Saturday, 2 December 2017

Jay and Bill vs Bill and Joe

Bill Scott and Jay Ward weren’t impressed with either Walt Disney or Hanna-Barbera, but for different reasons. And they expounded on their opinions in an interview published in the November 12, 1961 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The two really had no business criticising anyone when it came to animation. Their characters were engaged in minimal, jerky movement, and held drawings with eye-blinks. But, in Ward’s estimation, it was better minimal jerky movement than Hanna-Barbera’s (evidently animator/director Gerard Baldwin agreed; he left Hanna-Barbera in 1959 to join the Ward operation). The cartoons certainly looked better in 1961 than when the studio first set up shop two years earlier. And while Ward’s cartoons may have been funnier, the shorts were half the length of Hanna-Barbera’s. They were ideal for the quip-cut-quip-cut-pun-cut dialogue that Scott and his team of writers developed. Hanna-Barbera’s talk was less brash and flippant; there’s no way you’d find a Snagglepuss soliloquy in a Ward cartoon.

Still, Ward and Scott raise some valid points in their interview. I’m pretty sure some of this was quoted in Keith Scott’s fine book “The Moose That Roared” but you can read it in full below.

"Bullwinkle Show" Creators Hate a Strong Story First

A YEAR ago, just before the debut of 'The Flintstones," Joe Barbera of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon factory that also grinds out "Huckleberry Hound," "Yogi Bear," "Quick Draw McGraw" and the new "Top Cat," sounded off to us at great and amusing length about long-reigning cartoon king Walt Disney's "outmoded" concepts.
Nowadays, Jay Ward and Bill Scott, representing an even newer "new wave" in the TV animation field, needle Disney and Hanna-Barbera.
Native Californian Ward and Philadelphia-born, Trenton-reared Scott are partnered in the production of NBC's 'The Bullwinkle Show," Sundays at 7 P. M. (Channel 3), an outgrowth of "Rocky and His Friends," being aired on Channel 6, via syndication, daily at 7:30 A. M. and Wednesday and Friday at 5:30 P. M. Earlier, Ward created "Crusader Rabbit," still going strong under other auspices.
"We don't really needle the others," Ward demurs. "We just think they have the wrong concept.
"We believe that animated cartoons should have a strong story first. Then you work the animation in. "Disney uses full animation because he doesn't really believe in the story. He lets the animators make wonderful pictures instead."
"Disney mistrusts writers," opines Scott. "He's actually said things like 'Wait till the animators get hold of that idea' and 'With sufficient acting, it'll be fine.' It's like a Broadway producer's saying, 'Who cares what the play is; we have Laurence Olivier!' "
"Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera," Ward continues, "believe in the same kind of animation, but they've come up with economical short cuts for TV.
"Their idea of movement, for instance, is to keep heads nodding the same way, no matter what the characters are saying. We call that 'the Hanna-Barbera palsy.'
"We believe in devising a funny story and then animating to fit the story with classic poses, held drawings, funny walks. Every word should have appropriate animation."
"Until about 1948 or 1949," says Scott, "dialogue in cartoons was frowned on. The ideal cartoon was one with no words at all. That was a holdover from newspaper and magazine cartoons; the funniest ones didn't need words."
" 'Crusader Rabbit' started adding dialogue," says Ward.
Scott again: "Doing an animated cartoon without dialogue is like proving how far you can walk on one leg. Sure it can be done, but why?
"We don't insist that each line be a smash. We use throwaways along with hits on the head—'inside' jokes, puns, wild lines, wisecracks. Where Hanna-Barbera go off is that they try to use stand-up comedy routines, and it turns out dull.
"Disney gets so worried about dialogue that sometimes he spends a full day recording two or three minutes of talk, trying to get subtle nuances."
"After 10 takes," Ward suggests, "no one knows the difference."
"It's like tracing a tracing of a tracing," says Scott.
"We have the strongest writing staff in the business," Ward claims. "Our emphasis is on writing because Bill and I were both writers; Hanna and Barbera were primarily animators.
In the past, animators have always been the key men.
"I don't think many people turning out cartoon series really understand stories. That's why so many of the shows, like 'The Flintstones,' are merely copies of stories for human characters.
"Television and pictures try to use established properties because they feel that if people already know about them, it's a head start.
"But that stifles creative thinking. Why rehash 'Mutiny on the Bounty'? Why do old 'Amos 'n' Andy' scripts and call it 'Calvin and the Colonel'? We loved Amos 'n' Andy on radio, but because you can't have colored characters in a cartoon is no reason to make them animals. "We were invited to do the 'Calvin' animations, but turned it down.
We've been asked to do cartoons based on 'Lum and Abner' and 'Fibber McGee.' They've already announced series about the Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy.
"We're interested in fantasy and whimsy, a step above reality—and you can't do that if you're using old established characters."
Hanna and Barbera are peeved with them, they report, because—asked by a reporter what they thought of "The Flintstones"—they replied succinctly, "Mediocre, but at least it opened night hours for cartoons."
"We got a sharp note from their press agent," says Scott," but we got even. We spread a rumor that Hanna and Barbera are married to each other."
The zany duo operates out of three adjacent houses on Hollywood's Sunset Blvd. Ward rented an apartment in one of the buildings two years ago as living quarters, but soon converted that apartment and several nearby into workshops and offices.
A huge statue of Bullwinkle was erected, with much hoopla, outside the principal building last September. Other wacky gimmicks abound. Thus, a la the Grauman Chinese Theater's famed footprints, and signatures in cement, Ward and Scott have designated an area for imprints of celebrities' elbows.
From these offices emanate the most imaginative—and most uninhibited—press releases ever to leaven with levity a TV columnist's mail.
Thirty-odd some very odd people are employed at the Hollywood headquarters, though rarely are more than 10 or 11 on the premises.
"The others—writers, directors and story line people—often work at home," Ward explains. "They're free to come and go as they like. One even lived in Italy for six months and submitted his material by mail.
"The animation is done by about 180 artists in Mexico City. We started that as an economy measure; now, there's a shortage of animators in Hollywood. We wouldn't bring the work back anyway; we're pleased."
Scott writes the episodes starring Bullwinkle J. Moose and his sidekick, Rocky J. Squirrel, in 'The Bullwinkle Show," and provides the voices of Bullwinkle and of Dudley Doright, who figures in spoofs of melodramas.
"Bill's one of the top voice people in the business," says Ward.
"Jay's very big for crowds and applause," Scott counter-compliments.
"He's a great mumbler!" Both have been married 18 years; each has three children. Ward's are 15, 13 and 12; Scott's, 14, 11 and 5. "My kids love 'Bullwinkle,' " says Ward. 'They're loyal. I beat 'em!"
"But my youngest," Scott says dolefully, "prefers Popeye! What a shock!"
Teen-agers constitute a sizable Ward & Scott cheering section. Their particular favorite: the "Bullwinkle" baddie, Boris J. Badenov.
"Teen-agers like Boris, whose slogan is 'Somebody down there likes me,' because they're rebels," Scott suggests.
As for adult rooters, they're all over the place. Example: Us.


  1. Disparagement often seems to go hand in glove with misinformation. Walt Disney was passionate about story in terms of his films. There are numerous quotations in which he expounds on how important a good story and good writers are to the creative process. He did not operate on star power alone--for the most part, although every Hollywood studio depends on star power to some degree or another. And as noted, the "cheap animation" used by Ward was in several instances much cheaper than that of Hanna-Barbera.

    However, I get that the way to make oneself look good is to put one's competitors down. In this case, however, I do not believe that it was necessary. Jay Ward and company produced some shows that are remarkable and brilliant in their own right--there is no need to decide whether an apple is better than an orange. Each is good in its turn. The Bullwinkle shows were hysterically funny, the Hanna-Barbera shows were charming and amusing, and the Disney productions were elaborate (most of the time), and heartfelt (much of the time). All were occasionally outrageous and zany (the Ward productions pretty much all the time), all presented the world with memorable characters and clever gags, and all provided laughter and amusement to children and their families. All were occasionally "adult", occasionally "edgy", but always suitable for viewing by all ages.

    Ward and Scott may have felt the need to elevate themselves above their competition, and I'm not blaming them one bit. However, I personally wouldn't want to do without any of them. There are many different tastes to please in animation, and for my money, every one of these studios put out remarkable, fantastic cartoons that have enriched not only animation fans everywhere, but world culture as well.

    1. I totally agree. And let's not forget the funny or charming or wild, dependiong on short WB cartoons..(in fact, the "un-wild" UPA studios had their own variety of tones). SC

      Also let's NOT FORGET..ROGER RAMJET from Snyder, LINUS the Lionhearted and the two Universal Pictures releases Funny is Funny and The Dangerous Dan McGrew from Ed Graham, Bob Clampett, Rankin/Bass, Larry Harmon, Total TV, Clookey's ingenous sotp motion and the others.

  2. Just as there are so many styles in animation, as in Fine Art, there are many approaches to animation and types of stories. That's what made each studio's product unique. It is a bit futile to declare that one's approach is superior to another's, and frankly a bit of bad form. Just as each studio had its merits and successes, they all had some failures as well. HOPPITY HOOPER is a less remembered series from Ward, as one example.