ANIMATION ANECDOTES
September 4, 2015 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #228

boing-boing-show

The Gerald McBoing-Boing Show. Actually, the first animated cartoon series broadcast in prime time was probably “The Gerald McBoing-Boing Show” (aka The Boing Boing Show)on CBS that premiered at 5:30pm in 1956 – but only lasted three months (although it was later shown at 7:30 p.m. on Friday evenings in the summer of 1958 making it arguably the first animated prime time show). CBS was so excited about the series that they took out a seven year option on the series. However, CBS hadn’t planned on the show confusing its audience and going wildly over budget resulting in each episode costing $60,000 per episode, more than a top flight variety show with live action stars.

Thoughts From Chuck Jones. In the November 17, 1979 edition of the “Des Moines Register” newspaper, animation legend Chuck Jones stated,”The way animated characters ‘carry the idea’ is the secret to success. All memorable movies are recalled for how well the actors presented the script, not for the intricate details of the plot. In cartooning, the most important element is defining characters’ emotions through movement.

“I’m glad I chose animation as a profession. It’s a job that you’re able to do as long as you can hold your pencil and your brain’s working. That’s kind of nice. As my mother got old, she felt like she was the captain of a sinking ship. She felt all right as the captain. It was the damn ship that was sinking.”

fat-albert225Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. When comedian Bill Cosby teamed with Filmation to do “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” that debuted in 1972, there was already a sense of political correctness craziness not to “offend” black pressure groups. The thrust of that feeling being that the black characters should not look radically different than white characters. Artist Randy Hollar with the assistance of Michelle McKinney, under the direction of Ken Brown basically came up with character designs that looked like generic white children colored brown.

Cosby rejected those designs and insisted the characters have more distinctive characteristics that included large lips, broad noses, nappy hair, large feet and more that would have been considered racist if suggested by a white artist.

The Character of Mulan. Dean DeBlois, the co-director of “Lilo &Stitch” with Chris Sanders, also worked with Sanders on “Mulan”. “Neither of us likes slapstick humor very much and we don’t like cheap sitcom one-liners,” stated DeBlois in a 2002 interview. “In ‘Mulan’, we felt we created a character who was very accessible because she wasn’t particularly good at anything. She wasn’t born into the aristocracy. She acted on instinct. She made stupid decisions. She was often impulsive yet she had a kind of nobility.”

1648402-thing___classic_kirby_color_clobberin_timeNo Clobberin’. Commenting on DePatie-Freleng’s 1978 “The New Fantastic Four” Saturday morning animated television series, writer Roy Thomas talked about the restrictions compared to writing the comic book version. “The Thing cannot hit anyone, man beast or monster. In ‘The Phantom of Film City’ episode, I had the Thing punch a robot and that was cut. No ‘It’s clobberin’ time!’ NBC frowns on that sort of action. Every once in a while the Army turns up, but they aren’t allowed to have guns or tanks. They just have to rely on friendly persuasion I suppose.”

Monsters Vs. Aliens Vs. Rex Havoc. In the September 20, 2005 issue of the “Daily Variety” entertainment trade paper, it was announced that DreamWorks was producing an animated feature film based on a four episode comic series from Warren Publications featuring a character called “Rex Havoc”.

According to the description, the film would be about “a monster hunter called upon to battle aliens who have disrupted cable TV service. Rex assembles a team of monsters to help including Ick!, Dr. Cockroach, the 50,000 Pound Woman and Insectosaurus”. However, as the project developed, it was determined that too many changes needed to be made to the original “mature audiences” series. However, the basic premise did evolve into the original animated feature “Monsters Vs. Aliens”(2009).

Jack Nicholson in a mid-1950s head shot

Jack Nicholson in a mid-1950s head shot

Jack Nicholson, Almost Animator. Animator Irv Spence recalled meeting Oscar winning actor Jack Nicholson at an Academy Awards ceremony. He tentatively approached the actor to see if Nicholson might remember him at all and his time as a teenaged go-fer at the MGM cartoon studio. Not only did Nicholson remember him but shared some of his memories of the pranks the animators used to play on him.

One of his chores was punching holes in paper for the animators. The animators concocted an elaborate scheme to send Nicholson off for new paper and then would rearrange the room to disorient him when he returned. Despite all of this, Nicholson told Spence he enjoyed working there. Hanna-Barbera saw some artistic talent in the boy and offered him an entry level position but Nicholson turned it down because he wanted to pursue acting.

Lucky Disappointment. In his Eighties, animator and comic book artist Jack Bradbury lived in Santa Rosa, California where he briefly met another resident, cartoonist Charles Schulz. “It turned out we shared the same idol in cartoonists: Roy Crane and his wonderful (comic strip) ‘Wash Tubs’,” said Bradbury. “Schulz also said that he tried to get on at Disney’s but was turned down. Was that ever a lucky disappointment for him!”

220px-BillthompsonBill Thompson. Most animation fans know voice artist Bill Thompson for his work doing MGM’s Droopy or Disney’s Mr. Smee, Alice’s White Rabbit and the little park ranger J. Audubon Woodlore. He left the business to become a business executive although he occasionally returned to do some performing.

In a 1968 letter, Thompson wrote, “For some years now (starting in 1957), I have been with the Union Oil Company in a community relations capactity, working in the area of youth work, safety and delinquency prevention but occasionally I get permission from the company to appear in some of the characters that I have portrayed in the past. (Thompson voiced Touche Turtle for Hanna-Barbera in 1962.) This past August 25th, I appeared in the Hollywood Bowl in Frank DeVol’s salute to the days of radio in both my character roles of Wally Wimple and the Old Timer”.

Thompson died July 15, 1971, one week after his 58th birthday of Acute Septic Shock, a complication of the flu. His final performing role was as the drunken gander relative of Abigail and Amelia, Uncle Waldo, in Disney’s animated feature The Aristocats (1970).

28 Comments

  • “Crusader Rabbit” premiered on Los Angeles TV on August 1, 1950 in prime time. The big difference between “Crusader Rabbit” and “The Gerald McBoing-Boing Show” was that the former was syndicated, in only one city at a time, and the latter was broadcast on network TV, throughout America.

  • Crusader aired at 6 p.m. on KBNH. 6 p.m. isn’t considered prime time.

  • I’m curious about the McBoing Boing show on CBS – what’s happened to the shows themselves/who owns the rights to them? What were the shorts like? Are the episodes intact?

    • Dreamworks (by way of its acquisition of Classic Media) owns The Boing Boing Show today.

      Segments of the Boing Boing Show were run on Cartoon Express on USA about 30 years ago, and Paramount Home Video released six volumes of curated segments (restored) on VHS in 1990 (as Gerald McBoing Boing Presents)

      The Boing Boing Show cartoons (Gerald himself only appears in wrap-around interstitial segments) are an odd assortment of animated sketches, almost experimental at times, directed by a variety talents including Ernest Pintoff, Fred Crippen, Gene Deitch, T. Hee, and Rudy Larriva – Even old timers like Norm Ferguson and first timers like Alan Zaslov, John Whitney and George Dunning – with animators like Rod Scribner and Phil Duncan. Bill Scott, Stan Freberg, Walter Tetley, Hans Conreid, Thurl Ravenscroft, Daws Butler, Marvin Kaplan (among others) did voices, Mel Levin wrote songs… I could go on and on. It’a an important missing piece of the UPA story – and isn’t talked about enough because the films are inaccessible.

      That said, while there are a few gems in the mix – many of them are misfires. Some feel like unfunny Jay Ward cartoons… but because of the talents involved, all of them are interesting from an animation history perspective – and deserve to be seen again and reassessed.

      Yes, I believe the shows exist intact in the Classic Media vaults, based on available evidence. I’d love to get those back out on DVD (and don’t think I haven’t tried). The problem is that there are NO “star” characters to use as a hook (beyond Gerald – which is how Paramount tried to sell the VHS collections decades ago). And to the studio and the public, selling cartoons (no matter how good or important) without a “star” character is VERY difficult and has proven not to sell (this is the issue keeping Warner Home Video from releasing the complete Tex Avery (and why they released a “Droopy” set).

    • We all cry inside, Jerry. Nobody understands our pain.

  • I wish The Boing-Boing Show was readily available. The few bits I’ve seen are tantalizing and odd.

  • “However, CBS hadn’t planned on [The Boing-Boing Show] confusing its audience….”

    Interesting. How did it confuse people?

    • The show as a whole forgot to be entertaining. UPA disdained the MGM and WB comedic approach, loathing cartoon slapstick. But a studio must not neglect to hook the audience with something when it opts to forego humor.

    • Um, I don’t think that was the reason at all.

      I think the real reason is, while the show was called “The Boing Boing Show”, the character wasn’t seen much at all. With the show mostly showing random stuff, that might’ve confused people.

    • The show didn’t even have McBoing Boing entirely and served as a mere showcase of what the studio did as a whole (in my opinion). Good way to waste that network money as I see it!

  • it always drove me crazy that there is never (ever) any youtube footage of the Gerald tv show!! Poo!

    • Oh, really?
      “Three-Horned Flink” (with Mel Levin), and a few others were uploaded by Cartoon Brew.

    • Yeah, until another fink named Amid deleted those videos.

    • Strangely one or two films from the series had also found their way to cheapo DVD’s too, like this…
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDOG1w9eXmE

  • I recall when they came out with a newer version of Gerald McBoing Boing Show that came out ten years ago. Was totally different than the original Boing Boing Show that came out in 1956.

    And on The Thing when Hanna Barbera animated The Thing episodes as part of Fred and Barney Meets The Thing they totally changed how instead of a craggy war hero/top notch football player/ace test pilot Ben Grimm was renamed as Benjy Grimm a nerdy looking character who had two rings in his possession that turned him into The Thing.

    • Besides giving the adult Ben Grimm a teenage alter ego (a tad creepy, because he had a Reggie-type teen rival for a teen girl), they plucked the Schmoo from “Li’l Abner” (abandoning his Dogpatch roots and everything else but his appearance), and put Olive Oyl and Alice the Goon in the Army (think Laverne and Shirley also had an animated Army show in the wake of “Private Benjamin”).

    • Now you wonder why Saturday morning was all garbage!

  • Wasn’t there a Boing Boing Show on Sunday afternoons?

  • Quote: “…Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” that debuted in 1972, there was already a sense of political correctness craziness not to “offend” black pressure groups.”

    My response: Racial sensitivity is frequently referred to as “political correctness” by those who are racially insensitive. And racial sensitivity is not “crazy.” I think the pressure on the creators of “Fat Albert” was not to offend black PEOPLE, as opposed to those pesky “black pressure groups.” Fat Albert debuted in 1972. A mere seven years earlier were the Watts Riots. And Martin Luther King had been assassinated just FOUR years earlier. So a little historical context throws Cosby’s, Filmation’s, the network’s and the public’s racial concerns into perspective. Their sensitivity to issues was real and hardly “crazy.”

    To quote Karren Abdul Jabar in his recent NY Times article (9/2/15): “The term “political correctness” is so general that to most people it simply means a discomfort with changing times and attitudes, an attack on the traditions of how we were raised. (It’s an emotional challenge every generation has had to go through.) What it really means is nothing more than sensitizing people to the fact that some old-fashioned words, attitudes and actions may be harmful or insulting to others. Naturally, people are angry about that because it makes them feel stupid or mean when they really aren’t. But when times change, we need to change with them in areas that strengthen our society.”

    Quote: “Cosby rejected those designs and insisted the characters have more distinctive characteristics that included large lips, broad noses, nappy hair, large feet and more that would have been considered racist if suggested by a white artist.”

    My response: I would suggest that the rather old-fashioned, outdated and borderline racist term “nappy” is highly inappropriate. “Black hair” might have been a better, more accurate phrase. And “large feet” are hardly unique to black people. Or, you could have simply said, “Cosby suggested that the character take on more Afro-centric features” and left it at that.

    I became the very first black show-runner in TV animation when I did “Fraggle Rock” for Jim Henson and NBC., and I developed and ran the very first ALL BLACK VOICE CAST half-hour cartoon show, “Kid ‘N Play” for NBC. I also put so many prominent black characters in “Spider-Man: The Animated Series” (for which I was producer and head writer), that the show was nominated for an N.A.A.C.P. Image Award – as well as an Annie Award – in the same year. And yet one of my most cherished possessions from all those years is a copy of a letter we received from a young viewer both praising the “Spider-Man” series and simultaneously asking why there were “so many niggers” on what was otherwise a very entertaining show.

    It’s a constant reminder that racism exists, even among the very young, and there’s nothing “politically correct” about counteracting it whenever necessary.

    • It would be more constructive to consider that kid’s letter a constant reminder that you put a bunch of characters in the cartoon who weren’t frequenting the comic book they were reading.  Maybe the kid just liked rap music and talked like a rap artist, even if it was inappropriate to speak in such a manner when communicating with an animator and not a rapper.  Or maybe they didn’t like rap and casually spoke that way.  It doesn’t matter.  Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s Art (even Todd McFarlane’s art) is more important than policing language and ignoring a target demographic in order to fill an arbitrary racial quota.  Even fat bald white guys would have gotten tired of seeing the Kingpin pop up in every episode, and I seriously doubt stocking the show with extra blacks did anything signifigant in terms of black comic sales.  Jack Kirby’s underrated Black Panther series would have been a better outlet at any rate, and Kirby was Jewish (!). 

  • Three Horned Flink and Fight on for Old:
    http://www.cartoonbrew.com/classic/rare-upa-recordings-by-mel-leven-34591.html

    If that’s what was being offered up on the McBoing Boing Show, I can see why CBS wasn’t too enchanted – I sure don’t see where that 60K per show episode went to (twitching wallpaper, anyone)?

    • UPA had a habit of going over budget on their films. Despite the simple designs and movement, these were artists who worked hard to come up with those simple designs and make them as good as possible. Like the Warner Bros. animators, they were making the films for themselves, not the audience; but unlike the guys at Termite Terrace, UPA had more upscale, avant-garde tastes that did not jive as well with 1950s TV audiences.

  • Some UPA morsels–not all of them particularly tasty–got picked up by KHJ (Channel 9, at that time owned by the General Tire and Rubber Co.), and dropped into an early-morning un-hosted slot along with various and sundry other cartoons and live-action shows. This was ostensibly “sponsored” by the International House of Pancakes restaurant chain–but the only evidence of that “sponsorship” the viewers would see would be a videotape clip of a portly guy in chef’s duds, flipping a spatula and singing a jingle about “The Pancake Man”.

    I’e always suspected that these cartoons may have originated on “THe Boing Boing Show”. These included one built around a song about “winter sports”, one about an election between one Bates and one Jones, with a prominent line being “No electioneering beyond this point!”, and one about an ice-cream vendor who did the unforgivable–he CHANGED HIS TUNE!—and was assigned to “the worst district” in town.

    This mulligatawny of a cartoon show included the Guild Films package of b&w Looney Tunes shorts, the one-reel M-G-M “Our Gang” efforts, and such made-for-video things as “Colonel Bleep”, “Herge’s Adventures of Tintin”, “Spunky and Tadpole”, “Q. T. Hush”, the animated exercises of “The Mighty Mister Titan” and the quarter-hour syndicated “King and Odie Show”:,

    It was usually logged in “TV Guide’ as simply “Babysitter”

    • It was usually logged in “TV Guide’ as simply “Babysitter”

      And there spells the ultimate fate of animation in this country.

    • That “portly gentleman” who portrayed the Pancake Man was Hal Smith, who did hundreds of cartoon voices for Disney and Hanna-Barbera, including Gyro Gearloose and Owl in “Winnie the Pooh” and many, many voices for Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw. Possibly his most famous live action role was as Otis the drunk on the Andy Griffith Show.

  • I have a vague recollection of the Bong,Bong Show,probably from the first run 5:30 slot as there was no commotion in the house for my older brothers to watch something else. I would have been four years old and already a year of the Mickey Mouse Club under my belt. With Captain Kangaroo,Ding Dong School, and local personalities(Philadelphia,Pa.,a hot bed for kiddie TV) spooling old theatrical ‘toons, this televison thingy rocked my world.

  • In my area, The Boing Boing Show cartoons ran constantly for years on WDIO-TV, Channel 10, the ABC affiliate in Duluth, Minnesota; though at the time I didn’t know what they were. Because they were in random lengths ranging from 3 to 10 minutes, WDIO used them as fillers in their programs of theatrical cartoons (the NTA Noveltoon/Little Lulu/George Pal package,) old time comedy shorts (Laurel and Hardy, the Little Rascals) AND feature movies. In those days, ABC didn’t provide a full daytime schedule, so WDIO had a morning movie, an afternoon movie, sometimes a prime-time movie pre-empting network shows, a late show, a Friday late-late monster show, and loads of weekend movies. They also filled time with airline travelogues, military handout films, and anything else they could get.

    By then, Henry Saperstein owned these cartoons, and they were also available in 16mm for rental from Audio-Brandon and sale to schools and libraries thru A-B’s sales arm, Fleetwood Films.

    “Winter Sports” was a good ‘n goofy Mel Leven novelty song, and the title of the one about the ice cream vendor was “The Freezee Yum Story.” (PS: Anyone got a nice, clean, pink, cheap 16mm print of that one for sale?)

  • Was the show in that weird category, where the cartoons were filmed in color, but shown in black and white for broadcast? (CBS has VERY little color in the 50s, after their own color system collapsed).

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