May 15, 2017 posted by

More TV Cartoon Press Releases

Beginning next week in this Monday slot, I will continue my series of Academy Award posts – about the cartoons submitted that didn’t get an Oscar nomination. For this temporarily-final Monday Miscellaneous entry (I promise these ‘clippings’ posts WILL return) we will look at several other press releases and news clippings for non-Hanna Barbera TV cartoons in the early 1960s.

First up: A few more of those tracking sheets for animated pilots prepared for the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency. Here is the one for The Alvin Show (though its interesting to note the show was actually developed under the working title of “Alvin and The Chipmunks”). Love that they refer to Format as “a group of top animators who left UPA” and that the show is “aimed at adults”.

I didn’t know what The Jolly Genie was, but mysteries like this intrigue me…

The series creator, Wesley Barry, was a silent movie child star who never stopped acting – he ended up in 30s and 40s B-Westerns and later became a producer for low-budget movies (Creation Of The Humanoids) and a second-unit director for television (The Mod Squad, Lassie, etc.).

Apparently when he couldn’t sell The Jolly Genie as a series, he did what Warner Bros. did with Philbert – he released the pilot as a theatrical featurette in 1964. At 40 minutes he clearly padded the film with more footage – how much animation, and what kind of animation, we do not know.

In the photo below, that’s Scotty Morrow (from Lassie, My Three Sons) and Dana Dillaway (Leave It To Beaver, The Twilight Zone) as the kids, and Buddy Douglas (Lidsville, Pufnstuf and… Bakshi’s Coonskin!) behind the mask as Ali Poo, the Genie. I’d love to see this.

B/W LOONEY TUNES. In 1955, sales of Looney Tunes – via Guild Films – were booming!

MEL-O-TOONS. They didn’t run these in New York when I was a kid – or if they did, I never saw them. Yowp recounts their history as best he can here and here. Newspaper TV columnist Hal Humphrey gets the hard sell in this letter, and brochure below, from New World Productions.

THE BUGS BUNNY SHOW (2nd Season). This biography, issued by ABC to promote the second season of the network primetime “Bugs Bunny Show”, is colorfully written but filled with inaccuracies – with quotes from anonymous creators. Mel Blanc, of course, gets his credit at the end.

The Early 60s TV Boom. The Hollywood theatrical cartoon divisions may have been winding down, and Disney had a huge lay-off after Sleeping Beauty, but being an animator during 1959-1961 must have been a whirlwind. There seemed to be no end of jobs in commercials, and the burgeoning TV cartoon business. This Variety front page story from May 1961 covers most (not all) of the action in Hollywood (with no mention of the mini-boom in New York between Paramount/Terry/Seegar/Oriolo and others there). A Beary Family TV series? And get a load of Format Films ambitious plans…

NEXT WEEK: Cartoons Considered For An Academy Award – 1953


  • The “Mosman” referred to in the “Alvin” memo is likely John E. Mosman, who was a vice president and broadcast manager at JWT in the late 50s and early 60s. He had previously been with the Maxon firm as late as about 1954.

  • These are great. Thanks! Especially like the one for Alvin.

  • The Alvin Show aimed at adults??? They must have watched Calvin & the Colonel by mistake! (got any Calvin & the Colonel press releases Jerry?)

  • WPIX in New York ran the Mel-O-Toons around 1963, on the Merry Mailman show featuring Ray Heatherton (Joey’s dad). But if you were a kid, you pretty much had to be home sick to see them, since Ch. 11 dumped them in the 11 a.m.-12 noon time slot, and saved their better cartoons for the early morning and afternoon hours.

    • Thanks for telling me. I never watched Merry Mailman – but was aware of its existence.

    • KHJ TV 9 (now KCAL) used to show Mel-O-Toons too but I can’t remember what kid show that broadcasted Mel-O-Toons. Mel-O-Toons was also released as part of the Cartoon Craze series which sold for a $1 at WalMart.

  • When I was little, my grandma had a bunch of Mel-O-Toons on video. Here’s a few of them that I grew up on:

    David and Goliath
    Dinky Pinky
    The Red Shoes
    Buffalo Bill
    Gossamer Wump

    • WalMart had as part of the Cartoon Craze DVD series Mel-O-Toon Vol 1 & 2 that were sold for $1.

  • Around 1963-64,KTLA (5) had these :”Mel-O-Toons” shorts,and ran them in an 8:30-9:00 AM weekday slot.

    I remember some of them ending, not with the usual Mel-O-Toons music, but with an incredibly nasal, adenoidal voice telling us something to the effect tat “This cartoon has been selected for viewing by our armed forces overseas’.

    And I thought that the Eighth Amendment forbade cruel and unusual punishment!

  • I’m finding this material quite interesting — thank you for posting these items.

    I never encountered any Mel-O-Toons until I saw a few on WGN in the early ’80s. [That said, I don’t recall hearing the familiar voices of Art Gilmore or the immortal Freberg in any of these.]

    As there are varying reports as to why PHILBERT wasn’t picked up by ABC, it would be interesting to see any back-in-the-day details about the show.

  • I did manage to watch “THE MERRY MAILMAN”, but I don’t at all recall the MEL-O-TOONS appearing therein, though the music that opens the individual cartoons does sound familiar. Apparently, most of these are in the public domain now, and you can find these sprinkled amid so many public domain Noveltoons or Famous cartoons on various compilations; that is how I was reacquainted with the cartoons, but the situations don’t sound familiar enough that I would know what the characters looked like or whether the animation was at all pleasing. Thanks for this history, though. As always, I wish I could actually read the articles.

    • The other cartoons on The Merry Mailman in late 1963-64 were the Trans-Lux Mighty Hercules efforts. In the few chances I did get to see them when I was home sick, I counted the minutes until 12 noon arrived and Rocky & His Friends began on Ch. 11.

  • Format Films seems to have also taken on TV Spots’ workload in the Variety rundown….

  • After:”The Mel O Toons”left”The Merry Mailman”..the staffers at WPIX TV Ch.11 in NYC..reran the films
    without a host..for a time in the mid 1960’s.

  • Dinky Pinky is Stan Freberg. Wonderful to hear him.

    • I agree, cool to hear some new Freberg stuff.

  • I’m trying to figure out if there’s any prints of The Jolly Genie that survived the ravages of time? If it did I would love to see it on DVD in the future.

    And I’m wondering what happened to Keenan,Invisible Boy,Sir Lion And The Lion,Cat Tales and Shaggy Dog Tales that were planned pilot shows to be broadcasted if they’re were picked up for Network broadcast or for syndicated broadcast on TV or not?

  • YouTube has a half hour (In three parts) of a late 1960s episode of WJW-TV 8 Cleveland personality Franz The Toymaker with comercials..You hear the endings of a few Melo-Toons..

  • The title of Format’s pilot cartoon is actually “Sir LOIN and the Dragon” and it exists, I’ve seen prints of it for sale. The Mel-O-Toons were really sparse animation-wise, about the same amount of action as a “Spunky and Tadpole”. They used Children’s Records of the early 1950s for the soundtracks, such as ” Omnicron and Nudnikron”, which was an RCA Victor “Little Nipper” record, and “Gossamer Wump”, narrated by Frank Morgan, which was a Capitol record. I’ve often wondered if they actually PAID for the rights to use these records, or just pirated them. I never saw the Mel-O-Toons on St. Louis TV as a kid, and I’m glad I didn’t. These ugly-looking films would have destroyed my enjoyment in visualizing the pictures conjured up by the old children’s records, The early 1960s were good times for independent production of TV cartoons, but within just a few years, Hanna-Barbera and Filmation became vertically integrated with the Networks and froze out most of the Lone Rangers.

  • General Foods “bought” the entire half-hour “ALVIN SHOW” for the fall of 1961, with Alvin and cast appearing in integrated commercials for Jell-O and Post cereals.

  • “Dinky Pinky” was an exception in the “Mel-O-Toons” series; it had BETTER animation than most of the other episodes.

  • Ah, the Mel-O-Toons………..I saw these while I was in high school.

  • I’m guessing that Walter Lantz’s “Beary Family” TV series was to include “Space Mouse” and “Sam & Simian” as the other segments, and that’s where those pilots originated. “Fowled-Up Birthday,” the first theatrical Beary release, was probably the lead-off cartoon in the TV pilot episode. Lantz organized a second company, Walter Lantz Television, Inc., to produce these pilot episodes.

    The producers of Mel-O-Toons may or may not have needed to clear permission to use the kiddie records as their sound tracks then, as statutory copyrights on records did not exist until 1971-72, and as their market was TV broadcast. Stations airing the cartoons were probably covered under their blanket ASCAP/BMI licenses for the musical works, etc., so the composers were paid arbitrarily via that method.

    It was then possible for sketchy record producers (are there any other kind??) to assemble and release LPS of pop songs dubbed directly from then-current hits; their asses were covered as long as they paid ASCAP and BMI for the song rights. Lots of these LPS were sold by mail order, maybe the most famous or notorious was “The Beatles, Alpha-Omega” set.

Leave a Reply to Mark Kausler Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *