model sheet and promo artwork from “Alice”—by Iwao Takamoto, Jerry Eisenberg, Willie Ito and Bob Singer. All make for excellent drafting studies…enjoy! – Dan

    http://marksotherstuff.blogspot.com/2011/10/hanna-barberas-alice-in-wonderland.html
    http://marksotherstuff.blogspot.com/2012/10/more-ebay-stuff-roger-ramjet-h-bs-alice.html

  • The first commercial in this build is a Rexall/New Alice spot:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FR7wDd7vdM4

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