LOST PLANET ANIME
September 18, 2014 posted by

More Animated Pilots

Today I continue with more cartoon pilots that never went anywhere. Hang on tight, because there are more of these than you thought lying around. Here’s a fresh crop.

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Samson Scrap (1960)
Created by Gene Deitch and Allen Swift
Directed by Gene Deitch
Voices: Allen Swift

After Deitch was forced off from Terrytoons, he formed his own studio, Gene Deitch Associates (GDA), which did commercial work for television. While there he developed several ideas, including short film “Munro” and a TV pilot “Samson Scrap”. Deitch himself explained the history in his book “How to Succeed in Animation”:

“In 1958, my best friend, New York actor Allen Swift and I concocted an animation property named Samson Scrap & Delilah. Samson Scrap was a dedicated junk man. “Better Things For Better Living Through Junk,” was Samson’s twist on the DuPont slogan of that time. Delilah was his lady horse, pulling Samson’s wagon, loaded with castoff treasures, to the magical garden of rusted stuff that was his junkyard. Two boys, living in what appeared to be the slums of Queens, named Pinetop and Washboard, (named after two of my favorite bluesmen), were Samson’s devoted acolytes, seeing in Samson’s treasure of trash the makings of unlimited new fun constructions. (Harking back to the days when kids still made their own toys!)

“We felt we had the makings of the perfect animated series, exactly at the time that Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera were getting into it. We took the idea to Screen Gems, the branch of Columbia Pictures devoted to the budding TV syndication market. Screen Gems was headed by the legendary hardball producer, Ralph Cohn, who also handled H&B.

“Cohn went for our idea immediately. The wicked gleam in his eye told us that he saw a chance to have a counter weight against Bill and Joe, who he stated were “getting too big for their britches.”

“The H&B product at that time was limited to Ruff & Reddy and Huckleberry Hound, but those boys had already found the cheap production road to riches, well beyond their britches of the time. Anyway, Ralph presented me with a contract the thickness of your average phonebook. My lawyer waded through it and assured me that my grandchildren might see a few nickels from it, (in their maturity). In return for ten grand to produce three six-minute pilots, the contract gave Screen Gems rights to the next six properties we might create! One can easily understand why H&B got out from their clutches at the earliest opportunity.

“Well, as much as we yearned to get Samson Scrap & Delilah into the Big Time, we reluctantly said no thank you, and thus H&B made the millions and not us. So it goes.”

Eventually Deitch was able to get the pilot made when he signed on with William Snyder’s Rembrandt Films, with the animation work done in Czechoslovakia. The pilot didn’t sell, but it was given a theatrical release by Paramount in 1962, mixed in with their own in-house shorts.



The Joey Jingle Show (1967)
Directed by Fred Crippen
Voices: Mel Leven

After Roger Ramjet, Fred Crippen tried to sell other ideas, one of which was “The Joey Jingle Show” with singer Mel Leven. This looked to be a welcome addition to TV animation, a series of skits with oddball characters doing their own things, with Joey Jingle (a boy with a bell on his head) being used as a framing device.

Unfortunately the pilot was made at a bad time, when networks insisted on picking up only superhero shows. As a result, Joey Jingle was doomed to obscurity. The lone pilot, below, is more lively than most cartoons made at the time.


MAD Magazine (1973)
Editor for MAD Magazine: Al Feldstein
Directed by Chris Ishii, Gordon Bellamy, and Jimmy Murakami
Voices: Allen Swift, Patricia Bright, Gene Klaven, Hetty Galen, Herb Duncan, Bryna Raeburn, Len Maxwell

There has been several attempts at adapting MAD Magazine for television, and there was even a regular series on Cartoon Network from 2010 to 2013, but here I’m going to write about the mid-1970s attempt. Focus Entertainment in New York attempted to sell a series based on the magazine. A pilot was made, which featured the styling of Mort Drucker, Don Martin, Jack Davis, Dave Berg, and Antonio Prohias. Unfortunately, they made the mistake of literally using the magazine source material almost exactly as is for the cartoon, not realizing that the timing in comics and in animation are vastly different. Not to mention the staging and layouts, most of which were used as is in the comics without taking into account for the animation format.

Animator Dale Case, who worked on it, told me this:

“We blew up the comic panels and used them as layouts to get started. I worked on the [Oddfather] segment and it was really difficult drawing that stuff as we tried to follow the style as close as we could and still make it move.”

“The director Chris Ishii flew out from New York to hand out the picture. I remember going up to his hotel room on Hollywood blvd. one night and picking up my section. There was a huge stack of x-sheets scattered around and folders everywhere. He gave me a copy of the book and a stack of sheets and said start here and finish here….just follow the book. Not the best hand-out I have every had, but it gave a lot of freedom which is always nice.”

The pilot was reworked as a TV special (called, what else? “The MAD Magazine TV Special”), the idea being that more would follow if it became a success. ABC was supposed to air it in 1973, but they backed out at the last minute because, as MAD’s writer Dick DeBartolo explained, “Nobody wanted to sponsor a show that made fun of products that were advertised on TV, like car manufacturers.” It ultimately aired in syndication without fanfare, not even advertised in the magazine itself.

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Thunder Lizards (1989)
Created by Joey Ahlbum and Marc Catapano
Directed by Joey Ahlbum

When Nickelodeon decided to start airing original cartoons made specifically for the cable network, they invested in eight pilots from different studios. Of those eight, three (Rugrats, Doug, and Ren & Stimpy) became a series.

Thunder Lizards is one of the five that got passed over. Joey Ahlbum is an animator in New York who has made a living creating commercials and bumpers, as well as animated segments for Sesame Street. Ahlbum has done several bumpers for Nickelodeon, one of which featured singing dinosaurs. The dinosaur bumper was used as a basis for this pilot, which featured a prehistoric band trying to find their missing bandmate.


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NOTE: Steve Stanchfield’s regularly scheduled “Thunderbean Thursday” will return next week.

19 Comments

  • S-f author Poul Anderson said frequently around the late 1980s & 1990s that he had put his daughter Astrid through college on the option money that he got from TV animation studios for a TV cartoon series based on his & Gordon Dickson’s 1950s-1970s “Hoka” series, about futuristic humans discovering a planet of three-foot-tall, golden-furred Teddy bears who went wild over Earth’s popular culture and modeled themselves on cowboys, spacemen, pirates, jungle men, baseball players, Foreign Legionnaires, secret agents, and whatever else he & Dickson could turn into a humorous plot. He never said what the animation studios were, or why none of their attempts to sell such a series to the TV networks ever succeeded. Did any of them go so far that a pilot episode was made?

    • Interesting to see who might that had been. At least he got paid pretty well to get his daughter through college.

    • It was going to be a theatrical film. They put out an anthology tie-in book that I got in a used book store several decades back.

  • Thanks very much for sharing the MAD cartoon. I can’t believe I finally saw it! When TV GUIDE reported that it was coming to TV in the “Teletype” section, my brother and I couldn’t wait to see it. But we kept on waiting and waiting. The special was not broadcast in our area, so it became our inside joke for whenever we felt TV GUIDE was not accurate: “Yeah, right, but where’s that MAD cartoon?”

    It’s actually pretty good. The animators did an amazing job capturing the look of the various artists (though I think Rankin/Bass’ animation partners were a little more successful carrying out the Paul Coker, Jr. style.

    The best parts were the short gags and segments. I remember seeing almost all of them in the magazine (the gas tank gag is a classic). They are the least dated because they are more about human nature and life situations.

    The car and Oddfather segments are more of a challenge, because they have so much dialogue. The animators and layout artists do their best to keep things moving on screen, but they are, as you said, too much like the actual magazine (and though I enjoyed them, they were always the sections I read after the other ones, as they required more time to read. Hey, I was a kid.)

    Several of the voices, interestingly, appeared on one of those flex-discs inserted into MAD — “Gall in the Family Fare.” Allen Swift was Archie Bunker, Pat Bright was Edith and Herb Duncan was Mike. (Duncan was also the voice of Muggy Doo and George Jetson (on the Golden Record).

    Composer/writer Sascha Burland did the music with a very distinct Joe Raposo sound. Burland gave is The Nutty Squirrels and another Golden Record, “Howl Along with Huckleberry Hound.”

    • Thanks very much for sharing the MAD cartoon. I can’t believe I finally saw it! When TV GUIDE reported that it was coming to TV in the “Teletype” section, my brother and I couldn’t wait to see it. But we kept on waiting and waiting. The special was not broadcast in our area, so it became our inside joke for whenever we felt TV GUIDE was not accurate: “Yeah, right, but where’s that MAD cartoon?”

      Wished I had one like that! Perfect urban legend!

      It’s actually pretty good. The animators did an amazing job capturing the look of the various artists (though I think Rankin/Bass’ animation partners were a little more successful carrying out the Paul Coker, Jr. style.

      True there. I’m sure Paul’s was easier on the eyes than the others.

      The best parts were the short gags and segments. I remember seeing almost all of them in the magazine (the gas tank gag is a classic). They are the least dated because they are more about human nature and life situations.

      Reminded of one Don Martin’s ones in this with the guy on the island was also used for Cartoon Network’s show as well (albeit done in Flash, you could still compare the differences 40 years make that way). Recall one of our own was on this as well, Mark Kausler animated the Spy vs. Spy segment. Some would complain at the added color in this and other parts of this but hell, the magazine pretty much shifted focus once Gaines was no longer with us.

      The car and Oddfather segments are more of a challenge, because they have so much dialogue. The animators and layout artists do their best to keep things moving on screen, but they are, as you said, too much like the actual magazine (and though I enjoyed them, they were always the sections I read after the other ones, as they required more time to read. Hey, I was a kid.)

      I hear you, I skipped those as well.

      Several of the voices, interestingly, appeared on one of those flex-discs inserted into MAD — “Gall in the Family Fare.” Allen Swift was Archie Bunker, Pat Bright was Edith and Herb Duncan was Mike. (Duncan was also the voice of Muggy Doo and George Jetson (on the Golden Record).

      Nice they were able to use those guys again for either project.

      Composer/writer Sascha Burland did the music with a very distinct Joe Raposo sound. Burland gave is The Nutty Squirrels and another Golden Record, “Howl Along with Huckleberry Hound.”

      Didn’t know that. Kinda like the funky theme myself.

  • Interesting stuff, although you can see why each fell short. That guy vending tree stumps in Thunder Lizards brought to mind old Fleischer where they’d cycle a gag three times in a row before moving on. I don’t know much about Crippen, he doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, but Joey Jingle is way too Jay Ward/George of the Jungle to stand out from the crowd.

    • I thought the same way about Roger Ramjet when I use to watch one of Crippen’s/Pantomine’s later efforts for the classic PBS series “Square One TV” called “Dirk Niblick of the Math Brigade”. It’s just his style, I can live with it.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7w9ZEN721w

  • Was the “Colonel Klump” pilot made at the same time as “Joey Jingle” or later on?

  • Apparently no relation to the “Terrible Thunder Lizards” segment on “Eek! The Cat.”

  • I animated the “Spy Vs. Spy” segment, working in L.A. Chris Ishii wasn’t much of a director. He issued layouts for the segment that required the viewer to see both ends of a very long layout at the same time in order for the gag to register. I worked very hard on it and tried to give it a little of the “MGM cartoons” flavor in the timing. Chris didn’t like my work, and told me so, blaming me for the layout problems. However, he used my stuff unedited. I think the footage rate was quite low, 30 or so dollars a foot, but I enjoyed drawing the characters. We had to add a pan effect on a 90 degree tilt for the scene to work at all, and that’s what Chris didn’t care for. We were never told anything about the special being a TV pilot at all! It was never referred to as anything but a TV special.

    • Truth to be told, I wasn’t sure if it’s a pilot or a special, either, but Dick DeBartolo referred to it as a pilot, hence my justification for including it here.

    • We had to add a pan effect on a 90 degree tilt for the scene to work at all, and that’s what Chris didn’t care for.

      Just watching it right now, I suppose the entire shot probably didn’t need any special camera movements if it remained as a fixed spot the whole time without that added zoom and pan that happens. I felt you did a fine job on these guys.

      We were never told anything about the special being a TV pilot at all! It was never referred to as anything but a TV special.

      Whatever the case, it was something (committed to film at that).

  • Remarkably similar in tone, “The Joey Jingle Show” would appear to be a direct predecessor of The Tomfoolery Show http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wo0DjdCn6pk.

    Too bad Crippen didn’t submit this pilot a few years later, when its whimsical non-violent approach would have been more in vogue, than during the height of the rock-’em, sock-’em superhero era.

  • Didn’t Joey Ahlbum also worked on a Cartoon Network pilot about former circus animals looking for a new gig?

    Also, I believe one of the voice of the “Thunder Lizards” pilot is Muppet performer, David Ruddman who currently perfoms Cookie Monster nowardays. Ruddman’s production company also did the recent “Scooby Doo” puppet feature.

  • I liked the MAD pilot and the Thunder Lizards. Just imagine if the Thunder Lizards was made into a series.

  • Joey Ahlburn also animated some offbeat “Nick At Nite” bumpers in the late ’80s……….

  • There’s actually a animated X-Men pilot called “Pryde of the X-Men”, the voice recording of this pilot is completed before July 10, Monday at 2:30 pm Pacific in 1989. According to Wikipedia, The series for which this episode was intended to launch never materialized; Marvel Productions would have to go back to the drawing board for 1992’s X-Men. At least the late 80’s cartoons are better than the mid 80’s cartoons.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykK4sAHkvzw

  • For no reason other than to add to the collective knowledge… here are some other Unsold Pilots I know of:

    Carlton Your Doorman ((1980) A CBS Primetime special that doubled as a Pilot for a spinoff of Rhonda. Had this been picked up it would have been MTM’s first animated series). It was telecast as a one-off prime-time special.

    Crash Nebula (2004) a Fairly Oddparents episode that doubled as a pilot for a spin off show called Crash Nebula. This never got picked up even though Danny Phantom came out later( though not a spinoff).

    Philbert (1963) an animated-live combo produced by Warner Bros. Was dropped when ABC canceled all WB Series. Was instead released as a theatrical short. Later included on The Looney Tunes Golden Collection dvd series.

    Adventures of the Road Runner (1962 Pilot for a Road Runner TV Series. Was later released as a theatrical short. Later included on The Looney Tunes Golden Collection dvd series. Also cut into two shorts for television.

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