Animation History
April 15, 2019 posted by Jerry Beck

Larry Harmon Explains It All

Animation producer, actor and former “Bozo the Clown” performer Larry Harmon was going gangbusters in the 1960s, having bought the rights to Bozo The Clown and Laurel & Hardy. He was franchising a live-hosted Bozo show to TV stations all across the US, producing Bozo cartoons, Popeye cartoons (for King Features) and licensing the rights to Laurel and Hardy (later producing a Laurel & Hardy cartoon series with Hanna Barbera).

Larry Harmon

Harmon was one of many (including Hanna and Barbera themselves) who wrote a regular column for The Hollywood Reporter’s annual Anniversary issue, dispensing wisdom from his experiences, reporting on what he was up to, and what plans the had for his media empire. Here are several of his columns from the 1960s, forwarded to us from to our pal Ned Comstock of the USC Cinema Arts Library.

This first one from 1961 takes on the fact that Walt Disney had dominated the animated feature field – and Harmon’s belief there was room for more producers of feature length productions. He mentions the then-recent 101 Dalmatians and an anonymous anime release (possibly AIP’s Alakazam The Great – or maybe MGM’s dub of Magic Boy).

He’s right, of course. The animated feature field by the early 1960s was under developed. Outside of UPA’s 1001 Abrabian Nights (and Disney, of course) America was late to the game. The following year would bring UPA’s Gay Puree, followed by Warner Bros. The Incredible Mr. Limpet and Hanna Barbera’s Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear… but serious competition to Disney was quite a few years off.

Harmon was essentially announcing his plans here to make a Bozo The Clown animated feature. He planned to follow that with a series of Laurel & Hardy cartoons (and features), as well as a musical feature starring well-known singers (as opposed to anonymous performers, he says, which were the norm). It’s too bad his plans never came to fruition – we can only imagine what a 75 minute Bozo cartoon would be like. However, Harmon was spot-on with his prediction for a star-fronted musical animated feature… his colleagues at King Features would soon produce Yellow Submarine (cashing in on The Beatles) in 1968, which would meet with great success.


Harmon’s column the following year is a less ambitious statement – noting the world, and kids in particular, were getting more sophisticated. Science fiction and technological progress were the trends of the ‘space age’. Perhaps he was beginning to see the handwriting the wall for hosted TV kiddie shows?


This column, a few years later, mourns the recent loss of Stan Laurel (in 1965). It’s also Harmon’s way of relating his relationship to the man – and solidifying his right to claim that he (and he alone) is the official bridge from the golden age of Laurel and Hardy to their potential new screen future (one he would control).

It should be noted Harmon’s HB Laurel and Hardy cartoons (156 of them) also made their debut this year – 1966.

21 Comments

  • Harmon’s Popeyes have to simplistic animation for my taste. Also Brutus or Popeye would go from wearing a long sleeve shirt to short abruptly.
    His studio also animated a batch of Mr. Magoo and Dick Tracy cartoons.

    • Fred, I believe you knew a dear friend of mine Frank Avruch.
      Please contact me.
      Thank you,
      Tom Holbrook
      One-two,two,four- seven,six,zero-3seven4seven.

    • Fred, please contact me about Bozo.
      Thank you.
      Tom Holbrook
      Text me at; 1-224-760-3747

  • What worked for writer Charles Shows in Season 1 of Huckleberry Hound didn’t fare as well when he was writing for Bozo or Popeye immediately following that — the rhyming couplets either didn’t fit or were used to the point of annoyance. Harmon, meanwhile, really pushed himself in the marketing thing, sometimes more so than his characters (I really don’t think Dick Van Dyke needed Larry Harmon’s ‘technical’ help portraying Stan Laurel, but thanks to his licensing agreement, that’s the credit Harmon got on a Season 2 episode of “The Dick Van Dyke Show”)

  • Henry Calvin, credited on the record, played Sgt. Garcia on Disney’s Zorro and did an outright Hardy impersonation in Babes in Toyland.

    Think it came up here before, but “The Laurel and Hardy Scrapbook” (by Jack Scagnetti, 1976) talked about the legal battle for rights to the characters. Harmon, the victor, already had merchandise out there and predicted an L&H animated feature by the end of ’76, a theme park, franchised pizza parlors and pie shops, and more merchandise. So far as I know, the cartoon-themed merchandise petered out and the only movie was a live-action flick that haunted cable for years.

    Did the cartoon show get much traction? All I ever saw of it were some individual segments in a local Bozo show.

  • Harmon was a prolific promoter,…
    He had many projects going on at once.
    Larry Harmon enjoyed what he did and believed every word he said.
    Some plans worked out, some did,not some statements were true some were glorified and hyped up.
    He,helped to keep Bozo the Capitol Clown in the public eye, taking Bozo where Capitol was not interested in going or had been before TV really opened up.

  • There’s a new L & H comic book series by American Mythology set to debut this month, perhaps somewhat owing to the success of Stan and Ollie earlier this year. Time will tell if future merchandising possibilities await.

  • How I was introduced to Stan and Ollie!

    • I don’t know how this cartoon escaped me until this century but I do remember first seeing those character designs in a DC Comic attempt. I am thankful my first Laurel & Hardys were the silent Hal Roach comedies played regularly on CBC with piano accompaniment.

  • I’ve never fully understood how Larry Harmon wound up totally controlling the rights to Laurel & Hardy’s names, likenesses, voices, etc. I was also under the impression that Stanley himself was not real crazy about Harmon.

    • excerpt from a “Letter from Stan” to Richard Sloan, 2/9/63:

      “Re the Harmon Cartoon series, all I know is, N.B.C. cancelled the deal when they saw the pilot, now he’s trying to get a syndication deal – I have’nt seen an inch of the film, but I’m sure they’re pretty bad – I think he was afraid to let me see the pilot – you never heard an Englishman swear did you?!! He did’nt tell me why N.B.C. turned the deal down – I read it in the “Variety” – no explanation.”

      http://www.lettersfromstan.com/stan-1963-02.html

  • That’s the first time I’ve seen a copyright to the toy characters in credits.

  • its a shame that Laurel and Hardy HB show still not presented on dvd or blu-ray after so many many years

  • I would also like to mention that Larry Harmon worked for UPA during that studio’s early years.

    • Shane,
      I’d like to know more.

  • Folks,
    My name is Tom Holbrook.
    In 2010 I self-published a book entitled “The Bozo Chronicles” which covered in detail the origin and history of Bozo at Capitol Records from 1946 to 1956.

    I am in need of help form fellow historian and collectors to compete my research on Harmon’s years with Bozo.

    PLEASE contact me at; tommy.holbrook@yahoo.com
    Or via text at; 1-224-760-3747

    All info all items are being saught out. Please help, full credit given.
    Thank you,
    Tom Holbrook
    P.O. Box 1403
    Elgin, Illinois 60121-1403

    • Please read larry Harmon book about his life as bozo , that should give you the help you need..

  • NIce work by you, collecting cartoons.. wondeful..

  • Here’s a few things I was told by John McCabe when I visited him on Mackinaw island in 1988. McCabe wrote several books about Stan and Ollie and I got him to sign my copy of “The Comedy World of Stan Laurel.” No cars are allowed on the island, so I had rented a bicycle and pedaled over (I’d been corresponding with him and was expected). We sat in his living room, which was packed with books, and talked about Stan, whom he had known pretty well in his later years. And I asked about Larry Harmon and how he got all the rights to L&H. He got very serious and told me Harmon was a liar and a cheat. He’d stolen Bozo from Capital Records during a time when Bozo’s creator (Alan Livingston?) had just left the company (although he returned later). Harmon had been one of the “traveling Bozos” who made personal appearances instead of Pinto Colvig, the actual original Bozo on records and TV (and the voice of Disney’s Goofy), and knew enough about what went on to grab that opportunity to purchase the rights to Bozo from the man’s jealous replacement at Capital. John then told me that Harmon had approached Stan just shortly before his death to sign a licensing agreement to allow him to produce a cartoon show with Hanna Barbera featuring Stan and Ollie. Stan liked that idea but didn’t want to do the voice himself because it wouldn’t be right without the deceased Babe to provide his. Harmon told him they’d get Chuck McCann, who Stan knew from the original “Sons of the Desert” group to do the voices. Stan signed, believing it to be just a temporary licensing agreement. It wasn’t. In the fine print it gave Harmon ALL rights to the characters. McCabe had talked on the phone with Stan (they did that frequently) shortly after Stan had found out what Harmon had done. John said Stan was livid and quite uncharacteristically verbally indecorous, saying, “I’ve called a lawyer and we’re going to take care of that Harmon asshole!” Stan Laurel died three days later. John attended the funeral but no one seemed to know what attorney Stan had called. So, Stan was okay with the cartoon series, but absolutely never wanted to give up all rights to the characters of Stan and Ollie to Larry Harmon. I’m sure he wanted all future profits to go to his family after his death. So, Harmon, who claimed to be the originator and first Bozo, but clearly wasn’t, and found a way to get all rights to Laurel and Hardy away from Stan Laurel, just a few days before he died, is not someone I would ever venerate. He was, in Stan’s words, an “asshole.” I’m sure many people have heard this story, but clearly not enough.

    • Thank you for posting this information.

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