TV’s first cat-and-dog team tangles with an evil interstellar empire on an LP based on the cartoon that launched the Hanna-Barbera animation empire.
RUFF AND REDDY: ADVENTURES IN SPACE
Original T.V. Voices
Colpix Records CP-201 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Mono)
Released in 1958. Series Executive Producer: Roger Muir. Series Producers: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera. Album Producer: Hecky Krasnow. Writer: Charles Shows. Theme Music: Hoyt Curtin, Bill Hanna. Organist: Nick Nicholson. Running Time: 36 minutes.
Voices: Daws Butler (Reddy, Newscaster, The Big Thinker); Don Messick (Ruff, Professor Gizmo, Muni Mula Chatter).
This album presents the first set of episodes on the first TV series produced by what was then called “H-B Enterprises.” The modest series, consisting of serialized cartoons of less than four minutes, premiered to enough critical and ratings success to spawn the shows that made Hanna-Barbera grow exponentially within less than a decade.Ruff and Reddy, basically a friendly cat and dog cliffhanger cartoon, is a straightforward, gentle affair, more akin to the Total TeleVision shows that would follow a few years later. There is little of the wry satire of the Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear or Quick Draw McGraw cartoons, but there are glimpses into what the early H-B TV shorts would offer, with phrases like “Hold it when I holler hold it!” The closest this Ruff and Reddy adventure comes to satire is Daws Butler’s impression of Liberace for the one of the voices of the two-faced Big Thinker.
Writer Charles Shows employed the same knack for wordplay he would also use on the entire Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Series record line. In fact, there’s one line that he repeated twice on the 1966 HBR LP, The Flintstones and José Jiminez in “The Time Machine,” about “speaking English like an Englishman.”
The recording is an edited version of the “Muni Mula” storyline, comprising twelve installments: “Planet Pirates,” “Night Flight Fright,” “The Whama Bama Gamma Gun,” “The Mastermind of Muni-Mula,” “The Mad Monster of Muni-Mula,” “Hocus Pocus Focus,” “Muni Mula Mix-Up,” “The Creepy Creature,” “Surprise in the Skies,” “Crowds in the Clouds,” “Reddy’s Rocket Rescue” and “Rocket Ranger Danger.”
The dialogue comes from the film soundtracks, with the intros and endings cut out. For the most part, the segments flow together smoothly, but there is some repetition. Narrator Don Messick’s recaps and exposition still occasionally betray the fact that this is not one story, but several small ones. And the very nature of the cliffhangers makes the listening experience different than watching the shows one or two at a time. They weren’t designed to be strung together as a coherent whole, but it holds together well. It is interesting to speculate on what the album might have sounded like if the script was adapted for vinyl and the performances were done especially for the record.
The joy is in hearing 36 minutes of prime Butler and Messick, doing all the voices. The theme song is not sung, but is played briefly here and there by an organist—one of the best in television, Nick Nicholson, who played on The Howdy Doody Show, also an NBC show at the time. The Capitol Hi-Q music is absent—and missed—but the organ is better than nothing and does suggest the sound of early children’s TV, which was frequently accompanied by organ music on both network and local shows.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Adventures in Space”
Perhaps because the dialogue is isolated and has not been mixed in with music and sound effects, the fidelity of Messick and Butler’s dialogue is clear and sharp, almost as if it was created for the record. But it is the soundtrack minus the library music.
GEMINI IV: WALK IN SPACE / GEMINI V: EIGHT DAYS IN SPACE
A Hanna-Barbera “Real-Life” Documentary
Hanna-Barbera Records – Cartoon Series HLP-2034 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Mono)
Released in 1965. Executive Producers: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera. Writer/Director: Charles Shows. Recorded with the Cooperation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Running Time: 29 minutes.
While some of these records were whimsical fantasies (Randy Rayder in Outer Space, Bobby and Betty Go to the Moon), many of them were fact-based and handled the subject with stark seriousness—even on records for children (Golden’s A Child’s Introduction to Outer Space, United Artists Talespinners’ Moon Voyage).
Charles Shows had already handled space documentary material before, at least, according to how he recounts it in his book, Walt, an autobiographical account of Shows’ days at the Disney studio. In his recollection, he worked on the famous “Tomorrowland” space episodes for the Disneyland TV show and segments for the Mickey Mouse Club (the latter for which he receives onscreen credit).
Shows must have been a space buff, not only evidenced by his work on Hanna-Barbera Records like The Jetsons in “First Family on the Moon”, but also because of the detailed material on this album. The inside gatefold is loaded with details about the missions and the astronauts, who were the heroes of their day.
The cooperation with NASA allowed Shows to access the mission radio transmissions, which he adapted faithfully. The “mission-speak” on the album between the NASA techs and the astronauts is fairly realistic, save for the tendency for the actors to get a little stentorian, probably due to Shows’ direction.
None of the actors receive any album credit, an unusual move for HBR. Maybe it was to lend a sense of realism to the proceedings. Like the H-B stock music, which except for the marches, clearly avoids the more recognizable Jonny Quest cues to keep this from sounding too “cartoony,” the actors do not sound like H-B regulars.
Striving for as much authenticity as possible has the consequence of making the album less of an entertainment experience and more of a stolid school lesson, almost as in the tradition of 16mm Coronet films. Because they’re real people, the “characters” don’t get to emote very much. The only time things get a little lively is when astronaut Ed White starts to enjoy walking in space, if for only a moment.
The space program was one of the most amazing things for a person to live through. It was hard to believe it was happening (and some do indeed think it was a Hollywood production), but it was science fiction turned fact. But what baby boomers also remember is that, if you watched hours and hours of the TV coverage of various missions, all you saw besides interviews with scientists was a lot of techno-chatter between mission control and the astronauts with, as a visual, “NASA Animation,” which was basically a still picture of spacecraft moving slowly along the TV screen. This album, while admirably well researched, is very much like that coverage. Nevertheless, those were amazing days of space-inspired hope and imagination.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Walk in Space” and “Eight Days in Space”
Like Jonny Quest with just Race Bannon and Dr. Quest, or Lost in Space with just Professor Robinson and Major West, this album is certainly interesting and as realistic as could be expected for its time, but it’s not as lively as First Family on the Moon.