The 1959-60 season was a busy one for the Paramount Cartoon Studio – but not all of the work was for Paramount, nor was it for the big screen.
In October 1959, all the Paramount theatrical cartoons released between September 1950 and 1959 made their debut, sponsored by Mattel Toys, on the ABC Television network. And they were a huge success. Harvey Comics had taken a gamble, and it instantly paid off in comic book sales, and toy merchandising.
Seymour Kneitel and the Paramount Cartoon Studio also profited by success – the studio created openings, bumpers ad commercials to support the series. Here’s a few storyboard panels:
BELOW: Here are some excerpts from the ABC Pressbook which went out to all the local stations to help promote Matty’s Funday Funnies.
BELOW: Letters from ABC to Alfred Harvey telling of the phenomenal ratings success of Matty’s Funday Funnies. Below that: publicity sheets from Harvey, spreading the word to its comic books dealers and newsstand salesman; and comic books created to exploit the new network show. (click to enlarge)
Popeye may have ended his run as a theatrical cartoon series, but in 1960 Paramount Studio was called upon to be the central hub of new pack of TV cartoons for King Features Syndicate. 220 cartoons were produced (over 60 were produced by Paramount itself, the others farmed out to Gene Deitch, Jack Kinney, Larry Harmon, Halas and Batchelor, and others).
The Theatrical Cartoons
Meanwhile, back in the movie theaters…
With his popularity unabated from constant television exposure, Popeye cartoons (reissues) were still the star attraction of the annual Paramount cartoon line-up being offered to theaters. Paramount’s Cartoon Studio had a firm commitment to supply 20 new theatricals to supplement the Popeye cartoons – but now without the budgets they once enjoyed, nor the recurring characters (Casper, Baby Huey, Herman and Katnip, et al). Doing the best they could with the limited resources they had, Kneitel and his skeleton crew jerry-rigged some old story lines and cobbled together a few new characters that were, unfortunately, met with indifference.
The only variance between the Modern Madcap and Noveltoons at this point, were that the Madcaps tended to feature “human” characters, and the Noveltoons went in for the anthropomorphic.
In the Madcaps, Mike the Masquerader, a disguise-wearing master thief, was an odd choice to star in two rather mediocre cartoons. Another unappealing character, Professor Schmaltz, a bespectacled German “expert”, would also reoccur in this series. In the Noveltoons, Kneitel would recycle several left over Herman and Katnip premises as “Skit and Skat” – Skit the mouse and Skat the cat – two poorly designed characters in three poorly produced cartoons. Nor was losing Tommy Tortoise and Moe Hare going to stop Kneitel from using a left over script with the Tortoise (renamed Mortimer) and the Hare – now entirely redesigned in order to avoid a law suit from Harvey Comics.
A new series was added to the mix – Jeepers and Creepers. This straddled the other two series by starring a pair of anthropomorphic dogs – “Jeepers” an optimistic, free-loading “Bud Abbott-type” and “Creepers” a pessimistic sad sack – in adult-skewing situations (asking the boss for a raise, looking for an old girlfriend, etc.). This didn’t click either; One season and out.Four (4) Jeepers and Creepers cartoons
THE BOSS IS ALWAYS RIGHT (1/15/60) Kneitel/Tafuri. With some help from Jeepers, Creepers (both voiced by Jack Mercer here) tries to get a raise from his boss (Jackson Beck).
TROUBLE DATE (3/11/60) Kneitel/Pattengill. Jeepers help Creepers look for his old girlfriend.
BUSY BUDDIES (6/60) Kneitel/Tafuri. Jeepers enters Creepers into a prize fight to get money to pay his income tax.
SCOUTING FOR TROUBLE (9/60) Kneitel/Tafuri. Jeepers tries to make Creepers look like a hero to his nephew Frisky.
Eight (8) Modern Madcap cartoons
MIKE THE MASQUERADER (1/1/60) Kneitel/Pattengill. An elephant (Sid Raymond) winesses Mike The Masquerader (Gil Mack) robbing a bank and is put in protective custody.
FIDDLE FADDLE (2/26/60) Kneitel/Johnson. Professor Schmaltz sets out to prove that music can sooth the savage beast. NOTE: in flashback, Professor Schmaltz is captured by Choo-Choo’s cannibal tribe!
FROM DIME TO DIME (3/25/60) Kneitel/Johnson. A down on his luck man named Jonah finds a dime on the street, but then gets bit by the Gambling Bug.
TRIGGER TREAT (4/60) Kneitel/Johnson. The new sheriff of an old western town enforces a “No Guns” policy.
THE SHOE MUST GO ON (6/60) Kneitel/Spector. A concert can’t go on unless Luigi the blacksmith stops his pounding.
ELECTRONICA (7/60) Kneitel/Tafuri. Henry buys a robot maid, Electronica, so he won’t have to do anymore housework.
SHOOTIN’ STARS (8/60) Kneitel/Johnson. Two rival TV cowboy stars compete for the right to sign a little boy’s autograph book.
DISGUISE THE LIMIT (9/60) Kneitel/Johnson. Mike The Masquerader tries to steal a diamond dog collar from the neck of Mrs. Von Gotrocks pet poodle.
Eight (8) Noveltoon cartoons
BE MICE TO CATS (2/5/60) featuring Skit and Skat. Scat the Cat is chasing a mouse and his Texas grandfather.
MONKEY DOODLES (4/60) Kneitel/Tafuri. A stork gets confused and delivers a baby gorilla to a human family – and a human baby to a gorilla family.
SILLY SCIENCE (5/60) Kneitel/Klein. Spot gags about Science and future gadgets.
PECK YOUR OWN HOME (5/60) Kneitel/Johnson. Story of a woodpecker who keeps a man from sleeping.
COUNTER ATTACK (7/60) Kneitel/Pattengill. Scat The Cat is chases Skit the mouse through a novelty store.
TURNING THE FABLES (8/60) Kneitel/Spector. A tortoise and a hare are uranium hunters trying to beat each other to the Claims Office.
FINE FEATHERED FIEND (9/60) Kneitel/Johnson. So he can become a brave, an Indian chief’s son goes after an eagle’s feather for his bonnet.
THE PLANET MOUSELOA (10/60) Kneitel/Waldman. Skit the mouse fools Scat the cat into thinking he’s from another planet.
(Thanks to Ken Layton and Paul Spector)
NEXT WEEK: Paramount Cartoons 1960-61