Saturday, 31 January 2015

Toledo Loves Mel-O-Toons

If you try to think of the names of TV cartoon series before 1960 that were not comedic in nature, few names come to mind. One must be “Mel-O-Toons,” based on the ingenious idea of combining old children’s records and drawings to match the narration (with really limited animation cycles tossed in).

Most of the Mel-O-Toons weren’t all that visually interesting. Take, for example, these frames from “David and Goliath.”

We’ve written a bit of history of the Mel-O-Toons here before. Let’s add a few other items. The first mention I can find of them in Variety is in connection with another series which I don’t believe ever got off the ground. This is from July 17, 1959.
[Missing Words] To Burgess Tales
New World Productions has secured rights from Thornton Burgess for production of several series based on his works. Series will consist of 104 six-minute combined live action and animated cartoon films under the title of "Story[missing words]". [B]urgess, now 86 and still actively writing, has turned out some 16,000 stories dealing with Peter Cottontail, Paddy the Beaver, Roddy the Fox and other children's stories. Company has signed John Rust to adapt and narrate each full-color subject. Animation will be handled by Art Scott, who is now doing the company's "Mel-O-Toons" series of 62 six-minute animated cartoons based on childrens' records.
As the cartoons could be used as drop-ins for children’s show, they wouldn’t necessarily be in a station’s TV listings in the paper. They appeared on a station in Philadelphia as early as December 1959; one channel in New York still broadcast them in 1976. Evidently UAA wanted an extra push to get stations to buy them. Variety of November 9, 1960 explains what the company did.
UAA Melo-O-Toon Gets Toledo Test
In order to hypo its sales ammunition, United Artists Associated took the unusual path of buying time in test market of Toledo, to sample its recently acquired Mel-O-Toons cartoons. In mailings and on-the-air, it asked viewers to write-in. commenting on the two Mel-O-Toons shown Oct. 27, on WSPD-TV. The viewer response numbered over 400, virtually all commenting favorable on the two cartoons shown, "Rumplestiltskin" and "Waltz of the Flowers." Many replies came from kids in the 12 to 14 age bracket. Many parents compared the Mel-O-Toons favorable to what they called the usual violence in kiddie programming. Mel-O-Toons episodes are based on best-selling kiddie records. Viewer response will be used by UAA for its sales pitches throughout the country
This full-page Mel-O-Toons trade ad appeared in May 1960. “Top animation”?!

Back to “David and Goliath,” the children’s record was originally released by Capitol by October 1952, narrated by Claude Rains with music by Nat Shilkret (neither receive credit on the cartoon). It came out at the same time as other 45s and 78s featuring Woody Woodpecker and various Warner Bros. characters that were far more popular on TV than the Mel-O-Toons ever were.


  1. 2/1/15 Wrote:
    I remember seeing the Mel-O-Toons episodes on Detroit's Channel 4, WWJ (now WDIV),on a Saturday morning show hosted by Detroit actor Bob McNea, who was the first Detroit based Bozo The Clown from 1959-66, then as Oopsy The Clown, his own creation from 1967-1980. Mr. McNea (as Oopsy) showed these 6-minute time fillers in the middle of his program along with old Mr.Magoo cartoons from 1964, and a few other cartoons. His program showed the Mel-O-Toons as late as the1978-79 season, his next-to-last season in Detroit. After Channel 4dropped McNea from their roster in 1980, he took his Oopsy character to Ontario, Canada, where he played the role until 1987, then retired from performing. Bob McNea died in 2007. The Mel-O-Toons weren't award winners by any stretch of the imagination, but they were pleasant at best. MGM, who owns the United Artists projects must still have them in their vaults somewhere. I haven't seen any since 1979,until recently, when the turned up on You-Tube viewings.

  2. These very dull cartoons also were shown on WGN in Chicago on the Garfield Goose show in a 5:00PM to 5:45PM time slot in the 1960's.

  3. //2/15 wrote:
    I just checked Bob McNea's biography on Detroit TV history; He was born in Ontario, Canada in 1929, and died in 2005, not 2007, so I'm sorry for that error. McNea spent most of his life in Michigan and Ontario, and started his career in Michigan in 1951. His big break on Detroit television came in 1959,when he played Detroit's first ever Bozo The Clown. Other performers who played Detroit's Bozo were Jerry Booth(1966-67), formerly Canada's "Jingles In Boofland", and then after a re-location to Windsor, Ontario (still telecasted in Detroit on Windsor's Channel #9, CBC) Al Cervi, who played Bozo in Windsor/Detroit from 1967-1983.