ANIMATION SPIN
October 4, 2022 posted by Greg Ehrbar

Spin Special: Happy 50th Birthday, King’s Island!

Partridge Family in concert at Kings Island

Animation enthusiasts are never at a loss for words to describe studios, films, and characters, and Hanna-Barbera is no exception. One word that seems apropos in the context of this exploration is “unpretentious.” Hanna-Barbera created some truly great works, and even when the studio’s reach occasionally extended beyond its grasp, there was always a sense that there were people behind it all, working hard and keeping the cartoons coming.

And cartoons they were – unabashedly and proudly cartoons. We knew and they knew. Enjoy them for what they are, not for what they aren’t.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the case of the Hanna-Barbera characters themselves. In the early days, they established an unprecedented bond with viewers. It’s been imitated, but never exactly equaled.

Hanna, Barbera, and their staff found ways to bring ongoing parades of cartoon characters in such quantity into homes every week, and then every day.

Merchandise, comics, and events bridged the broadcast in the minds of viewers, so the mindset of these “relationships” was virtually continuous. Before Hanna-Barbera, the public saw their cartoon friends at random in theaters, in clusters in local TV reruns, or every few years in feature premieres and reissues. Sure, there were other TV cartoons, but none at the heights of the H-B stable. The others watched and learned.

These characters seemed completely approachable. like your friends down the street, your favorite cousins, or those friends from the old neighborhood. You did not have to go far to find costumed Hanna-Barbera characters to meet in your town. Just be ready to meet them at the shopping center, local fair, or community center. Mark Evanier writes an amusing story about a somewhat inventive mechanical Fred Flintstone figure he encountered at the May Company in Los Angeles here.

Mark 56 Records of Anaheim, California, actually released a small promotional recording called Huck, Yogi and Quick Draw Magic Record, tying in with Hanna-Barbera character appearances, devoid of Daws Butler.

However, since the Screen Gems music and themes were still unavailable for records or broadcast, it is also likely that the H-B Golden Records were used for character appearances.

When Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera were contemplating the sale of their company as the contract with Screen Gems/Columbia was about to expire, the intimate connection between their characters and the public, as well as their potential in live and themed entertainment, was not lost on potential buyers. It was one of the reasons that Taft Broadcasting seemed like a good fit. Not only were they in the media business, but they had big plans for the theme park industry.

Bubi Bear of Help! It’s The Hair Bear Bunch

Fifty years ago this year, the first big venture between Hanna-Barbera and Taft opened to considerable fanfare. Kings Island became a fixture in the town of Mason, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati. The name is a combination of the park it replaced, Coney Island, which it replaced, and King’s Mills, the name of its specific location (Kings Mills is listed on the View-Master packet).

“Hanna-Barbera Land” was a key part of the park from the grand opening and crucial to its publicity and growth. The land had several attractions, mostly geared toward younger riders. They were themed to H-B cartoons that had either recently premiered, were currently shown, or were in the process of syndication through Taft. Some of the rides had been transplanted from the earlier Coney Island park. They included a junior Scooby-Doo coaster, Gulliver’s Tub-A-Dub water ride, Marathon Turnpike (themed to Speed Buggy in 1979) and Winnie Witch’s Cauldrons, and others inspired by Squiddly Diddly, Autocat, Motor Mouse, and Funky Phantom.

The expensive (for its time) centerpiece was a ride-through boat attraction called “Enchanted Voyage” with a façade that looked like a giant television. Inside were animated tableaus of various Hanna-Barbera creations set to a theme song that changed styles based on the setting, as the music does in “it’s a small world.”

The song, “Friends in My TV,” was written by studio music supervisor Paul DeKorte, Bill Hanna, and Kings Island veteran Dennis Speigel (who now runs International Theme Park Services). The song was also used with different lyrics in the 1972 special, The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn’t.

Here is an extended recording of the song:

Here is a video record of Kings Island’s defunct Enchanted Voyage dark ride, once home to Hanna-Barbera characters. Featuring photos and facts from the attraction.:

Arrow Development, which created the vehicle structures for Enchanted Voyage, the coasters, and other rides in Kings Island, has a phenomenal history that includes some of the most beloved Disney rides. Walt Disney actually bought part of the company at one point because their work was such an integral part of the attractions at Disneyland. This blog contains fascinating articles about Arrow Development. Even more astonishing is this vast listing of game-changing attractions in which Arrow played a major role.

Like several parks that have been since been established in this country, Kings Island is an upscaled version of the classic amusement park with a perky staff and a family-friendly atmosphere. Its central icon is a replica of the Eiffel Tower, surrounded by a themed Bavarian Village with lots of shops, restaurants, fast food, and treats.

In addition to Hanna-Barbera characters roaming the park, spectacular live entertainment shows were popular from the opening days. One Cincinnati native raised in the themed shadows of Kings Island and became as a young singer and dancer, appearing in several shows and mingling with the H-B gang. Andrea Canny went on to become a veteran of the stage and a longtime Disney Parks leading lady.

Andrea played Belle when “Beauty and the Beast—Live on Stage” premiered at what is now Disney’s Hollywood Studios, one of the longest-running live shows in Disney Park history, predating the Broadway version. At the same park, she played Laverne in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame: A Musical Adventure.” At Disney’s Pleasure Island, she was among the cast of the fabled Adventurer’s Club.

“I absolutely loved working at Kings Island,” Andrea said. “We pretty much grew up going there, so it was pretty cool to be entertaining people who were like I was. And it was incredible training for a young performer. And of course, you never know when you might run into Jabberjaw.”

Of course, the H-B characters were not new to theme parks, since The Banana Splits appeared at Six Flags Over Texas, where the first season theme song and many song sequences were filmed for their series. Joe Barbera was also proud of the “laugh centers” that were implemented into hospitals with characters and activities. These were the casual, comfortable, “friends from your TV.”

The park and its animated stars were perhaps most immortally captured when two neighboring sitcoms of the early seventies made much-remembered visits. The Partridge Family was the first on January 26, 1973, with “I Left My Heart in Cincinnati.” The pop band mom and kids enjoy a gig at Kings Island, singing two songs (coincidentally with some of the same studio vocalists as those in “Friends in My TV”).

By this time, the show almost completely focused on teen idol David Cassidy, so the story concerns Keith’s attraction to a perky park publicist (played by Mary Ann Mobley). He croons to two lovely Kings Island employees, whose costumes are nearly identical to Burger King uniforms of the same decade. Cassidy also sings into the face (or mouth) of Square Bear of Help! It’s the Hair Bear Bunch, one of Hanna-Barbera’s latest series. The finale features a ring-around dance with Partridges and The Banana Splits, Hair Bear, Bubi, and Bristlehound of “It’s the Wolf.” Mildew Wolf and Ranger Smith can also be spotted as background cutouts.

David Cassidy croons to Square Bear of “Help! It’s The Hair Bear Bunch”

The Brady Bunch bounced through Kings Island in “The Cincinnati Kids” on November 23, 1973. Brady dad Mike had some Very Important Business Meetings to attend at the park, but his Serious Architectectural Blueprints got mixed up with Jan’s groovy Day-Glo poster of Yogi Bear. It was a fine excuse for Bradys (and housekeeper Alice) to romp through the park and switch back the plans.

Let’s face it, Mike Brady brought the best document!

Meanwhile, in the “B” story, Greg Brady, unaware that Johnny Bravo would one day be a Hanna-Barbera “What-a-Cartoon!” falls for a groovy carnival game attendant. When we see Greg in close-up, he is in Ohio. When we see Marge (Hillary Thompson, who played Veronica on two Archie TV series pilots) she is on a soundstage in Hollywood.

Greg Brady questions Bingo of The Banana Splits

This episode has become such a favorite that members of the cast returned to Kings Island for various anniversaries to perform and to appear on local broadcasts.

This is by no means a comprehensive history, just an affectionate portrait. This site presents a highly detailed timeline. There were other Hanna-Barbera attractions that came and went over the years. Ownership changed along with popular properties of the times.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Celebration”


When Kings Island celebrated its first 25 years, Hanna-Barbera was also celebrating fifty years as a company. An elaborate stage show called “Celebration” was created, and in a rare move, a cast album was produced for sale at the park. The show combines musical styles, pop hits, and old favorites. The entire soundtrack is presented here, but the Hanna-Barbera portion itself begins at 16:52.

22 Comments

  • Those were the days!
    This post makes me very happy and somewhat melancholy at the same time.
    Happy because I lived through those great times and sad realising we’ll never experience anything like it again. Thank you for this.

    • You are welcome, Tim, glad you enjoyed it. All those great moments are real treasures.

  • Actually, it should be “Bristlehound,” otherwise Faithful Sheepdog Protector of Lambsy from the Evil Designs of Mildew Wolf.

    • You are correct, thanks, it was a typo and will be corrected. One page of the merchandise guide lists his name as all one word and another page splits it in two. It’s better as one, less like Huckleberry Hound.

  • The historical timeline on the Kings Island website lists (not just once, but twice) several reasons for the closure of the park’s predecessor Coney Island, but it left out a major one. Coney Island, situated along the Ohio River just east of Cincinnati, had been a segregated park for many years until a court order forced them to admit guests of all races. White attendance subsequently declined, and by the time Taft Broadcasting bought Coney Island in 1968 it was serving a predominantly African-American clientele and losing money. One of the “advantages” of the Warren County location for Kings Island was that it was a long way from the African-American neighbourhoods on the city’s east side.

    Of course Kings Island has never been segregated; a friend of mine who was African-American used to buy a season pass every year. When I was living in Cincinnati — as it happens, just a few blocks from Taft Broadcasting’s headquarters in Mount Auburn — Coney Island was still closed, but the grand ballroom could be hired out for wedding receptions and the like. I remember playing gigs there, and it was pretty spooky. I understand that Coney Island has since reopened as a water park, and I’m glad that both parks are going strong now after so many years.

  • I remember going to “King’s Island” (then named “Paramount’s Kings Island”) in the ’90’s and early 2000’s. By that point, the dark ride at H-B Land was the Haunted Mansion esque “Phamton Theater” (which was recently had a tribute stage show this year called “Phantom Theater Encore”) that was later replaced by the more appropriatly themed target ride “Scooby-Doo ‘s Haunted Mansion” which would out-last H-B Land for four more years. I stopped going to King’s Island when I disapointingly (but not surprisingly) found out that H-B was replaced by the expaneded Nickelodeon themed area that debut in 1994 in 2006.

    When Ceider Fair (owners of “Ceider Point” and “Knott’s Berry Farms” amoung other parks) took over ownership of the park from Paramount and Viacom in 2006 (during their brief company split), the Nickelodeon themed area was replaced by “Planet Snoopy” which was better but redundant as the Peanuts gang and “Planet Snoopy” was and is still being used by “Ceider Point” which is also in Ohio.

  • Oh, how wonderful! Thank you for this great history reminder of all the magic and fun Kings Island has provided us over the decades! And it certainly was responsible for the beginning of my career!! Honored for the shout out! 🙂 Great job, as always, Greg!

    • Thanks, that is so very nice to say, Andrea. You’ve made so many people smile and sing over the years, it’s the least I could do!

  • TV’s best cartoons mixed with TV’s worst shows. Cringe.

    • They weren’t that bad, though, I’ve only watched the Brady Bunch episode.

    • It’s probably not a good idea to make Jan feel any worse about herself when Marcia keeps winning all those awards.

  • Wow! I don’t remember hearing about this at all! But then again, I was a “surly teenager” about that time – 13 or 14 years old – so I probably would have thought that the family taking a vacation trip to King’s Island would be too “babyish” for me. My two youngest brothers would have loved it – and MAYBE I would secretly be enjoying some of the rides, etc. too.

  • This park has been such an iatrical part of so many successful talents across countless industries. Kings Island became my first “real” job as a teenager when I was cast as a Hannah-Barbera character in the Grin-n-Bear it stage show in the Summer of 1981. The show included a 10 piece live band, 14 singer/dancers, Scooby-Doo, Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Jabber Jaw and Fred Flintstone. I spent two summers performing at Kings Island after which I traveled south and performed at Walt Disney World (Magic Kingdom) as a member of the “Zoo Crew”. After three years with The Mouse I returned to Kings Island where I tread the boards ‘with’ Scoob-Doo for four more years. Crediting this decade of unique experience, I was was hired by a production company in Hollywood California where I oversaw the national touring shows for 20th Century Fox character properties.

    Thank you for your post, Greg. It is tremendously well written and brought back many ‘warm’ memories of some of the best times of my life and the lifelong friendships I made along the way.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Todd. No less than a Tony-nominated veteran actor told me that she is in awe of theme park performers because of the number of shows they do, often outside, and their endless versatility. I have often witnessed these performers working tirelessly at all hours of the day and night, rehearsing, singing, dancing, and keeping each other’s spirits up, making thousands of people happy. They see children who visit regularly grow up in front of them over the years. This kind of performing is not only a great springboard but it is a special art unto itself.

  • Frontier Village, a minor amusement park in San Jose, CA, had walk-around HB characters in its final years but no HB-themed attractions.

    After it closed its big new competitor, Great America in Santa Clara, brought in the HB characters to replace the Looney Tunes crew, who were there when the park opened and prominently featured in marketing, merchandise and live shows. Besides taking over the walk-arounds and the live shows, the HB franchise resulted in themed — mostly re-themed — kiddie rides. Already-obscure characters as Granny Sweet and Mr. Peeble were featured, although that’s no different than King’s Island. And certainly no different than the Disney parks, where various characters are now better known for walk-arounds and rides than for their actual films.

    As Great America went through various managements (Marriott’s, Paramount, and then Cedar Fair), the HB presence faded in favor of Paramount properties, Nicktoons, and Peanuts with some overlap. Again, lots of revamping existing rides and building shows around whatever characters were currently licensed.

    The property’s new owners intend to close the park and develop the land, so I’m guessing the current mix will remain until the actual closure.

    • Hanna-Barbera was also involved with Marineland for a short time. King’s Island was first, but many parks came and went after that.

      I love Granny Sweet. I’d be there for photos in a minute

  • Family Leisure Centers opened a sister park, Kings Dominion, outside of Richmond in 1975. It had many of the same features as Kings Island, including the Hanna-Barbera characters and H-B themed rides. Like Kings Island, the H-B elements were eventually phased out as the parks were sold from owner to owner. But I remember the H-B version of Kings Dominion fondly, because it indirectly led me to becoming a songwriter. One of the park’s most popular attractions was Yogi’s Cave, a rocky maze that played a “Yogi’s Cave” song as incessantly as “It’s a Small World” plays its titular song. Every Virginia kid knew the tune, after having it drilled into our heads on every visit. One day, on the school bus, I made up an absolutely filthy parody of “Yogi’s Cave,” and instantly became the eighth-grade equivalent of a rock star, even for the kids who otherwise wanted nothing to do with me. That moment opened up a whole new path for my life.

    • I loved, LOVED Yogi’s Cave when I was a kid. I remember when it was finally taken out (early-90’s, maybe?) and how it felt like a part of my childhood was irretrievably lost. The song that played in there was, indeed, an earworm.

      I am also lucky enough to remember the H-B Enchanted Voyage at King’s Island. Looking back at the surviving film and photos of it, it doesn’t compare to anything Disney was doing up to that time, but as a kid who adored dark rides of any kind, it was the greatest thing in the world.

      The Smurf ride in the giant mountain at Kings Dominion was also a ton of fun, though if I remember correctly, it was an overlay of an existing attraction featuring sprites of some sort. The memory is foggy on that one.

  • Great article, Greg! My parents took me to King’s Island twice in the early ’70s, once with a neighborhood friend and once with a Greek exchange student living with my aunt and uncle. I loved seeing the H-B characters cavorting about, although back then I unwittingly pronounced the company name as if it were spelled “Hanna-Barbara.” I wonder how many others made that same mistake in those days. And I enjoyed both the Partridge Family and Brady Bunch episodes at King’s Island and occasionally revisit them on DVD.

  • I love Kings Lsland. So many wonderful memories.

    It is in Kings Mills, Ohio which is where it got the name. Not Mason Ohio. mason continues to grow and gobble up land and small towns. Kings schools were dependent on the tax dollars. Mason continues to raise their tax money and waste it. Not the friendly town they claim to be. Kings Mills is friendly for a longer time – and has so much history.

  • I never had a chance to experience this, but as a longtime Hanna-Barbera fan, it’s such a delight reading about the memories.

    Thanks for the post, Greg.

  • I was 9 years old when Kings Island opened . My parents and I enjoyed going there and we had a lot of fun . Seeing the shows , riding as many rides as we could together. The Giant Carousel was one of my Mom’s favorite rides . My Dad liked the log rides, the Dodgem cars . We all would ride the Antique cars and the Enchanted Voage together. I enjoyed all of the rides but my favorite is the roller coasters . I have rode every Roller Coaster Kings Island has had at the park and does have there today . Everytime I go to Kings Island it brings back so many Wonderful and Precious memories I had there as a kid with my parents . And ones I got have with my sons as they grew up and we still go there today . An hopefully when I become a grandpa I will get to make some more with my grand kids . This year my fiancee and I went to Celebrate Kings Island’s 50th Anniversary. She used to work at Knigs Island when she was a teenager. We had a fantastic time at the park . Loved the article!

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