Saturday, 2 May 2015

Sid Raymond's Other Cartoon

Cartoons populated television in ever-growing numbers through the 1950s, both in the form of ads and old theatricals that were rerun to death, but the Huckleberry Hound Show proved made-for-TV cartoons could be lucrative and critically popular. Pretty soon, some of those ad companies decided they should try their hands at cartoon programming.

Whether it was because of a glut on the market is open to debate but there have been a number of instances of cartoon shows announced around 1960 that never seem to have made it onto the air. One of them—at least I can’t find an indication any station ran it—is “Toy Box Time.”

The 1961 International Television Almanac revealed there were 26 half-hours of the programme being offered. It was the brainchild of Robert Lawrence Productions, a New York-based company which made TV commercials. Lawrence had several affiliates; there was a Canadian operation based in Toronto, and Grantray-Lawrence in Los Angeles seems to have done some subcontracting on various TV cartoon series and later drove itself into bankruptcy after producing the Spider-Man cartoons that ran on ABC in 1967.

But in 1960, the Lawrence company back east decided it wanted to produce an animated show, presumably for syndication. Various trade publications in July that year announced it. The earliest one I’ve found was in Weekly Variety and may be the most detailed. This was published on July 13th and fans of the Golden Age of Animation will recognise some of the names.
Kid Series On Lawrence Roster
Robert Lawrence Animation, tele-commercial firm, is making its first move into programming with a pilot for a half-hour animated kid series with "strong adult appeal." Titled "Toy Box Time," the series will be in color and feature four individual story segments in each stanza. Original story, design and direction are by Cliff Roberts and George Cannata of the Lawrence staff. Original music is being composed by Rufus Smith with animation by Grim Natwick. Leading roles will be voiced by Sid Raymond, John Astin and Barbara Louis. Latter two are featured in the cast of the long running off-Broadway production of "Threepenny Opera."
Sid Raymond was the voice of Katnip and Baby Huey, and eventually took over the role of the dopey Clifton Finnegan from Charlie Cantor on radio’s “Duffy’s Tavern.” Briefly in the '40s, he was also Heckle and Jeckle at Terrytoons. At the time he made “Toy Box Time,” he was touring in “Girl Crazy” with Harvey Lembeck and Al Lewis (I suspect they were probably funnier off stage than on). John Astin hadn’t broken out into television stardom yet; at this point, he was voicing commercials and doing theatre in New York. It appears this was Lawrence’s only New York-based foray into TV programming.

Another cartoon series that doesn’t appear to have made it onto screens was reported by Broadcasting magazine in its issue of August 10, 1959:
Heritage Productions, N.Y., has begun work on Bobo the Hobo, 78 five-minute color cartoons to be available as five -minute cliff- hangers or 15-minute shows. Heritage's new location is 730 Fifth Ave. Telephone: Judson 6 -6500.
The lineage of this one is a little unclear. A puppet series with the same name was produced (at $10,000 per 15-minute stanza) in 1952 by a company called Fantasy Features (Variety, Oct. 15, 1952). It starred the voice of Bret Morrison, better known as The Shadow on radio, and featured original songs by George Lessner. 26 episodes were made and passed through the hands of several different syndicators through the ‘50s. It was still in syndication when the cartoon series was proposed. Variety of August 5, 1959 reported Heritage had already finished making $210,000 worth of Bobo cartoons and a week later revealed Fremantle had sold them in Nigeria.

Heritage was run by a guy named Skip Steloff. He wasn’t an animator; he had a number of live-action syndicated sports shows (and was sued a couple of times in the ‘60s over payments he was accused of not making). Presumably, the cartoons were subcontracted out to an animation studio in New York. There’s no information about animators or voice actors in any of the stories.

If anyone has any additional information about these shows, leave a comment. I haven’t been able to find anything more.

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