Saturday, 19 September 2015

Bob Clampett Drives Parents Mad

Critical acclaim and fame came to Bob Clampett in the 1950s, but not because of the cartoons he had made for Warner Bros. several years earlier. His imaginative puppet series “Time For Beany” delighted TV viewers across the country. It originated at KTLA in Los Angeles, owned by Paramount, which syndicated the show on kinescope; by April 1953, it was being seen in 25 cities.

Clampett was almost like Hanna-Barbera of the late ‘50s in that his success gave birth to other, similar shows.

Here’s a United Press story on Clampett from 1954. “Time For Beany” was five years old at that point. Interesting is Clampett’s claim that he “writes, animates and edits all shows.” The writing part would be news to the show’s writing staff, which encompassed Lloyd Turner, Bill Scott and Charlie Shows at one time or another, though I suspect most of the punny character names were of Clampett origin. Clampett had been generous in sharing credit before, taking out full-page ads in Variety lauding “my great staff of artists” and naming them (in a Feb. 20, 1952 ad, they consisted of Daws Butler, Stan Freberg, Turner, Irv Shoemaker, Walker Edmiston, Ralph Loretz, Chris Allen, Robert Dahlquist and Lloyd Bockhaus). But Clampett had staff troubles, too. For example, Butler and Freberg filed a $1,300 claim against Bob Clampett Productions, saying they hadn’t been paid commercial fees.

Frustrated TV Producer Frustrates Kids' Parents

HOLLYWOOD, April 26 (UP)—Producer Bob Clampett may be responsible for driving many a parent mad, but at the same time he is the unheralded hero of small fry who glue themselves to TV sets just at dinner time.
Clampett is the puppetteer who sires "Time for Beany" six times a week along with "Buffalo Billy."
and "Thunderbolt the Wonder Colt," each five times a week. He has contributed as much as anyone to the frustration of parents who try to drag kids to cooling dinners.
• • •
IT WAS FRUSTRATION that got Clampett into the business in the first place.
“When I was a kid," Bob says, "I had a yen to join the circus. I even ran away from home to join one. But they bounced me back before I could land a job watering elephants.
"By the time I was old enough to join Barnum & Bailey I was already interested in cartooning and working at a studio. But I still love the circus, and especially the idea of being around so many animals."
Clampett's preoccupation with the animal world has led to a procession of wacky four-footed critters that wrings squeals of delight from the under 6 set, and solemn pledges of reform from adults tiplers who have stumbled on the show.
"Right now," Clampett went on happily, "we have, in addition to Cecil, the sea sick sea serpent, Tom Crazylegs Turkey, Tearalong the dotted lion, the Inka dinka doo bird, the snow schmoes and the moon mad tiger."
• • •
CLAMPETT stopped for breath. "There's also Dizzy Lou the kangaroo, Ping Pong the giant ape, the two-headed freep, Johnny Stingaray, and Mouth Full O' Teeth Keith, the toothless circus lion."
Clampett writes, animates and edits all three shows.
"We've done more than 1,300 shows with over 35 different puppet characters on 'Beany,'" he said proudly. "And not one case of temperament. That's one reason I'd rather work with puppets than real actors.
"But best of all, it's good clean fun for the kiddies. So far, none of our puppets has carried a 'rod' or pistol-whipped a grey-haired old lady to prove that crime doesn't pay."

The month before this article appeared, the trades announced Clampett and Frank Tashlin would re-unite to produce a Beany feature film, with Tash directing (Adelaide Halpern was signed to write a theme song for it at the same time; she had written a Beany theme in 1950). The feature never got off the ground. Other projects announced by Clampett languished until he formed Snowball Productions and put an animated version of Beany and Cecil on prime time TV starting in January 1962. By December, it was announced the show would be moving to Saturday mornings. Clampett faded away around that time but began a new career when animation historians came into being in the late ‘60s and started lauding the Clampett cartoons. Clampett toured North America, charming audiences with his stories and artwork from his career, just as Beany and Cecil had charmed TV audiences years before.

1 comment:

  1. "Clampett writes, animates and edits all three shows" isn't (obviously) a direct quote from Clampett. I'd bet it's either journalistic shorthand (Clampett, as head man, in a sense did all three of those things) or a misunderstanding on the part of Vernon Scott. It's certainly possible Clampett got a big head and decided to claim credit for everything his company did, but it does seem at odds with his earlier magnanimity.