Animation History
November 1, 2022 posted by Mike Kazaleh

Format Films Unsold Pilot “The Shrimp”

The Shrimp expresses his opinion of CBS – by Mike Kazaleh

It was another show that almost was.

Back in 1961 Herb Klynn of Format Films was pitching a TV series called “The Shrimp” around the same time he was pitching The Alvin Show and CBS nearly picked it up as well. They didn’t, to Herb’s great disappointment, for this was a pet project of his.

The Shrimp was based on a short story written by Sy Gomberg published in the March 22nd 1947 issue of Collier’s magazine:

Here are some trade newspaper and magazine notices for the show being in production, and CBS’ plans to air it.

Weekly Television – October 3rd, 1960

Broadcast magazine – Oct. 17th 1960

Weekly Television – November 28, 1960

Broadcasting Magazine – December 12, 1960

from VARIETY – March 15th, 1961

A blurb in Weekly Television

Format Films produced a complete color cartoon to pitch the series – but despite all the industry publicity, the show was ultimately shelved. The pilot itself was considered long lost – until it was recently unearthed by the film archivist at the USC HMH Foundation Moving Image Archive, where Herb’s Format Films archive now reside. The film was almost entirely animated by the very wonderful Robert “Bobe” Cannon (a few scenes in the opening montage were done by an unidentified animator.) Vocal duties were performed by Shep Menkin, June Foray and Kathleen Freeman. There is an original musical score composed by Dennis Farnon.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, we are pleased to present the long lost pilot film!

About twelve years later, Herb Klynn made some new Shrimp pitch art and shopped the idea around again. The second time wasn’t the lucky one, and so The Shrimp never came to television.

Here’s a gallery of cels from The Shrimp. A lot of the original art for the pilot still exists – held in the Archives of Asifa-Hollywood. The cels at present are packed in large boxes with the animation drawings between them. The cels were inked with brush, and opaqued with tempra, and sadly the paint has stuck to the paper drawings.

Comparison between the film – and an original cel.


As a Post Script: Bobe Cannon had been with Playhouse Pictures just prior to making The Shrimp. It was at Playhouse that he animated an uncompleted film about another kid character, called “Mommie, Gimme A Drinka Water” based on the routine by Danny Kaye. I remember while I was working at Playhouse Pictures in the late eighties, I found a foot high stack of pencil animation from the project. As I flipped Bobe’s delightful drawings, it was clear that this cartoon Danny Kaye was much more amusing than the actual Danny Kaye.

A rare image from the Danny Kaye pilot. Will this pilot film eventually be found?

9 Comments

  • Maybe Danny Kaye isn’t your cup of tea, but as a longtime fan of his, I find it hard to believe that any cartoon version of the man could possibly be “much more amusing than the actual Danny Kaye.” Animated adaptations of famous screen comedians (e.g., Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, the Three Stooges) always fall far short of their original work. Even Filmation’s “Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down?” managed to be less funny that the real Jerry Lewis, which is no small achievement.

  • Great job, Mike!–Been curious about this project after seeing it mentioned numerous times on the Tralfaz blog over the years. I’d pretty much accepted that any production art no longer existed, much less a pilot.

    I can see why this was ultimately not picked up. Might have been an okay back-up segment for another show, but I think it’s a little weak to headline a series.

    The Format crew must have loved diminutive mute characters, as evidenced by Shrimp and Leonardo from the “Clyde Crashcup” shorts.

  • Thanks for your post, Mike. I enjoyed the “Shrimp” pilot. It had a touch of “Our Gang” in it and a touch of “Peanuts” as well. The Shrimp having a turtle for a sidekick was unusual to say the least, most writers of Kid Stuff type shows would have given him a dog. Nice limited stuff from Bobe Cannon, the turtle’s head was a masterpiece of shapeful shapelessness. I loved the runs and the Shrimp’s walk cycle. Too bad it never sold.

  • If we common folk are allowed to know, is there anything else cool in the USC HMN archives? I’d be interested in anything related to the weird Lone Ranger cartoon they made in 68, it’s a guilty pleasure. I looked at the UCLA Format materials (from afar), and there’s some production assets, but nothing like this stuff.

    • Mike Kazaleh and I are going through that archive now… and will be pulling things like The Shrimp (and last week’s Dusty Of The Circus pilot) for Cartoon Research readers as soon as they can be scanned or restored (that could be weeks or months). We are looking at material related to The Lone Ranger – as well as Curiosity Shop and other lost pilots. Stay tuned!

      • This is fantastic news; thanks!

    • We have the entire season of the Lone Ranger, albeit only in 16mm faded prints.

  • I can see why “The Shrimp” didn’t sell. It’s a middle-aged man’s idea of childhood. It’s also too self-consciously clever, a little too insistent, and kind of charmless (surprisingly, considering Robert Cannon’s involvement; it could have used a lot more of the gentleness he was noted for). Worst of all, it’s not funny. The adult-as-child voices, even from the great June Foray, don’t help. The turtle comes out of left field; perhaps he should have communicated with Shrimp only when alone, inscrutable around the other characters. A few tears from Shrimp don’t really convey the pain of a little kid being left out of a game (old show-biz dictum: if the actor cries, the audience won’t). Speaking of Format Films, Clyde Crashcup’s silent assistant Leonardo, though an adult, was more successfully childlike than Shrimp. Innocence is the quality missing.

    • “It’s a middle-aged man’s idea of childhood.”
      Well, that was the norm considering that was pretty much descibe 50% of newspaper comics.

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