Something new has been added. The Comic Kings are out and Swifty and Shorty have been added to the mix. The question is: Why?
Why nine cartoons (an odd number)? Why the sudden boost in the number of theatricals? I do not have all the answers – but I speculate that Swifty and Shorty was Paramount’s response to the current spate of prime time television cartoons – “Illustrated radio” as Chuck Jones has coined them – where, like Calvin and The Colonel, they recruited vocal comedians to do routines that work as radio, but not necessarily as cartoons in the classic sense.
I love Eddie Lawrence – and Seymour Kneitel did too. Lawrence was a versatile voice artist, a funny writer and clever in coming up with comic situations. Thus the Paramount powers-that-be decided to transform Percy and Ralph into the alliterative Swifty and Shorty and took a chance committing to 16 shorts (not counting the previous four Percy and Ralph’s – making an even 20), perhaps hoping to crash the networks with their own series of adult-skewing animated comedies by flooding the market in Spring-Summer 1964.
Swifty and Shorty are a mixed bag. The ones written by Lawrence – some are routines lifted directly off his old comedy records – are very funny to listen to. Seriously, turn off the picture, sit back and just listen. Hilarious stuff here. Panhandling On Madison Avenue, Call Me A Taxi (embed below), The Once Over… you can hear what they were going for. Visually, I am not so impressed. The images exist to support the dialogue, and they just barely do that.
As for the 63-64 theatrical Noveltoons and Modern Madcaps – the series designations no longer have any real meaning. Goodie Gremlin and miscellaneous funny animals now populate both series, perhaps hoping Harvey Comics would one day purchase these from Paramount as Harveytoon filler material.
Among titles of note this season:
• Hobo’s Holiday, a desperate attempt to salvage something left over from the Fleischer/Famous catalog – the bouncing-ball Screen Song! This one-shot attempt is done with such little enthusiasm it was probably booed off the screen.
• Harry Happy, a final shot at an “adult-skewing” Modern Madcap, featuring a fellow with a scary bi-polar personality; a borderline wife-beater. Funny? No. Disturbing? Yes.
• Muggy-Doo Boy Cat – Paramount filled out their release schedule with a pick-up of an independent film – this time a TV pilot by Hal Seeger based on his 1953 comic book (drawn by Irv Spector). Myron Waldman animated and the best that can be said is that it’s certainly more visually “energetic” than the other Paramount theatricals of the era.
Let’s take a closer look at the theatricals:
Six (6) Noveltoons
GRAMPS TO THE RESCUE (9/63) Kneitel/Reden. Skat the Cat tries to get Gramps back to Texas with a phony telegram about striking oil.
HOBO’S HOLIDAY (10/63) Kneitel/Reden. A hobo riding the rails gets off in the town of Utopia. An attempt to revive the Screen Songs with a sing along about “The Big Rock Candy Mountain”.
HOUND FOR POUND (10/63) Kneitel/Tafuri. A dog with no license is given a chance by the dog catcher to find himself a new home.
THE SHEEPISH WOLF (11/63) Kneitel/Tafuri. A Wolf gets a job as a sheepdog.
HICCUP HOUND (12/63) Kneitel/Pattengill. When the evil Gremlins give a dog a bad case of hiccup, Goodie tries to cure the problem.
WHIZ QUIZ KID (1/64) Kneitel/Taras. TV executives come up with a kid’s quiz show with questions they believe no one can answer – until they meet their first contestant, Ollie the Owl.
Six (6) Modern Madcaps
HARRY HAPPY (9/63) Kneitel/Taras. Harry Happy has a split personality – Upbeat and personable at work, but at home he becomes a mad tyrant screaming orders to his harried wife.
TELL ME A BADTIME STORY (10/63) Kneitel/Reden. Goodie The Gremlin tells his nephew some bedtime stories about the Fountain of Youth and Indians.
THE PIG’S FEAT (10/63) Kneitel/Taras. Mr. Harmonica tells a group kids a story about a pig family that keeps their home spotless.
SOUR GRIPES (10/63) Kneitel/Reden. A fox reading some Aesop’s Fables decides to prove that foxes can steal grapes – from Luigi’s Vineyard.
GOODIE’S GOOD DEED (11/63) Kneitel/Pattengill. When the Gremlins go out on Boy Scout Day to do bad deeds, Goodie follows along to undo the damage.
MUGGY-DOO BOY CAT (12/63) Hal Seeger/Myron Waldman. “Boy Pest With Osh”. Junkman Muggy-Doo convinces his pal Osh to try his hand at becoming a TV Star.
Nine (9) Swifty and Shorty Cartoons
PANHANDLING ON MADISON AVE (4/64) Kneitel/Taras. Based on one of Eddie Lawrence’s recordings. Shorty panhandles on Madison Avenue until he meets Swifty.
FIZZICLE FIZZLE (4/64) Kneitel/Klein. Swifty runs Shorty through a rigorous physical fitness program.
SAILING ZERO (4/62) Kneitel/Taras. Swifty and Shorty attend a boat show at the convention center, where Shorty wins a door prize of a 35 foot catamaran.
FIX THAT CLOCK (5/64) Kneitel/Pattengill. Swifty and Shorty are repairing a giant clock on top of a skyscraper.
A FRIEND IN TWEED (5/64) Kneitel/Dressler. Swifty is a lazy salesman at a men’s clothing store; Shorty comes in and wants to buy a new suit.
THE ONCE OVER (6/64) Kneitel/Reden. Shorty gets the works when he goes for a haircut at Swifty’s Barber Shop.
SERVICE WITH A SMILE (6/64) Kneitel/Tafuri. Shorty gets lunch at Swifty’s Quick Lunch restaurant.
CALL ME A TAXI (7/64) Kneitel/Taras. On a rainy day, Shorty hails a cab and gets the ride from Hell in Swifty’s taxi.
HIGHWAY SLOBBERY (7/64) Kneitel/Pattengill. Shorty needs a ride to work so Swifty offers to drive him there.
The New Casper Cartoon Show
On March 29th 1963, Harvey Comics (aka Harvey Funnies, Inc.) entered into an agreement with Paramount to produce 26 new Casper cartoons for a new ABC Network Saturday morning series to debut on October 10th, 1963. The cartoons were contractually obligated to be based on stories from the Harvey comic books.
According to the contract, the cartoons had to be of “a quality and quantity of animation at least equal to that of the sixty-two (62) animated Popeye motion picture cartoons heretofore produced by Paramount for King Features.”
Harvey selected which stories to adapt. The total cost by Harvey to Paramount for the 26 new cartoons was $78,000 – this included the fifty-two 1960-62 Modern Madcaps, Noveltoons and Abner The Baseball which were contractually added to the deal for $1. (one dollar)!
Paramount retained the rights to character names (Professor Schmaltz, Kozmo, Goodie Gremlin, etc.) and the theatrical rights to the cartoons (as they had the 1950-59 cartoons). This explains why Kozmo is referred to as “Sammy Spaceman” in the comic book ad below. (Jeepers and Creepers were apparently sold lock, stock and barrel to Harvey).
The New Casper Cartoons – 26 cartoons – In Alphabetic Order
THE ABSENT MINDED ROBOT Kneitel/Tafuri. Casper meets Robbie the Robot and helps him to overcome his forgetfulness.
BEDTIME TROUBLES Kneitel/Harriton. Casper helps an insomniac bear get to sleep.
THE BORED BILLIONAIRE Kneitel/Place. Casper helps Big Bill the billionaire escape from Greedy Gertie the Witch.
CITY SNICKER Kneitel/Culhane. Casper’s city cousin Spooky comes to the country for a visit.
COLD WAVE Kneitel/Culhane. Casper chases some Martians who have stolen the heat generator from the sun.
THE ENCHANTED HORSE Kneitel/Place. Casper tries to retrieve Nightmare the horse from Ali Booboo, who has stolen her.
THE ENCHANTED PRINCE Kneitel/Golden. Casper and Wendy help Prince Pippin get his palace back from an evil sorcerer.
THE GREEDY GIANTS Kneitel/Culhane. Casper sets out to get the magic “Potion of Motion” for Willy The Weeping Willow.
GROWING UP Kneitel/Whittier. The Ghostly Trio give Casper a potion that makes him grow into a giant.
THE HEART OF GOLD Kneitel/Whittier. Casper helps Mr. Midas get rid of his golden touch.
KINGS OF TOYLAND Kneitel/Place. Casper visits a toy shop and falls under the influence of a magic witching hour when all the toys come to life.
LITTLE LOST GHOST Kneitel/Whittier. Casper helps a lost ghost named “Something”.
THE LONESOME GIANT Kneitel/Culhane. Casper and his forest friends help a lost giant named Hugo.
THE MAGIC TOUCH Kneitel/Place. Casper makes a bumbling magician think he has his magic touch back.
MOTHER GOOSE LAND Kneitel/Golden. Casper protects Mother Goose Land from The Ghostly Trio.
THE PROFESSOR’S PROBLEM Kneitel/Golden. Casper helps a professor prove there is a Man In The Moon.
RED ROBBING HOOD Kneitel/Golden. Casper helps Red Robbing Hood regain his kingdom from his evil brother.
SMALL SPOOKS Kneitel/Taras. The Ghostly Trio shrink to the size of insects to scare the bug world.
SUPER SPOOK Kneitel/Place. Casper’s strong cousin “Powerhouse” comes for a visit.
THE TIMID KNIGHT Kneitel/Place. Casper helps a cowardly knight.
TWIN TROUBLE Kneitel/Golden. The Ghostly Trio get a mean girl to impersonate Wendy – and the witches find a mean ghost to impersonate Casper.
A VISIT FROM MARS Kneitel/Taras. Casper goes sightseeing with Marty the Martian.
THE WANDERING GHOST Kneitel/Harriton. Casper goes into a book to help Ulysses in his travels.
WEATHER OR NOT Kneitel/Culhane. Casper helps a groundhog find his shadow.
WENDY’S WISH Kneitel/Golden. Wendy wishes for red dancing shoes.
THE WITCHING HOUR Kneitel/Harriton. Witch Weevil takes her revenge on Casper and Wendy by making her house and furniture come to life during the witching hour.
The ratings (above) for The New Casper Cartoon Show declared the program a smash hit. It remained on the ABC Network Saturday morning for six years (through 1969)!
Seymour Kneitel (1908-1964)
On Thursday July 30th 1964 Seymour Kneitel passed away from a heart attack in his home. He was in the middle of production of the 1964-65 season of Noveltoons and Modern Madcaps.
Kneitel was a strong animator in his prime and the key creative during his years at Famous and later as a Paramount Cartoon executive. Much more about Kneitel and Famous Studios can be found on Ginny Mahoney’s Seymour Kneitel tribute blog.
Kneitel was the final surviving partner in Famous Studios and his death – years before the passings of Max and Dave Fleischer – was a shock to his colleagues, the artists and the studio. Paramount cartoons would go on without him, but it was the end of an era.
NEXT WEEK: Paramount Cartoons 1964-65
(Special Thanks to Ken Layton, Mike Kazaleh and Ginny Mahoney)