LOST PLANET ANIME
August 21, 2014 posted by Charles Brubaker

Animated Pilots That Never Made It

Editor’s Note: This week Steve Stanchfield is on the road – off to explore several film collections away from his Ann Arbor home base. Filling in today is our resident “hunter of the obscure”, Charles Brubaker, with what I hope is the first of another series of continuing posts from him – on Unsold Animated Pilots. As you’ll see, this is a rich vein to mine as some very talented artists were involved in the creation of these cartoons – most of which have been swept under the rug, never to be seen again. Right or wrong, I think these deserve a second look. – Jerry Beck

It is said that, for every 100 show ideas pitched to a network, one gets greenlit for a pilot. And from that, even fewer actually gets turned into a series.

I don’t know the exact statistics, but bottom line is that it’s difficult to go from a pitch to an actual series. And it’s been going on since the dawn of television animation. I figure I’d share some of the classic animation pilots that never got picked up.

Gene Hattree (1964)
Produced by Total Television
Voices: Jackson Beck, Herb Duncan, Sandy Becker

Total Television had managed to gain success with their shows, most notably Underdog and Tennessee Tuxedo. But there were several ideas they pitched that never went anywhere, one of them being Gene Hattree, a horse sheriff (voiced by Sandy Becker) with a terrible singing skills. His deputy is Rabbit Foot (voiced by Herb Duncan), who wants to prove that he can catch crooks (Jackson Beck is the leader, “Tortilla Fats”), only to fail at each attempts.

The pilot was later included in a syndicated Underdog package in the 1970s, so it did eventually get airtime in some stations.


Terr’ble Tessie (1966)
Created and Directed by Gene Deitch
Voices: Gene Deitch, Allen Swift

The internet exploded when Marvel announced that they are going to update Thor by making a female version. Nearly 50 years before that Gene Deitch did the same thing to his comic strip character Terr’ble Thompson, whose adventures ran in a handful of newspapers in 1955 to 1956. When Deitch got hired at Terrytoons, he took his old comic strip concept, added a dog, and rechristened it as Tom Terrific.

Several years later Deitch was now in Prague and under contract with William Snyder. Under Snyder’s Rembrandt Films company, Deitch created several pilots for possible series, one of which was Terr’ble Tessie. Deitch took his Thompson character and made him a girl, a heroine of history who travels back in time to help historical figures. Deitch even gave sex-change operation to Thompson’s arch-nemesis, Mean Morgan, here in the pilot as Mean Matilda.

Whatever’s the case, the concept didn’t sell. All we have is this pilot, which is a reworking of the Christopher Columbus storyline from the newspaper strip. Deitch himself voiced Tessie, while Allen Swift fills in for Columbus.


Brutus and Brownie (1966)
Produced and Directed by Ed Graham Jr.
Voices: Ed Graham Jr., Carl Reiner

Ed Graham Productions was in business making commercials, many of which feature cereal mascots from Post, including Linus the Lionhearted, Sugar Bear, So Hi, Lovable Truly, and Rory Raccoon. The company would eventually produce two seasons worth of show featuring these characters for Saturday Morning, expanding their business, even if it was just for this one show.

Even after The Linus the Lionhearted Show went off the air, that didn’t stop Ed Graham Jr. from developing new ideas for a possible show. One of them were two funny animal dogs, Brutus and Brownie. In the pilot, the two debate on whether cartoon violence is funny or not, with Brutus (voiced by Carl Reiner) inflicting numerous painful slapsticks on his friend Brownie (Ed Graham Jr.).

The pilot, entitled “Funny is Funny”, didn’t sell, but it was given a theatrical release in 1966 by Universal International, when they were still releasing Walter Lantz cartoon. The video below is from a faded copy, although Technicolor prints exist.


Peter Bagge’s Hate (1996)
Created by Peter Bagge
Directed by Steve Loter

Voices: Christopher Faville, Phil Lenkowski, Aaron Smith

Peter Bagge has a fun drawing style, apparently influenced by classic animation, including those of Bob Clampett. His comics are always a pleasure to read, especially “Hate” starring Buddy Bradley. His fun style seems well suited for animation.

And some studios felt that way, too, as it turned out. Producer Marge Dean had a four minute pilot made based on Bagge’s Hate comics, produced by Rough Draft (with a “thanks to DiC” of all the places) in Los Angeles; this was shortly after MTV’s attempt at doing a Hate pilot in New York. From what we see here, however, the pilot is a disappointment, especially in terms of voice acting. It’s telling that none of the actors did much of anything else after this cartoon was made.

The pilot didn’t sell, and the Bradleys remained a comic exclusive. Probably for the best.


Brubaker’s Verdict

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22 Comments

  • Recalling ABC’s “Saturday Superstar Movie” series. Weren’t several or most of those intended as pilots? Somehow remember “The Brady Kids” debuting on that show.

    The use of multiple studios and the licensing of numerous existing properties — mostly live action TV shows, it seems — points that way. Otherwise you’d think they’d minimize expenses with “free” properties like “Oliver and the Artful Dodge” (an unofficial sequel to “Oliver!”), “the Mad Mad Monsters” (not quite the Universal icons), and “The Red Baron” (a dog with no connection to the famous dog who always cursed him).

    Also, a lot of half-hour specials back in the day seemed to be test balloons –particularly comic strip adaptations, hoping for a Peanuts-type franchise. The first Simpsons episode was framed as a Christmas special.

    • Recalling ABC’s “Saturday Superstar Movie” series. Weren’t several or most of those intended as pilots? Somehow remember “The Brady Kids” debuting on that show.

      In a nutshell, that was basically what “The Saturday Superstar Movies” where, stealth pilots. Only a small number of shows were developed based on their appearance in this, The Brady Kids for one, while another was Yogi’s Gang from “Yogi’s Ark Lark”.

      The use of multiple studios and the licensing of numerous existing properties — mostly live action TV shows, it seems — points that way. Otherwise you’d think they’d minimize expenses with “free” properties like “Oliver and the Artful Dodge” (an unofficial sequel to “Oliver!”), “the Mad Mad Monsters” (not quite the Universal icons), and “The Red Baron” (a dog with no connection to the famous dog who always cursed him).

      It was a mixed bag of either stuff from somewhere else (like the public domain Oliver Twist) to animated incarnations of TV shows like Nanny & The Professor.

      Also, a lot of half-hour specials back in the day seemed to be test balloons –particularly comic strip adaptations, hoping for a Peanuts-type franchise. The first Simpsons episode was framed as a Christmas special.

      Originally that episode was going to come in later in the season, the first episode was going to be “Some Enchanted Evening”. And if you know the story of why that wasn’t the first, this link should help.
      http://tooncrap.blogspot.com/2010/08/some-enchanted-evening-original-version.html

    • Mark Evanier has just uncovered a 1971 Hanna-Barbera pilot..the Brady Bunch times twice, 12 kids, (Casey Kasem as one of), in a rather good pilkot called “Duffy’s Dozens”. John Stepehnson plays a ranger, and Janet Waldo, his wife (soun ding like a Jetsons theme song quote..)

      There was another Ed Graham theatrical, but it was a adaptation narrated by Walter Brennan of “The Shooting of Dan McGrew”.

      I always thought DePatie-Freleng’s 1970 “Goldilocks and the 3 Bears”: with Bing and Mary Frances Crosby, and Paul Winchell (covered last year in reference to the soundtrack by Greg Ehrbahr) would be a neat pilot and televsion series..

  • Here are a few more that didn’t make th’ cut:
    THE TRIO of TRIUMPH (1988), which I first heard about via the excellent Cartoonatics blog. It was supposed to be about anti-bullying and starred Huck Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, and Boo-Boo, whom became superheroes.
    MOON MULLINS (1964), produced by Cambria Studios, based upon the comic strip. The pilot just has a man going over what would have happened babbling over the footage.
    DOC POTTS, also by Cambria.
    PLANET PATROL (1960?), produced at Grantray-Lawrence, animation by Grant Simmons, and voiced by Dallas McKennon. Jerry wrote about it earlier in this blog’s infancy.
    (Debatable): THE SING-A-LONG FAMILY, created at New York’s Total Television. IDK if these was a pilot or just filler.
    and best for last:
    ELMYRA’S FAMILY (1992), a porposed spin-off of TINY TOONS. Some bird-brained staffer at Amblin or WB decided to put both pilots as episodes of TINY TOONS.

    • THE TRIO of TRIUMPH (1988), which I first heard about via the excellent Cartoonatics blog. It was supposed to be about anti-bullying and starred Huck Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, and Boo-Boo, whom became superheroes.

      These days they would green light this I’m sure.

      (Debatable): THE SING-A-LONG FAMILY, created at New York’s Total Television. IDK if these was a pilot or just filler.

      Hard to say as well, since there were three of them produced. Yet like Gene Hattree they were simply stuck into the syndie airings of Underdog anyway. Of course Total TV also had another show in the works called “The Colossal Show”, the only remnant of that was a single comic book issue.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4J22XqqkFqU
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhTK6bAi_7A
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8y2OPNsrfFY

      and best for last:
      ELMYRA’S FAMILY (1992), a porposed spin-off of TINY TOONS. Some bird-brained staffer at Amblin or WB decided to put both pilots as episodes of TINY TOONS.

      I recall actually liking “Elmyra’s Family” at least from the one or two episodes they gave it on Tiny Toons. At least it seemed to work more than what they did with Elmyra later on.

  • Wow – the voice work on the HATE pilot seemed (at least to me) to be really bad! I’ve always wanted to see it, but whew! Now how about “Welcome To Elingtingville?” That was a really sweet pilot!

    • I really loved that Eltingville pilot too, it’s a shame they didn’t go further on that (the same could be said for Aaron Springer’s Korgoth of Barbaria too, obviously Cartoon Network was not on the same page).

  • Watching “Gene Hattree,” it seems to me the title character is a bull rather than a horse, as those appear to be horns rather than ears. (He’s certainly bull-headed enough!) I also can’t help noticing that Tortilla Fats’ henchmen, Si and So, are doing a version of the Jack Benny-Mel Blanc routine. It’s good silly fun, TTV-style.

  • Peter Bagge’s Hate was made too soon, way wayyy too soon. MTV was starting to move into mostly live action reality TV, and Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim wasn’t due to arrive for another 5 years. It could have worked if it was pitched 5-10 years later.

    • It is a shame when these things aren’t properly timed.

  • Brutus and Brownie were in the hopper even before the Linus the Lionhearted show. Records from Playhouse Pictures show a production number was given to Brutus and Brownie back in 1962. Ed Graham is listed as the client. What exactly they did or if there is any finished film, I don’t know. Playhouse founder Ade Wollery was well acquainted with Graham by that time, as they had worked together since Graham was with J. Walter Thompson.

  • Thanks Charles for the informative post! I always thought that FUNNY IS FUNNY and PLANET PATROL were one-off theatrical shorts, not pilots. It figures that they would be, though. Reminds me of the “What A Cartoon” program I worked on at H-B where we didn’t really know if our shorts were shorts OR pilots! I haven’t seen too many cartoon pilots except the Jay Ward ones. Hanna-Barbera usually sold shows off pre-viz artwork, they didn’t put much money into filming the shows until they got a network green light. THE FLINTSTONES did have a pilot, not sure about JONNY QUEST or THE JETSONS. I have a “pilot”, for COLONEL BLEEP featuring a prototype live host, but of course, BLEEP was sold, so it doesn’t count.

    • Not sure if there was a pilot per se for Jonny Quest, but there was a “demo reel” made when the project began as a version of the old radio show “Jack Armstrong.” The Armstrong demo footage is the source of the scenes of African natives throwing spears at a hovercraft and jet which appear in the JQ end credits. An interview with Doug Wildey stated that H-B couldn’t get the rights to the Armstrong character, so it was revamped into Quest. (Could’ve been that Jack Armstrong was/is owned by General Mills, who were backing the Jay Ward and TTV operations.)

  • Total Television also produced a “superhero” follow-up to “Underdog” in 1965- “THE CHAMPION”, featuring the voice of Arnold Stang as a taxi-driver who, in reality, is a crime-fighting hero. Four-part episodes were supposed to be the basis of the series (like “Underdog”), but only one four-part pilot was produced. That was also featured In syndicated repeats of “THE UNDERDOG SHOW”.

    • It was called Cauliflower Cabbie..thanks for mentioning the late Arnold Stang as the Cabbie..;.so that is who iut is.was…Tessie is cute (TGerrible Tessie)

  • I must say that Terr’bul Tessie is adorable. I kinda like her Smurf eyes; I even believe that a Lucille Bliss voice would be better for her. And doesn’t Mean Matilda look an awful lot like Nudnik?

  • Gene Hattree is a bovine, not a horse – see his horns 🙂

  • Then there was Philbert with animation by Friz Freleng –live action cartoonist (William Schallert) whose character comes to life
    Philbert

  • Took me this long to figure out “Hattree” is a play on “Autry”, as in Gene.

  • And don’t forget that there was an early 1980s half-hour pilot/special on CBS entitled “Carlton, Your Doorman” – an animated version of the Lorenzo Music character from the sitcom “Rhoda” – which actually went on to win an Emmy Award for ‘Best Animated Program’ (beating out specials starring ‘Bugs Bunny’ and ‘The Pink Panther’). Despite that achievement, it neither aired on TV again, nor was the pilot ever made into a series.

  • I remember CAULIFLOWER CABBIE, a.k.a. THE CHAMPION. And, yes, it was included in syndicated UNDERDOG shows. In a way, it almost reminded me of FEARLESS FLY in the way that the main character’s little gal pal always wished that the Cabbie would be as talented and strong as his super hero alter-ego. I didn’t know that this was an unsold pilot, though. Thank you for clearing that up for me.

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