Today, Paul Frees and Art Gilmore frantically hawk a spaced-out feature – and we feature other discs with animation ties that epitomize the baby boom era’s obsession with space exploration and sci-fi.
PINOCCHIO IN OUTER SPACE
Transcribed Radio Spot Announcements
Universal Pictures CPM-7-119 (7” 45 RPM LP / Mono)
If Abbott and Costello could go to Mars, and if The Three Stooges could not only go into space but also meet Snow White, was Pinocchio in Outer Space really such a stretch?
Animated features were at a premium in the sixties, with Disney releasing a classic every seven years or so and producing a new one only every four years or more. Thus, the marketing “hooks” of Pinocchio in Outer Space are clearly that it was “new” rather than a reissue; that it was in color (since color TV sets were not yet widespread in 1965; and that it featured familiar Disney-like characters. Universal saw enough potential to distribute the film, at least to the then-lucrative matinee market.
Fred Ladd, who brought Astro Boy and Gigantor to the U.S., produced and wrote Pinocchio in Outer Space with Norm Prescott. Filmation Associates was just getting started at the same time, where Prescott was in partnership with Lou Scheimer and Hal Sutherland (their big hit with CBS’ New Adventures of Superman series was a year away). Journey Back to Oz had been briefly brought to the same Belvision Studios in Belgium as Pinocchio for production, but the small operation couldn’t shoulder the burden (more about Oz in this Spin).
Belvision did quite a fine job on Pinocchio, creating consistent, fluid animation throughout with interesting character designs. The premise, strange as it is, somehow manages to hold together despite the film having three distinct styles. To pad the run time, it starts with a five-minute prologue about space travel narrated by the great Norman Rose (he was one of the voices of NBC in the early ‘70s, among hundreds of other projects). After the main title credits, the Pinocchio premise is set up (he was naughty so he’s a puppet again) with three peppy little songs, one called “Goody Good Morning” by Peter Pan Records writer/producer Arthur Korb. After Arnold Stang’s Nurtle the Twurtle arrives, the film shifts into sci-fi and stays there. The whole thing could be disastrous, but it’s quite charming and delightful—it just doesn’t seem that way on paper.
The film used a cast of New York-based actors for the voices–including Minerva Pious as the Blue Fairy’s mother, who was the popular “Mrs. Nussbaum” of radio’s Fred Allen Show; sportscaster Kevin Kennedy as the newscaster; and radio’s “The Shadow” (after Orson Welles), Bret Morrison, who is heard just before the main title and also sings for the Fox.
A CHILD’S INTRODUCTION TO OUTER SPACE
The Satellite Singers and Orchestra
Scientific Advisor: Willy Ley
Golden Records GLP-46 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Mono)
Reissue: Journey to the Moon (Golden LP-158 / 1964)
Executive Producer: Arthur Shimkin. Book & Lyrics: William Kaye. Composer/Arranger/Conductor: Jim Timmens. Dramatic Portions: Hamilton O’Hara, Charlie Dobson.
Vocalists: Dottie Evans, Bob Harter, Audrey Marsh, Bob Miller.
Subjects/Songs: “The Story of the Planets,” “A Journey to the Moon,” “With a Great Big Noise Like Thunder,” “Meet Space Pilot Jones,” “Little City in Space; Is it Raining In Paris? (Weather Satellite),” “A Big TV Show from the Sky,” “50 Round Trips to California,” “Put a Penny in the Scale,” “The Silent World of the Moon,” “Men in Space,” “Flight to Mars” by Jim Timmens, Bill Kaye, Hamilton O’Hara, Charlie Dobson.
If little Richie on The Dick Van Dyke Show were asking Rob and Laura Petrie questions about outer space, and then Rob was fumbling comically through the encyclopedia, Buddy and Sally would probably appear at the door with this new album from their pals at Golden Records. Then we would all hear this sort of “hey gang, let’s make this dull stuff kinda fun and modern for the new sixties kids wearin’ their space helmets” through the jaunty tunes and casual-yet-authoritative narration.
Golden hired many of the best talent from the stage and also from Madison Avenue (Golden songwriter Paul Parnes wrote “Snap Crackle Pop!”),. These songs are like little jingles, very much in the style of what one might hear on AM radio ads in the late ‘50s/early ‘60s.
Willy Ley, the consultant for this album, was one of the “go-to” scientists but for fact and fiction regarding the space program at the time, either as author or featured expert in countless articles and media interviews. Perhaps his highest profile role came when he, Dr. Heinz Haber and especially Dr. Werner Von Braun (of whom Allan Sherman sang in his parody, “Oh, Boy”) worked with animator/writer/director Ward Kimball on the Disneyland TV shows about space exploration. As thoroughly chronicled in the recent biography of Kimball by Todd James Pierce, these shows – Man in Space, Man and the Moon and Mars and Beyond – had an impact on history in that they brought complex ideas and theories to the general public in clear, entertaining ways and actually sparked the U.S. government’s action in the space program, initiating support with Washington official and with the public.
RANDY RAYDER IN OUTER SPACE
See-Disc (Continental Dynamics) SD-1 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Mono)
Released in 1969. Script: E.A.F. Clarkson. Voices Include: Cecil Roy, Allen Swift.
This is a jolly Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers romp with kids as the heroes. The tone seems more at home with the drive-in movie goers of the late fifties or the Clutch Cargo crowd of the early sixties than the year of the actual moon landing, but it’s super silly fun just the same. It’s reminiscent of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians or a Saturday matinee serial, and it even comes with a keen comic book! Here’s a page: