ANIMATION SPIN
August 21, 2018 posted by Greg Ehrbar

Dr. Seuss & UPA’s “Gerald McBoing-Boing” on Records

He may have been an Oscar-winning animated UPA character on the big screen and the star of two TV series, but the Dr. Seuss character was a children’s record first.

GERALD McBOING-BOING
By Dr. Seuss

Told by The Great Gildersleeve (Harold Peary)
Capitol Records Children’s Series C-94 (7” 78 RPM) (7” 45 RPM)
LP Reissue: J-3268 (1962, with Bozo on the Farm and Teena, The Laughing Hyena)

Released in 1950. Producer: Alan W. Livingston. Music: Billy May. Writer: Theodore Geisel. Running Time: 7 minutes.

As we have seen many times before on Animation Spin, children’s records were quite a big deal in the postwar era, when television and rock ‘n roll were still new and radio had not yet faded. Suburban parents were bestowing their doe-eyed baby boomers with record players and plenty of “unbreakable under normal use” discs to enjoy upon them.

Thus it should not be a surprise that Capitol Records’ prestigious children’s record division, which featured the best-selling Bozo the Clown records and a plethora of Warner and Disney titles, should warrant an original story from Dr. Seuss, who had already published a number of classics such as Horton Hatches The Egg – which was adapted to the animated screen by Warner Bros. cartoons.

Gerald McBoing-Boing (Capitol Records)

Having a radio star like Hal Peary narrate a record would be like having Ted Danson or Jim Parsons, a celebrity with a popular, long-running media presence. The Great Gildersleeve was not only the very first situation comedy “spinoff” on network radio (from Fibber McGee and Molly), it was also among the first to have a narrative style. Most golden age radio comedies presented vaudeville sketches and songs or consisted of basic stories that allowed a procession of regulars and guests to trot on and off the mike. The Gildersleeve shows were more like The Andy Griffith Show, taking place in a little town called Summerfield. Even though Gildy also encountered a regular group characters along his way, the storyline drove the half hour more than the ensemble.

One of the trademarks of Hal Peary’s Gildersleeve character was a distinctive, tittering laugh, a distant relative to the one Mel Blanc evolved for Barney Rubble. He ends the Gerald McBoing-Boing record with the laugh, as everyone at the time would have expected it. Years later, he used the laugh as the voice of Big Ben the whale in the Rankin/Bass special Rudolph’s Shiny New Year. His last performance was in the same role for the Rankin/Bass feature Rudolph and Frosty Christmas in July.

After the record was released, the Gerald story was published in book form with illustrations by the legendary comic and children’s book artist Mel Crawford, marking the first time Theodore Seuss Geisel did not create the pictures. And United Productions of America (UPA) released what would be one of their first major successes, an animated short version directed by Robert “Bobe” Cannon.

Gerald McBoing Boing (1950)

Gerald McBoing Boing’s Symphony (1953)

How Now McBoing-Boing (1954)

Charming but never to the point of sentimentality, the Gerald film put Cannon in the reluctant position of making sequels, but fortunately the small number did not make Gerald wear out his welcome. The last one, the only one in CinemaScope, Gerald McBoing! Boing! on the Planet Moo, nabbed an Academy Award nomination.

Gerald McBoing! Boing! on the Planet Moo (1956)


Columbia Pictures Presents
GERALD McBOING-BOING
and GERALD McBOING-BOING IN THE WONDERFUL KINGDOM OF OOP

Paul DeWitt and Cast
Cricket Records (Pickwick) EAS-5034 (10” 78 RPM)

Released in 1957. Producer/Writer: Roy Freeman. Music: Roy Freeman, Stan Applebaum. Arranger/Conductor: Warren Vincent. Running Time: 3 minutes each.

GERALD McBOING-BOING AT PROFESSOR WUMPLE’S MUSIC SCHOOL
and GERALD THE CIRCUS ELEPHANT BOY

Paul DeWitt and Cast
Cricket Records (Pickwick) EAS-5034 (10” 78 RPM)

Released in 1957. Producer/Writer: Roy Freeman. Music: Roy Freeman, Stan Applebaum. Arranger/Conductor: Warren Vincent. Running Time: 3 minutes each.

Despite their firm resistance to fall into what they perceived as the pitfalls of other studios–such as cuteness, sameness or getting locked into continuing characters–UPA was eventually going to be sucked into the vortex, as Adam Abraham’s fascinating book, When Magoo Flew: The Rise and Fall of An Animation Studio, explains in detail.

The needy, gaping jaws of television, the financial needs of the studio, and the creative possibilities of a new medium must have made the prospect of working on The Gerald McBoing-Boing Show (or The Boing-Boing Show) seem very exciting to more than a few artists at UPA. It was a weekly anthology of animated shorts by UPA animators “hosted” by Gerald and Bill Goodwin, an announcer ubiquitous at the time on TV and radio programs like The Burns and Allen Show.

The cartoons told little stories in quirky ways, very much like Sesame Street animated films taught numbers and letters, only at a much slower pace. Perhaps more than anything, the fact that color was such an important part of UPA’s artistry and the show was in black-and-white was a bad sign. CBS aired it at 5:30 p.m. eastern time on Sundays in 1956, then reran it on Friday nights in 1957, making it the first animated series to appear in primetime, though The Flintstones still may assume the primetime preeminence because its shows were new in 1960. The Gerald McBoing-Boing Show was most influential because of the number of animators and writers it allowed free rein (despite the often hesitant animation), including Fred Crippen, Ernest Pintoff, Alan Zaslove, Jimmy Murakami, Norm Ferguson, Phil Duncan, Aurelius Battaglia, Gerald Ray, Howard Beckerman, Jack Heiter, John Urie, John Whitney and Gene Deitch.

Cricket Records, a low-budget children’s division of Pickwick Record Sales, released two singles in 1957 that must have been intended to tie in with the TV show as well as the previous films. Recorded in New York with the same musicians and singers as any other Cricket product of their time, they bear no audible resemblance to the animated versions. However, for those familiar with the Warren Vincent Cricket records, which are a little less opulent than the Maury Laws discs, these are among his very best. It may be that Vincent was working closet to his wheelhouse in a slightly more jazz-based style, which works nicely for a UPA property.

Gerald McBoing-Boing (Cricket Records)

The first side of the two separate releases retells the first Gerald story using new prose and song instead of the verse by Seuss (he and UPA, by the way, are not mentioned on the labels or covers, only Screen Gems and Columbia Pictures). The other three little stories are original, though they are similar enough to existing cartoons to make one think they might have been actual UPA creations, which is quite a major feat for Pickwick, which did not always have the budget, means or resources to accomplish this level of quality. The Professor Wumple story was likely designed to match up to the stills, which of course are from an actual UPA cartoon.

Gerald McBoing-Boing in The Wonderful Kingdom Of Oop

Gerald McBoing-Boing At Professor Wumple’s Music School

Gerald the Circus Elephant Boy

Sadly, compared to the rising stars of Hanna-Barbera, Jay Ward, Total TeleVision and other new characters, Gerald McBoing-Boing was not much of a household name in the sixties, save for two Magoo appearances. One was in a TV episode called Magoo Meets McBoing-Boing that was released theatrically (Magoo and Gerald had paired in Dell comic books in the early fifties) and the other was the role of Tiny Tim (at least by resemblance, as this “Gerald” spoke with words courtesy of Joan Gardner) in the classic Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol. Gerald musn’t have seemed familiar enough to mid-sixties kids for Pickwick to pay the licensing to include the singles in any of their Happy Time LP collections, such as TV and Movie Favorites for Children.

In 2005, after Gerald had made a comeback on VHS (with a few episodes of the 1956 series) and then on DVD), Cartoon Network presented The Gerald McBoing-Boing Show, produced in Canada by Cookie Jar, a series that was more in the mold of its contemporaries in children’s TV than of the cartoon modern era, making the Cricket Records fade even further into obscurity. However, Dr. Seuss being a renewable entertainment resource, the original book remains popular, and was recently published in its 1952 edition, as a Beginner Book and a Little Golden Book.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
Werner Klemperer performs “Gerald McBoing Boing”

Yes, that’s the actor who portrayed Colonel Klink (“Hogannnnnn!”) from the 1960’s sitcom Hogan’s Heroes in a relatively new recording with a specially-composed score. This is from a 1992 CD that also features “The Musicians of Bremen” by Carl Reiner and “The Fairy’s Gift” by Alicia Grebner (NBC’s “227”).

14 Comments

  • I’m pretty sure that the Warner cartoon produced in the 40’s was “Horton Hatches the Egg,” while “Horton Hears a Who” was made as a television special in the late 60’s or early 70’s.

  • Didn’t Warner Brothers do “Horton Hatches the Egg”?

    “Horton Hears a Who!” was Chuck Jones’ special from 1970.

    • Thanks for catching that boo-boo, JP and Frederick. You’ll both receive a Whoville no-prize from Greg – and I’ll correct the text shortly.

      Let’s not forget Suess had had many animated adaptions of his work prior to 1950, including two George Pal Puppetoons, several Flit sponsored theatrical commercials and his work establishing Private Snafu during World War II (during which time I believe Geisel first met Bosustow).

    • Not only that, but I think “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” wasn’t published until 1957, seven years after Gerald.

  • Thanks for caring enough to point all of this these mistakes out.

  • Just to round out Gerald’s video shorts filmography, here’s the “Magoo Meets McBoing Boing” TV episode. As with “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol”, Abe Levitow gets director’s credit on this one.

  • It’s maybe noteworthy that on the Capitol record cover, Gerald looks like a Dr. Seuss character; while in the UPA cartoons he looks nothing like one (though everything like a UPA character.) Was that really Bill Goodwin narrating the Boing Boing TV show? I’ve heard a couple clips over the years and thought it sounded more like Marvin Miller, who narrated the theatrical cartoons.

    • All the books and sites say Bill Goodwin, who was usually on camera for quite a few shows and promos at that time. If an actual episode was found, I have a feeling that Goodwin might be seen doing bumpers and intros and Miller would be heard doing narration and story support, but that’s a guess.

    • Important though, the record preceded the cartoon (or so I’ve thought.) I’ve read the book, seen the cartoon, and heard the record (sounds like a Disney story-reader slogan..:))

  • I have a copy of the Gerald pilot, Greg, and Bill Goodwin is the narrator for the Gerald wraparounds. Marvin Miller only appears in the cartoons he works in. The two men are not physically in the show in live action.
    Gerald in Prof. Wumple’s Music School and the Circus Elephant Boy are special favorites from my child hood. They are so inept and horrible that they are hilariously funny! It sounds like a bad imitation of W.C. Fields when the ringmaster says, “It looks like..all the animals…are on Strike!” and then Gerald laughs like a hyena in a scratchy sounding pick-up track! I used to fall on the floor laughing at how stupid that sounded. I always liked the cartoon tracks and had a lot of respect for them, but the Cricket records were very funny JUNK! Thanks for posting them, Greg.

  • …Here’s more, Greg! I just listened to the Prof. Wumple and Circus Elephant Boy records and they are at least a minute longer than my old 78 rpm copy of the stories. Prof. Wumple has dialog that I’d never heard before, and Gerald does a lot of animal noises on the Elephant Boy side that were new to me as well. So that means the Cricket Standard Play sides run longer than their other records. Are your copies 45s or 78s? They sound very clear and sharp. I still laugh at Cricket Records version of Gerald’s “Boing-Boing” sound! It’s so funky! Thanks again.

    • Thanks for the kind words, they are so welcome Mark. I’ve been listening to Cricket Records since I was a wee tot, starting with this version of Alice in Wonderland even before the Hanna-Barbera version and the grand and glorious Camarata version, which is the best record ever made.

      Cricket 78’s were edited a by about 30 seconds or so from their 45 RPM versions. I listened to Alice for years before I heard the full length version and had no idea there was more material. Actor/singer/composer Will Ryan and I were amazed to learn that we both enjoyed this version as a child. To celebrate, he strummed his ukelele as we both sang “How Do You Do, Little Alice” together.

      This is the complete version:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sjt2YDXyUQ4

  • I had the “Professor Wumple’s Music School” record when I was a kid. The animal sound effects used for the “Circus Elephant Boy” story was quite impressive, especially the laughing hyenas. They scared me every time I listened to it. It’s still kind of creepy, even today. Ha! Thanks for posting the soundbites from both sides of the record. It really brought back fond memories.

  • Maybe just me. but, from a distance, GMBB looks a bit like a famous chipmunk (NOT the Justin Bieber version)?

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