ANIMATION ANECDOTES
September 24, 2021 posted by Jim Korkis

The Thirteen New Adventures of Beany and Cecil

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.

Four years after Bob Clampett’s death, his family negotiated with ABC-TV and DIC Entertainment to produce a new series of Beany and Cecil cartoons for Saturday morning in 1988.

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).

“The Bad Guy Flu”

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.

A portion of a Bruce Timm storyboard for “The Courtship of Cecilia”

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.

John K. and Bob Camp created this poster for a Bob Clampett museum exhibit in 1990, after their experience with Beany & Cecil (click to enlarge)

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.

32 Comments

  • “the director was credited at the beginning of each episode but ABC stopped that because they did not want each individual episode credited”

    By the mid 1980’s, writers were often credited at the beginning of each Saturday morning cartoon, together with the title.

    Why did ABC perceive it a problem for the director’s name to appear at the beginning of the show?
    It was standard practice for live action shows.(including those premiering on Saturday morning).

    It surely couldn’t be powerplay with the Director’s guild, or a fear that other unions/guilds would demand their credits also be at the beginning – that would surely be an issue for the animation house.

    And there could be no fear that viewers would switch stations during the opening credits, as the director’s credit (in the example given) is on the same title card as the writers.

    Can anyone elaborate on this?
    (A search of Mark Evanier’s newsfromme,com site was unable to assist).

  • Bob Clampett delighted in telling stories about the fast ones he used to pull on the censors. If there was an off-colour gag he thought might be a problem, he would add even more outrageous ones in the hopes that the censor would delete those and leave the original one alone. Sometimes the other gags would get through as well. John Kricfalusi had no doubt heard these stories from Clampett himself, so his strategy of answering calls for censorship with even more objectionable material was just another way of carrying on the legacy of his idol.

    But the media environment of the late 1980s was vastly different to the one in which Clampett worked at Termite Terrace and in the early days of television. By then a host of activist pressure groups had sprung up, each convinced that “TV is leading our children down a moral sewer,” as Steve Allen (who in his heyday had championed controversial comedian Lenny Bruce) infamously put it. Network Standards & Practices didn’t want any controversy at all, and they weren’t willing to compromise. They could always get content from someone more willing to play ball.

    Furthermore, the censors of the ’80s were adept at finding filth and subversion anywhere. It’s hard to understand why they objected to Dishonest John sucking coffee through a straw, unless one believes that all forms of sucking are inherently sexual in nature, and therefore any depiction thereof is bound to corrupt the innocent. Yet all children use straws from infancy onward and don’t think twice about it. In Clampett’s time, a lot of off-colour humour would have gone right over the heads of many of his contemporaries; I remember when my mother didn’t get a joke on “Designing Women” because she thought “hooters” were owls. In England they’re car horns; Dick Van Dyke’s mildly suggestive remark in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” (“You’ll find a soft squeeze on the hooter an excellent safety precaution, Miss Scrumptious!”) didn’t raise any eyebrows in 1968, but it would have been scandalous twenty years later.

    The chief legacy of these activist groups, and the networks’ acquiescence to them, was a decade of preachy, joyless, poorly made and unwatchably dull cartoons. I’m not aware that children’s morals were improved by them in the least.

    As for the New Adventures of Beany and Cecil, they have some funny visual gags, but they’re slow-paced and lack the clever wordplay of Clampett’s original. It’s impossible to determine the extent to which network interference may be accountable for these flaws. But I have my suspicions….

    • At least, in the 80’s they just cancelled 80’s shows. Now, we improved: we’re cancelling shows from all decades.

      • No, classic cartoons were also subjected to heavy-handed censorship in the ’80s. See Chapter 4, “Censoring Animation on Television”, in FORBIDDEN ANIMATION by Karl F. Cohen (1997).

        • I think they cut out small snippets here and there, as suicidal jokes, black mammies and so (the “censored eleven” were from the 60’s), but not cancelling entire characters. Of course, I could be wrong.

          • As a matter of fact: In Argentina, my country, the WB-MGM-Columbia cartoons were never TV-expurgated during the 80’s. That’s why an entire generation of kids blew their brains.

  • I was a big fan of the original “Beany and Cecil” series. Still am. (Still waiting for it complete on disc.) I remember being very disappointed with the revival, though, and bailing on it after the first two or three episodes. Watching the shows on YouTube, I still don’t think it’s very good. Pacing is a problem. The original cartoons were fast-moving. They didn’t waste any time. The revival series, though, seems awfully slow-moving.

    I’ve read for years that the Clampett family was never happy with it, which means more to me than what ABC thought of it.

    • My hazy recollection of this show is as follows: I recall making an effort to watch the program. It aired at 8 AM on Channel 7 WKBW out of Buffalo NY. I find it odd that I didn’t set up one of my video machines to record the show, but I distinctly recall going to my basement to watch as it aired. My most vivid memory is that after a week, or two, they aired an ORIGINAL Beany & Cecil show! This was when I started speculating that an airdate had been missed and something had gone wrong. Before long, as mentioned in the article, the show disappeared altogether.

  • Thanks for this.

  • So when’s the Thunderbean DVD? 😉

  • The original Beany & Cecil show was a hard, or impossible, act to follow. This revival did have an advantage in that the original program, by 1988, was rarely seen so very few people would even know to compare the two. It’s interesting that key crew members felt they had improved on the original instead of taking the attitude that they would have to work hard to live up to it. I am not sure what Sody Clampett found underwhelming, but the quality of the artwork was certainly a step down from the original, just taking into account the hand inking as opposed to the grainy Xerox of the revival.

  • I eagerly awaited it, and was disappointed by the end product. Kricfalusi had a real penchant for soiling his own nest. The saddest part of it to me was his squandering of the Clampetts’ opportunity to bring Beany and Cecil back into the spotlight for a new generation , and all the potential (and I’m sure anticipated) licensing dollars that might have been…

  • Thanks to Jerry, I visited DIC when this was in production, where I met up with our friend Bob Miller, who had just arrived in LA to work on the show. I remember two things: John Kricfalusi let me rummage through the wastebaskets and take whatever discarded art I wanted (I think we published some of it in Animato); and the various pieces of preproduction art I saw were a lot cooler than the finished episodes.

    • Regarding your observation: “…the various pieces of preproduction art I saw were a lot cooler than the finished episodes…”, this seems to be a common theme in Hollywood cartoons studios in the ’70’s and beyond. I recall visiting Filmation studios in 1975 and based on the artwork I saw thought that something really revolutionary was going to be produced. Of course, I was wrong.

  • Kricfalusi wasn”t the first person who Sody approached to produce and direct the new BEANY AND CECIL.

    The first invitee was topnotch animator Mike Kazaleh to be in charge of the series to reanimated at Snowball, Clampett’s studio. He begged off because he didn’t think that the network would work with a studio that hadn’t done a cartoon series in decades. Mike didn’t want to disappoint the Clampetts if it was done at an established studio because none of the SatAM outfits cared about quality.

    I was the second person approached, when I was working at Hanna-Barbera, I told Sody that at H-B, “no foot of film is any more important than the others,” so I turned her down as well. I didn’t want to disappoint them or shit on Bob’s characters.

    Mike and I turned her down because we cared about Bob and BEANY AND CECIL and she knew us well. For all of his bravado, John screwed the memory of his favorite cartoonist in favor of him getting money to build Spumco. Wasted effort in every way, John.

    • So basically, John K. swindled the Clampett estate?

  • I remember stumbling across the show and seeing the “Clambo” episode; after that I looked for it and couldn’t find it. In those pre-Internet days you didn’t get the story unless you read trade publications or spotted a mention in TV Guide.

    Old enough to remember the original and the flood of merchandising that accompanied it. On the two DVDs there are two versions of “Beanyland”, one that seems to replace Disney references with Beany and Cecil characters. Did they go back and remake it after a legal threat, or perhaps just a nervous exec?

  • Two questions:
    – Are those confirmed to be the correct airdates? The ones listed on IMDB seem to make more sense, given the shorter length of some of the cartoons (plus, the copies of “The Golden Menu” and “The Courtship of Cecilia” that have been posted online have commercial bumpers and closing credit voiceovers, indicating that they did air).
    – No first names are given for the writers of most of the unaired episodes. I could figure some of them out through research and guesswork, but who is “West”? My educated guess would be Billy West (seeing as he apparently shared a writing credit with Eddie Gorodetsky on a 1990 Christmas album), but his only other cartoon writing credit that I’m aware of was for the Ren & Stimpy episode “Ol’ Blue Nose.”

  • It’s interesting that after all the discussion about the various animated versions of “Beany and Cecil”, that not one mention of “Time For Beany”, the KTLA-Paramount daily puppet show that Bob Clampett produced, and in which Stan Freberg and Daws Butler created the characters vocally slipped in. It’s so sad that we can’t see many episodes of the original show today, they need to be preserved.

    • I was such a big fan of “Time for Beany” (via kinescope on a San Francisco station in 1953) that I left my best friend’s seventh birthday party to go home so I wouldn’t miss an episode. When the cartoon show came out I thought it was OK, but it didn’t do it for my like the original puppet version.

  • Big fan of the original. The updated one lacked the charm of it’s predecessor.

  • It seems that I may have tape recorded some of those episodes, since I loved the ones on TV in 1962. I also recorded some of the Winnie the Pooh show, if it started in the same season. My first objection to the Winnie show was that Christopher Robin sounded like a United States child instead of a British child. I would have recorded these shows since I had to be at work that time of day for five out of every six Saturdays during each year.

  • Wow…! I read Jim,’s book Cartoon Confidential (AMazon.) bought in the days before AManzon.com , in early 1990s, and remember the trouble as to how the show should be handled (“It was a show that couldn’t make up its mind as tpo what it wanted to be.”). Yeah, this had among the smallest catalog of televisied episodes, (remember 1969’s loive “TURN ON”? :D).. Also,l it lacked the soundtrack smorgasboard of stock cues from various libraries(a trope that John HIMSELF revived for Ren andSAtimpoy!), and the younger voices didn’t have the added background of radio..Jim MacGeorge (best known/remember by me for Hanna-Barbera/.Larry Harmon’s Oliver Hardy,.from Harmon’s Laurel and Hardy, for which Larry himself played Stan, was still alive,at least then..and was heard again..
    SC

  • This wasn’t mentioned yet, but this was one of the (literally) hundreds of series outsourced to Wang Film Productions in Taiwan. I have a very love/hate relationship with the studio- they sometimes do great work, but that was not the case here. It had the same animation/art style as Mighty Mouse: TNA: Choppy movements, pose-to-pose, and varying thickness of character outlines, often within the same cuts.

  • I wouldn’t be game to ask, but I wonder what Clampett’s family thought of Kricfalusi’s character “Sody Pop”….

  • Moral: even with the estate’s blessing, don’t mess with someone else’s vision. It usually ends up satisfying nobody. “You can’t go home again.” Especially since the new geniuses always feel compelled to “improve” on the original.

    I doubt even Mr. Kricfalusi could have come up with something comparable to the “special” Bob Clampett cartoo-oon “There’s No Such Thing As a Sea Serpent” with one particularly hair-raising lyric (involving triceratops) which you better not quote or they’ll never let you host “Jeopardy.” I’m surprised it made it onto the DVD intact. Of course, the DVD was long out of print by the advent of #MeToo.

  • Honestly, I’ve seen a lot worse revivals than this which I didn’t think was bad. At least it didn’t have gross out humor, something I criticized on later works of Kricfalusi AND Camp.

    I do wonder if Mark Evanier might have done a smoother job with Beany and Cecil, but around that time, he was starting work on a series based on a more contemporary character who was celebrating his 10th anniversary.

  • The New Adventures of Beany and Cecil was my first experience with the characters. When I saw the original advertisements, I was not particularly interested or compelled to watch it. Nevertheless, I had a terrible habit of waking up early on weekends and usually suffered through the 5:30-7:00am nothing programming that dog-eared my local stations’ Saturday morning lineup.

    I would suffer through boring old Hanna-Barbera epic-type programming like The Three Musketeers and the Scarlett Pimpernel, somewhat passable shows like The Space Kidettes, or shows scheduled at the lowest priority times like Dr. Fad or the remake of The Krypton Factor, or local programs like Kidding Around, Know Your Heritage, and The Magic Door.

    I used to just lay on my family’s large soft and stare stone-faced at these shows hoping that 7 am would arrive and, at least, some decent engaging programs would begin.

    Beany and Cecil was a shockingly funny and entertaining program for me. I wasn’t used to laughing hard at Saturday morning cartoons outside of The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Show, but Beany and Cecil had me belly laughing. I told my siblings and my dad that they needed to check it out. They all woke up early and it was replaced by The Flintstone Kids, which none of us enjoyed.

    Some months later, a UHF station got the old episodes as a part of their weekly programming package. It would air with old episodes of Mighty Mouse. I was enthused about it. I watched it. It was fun and punny .. but it didn’t shock me like The New Adventures of Beany and Cecil did.

    I rented the original series discs on Netflix in the 2000s and found them charming and watched the DIC remake on YouTube. I will admit that the original is better, but I don’t think the remake is that bad.

    I must admit, I kind of dislike cartoon puns and Mad Magazine-style name parodies outside of in Mad or on Bullwinkle, but I hated them even more as a kid.

  • There’s two things I would like to say and add to this article if I’m allowed to:
    A: The Bob Clampett poster had some extra help done by Lynne Naylor, not Bob Camp, as you can tell from the signatures.
    B: Despite the controversies of the show’s production and Kricfalusi in general, it would be nice to see the episodes restored from its tape/film negatives. Maybe in a couple of years of course.

    • Thanks, Daniel, for pointing out Lynn Naylor’s signature and involvement on the Clampett poster. Lynn did indeed work on this. However – and Bob Camp if you are listening, please help me with my memory – I was actually in the room with this poster for weeks as it was being created and painted. Bob Camp and I shared an office, and unless I’m mistaken, I recall Bob working on it. But I’ll let Bob tell us if he did or not.

  • Sounds like a bunch of animation egos crazy-making, all to put their mark on a legacy character.
    I’m not assuming it’s easy to revive a legend, but don’t make it more difficult. For instance, the characters come designed and proven to work in limited animation. Talk about needlessly reinventing the wheel. Just do what the Clampetts wanted.

  • I never had the chance to watch this new version of the short, but I watched the one where Cecil went to the dentist and it was… adequate, certainly it could be worse. Still, it looked charming and funny enough.

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