Suspended Animation #338
Animation legend Bob Clampett passed away of a heart attack on May 4th, 1984. He was in Detroit, Michigan promoting RCA-Columbia’s home video release of his Beany and Cecil cartoons.
It was the first series animated by the crew that would soon become Spumco; John Kricfalusi, who was a friend of the Clampett family, was named supervising producer on the series. The Clampett’s insisted on him being involved in order to help his studio get started and in the belief he understood and would maintain Bob Clampett’s legacy.
The series has become infamous for only having five episodes aired (and never repeated) from September 10th to early October even though eight episodes were fully finished. ABC replaced the series with episodes of The Flintstone Kids.
During production, Kricfalusi kept re-designing the characters. Dishonest John lost his angular look to become a more rounded, putty-like face shaped like a football with larger hands and feet and shoes billowing out like those worn by the Seven Dwarfs.
Captain Huffenpuff became more compact with a head as large as his body. Kricfalusi opened up Beany’s eyes and structured his body to become more rabbit-like. Assistant director Jim Smith referred to the changes as “genius”.
Aired episodes included The Framed Freep (9/10/1988), Radio With a Bite (9/17/1988), The Brotherhood of B.L.E.C.H. (9/24/1988), The Bad Guy Flu (10/1/1988) and D.J.’s Disappearing Act (10/8/1988).
Fully completed episodes that never aired included Cecil Meets Clambo, The Golden Menu and The Courtship of Cecilia. Each episode was budgeted at $150,000.
Voice work was supplied by Mark Hildreth (Beany), Billy West (Cecil), Maurice La Marche (Dishonest John) and repeating his role from the original series Jim MacGeorge (Captain Huffenpuff).
There was increasing tension between Kricfalusi and ABC over the tone and content of the show, delays (some of which were caused by the late approval for the series on April 28) and other issues that devovled into a power struggle over who was really in charge of the show.
Basically, Clampett’s widow still supported Kricfalusi but was very unhappy with the episodes that were produced. Kricfalusi, ABC and the Clampetts each wanted a different show.
In Cecil the Singing Sea Serpent, Cecil was trying to break into show business at an underwater cabaret run by Mike Hammerhead the shark. He put Cecil to work as a busboy washing piles of dishes, peeling acres of salmon eggs and cleaning up after the acts.
The acts bomb one after another and Cecil finally gets his chance to perform. He sings “Ragg Mopp Boogie” with his mop and becomes a huge hit but his mop gets all the credit. The story included Slappsie Maxie, Staring Herring and Jack the Knife from the original series.
The network objected to a gag where Cecil pours a cup of coffee for Mike Hammerhead and it floats out of the cup (since the nightclub is under water) and Mike sucks it up through a straw. This objection came after the show had gone to layout and had been approved at the storyboard stage.
Another gag that was approved on the storyboard but then rejected when in layout was the use of Jack Blenny as the host because the network thought kids wouldn’t know who Jack Benny was. The network insisted the host be Ed McMullosk to reference Ed McMahon so the character was drawn as a clam with MacMahon’s mannerism. The network then insisted the voice be an impersonation of Johnny Carson. For that one particular episode, the network had three pages of objections after approving the storyboard.
At the end of one episode, Cecil was singing and Beany came floating by in a big washtub. Cecil leaned down and sniffed hard and Beany shot up his nose. Cecil turns and blows Beany’s clothes out of his nostril and they float down the river.
“I was standing in the editing room when the ABC people saw that scene for the first time,” recalled Bob Camp who worked on the show. “Nobody expected it, including me. That was wonderful to see the looks on the faces of the ABC executives when they saw it. They screamed and their eyes bugged out. ‘What was that? That’s not in the storyboard!’”
All Thirteen Episodes:
168001 The Framed Freep Writer: Chuck Lorre Director: John Kricfalusi
168002A D.J.’s Disappearing Act W: Lorre D: Eddie Fitzgerald
168002B The Brotherhood of B.L.E.C.H. W: Lorre D: Jim Smith
168003A The Golden Menu W: Rowby Goren D: Smith
16003B The Courtship of Cecilia W: Paul Dini D: Bruce Timm
16004A D.J. Goes Ape W: Dini D: Fitzgerald
16004B Radio With Bite W: George Atkins D: Fitzgerald
16005A Momma Cecil W: Tom Moore, Phil Kellard, Wayne Kline D: Timm
16005B The Bad Guy Flu W: Goren D: Smith
168006A May the Best Man Ribbet W: Wise D: Kricfalusi/Fitzgerald
168006B Cecil Meets Calmbo W: Dini D: Fitzgerald
168007A On Your Mark, Get Set B.L.E.C.H. W: Dixon D: Smith
168007B Cecil’s Twin Brother W: Atkins D: Bill Frake
168008A Rampage of the Robot Ants W: Langford D: TBD
168008B Bedtime for Beany W: Molitor D: Fitzgerald
168009A Super Cecil Meets Thunderbolt W: Kent D: Frake
168009B Eggs Marks the Spot W: Edens D: Fitzgerald
(Originally titled Branded X)
168010A Claws For Alarm W: Stephens Outline in Progress
168010B Who Tamed Looney Lemur W: Enyart D: Frake
168011A Color Me D.J. W: Gorodetsky, West D: TBD
168011B Cecil the Singing Sea Serpent W: Dini D: TBD
168012 Compilation Show W: Dini D: TBD
168013 Cecil’s Birthday W: Dini, Bornstein Outline in Progress
Chuck Lorre who went on to create many popular live action television comedies (The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, etc) was the original story editor and wrote the show bible that stated Beany and Cecil “had an ability to appeal to a wide range of ages on entirely different levels.”
He was fired because his perception of the show ended up conflicting with what the Clampetts wanted. He was the one who gave the Leakin’ Lena a personality and had Beany say, “Hippity hop, hippity hi, c’mon Beany copter, fly!” He was replaced by Paul Dini who found himself in the difficult position of scrambling to please ABC, the Clampetts and Kricfalusi so that each was satisfied.
Eddie Fitzgerald left during the production of Eggs Marks the Spot and Bedtime for Beany. So the credits for those unfinished episodes were officially credited to “Fenwick Birdwhistle”.
Bruce Timm drew some storyboards for the show. Bill Frake joined after Timm left directing to do storyboards. In the show, he is officially credited as William Frake III.
For the first two weeks, the director was credited at the beginning of each episode but ABC stopped that because they did not want each individual episode credited. The directors’ names appeared in the end credits for the show.The first episode that aired featured an opening with Bob Clampett’s caricature in it (from the original series with new footage included) but Jennie Trias who was ABC Standards and Practices objected to that kind of recognition although allowed the “A Bob Clampett Cartoon” to be kept in the theme song. The second week featured the revised opening.
Jerry Beck who was friendly with the production crew even did a little work on the layouts on D.J.’s Disappearing Act. He did a couple of shots of Dishonest John during a chase scene involving him painting a bridge invisible to stop Beany and Cecil. “They were so behind schedule, they even gave me a scene to draw when I came up for a visit,” said Beck, who would visit the crew in the evenings (“They were there all night!”) while he was researching on his Warner Bros. Cartoon guide (Warner Bros. Animation had a floor in the same building as DIC in 1988).
Jennie Trias told the Hollywood Reporter on October 13, “this was not the show that we bought conceptually and development-wise and was not the show we wanted” explaining the sudden cancellation. The entire staff was informed of the cancellation by DIC vice president Richard Raynis at a 11:30am meeting at the fifth floor conference room at DIC on Friday October 7th and by Saturday morning, their clearances to enter the building had all been revoked.
It was also one of the lowest rated Saturday morning shows and the network was worried it was hurting the show that followed it, Winnie the Pooh. ABC did not want to pay for even the episodes that had aired.
At the time, it was the shortest-lived television series on Saturday morning. Skatebirds had lasted six weeks. The fastest cancelled was Garbage Pail Kids that never even made it on the air.