Clutch, for those of you who don’t know, is classified by many as a cartoon and, it is in a way. The drawings don’t move. Instead, film of human lips reciting dialogue is super-imposed over the drawings.
I ran across the trade ad you see to the right and it inspired me to write a few things about Clutch and its producer. As I started researching I discovered—and I shouldn’t be surprised about this—cartoon historian Jerry Beck has already posted an interesting little history on his blog. Read it HERE. Frankly, it’s far more entertaining than what you’ll read below.
Getting TV cartoons on the air in the 1950s and early 60s was octopussian in nature. There were always a bunch of connected tenticles. In the case of Clutch Cargo, there were George Bagnall, a company called Cambria Studios and inventor Edwin Gillette.
HERE. Somewhere along the way, this process acquired the name “Synchro-Vox” and, it would seem logical to assume, Gillette talked to somebody at Cambria about the studio using it. Apparently, he soon had his chance. Weekly Variety reported on November 14, 1956.
‘Capt. Fathom’ in TintThings get a little confusing here. Captain Fathom was the name of a Cambria cartoon series in 1965 that used the Synchro-Vox technique. The aforementioned programme may have been a live action show starring Buster Crabbe; Weekly Variety of Feb. 7, 1957 mentions such a show was being produced by Cambria. But it may have been a different show altogether. Billboard of September 9, 1958, well over a year and a half later, talks about the Crabbe show and we learn for the first time about Clutch and Synchro-Vox.
Cambria Studio Inc. and New Vistas Inc. will combine to color-film a new telepix series, “Captain Fathom,” according to Dick Brown, prexy of Cambria. Series, about a skindiver, will be aimed at both juve and adult markets.
Bagnall Associates Pitches Anthony, 'Davey Jones' Pix
NEW YORK-George Bagnall Associates is pitching two new properties for TV, with Les Anthony handling ad agencies here.
"Davey Jones," half-hour adventure series, stars Buster Crabbe as an ex-Navy demolition expert engaged in salvage work.
"Clutch Cargo," a cartoon strip with a new lip-sync process, is a five-minute serialized cliff-hanger.
Both properties are being produced by Cambria Productions.
In the meantime, an animator named Clark Haas came up with the concept of Clutch Cargo. Somehow, he hooked up with Cambria and Gillette’s Synchro-Vox, and Bagnall came on board to distribute the 130-episode series (Cargo’s companion Spinner, incidentally, was voiced by Margaret Kerry, who was Richard Brown’s wife).
Bagnall’s sales team hit the road. By August 25, 1959, Variety reported the company had done a half million dollars in business on Clutch. Broadcasting magazine of August 31, 1959 broadcast the happy news:
George Bagnall & Assoc. Inc. (tv film distributor), Beverly Hills, Calif., has sold Clutch Cargo, a cartoon comic strip using the Synchro Vox system of interposing human lips to drawings, to more than 15 stations. The Stations include WPIX (TV) New York, WFIL-TV Philadelphia [purchased in January], WNHC-TV New Haven, WGN -TV Chicago, KTTV (TV) Los Angeles, WWJ -TV Detroit, WIIC (TV) Pittsburgh, WEWS (TV) Cleveland, WKBN-TV Youngstown, KFRE-TV Fresno, WNBF-TV Binghamton, KOVR (TV) Stockton, WREX-TV Rockford, WJRT (TV) Flint. Other sales were made in Phoenix, Tucson, Tampa and Eureka, Calif.When did Clutch first appear on TV? The Los Angeles Times reveals he became part of KTTV’s Lunch Brigade with Sheriff John on October 19, 1959. He’s on Philadelphia’s channel 6 on March 30th introduced by Sally Starr (who had just finished running 55 minutes of Popeye cartoons). The earliest we’ve spotted him is on New York City’s channel 11 on Monday, March 16th at 5:25 p.m. immediately after Abbott and Costello.
Clutch Cargo has 26 stories consisting of five episodes a story.
For the record, Clutch was voiced by announcer Richard Cotting. Emil Sitka, a well-loved secondary player to Three Stooges fans, supplied accents and what he called “eccentric voices” and the ubiquitous Hal Smith can be heard as well.
Sponsor magazine of July 11, 1960 mentions this interesting Clutch tie-in:
Ideas at work:Clutch Cargo remained on the air for several more years. Variety reported in September 1963 the “TV comic strip” was syndicated in 90 markets.
• Humanitarians all: WTRF-TV, Wheeling, W. Va., turned its gimmick "Clutch Cargo Humanitarian Award" legit. The tv station and local police department honored a parking lot attendant for "service beyond the call of duty" (he permitted an officer to store his rain gear on the lot) . The award became so well known that the two decided to make it really mean something. First recipient was a 12-year-old who saved a friend from drowning.
The success of the ultra-cheap Clutch enabled Cambria to put several more Electro-Vox series on the air. Space Angel (1963), with animator Hi Mankin supervising, featured artwork by Alex Toth, Doug Wildey and Warren Tufts, all of whom went to Hanna-Barbera to toil on Jonny Quest. In fact, Cambria took Hanna-Barbera to court for $1,050,000 in 1965, claiming the Quest series “uses, copies and appropriates substantial parts and portions of Cambria’s ‘Clutch Cargo’ and its pilot film, ‘Captain Fathom,’ including their principal cartoon characters.” There’s really no comparing the shows.
on this blog. Cambria, incidentally, had a co-production deal with Canawest Film Productions of Vancouver to film a Three Stooges feature film. It was budgeted at $250,000 and to be shot in two weeks in Vancouver (Canawest was one of the studios where the Beatles cartoons were made).
Like the other TV studios, Cambria had projects that were announced in the trades but never quite got off the ground. From Variety, January 19, 1965.
Cartooning Arquette's Weaver' CharacterAnd from Broadcasting magazine, February 13, 1967...
Cliff Arquette's " Charlie Weaver" character will become a cartoon to be produced by Cambria Studio for its kidult series. He will portray his Mt. Idy caricature in letters from his mother.
Joe Cutter and Dave Detiege are scripting the pilot and Clark Haas is the art director. Art Rush set the deal for Arquette.
Animated World War ITrans-Lux was no stranger to cartoons. It put the “bag of tricks” version of Felix the Cat on the small screen, as well as that Greek god with iron in his thighs, The Mighty Hercules.
A new adventure cartoon series in color, The Golden Eagle, is being produced by Cambria Studios, Hollywood, for distribution by the Trans-Lux Television Corp. Initial episodes of the series, which is based on exploits of World War I flying aces, are expected to be ready by March in time for the NAB convention and TFE '67, a Trans-Lux official reported.
We wonder when a forward-thinking studio will come out with a feature film CGI remake of Clutch Cargo. Some fans may complain about computer generated versions of their old favourites being vastly inferior to the originals, but we suspect there’s no possible way to make Clutch worse than it was.