Two vintage RCA albums span nearly 30 years of Terrytoon shorts, capturing the transition of the studio from a traditional to modern approach.
TV TERRYTOON CARTOON TIME
A Junior Original Cast Album
The Terrytoons Players with Tom Morrison and Roy Halee
RCA Bluebird Children’s Records LBY-1031 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono / 1959)
LP Reissue: RCA Camden CAL-1031 (1960); Also released on 45 RPM singles
Download Reissue on amazon.com (2014)
Story Adaptation: Tom Morrison. Musical Score: Phil Scheib. Musical Direction: Bill Simon. Sound Effects: Ralph Curtis. Running Time: 36 minutes.
Farmer Al Falfa in “The Mechanical Cow” (Based on the 1937 Cartoon)
Heckle and Jeckle in “Cat Trouble” (Based on the 1947 Cartoon)
Gandy Goose and Sourpuss in “Dream Walking” (Based on the 1950 Cartoon)
Dinky Duck in “Flat Foot Fledgling” (Based on the 1952 Cartoon)
The Terry Bears in “Nice Doggy” (Based on the 1952 Cartoon)
Little Roquefort in “Mouse Meets Bird” (Based on the 1953 Cartoon)
By the very late ‘50s/early ‘60s, the major record companies continued to release children’s records primarily on their budget labels. Columbia had Harmony, Decca had Vocalion and RCA had Camden.
RCA transitioned their Bluebird kids’ product into Camden just as “TV Terrytoons Cartoon Time” was released, so it was available for a time on both labels. It might come as a surprise to Terrytoons fans that Sony Legacy—which houses both the Columbia and RCA libraries—reissued it as an amazon.com download. Maybe if sales are good, they’ll trot out things like “Roger Ramjet” (mono, please!) and “Hector Heathcote” as mp3’s too.
As per usual with cartoon records, they don’t always deliver the genuine articles. In the case of “TV Terrytoons Cartoon Time,” it’s about 50/50. The six stories are not soundtracks lifted from the original cartoons (dated from 1937 to 1953), but instead studio-recorded adaptations narrated and voiced by Tom Morrison (hopefully it provided him a tidy little paycheck, as Paul Terry’s sale of the cartoons to CBS did not yield a penny to Morrison nor his studio peers).
The album plays out much like Colpix’s Ruff and Reddy and the first Huckleberry Hound soundtrack albums, except that those records contained the actual cartoon vocal tracks. In this case, Morrison narrates and does most of the voices especially for the recording—with an assist from Roy Halee. An organist provides accompaniment credited to Phil Scheib as composer. But the bonafide Scheib music is much missed, as it is such a familiar component of Terrytoons.
Aside from that, it’s certainly a treat to hear Morrison on vinyl. This album exemplifies a curious characteristic of early records adapted from cartoons: the narrators tell the stories in the same manner as familiar fairy tales, giving a bit of a classic sheen to the cartoons. No longer attached to visuals, they become modern folktales.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
Heckle and Jeckle in “Cat Trouble”
Not all of the cartoons adapted for this album are available for viewing, but “Cat Trouble” is, so this was chosen so that a comparison could be made between the actual finished film track and the manner in which Morrison transformed it into an audio story. It’s also neat to hear Heckle and Jeckle’s voices in such a crisp, high fidelity presentation.
THE HECTOR HEATHCOTE SHOW
Original TV Soundtrack
RCA Camden Records CAL-1053 (Mono) CAS-1053 (Rechanneled Stereo) (12” 33 1/3 RPM)
Released in 1964. Album Producer: Brad McCuen. Executive Producer: Bill Weiss. Story Supervision: Tom Morrison. Stories: Larz Bourne, Eli Bauer, Tom Morrison, Bob Kuwahara. Music: Phil Scheib. Production Coordination/Additional Dialogue: Arthur Pine. Running Time: 39 minutes.
Voices: John Myhers (Cartoon Narrator, Hector Heathcote, Winston, Hashimoto-San, Joey-San, Hanako, Saburo); Dayton Allen (Album Narrator, Sgt. Benedict, Magician, Cat, Silly Sidney); Lionel Wilson (Cleo Giraffe, Stanley the Lion, Camp Counselor).
Hector Heathcote in “A Bell for Philadelphia” (1963), “Riverboat Mission” (1962) & “Hats Off to Hector” (1963)
Hashimoto-San in “Cherry Blossom Festival” (1963) & “A Strange Companion” (1961)
Silly Sidney in “Send Your Elephant to Camp” (1962)
The Hector Heathcote Show represents big changes for Terrytoons, reflecting the modern UPA influence (what cartoons didn’t?) and fresh approaches, particularly by such artists as Gene Deitch. These are not Terrytoons in the classic mold, though there are sonic elements of earlier cartoons as the album presents original soundtracks, complete with background cues and some of the opening and closing music.
Hector Heathcote (The Minute-and-a-Half Man) is a klutzsy, lovable participant in the fringes of the Revolutionary War. He did not exactly explode as an iconic character in the early days of ‘60s kids’ TV. Neither did Hashimoto-San, a character easily dismissed as mere political incorrectness (his voice is not provided by an Asian), yet is actually based on the cultural background of its creator, Bob Kuwahara.
Voicing both Hector and Hashimoto is character actor John Myhers, a frequent visitor to such sitcoms as The Lucy Show and Bewitched and in particular, the movie version of How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying.
Though he was often cast as a banker, executive or other figure of authority, Myhers played a romantic lead in an independent film called Weddings and Babies—only a year before he voiced Hector Heathcote.
It’s one of three exquisite movies filmed on New York locations, the other two being Lovers and Lollipops and the highly acclaimed The Little Fugitive. Directed by Morris Engel, these films are credited with influencing the French New Wave cinema and are highly recommended gems.
As a character, Sidney the elephant seems to have had the most exposure of the three cartoon segments. His visage appeared in various ways long after the cartoons were no longer seen in theaters or on TV. These cartoons featured Dayton Allen (Howdy Doody, Deputy Dawg) and the underappreciated Lionel Wilson (Tom Terrific, 1969’s Winky Dink and You!).
One of the most delightful things about the album is Phil Scheib’s music, performed in a wide range of styles that mirrored the creative transition of Terrytoons. Some of the cues sound like collected cues from a library of previous Terrytoon music, as the more elaborate orchestrations (elaborate for Terrytoons, anyway) were likely out of the price range for modest little cartoons by 1959.
RCA released this album in mono and stereo. The soundtracks are mono, so the engineer created very slight variations in tone between the right and left channels. It’s so subtle as to be virtually inaudible, but of course that’s a good thing as so many records of that era were ruined by poor stereo enhancements (like RCA’s Peter Pan cast album with Mary Martin, which was changed back to mono for the CD). Maybe RCA thought consumers of that day simply expected to see “stereo” on record jackets whether or not they really were.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“The Hector Heathcote Show” Opening & Silly Sidney in “Send Your Elephant to Camp” (1962)
This selection is notable for the varied voices of Dayton Allen and Lionel Wilson and the music of Phil Scheib. Movie buffs will detect impressions of actors like Hugh Herbert and Ned Sparks among the characterizations. Scheib’s music marks a departure for the standard Terrytoon sound, a rhythmic score that sounds like early UPA and independent cartoons.