Saturday, 18 July 2015

The Saga of Sinbad and Salty

After Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera opened their own cartoon studio in July 1957, they developed a reputation for dependability and, more importantly, saleability. They made cartoons that kids wanted to see. Even when “Top Cat,” “The Jetsons” and “Jonny Quest” failed in prime time, they found new homes—and eager sponsors—on Saturday morning network programming.

Perhaps for that reason, Hanna-Barbera ended up taking over production of two cartoon series begun by others. One was Laurel and Hardy, the brainchild of Larry Harmon, who bought the rights to Bozo the Clown and franchised it into a nice little fortune. The other was “Sinbad, Jr.”

There was talk of a half-hour, combined live-action/stop-motion Sinbad in 1960—Screen Gems had signed a co-production deal—but it had nothing to do with the later cartoon series. For that, we have to zoom up to 1964 and the man who brought the world some of the ugliest and most unwanted cartoons—Sam Singer.

Singer inflicted “Paddy the Pelican,” “The Adventures of Pow Wow” and “Bucky and Pepito” on syndicated television in the 1950s. You can read his background in THIS POST. Singer somehow kept managing to find new partners willing to help him churn out new series. He had better success in 1960 with “Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse.” Then in 1964, something else came along.

American International Pictures is known today for its string of bikini pictures (pun not intended) and teen science fiction or horror movies such as “I Was a Teenage Werewolf.” By 1964, the studio was evidently looking to expand its distribution and its eye landed on the lucrative world of TV cartoons. Variety reported on July 29, 1964:
Vulcan Vamps 130 'Sinbad' Briefs For AIP-TDistribution
Vulcan Animations Ltd. execs met yesterday with American International Pictures reps to firm deal for 130 five-minute “Sinbad” cartoons. Shorts, which Vulcan will produce for AIP domestic distribution, will be released overseas by Transcontinental Distributors.
Monroe Rapaport heads Vulcan and Albert E. Marten is the president of TD. Sim Singer [sic] will be creative supervisor on cartoons.
Who was Monroe Rapaport and what was Vulcan Animations? For the answer, we turn to page 71 of the Oil, Paint and Drug Reporter, Volume 1957, published in 1950. It announced Rapaport, the former vice-president and technical director of Processed Chemical and Coating Corporation of Brooklyn, had taken over the ownership of Vulcan Lacquer and Coatings. It would appear Rapaport somehow got bitten by the animation bug and a corporate subsidiary, using the Vulcan name, was set up to make cartoons. Maybe. Vulcan seems to have disappeared from the picture pretty quickly. Variety reported on August 4th that American International Television had signed a term contract with Sam Singer Productions for worldwide distribution of the Sinbad Jr. cartoons, and production had already begun. No Vulcans were mentioned.

AI Television set a time frame it hoped to have the cartoons ready for stations and hit the road to sell them. Broadcasting magazine of November 16, 1964 reported some good news.
Metromedia 1st buyer of AI-TV cartoon series
In its first venture in U. S. TV production, American International Television Inc. announced last week it is producing and distributing an animated color series, The Adventures of Sinbad Jr. consisting of 130 five-minute segments.
James H. Nicholson, president of AITV, reported the series has been sold in advance of its official release date to the seven Metropolitan Broadcasting (Metromedia) TV stations: WNEW-TV New York; KTTV(TV) Los Angeles; WTTG(TV) Washington; KCMO-TV Kansas City, Mo.; WTVH(TV) Peoria, Ill.; WTVP(TV) Decatur, Ill., and KOVR(TV) Stockton -Sacramento, Calif. Sinbad is available for an early 1965 start.
1965 rolled along. Variety reported on January 22nd that the cartoons would go into syndication in March. That’s when full-page ads in trade papers appeared. On April 21th, Variety blurbed the cartoons had now been sold in 31 cities, but there was no indication whether they had begun airing. It’s altogether possible they weren’t as they were still being produced. Variety looked at the future of American International in its May 25th edition. The paper quoted executive vice-president Samuel Z. Arkoff about the cartoons:
Arkoff added that AIP has no plans for vidseries production beyond current “Sinbad, Jr.” cartoon strip of 130 5-minute episodes. Hanna-Barbera has taken over animation chores, he said.
What happened to Singer? Why did Hanna-Barbera take over? The paper is silent on both questions.

“No plans” in the Variety story was merely a fleeting consideration. Broadcasting magazine outlined in its October 11th edition:
AI-TV expands sales adds more films
American International Television, established as a TV distribution company 18 months ago, is expanding its sales operations throughout the world and is embarking on a new product acquisition spree.
Stanley Dudelson, vice president in charge of distribution for the company, a subsidiary of American International Pictures, reported last week following a month-long overseas business trip that AI-TV has set up sales representation in Paris, Rome, Toronto, Tokyo, and Madrid (from which Latin America will be handled temporarily). He said AI-TV also has begun negotiations for the co-production of three half -hour cartoon series in color; three half-hour cartoon series in black and white and a five-minute cartoon series.
Mr. Dudelson said the majority will be co-produced in Tokyo. He said details on these projects would not be given until contracts are signed.
In addition, he reported, AI-TV has acquired distribution rights to five color features from abroad, which will be edited, scored and dubbed for sale as 90- minute color specials. Titles include "The Friendly Amazon," "Witch Doctor In Tales," "Devil's Pass," "Volcanoes of the Devil" and "The Great Secret." AI-TV currently is distributing to stations more than 200 feature films and 130 five- minute color segments of the Sinbad Jr. cartoons.
What cartoons were being discussed with the Japanese companies? Ah, always more questions than answers when you delve into animation research. The trade papers are silent. If anyone has confirmed information that answers the question, leave a note.

And what of Sam Singer? Variety speaks of him no more. Neither does Broadcasting. Or Sponsor or any TV trade publications I’ve glanced through. However, the late Michael Sporn related on his blog his brief experience with Singer on the feature “Tubby the Tuba” (released in 1975). Read what Michael had to say about him HERE.


  1. In relation to Japan, American International bought the English rights to an anime called "Planet Boy Papi", which was dubbed into English as "Prince Planet", produced by TCJ (the same company that made "Gigantor" and "8th Man").

    I wonder if that's the show being referred.

    1. In addition to PRINCE PLANET, AIP also picked up the Japanese live action JOHNNY SOKKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT series - and a slew of anime features which they distributed to only to U.S. television, including JACK AND THE WITCH and LITTLE NORSE PRINCE.

    2. There was roughly four altogether from the deal they made with Toei that also included "The Wonderful World of Puss in Boots" and "Treasure Island".

  2. Quite possibly the only artist who may have worked on both incarnations of Sinbad Jr. was Rudy Cataldi, credited as a director on some Telefeatures episodes and definitely contributing to HB in 1965-1966. The Hanna-Barbera polish is quite obvious compared to the crappy Telefeatures episodes.