Screen Gems, the TV unit of Columbia Pictures, was looking to make money off television animation. And it thought it had something in Singer’s “The Adventures of Pow Wow.”
Pow Wow the Indian Boy does not, as the internet would have you believe, date its origin from a show that debuted on WNBT New York on January 30, 1949. Radio Daily’s special August 1949 edition list of shows available for syndication includes the following:
Pow-WowThe listing says nothing about cartoons, little Indian boys or Sam Singer. The show was produced by a company called Video Events. It eventually changed time slots and went off the air after the broadcast of April 14, 1949. Singer wasn’t in New York at this point, anyway, he was back home in his native Chicago.
A different, exciting children's series, with family appeal—real North American Indians in full regalia and feathers! Present Indian tribal life, customs, manner of warfare and woodlore as the Indian roamed and lived in America before the Colonists took over the country. Adventures are dramatized in real settings as the story-teller unfolds the tales.
Availability: Live Talent.
Running Time: 30 minutes.
Singer was born on August 27, 1912 to Abraham and Ida Singer. Karl Cohen’s Forbidden Animation reveals he worked for Disney and other Hollywood studios (the 1940 census shows him in New York; he was working for Terrytoons) before returning to Chicago in the late ‘40s. Starting on November 15, 1948, he did all the animation for a puppet show called “The Adventures of Mistletoe,” the animation being achieved by switching from one camera to the next that were focused on different drawings. By early 1950, he was producing a similar 15-minute daily show called “Paddy the Pelican,” featuring Newt the country store owner, Mr. Nosegay and the same rudimentary animation. The show was picked up by the full ABC network from September 11 but axed within five weeks, though it continued to pop up locally on WENR Chicago. A survey by John Meek Industries showed Paddy placed third in the hearts of high-income children (Broadcasting, July 10, 1950).
Tempi-Toons Into ‘Kangaroo’ TV-er52 Pow Wows were made. Columbia wanted more cartoons—but that wasn’t good news for Sam Singer. Joe Barbera, in his autobiography My Life in Toons explains what happened when he and Bill Hanna went knocking on doors in 1957 to try to land a TV cartoon producing deal.
A new cartoon series, made by Tempi-Toon [sic] and distributed by Screen Gems, has been inked for network airing by CBS-TV for slotting in its midweek “Captain Kangeroo” show. The deal, the first to be made since the Jerry Hyams moveover from HygoUnity to Screen Gems as syndication head, calls for the delivery to CBS-TV of 26 Tempi-Toon cartoons, each running five-and-a-half minutes.
CBS-TV will air the 26 in all its markets, except those in 11 Western states, where Screen Gems will syndicate the cartoons, especially made for tv to appeal to children of pre-school age up to the third grade. Although the series is being made in-color, the CBS deal calls for black-and-white telecasting. The net has a 90-day option to pick up the balance of the 52 episodes. CBS' exclusivity in the current deal prohibits telecasting by competing stations in the same time period slotted for the CBS airing.
Principals in Tempi-Toon production outfit are Leo and Walter Minskoff and Sam Singer, creator of the central character, Pow Wow, an Indian boy. CBS deal was disclosed as Hyams, who, with his associate Bob Seidelman, sold their HygoUnity outfit to Screen Gems, prepared to hold his first series of sales meetings of the now unified HygoUnity-Screen Gems syndicated sales force. The initial meeting is slated later this month.
When we called on Screen Gems, they were already working with a cartoonist named Al Singer [sic] — no relation to the lightweight boxer I had emulated in high school — who was developing a crude series revolving around a character named Pow Wow the Indian Boy. By necessity, Singer’s cartoons were cheap—and they looked it. On a meager television production budget, Singer operated out of a cavernous loft space, which he tried to make more impressive by deploying his handful of animators across the entire space: a desk here, another here, about a mile away, another a few more miles into the distance. His operation looked like a very small archipelago lost in a very big sea.Hanna and Barbera pitched a series named Ruff and Reddy. And they agreed to make the first two cartoons, according to Bill Hanna’s autobiography, for $2,800 apiece. Oh, and they gave Screen Gems the merchandising rights to any characters that Hanna and Barbera might develop. From that spawned a cartoon empire (and a nice merchandising windfall for Screen Gems, thanks to the yet-to-be-invented Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and Flintstones). In the meantime, Screen Gems continued to, at least in mid-1958, offer for TV syndication its old theatrical cartoons, including 81 Scrappys, 75 Krazy Kats and 52 Phantasies, as well as 93 Aesop Fables.
Well, how could it have been any other way? It cost between forty thousand and sixty-five thousand dollars to make a single Tom and Jerry. Screen Gems was offering the sum of $2,700 for five minutes. No wonder Pow Wow the Indian Boy looked like hell and Screen Gems was unhappy with it.
And what of Sam Singer? He went on to develop more lame cartoons, such as “Bucky and Pepito” (1959), “Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse” (1960, through Tele-Features) and “Sinbad, Jr.” (deal firmed in 1964 with AIP through Vulcan Animations). In a familiar story, the animation chores were taken away from Singer and handed over to Hanna-Barbera by May 1965. As for Pow Wow, he was still available in 1974 from Trans America Film Corp.
Here’s the only Pow Wow cartoon that appears to be on-line in English these days. You’ll notice Tom Baron and Ed Nofziger’s names in the credits. They later worked for Larry Harmon Productions making Bozo and TV Popeye cartoons. One of Pow Wow’s writers was Bugs Hardaway. It was his last job before his death in 1957. And the music is from the same Capitol Hi-Q library used by Hanna-Barbera. The first cue is ZR-53 COMEDY MYSTERIOSO by Geordie Hormel, followed by L-75 COMEDY UNDERSCORE by Spencer Moore, with L-1147 ANIMATION-MOVEMENT (Moore) after the drum solo, L-1154 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) when Pow Wow is at the steps, ZR-46 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Hormel) when Pow Wow fires the arrow to the end of the cartoon. All the cues are on one album. Who needs to pay for a whole library? Not Sam Singer!