Saturday 27 January 2018

Cartoon Reviews of 1961

The Alvin Show was “dubious.” Cartoons on The Bugs Bunny Show were “still reasonably funny.” Calvin and the Colonel was out of date. Those were some of the opinions expressed by writers in Variety and Daily Variety reviewing half-hour cartoon shows on the fall 1961 schedule.

Our “Cartoons of 1961” post a few weeks ago was so long, I’ve decided to cut part two in half. This post will feature reviews; the next one will be made up of stories and squibs (and it’s still long).

The 1961-62 season saw networks take a chance on several animated series in the hope they’d have bought the next Flintstones, which turned out to be a big success in its first season. The others were not, at least not in prime time. Alvin, in particular, proved to be gold mine for the Bagdasarian family when it wasn’t seen at night. It was reworked into a new cartoon series in the ‘80s with needless female characters and then a series of feature films with butt-ugly CGI versions. Oh, and there were country and punk albums, too, weren’t there? I’ll take Clyde Crashcup instead, thanks.

There is also a review of King Leonardo, the first half-hour of animation made for Saturday morning network television (it replaced Ruff and Reddy, which had a human host and included old Columbia theatrical cartoons), as well as two features from Japan which were dubbed for the North American market.

July 11, 1961
Alakazam The Great
(Full-length Adventure Cartoon; Pathe Color)
American International Pictures release of Toei production. Features voices of Frankie Avalon, Dodie Stevens, Jonathan Winters, Arnold Stang, Sterling Holloway. English dialog version produced by Lou Rusoff. Screenplay, Rusoff, Osamu Tezuka, Lee Kresel; camera, Harusato Otsuka. Komei Ishikawa, Kenji Sugiyama; editor, Salvatore Billiterri; music, Lea Baxter; music coordinator, Al Simms. Reviewed July 7, 1961 in New York. Running time: 84 mins.
Considering the dearth of product (other than Disney's) suitable for the moppet trade, this brightly reedited, dubbed and scored Japanese cartoon feature should do quite nicely at the summer bo. Story is an Oriental fairytale of universal appeal — about an arrogant little monkey who learns humility the hard way. Since almost all the characters possess at least a couple of magical powers, it's fantasy of the kind of extraordinary proportions best handled by imaginative animators.
The Toei animators are imaginative, and while the pictorial style is hardly avant-garde, there is much that is attractive even to the adult eye. Producer Lou Rusoff’s English version also has bounce of its own, with the voices of Frankie Avalon and Dodie Stevens singing a couple of jaunty — if not memorable — Les Baxter tunes, and Jonathan Winters and Arnold Stang providing the voices for several supporting characters. Winters is especially good when sounding off as Sir Quigley Broken-Bottom, a large, fat gluttonous pig who'll eat almost anything, "excepting, of course, ham."
Picaresque tale opens with Alakazam being named king of the animals, and thereby becoming a little more than somewhat big-headed. He tricks Merlin the Magician into revealing all his magic, and then sets out to conquer the world. For this arrogance, the local human king sentences the monkey to make a long pilgrimage to learn the moral facts of life. It's these misadventures which comprise the bulk of film and provide it with the kind of surprises and suspense which don't permit the small fry time to become restless.
The color (Pathe) print viewed by this reviewer seemed of uneven quality, but producer reports that corrections are now being made for the release prints. Amby.

August 9, 1961
Magic Boy
Artistically adept but dramatically routine cartoon fantasy. Fast-paced number especially suited to tastes of tykes and trimmed to neat twin-billing essentials.
Hollywood, Aug. 2.
Metro release of Toei production. Executive producer, Hiroshi Okawa. Associate producer, Hideyuki Takahashi. Director of animation. Sanae Yamamoto. Screenplay, Dohei Muramatsu, from original story by Kazuo Dan; camera (Magicolor), Selgo Otsuka, Mitsuaki Ishikawa'; editor. Shintaro Miyamoto; art supervisor, Seigo Shindo; music, Toru Funamura; sound, Hisashi Kase; animators, Akira Daikuhara, Hideo Furusawa, Yasuji Mori, Masao Kumagawa. Reviewed at the studio, Aug. 2, '61. Running time. 76 MINS.
With "Magic Boy," the Japanese animators display their drawing and coloring prowess in a fast-paced, though dramatically unimaginative, full-length adventure-fantasy cartoon that probably will appeal to the tykes of any land. Trimmed to a swift and snug 76-minutes, it should fit attractively into any package assembled and aimed at moppets by Metro, and is especially valuable as a lower-berther for summer distribution.
Famous for duplication, the Japanese artisans here again prove their skill as following a proven formula. With a forestful of sweet animals, a lovable little hero, a handsome prince and a wicked witch, their little tale is almost pure Disneyland with an Oriental accent. The scenario by Dohei Muramatsu, from an original story by Kazuo Dan, takes a normal, but especially courageous, Japanese boy invests him with magic powers acquired during a three-year course given by a helpful hermit, and pits him against the forest's evil sorceress in a hectic great debate to the death.
Unlike the animal heroes of U.S. cartoondom, the animals of "Magic Boy" don't talk, which makes sense. They merely cheep, squeal, grunt and tug human arms to warn of neighborhood peril. Unfortunately, though, the animals bear a striking resemblance to the stuffed toys of the average department store, and little more in the way of personality. Luckily, the stress is on the human characters.
The artwork, while perhaps not as exacting as recent U.S. cartoon endeavors, is beautifully colored, and the animation, under the direction of Sanae Yamamoto, is smooth and expressive. Sound, engineered by Hisashi Kase, is vivid, and the novel music score by Toru Funamura is exciting and surprisingly international in theme (even incorporating a guitarish Latin flavor on occasion).
A title tune, written by Fred Spielman and Janice Torre and sung by Danny Valentino, tells the gist of the story in a melodic, tv-commercial way. Voice dubbing (the Japanese characters speak perfect English), naturally less of a problem in a cartoon, doesn't Interfere at all. Tube.

August 23, 1961
Were mere ballyhoo the unerring gauge for success, "Bullwinkle" would undoubtedly be the hit of the 1961-62 network television circus. But week-to-week mass popularity requires far more than the initial impact of creative, aggressive publicity so, fresh and witty as Jay Ward's animated satirical menagerie may be, this moose may have trouble keeping off his antlers when NBC displays him on a more adult timetable this fall, commencing Sept. 24. The new series, fortified with several promising episodic embellishments, is an extension of "Rocky And His Friends," late afternoon (adult cocktail hour) kiddie staple on ABC for the past two years.
Mass adult acceptance of "Bullwinkle" and his chums will be a matter of comic infection (are they funny?) and romantic affection (are they lovable?). Well, they are pretty funny. Perhaps not consistently as sharply satirical and slyly sophisticated as some tastes, particularly those of cartoon-conscious collegiate, may require, but, by cartoon standards, as funny as they come.
However, these characters are not quite as lovable as they could be and, indeed as all animated characters must be to catch on big. It is a case of character personality sacrificed to the temptation of the quick and easy gag and the frenetic storyline. For example, "Rocky," the squirrel, has no distinct personality — he makes no vivid impression, fails to tickle the imagination. Artistically and storywise, this reluctance to emphasize character over situation may be advantageous, but commercially it is risky, and "The Bullwinkle Show" could suffer the consequences. A typical "Bullwinkle" outing includes a pair of short escapades and a "Mr. Know-It-All" section spotlighting the title hero, a "Fractured Fairy Tale," an "Aesop & Son" fable and an adventure with "Dudley DoRight Of The Mounties." The "Fairy Tale" and "Dudley" numbers look especially promising.
Voice work on this series is exceptionally fine, artistry and animation certainly highgrade for tv. The battery of writers under the gifted Bill Scott obviously contains many fertile imaginations. With all of this knowhow, the series has the foundation for great popularity. A little ironing out here and there, and it could be attained. Tube.

September 20, 1961
Voices: Jackson Beck, Sandy Becker, Kenny Delmar, Ben Stone, Allen Swift
Producer: Leonardo Prods.
30 Mins.; Sat., 10:30 a.m.
NBC-TV, from N. Y.
With cartoon shows coming into their own bigger than ever this season, "King Leonardo and His Short Subjects" is going into its second season of network color presentation. It's essentially a moppet-aimed show, but the central characters have some double-edged remarks that titilate adult viewers as well.
As with several of these shows, "Leonardo" has several main characters who do not all appear at once on the same seg. The season opener, for example, featured "The Hunter," a takeoff character pegged to joshing the tv detective series. Kenny Delmar provides the lump-in-the-throat, dimwit voice for Hunter and does a good job at it. Also on the show were Leonardo, the king and Biggy Rat, his prime adversary, both voiced effectively by Jackson Beck, along with the king's faithful servant, Odie Colognie and the ruler's beatnik brother, Itchy Brother, spoken humorously by Allen Swift. Animation by Total Television Prods. is bright and cleverly-conceived.
Missing from the segment were two other regular characters, Wizard the Lizard, voiced by Sandy Becker, and Tooter Turtle, spoken by Swift. Also shown during the show are some non-format cartoons of a less witty nature involving the now old-fashioned antics of various animals to musical backgrounds.
Most annoying, however, is the volume of commercials spiced throughout the show. If it weren't for the fact that some of the General Mills and Kool Aid material was in cartoon form it would probably drive the kids right onto another channel but as it is, only the adults are presumably effected. But there is a saturation point even for kids.
When the show itself is permitted time, there's considerable entertainment and it stacks up as a solid effort, especially with the good lead-in it has from the Shari Lewis show. Kali.

With voices of Alan Reed, Mel Blanc, Jean Vander Pyl, Bea Benaderet; guest, Hoagy Carmichael
Producers: Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera
Directors: Hanna, Barbera
Writer: Jack Raymond
30 Mins., Fri., 8:30 p.m.
ABC-TV (film)
(Wade; Wm. Esty)
"The Flintstones" matured sufficiently during its first season to be worthy of an adult as well as a juve following, and it carries enviable momentum into its second semester on ABC-TV in the same Friday evening berth. While basically a situation comedy that owes a certain debt to Jackie Gleason's "Honeymooners," it has the comfortable license to roam into the realm of the preposterous because its characters are animated cartoons rather than live actors. But wisely, Hanna and Barbera never let it get so far out that it loses touch with the plausible.
The satirical framework—that of depicting modern life in prehistoric terms—seems plenty durable, and of course it affords endless possibilities for sight gags, such as naming a piano a "Stoneway" and using the serrated fin of a dinosaur as a staircase. The Stone Age situationer stacks up as rough competition for anything slotted against it.
Hoagy Carmichael was a guest voice (and cartoon character) in the season's initialer, which was on the whole an amusing episode. Barney, Fred Flintstone's simpleton friend, has taken to writing verse, and in the belief that there may be a fortune in it the two go into the song writing business. Flintstone isn't going to let anyone know that they're just tyros, and so they're taken advantage of at every turn.
Enter Carmichael, who sees what the bumblers have let themselves in for. Good-naturedly he writes a song for them based on one of the favorite exclamations of Flintstone, "Yabba Dabba Doo." The boys have their moment of glory when the song is performed in a nightclub, but Carmichael brings them back down to earth with the information that only one published song in 5,000 ever makes any money. Intended or not, the advice was a public service to all the amateur song-writers watching.
The animated blurbs, with the Flintstone characters, are as enjoyable as anything in the show. Les.

September 27, 1961
Producers: Jay Ward, Bill Scott
Directors: Bill Hurtz, Ted Parmelee, Lew Keller, Gerard Baldwin, George Singer, Ernie Terrazes
Writers: Chris Hayward, Lloyd Turner, Chris Jenkyns, Al Burns, George Atkins
30 Mins., Sun., 7 p.m.
NBC-TV (film)
(D-FS; Grey)
CBS-TV's venerable hound of video, "Lassie," has some powerful competition in NBC-TV's new cartoon entry, "Bullwinkle." The disarming moose and his animated buddies—Rocket J. Squirrel; Peabody, the genius dog; Dudley Doright of the Mounties; Natasha Fatale. Boris Badenov; etc.—come out of syndication with a strong kid following, and there's a level of wit and whimsy that's going to capture a lot of adults.
Show has several regular segments, including two Bullwinkle episodes, cliffhanger style; "Fractured Fairy Tales," voiced by Edward Everett Horton; "Aesop's Fables," voiced by Charles Ruggles; "Peabody's Improbable History;" and "Adventures of Doright the Mountie."
Example of the show's sophistication was in the moral of the initialer's "Aesop's Fable," the story of a sick lion who caught a cold every time he roared like a lion because what he really wanted to do was sing like a human. The moral: "Psychiatrists are good but they've never cured the common cold."
General Mills commercials were in the satirical groove of overall proceedings, with one for Cheerios titled "Open Oat," a live-action takeoff on David Susskind's "Open End." Bill.

With Donald Duck, Professor Ludwig Von Drake
Producer: Walt Disney
Director: Hamilton S. Luske
Writers: Bill Berg, Joe Rinaldi, Milt Banta, Larry Clemmons, Otto Englander, Dr. Heinz Haber
Music: Buddy Baker
60 Mins., Sun., 7:30 p.m.
NBC-TV (color; film)
(J. Walter Thompson)
The difference between color and black & white was never so forcefully demonstrated as on Sunday night's (24) premiere of the new hour-long "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color" on NBC-TV. Seldom has the spectrum been so handsomely or imaginatively tinted up or such prismatic razzmatazz executed so beautifully. By the same token as black and white viewing, one could easily have wondered what "wonderful world" they were talking about.
The first half-hour of the new series, devoted exclusively to an evocation of color as the extra dimension to tv enjoyment, could henceforth serve as the definitive "demonstration piece" for RCA in its bid to get tint tv swinging into the bigtime. (It's only poetic justice that RCA and Eastman Kodak should be sponsoring the Disney series in its switchover to NBC and tint from its b & w tenure on ABC.) Greater exposure of this half-hour, everywhere and anywhere, will get those sales rolling.
If there were some misgivings as to when Disney will "get on with the show," for its all-round entertainment quotient is still dangling on a promissory note, the color splash — for those owning sets — more than justified this initial "introductory offer" and offering.
With Disney himself on deck to extoll the tint virtue, and with a Donald Duck kin, Ludwig Von Drake, making his bow for a lecture spiel in the earlier tradition of the Jack Pearl accented comicalities, it was an altogether persuasive and imaginative documentation of the origins of color and the use of tint in creating moods. It was a perfect blending of showmanship and salesmanship.
The second half proved a humorous exploration into the wonders and mysteries of mathematics in a Donald Duck "Mathamagic Land" sequence, blending animation and live, in which Disney's famed creation tries to dig those digits. Mathematics in relation to music (with a then & now jam session of Grecian hepsters and a horn section circa '61); mathematics in relation to games (chess, baseball, billiards, etc.;) and some mathematical hijinx with stars, circles and triangles provided some enlightening and ingenious vignettes out of Disney's creative bag ef sight & sound tricks.
The portents for the 7:30 to 8:30 showcase are promising, giving NBC a new lease on Sunday night in the highly competitive '61-'62 season. But for the first show, the big difference was color. Rose.

September 29, 1961
(The $1,000,000 Derby)
Wed., 8:30-9 p.m., KABC-TV
Filmed by Hanna-Barbera Production for Bristol-Myers Co. and Kellogg Co. Co-producers and directors, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera; teleplay, Harvey Bullock; camera, Frank Paiker; editor, Joe Ruby; animator, Ken Muse; music directors and composers, Bill Hanna and Hoyt Curtin.
Cast: Voices of Arnold Stang, Allen Jenkins, Maurice Gosfield, Marvin Kaplan, Leo De Lyon, John Stephenson.
Add another telecatoon to burgeoning field with Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera's new concoction of animated cats. Coproducers and directors earlier did much to start the ball rolling with their popular "Huckleberry Hound." Thus, it is something of a disappointment to note new series' premiere episode doesn't quite live up to its predecessor. Show has every delightful element of a kiddie funny but, for the 8:30-9 p.m. timeslot, needs more depth to successfully capture all-family audiences.
General theme, patterned after comedy vein of Damon Runyon's New York characters, involves "Top Cat" ("T.C.") as leader of a lovable gang of alley cats which maneuvers itself through kind of slick activities that generally turn out less profitable than planned. Animation is appealing and, coupled with popularity of several known comics as voices, some charm comes through. Arnold Stang has just the right twang for title voice, with Allen Jenkins, Maurice Gosfield, Marvin Kaplan, Leo De Lyon and John Stephenson fitting well as regulars. Dale.

October 4, 1961
With Arnold Stang, Allen Jenkins, Maurice Gosfield, Marvin Kaplan, Leo DeLyon, John Stephenson
Prods.-Dires.: Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera
Writer: Harvey Bullock
30 mins.; Wed., 8:30 p.m.
ABC-TV (film)
(Young & Rubicam; Leo Burnett)
Is ABC-TV pushing a good thing too far? On the strength of its click with "The Flintstones" last season, the web is now riding with another "adult" animation series out of the Hanna-Barbera studios which previously made its mark with the "Huckleberry Hound" and "Quick Draw McGraw" kiddie-slanted cartoons. But where the moppets are fixated by virtually anything on the tv screen, adult audiences are at least one notch more discriminating and a follow-up to "The Flintstones" would have to be doubly sharp in order to justify another cartoon show.
"Top Cat," on the basis of its introduction last Wednesday (27), did not measure up to the demands of a prime nighttime entry. Based on the antics of a hip-talking flock of easy-living felines, "Top Cat" registered as a simple comic strip with no point of view to give it a special cutting edge. However, there's always the calculation that the millions of grown-ups who turn to the comic strips before the editorial pages in their daily newspapers will find entertainment and intellectual stimulation in "Top Cat."
The scripting for this series strikes a jivey, wise-alecky note in a diluted neo-Runyonesque style. The opening show had occasional flashes of wit, but the patter was generally a routine brand of hip jargon. The characterizations of the various cats were amusing in an elementary sort of way and the story of their attempt to enter a horse in the big race was hardly an example of originality.
Since "The Flintstones" has already exploited the novelty appeal of the cartoon genre, "Top Cat" will have to come up in subsequent weeks with a fresh angle to rate in the bigtime competition. Herm.

October 5, 1961
Tues., 8:30 p.m., ABC-TV;
Filmed by Kayro for Lever Bros., Whitehall Labs. Producers-Writers, Joe Connelly, Bob Mosher; animation producers, Bob Ganon, Sam Nicholson, Gerry Ray; art director, Norm Gottfredson; animators, John Sparey, Bob Bemiller, Tom MacDonald.
Voices: Charles Correll, Freeman Gosden, Virginia Gregg, Beatrice Kay, Paul Frees, Barney Phillips, Gloria Blondell.
"Calvin And The Colonel" seems to bridge the missing link between the animal kingdom and human society, and, in so doing, achieves a flexibility and liberty of comment and situation that makes it perhaps the most promising and most noteworthy of the rash of new animated network series in this year of the cartoon.
"Calvin" is a strong, clumsy and slow-witted bear. "The Colonel" is a sly fox. The supporting characters are animals, too. But, unlike Donald Duck, Yogi Bear, Bullwinkle and most all cartoon characters, these are essentially human beings — animal only in basic appearance. And, by being animal in basic appearance, they have a freedom of expression not available to human animated people (like the "Flintstones" or "Magoo") in these touchy times. It's easier and less offensive to point up human foibles with humanized animals.
Whether writers-producers Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher will fully exercise this advantage remains to be seen, but there is evidence on the premiere that the series will have more to offer than mere absurd comic situations. If cartoons click this season, "Calvin" should ride the crest of the wave.
Much of the charm of a cartoon is the voices. In the voices of Charles Correll and Freeman Gosden (erstwhile Amos 'n' Andy), Connelly and Mosher have attained a perfect relationship between voice and character. What's more many of the lines written for the show seem clever enough to inspire repetition and imitation on the part of the viewer, just as used to be the case with Amos ‘n' Andy. The opener indicates room for improvement, but it's a promising start. Tube.

October 6, 1961
(Wed., 7:30-8 p.m., KNXT-CBS)
Filmed by Format Films for General Foods . Producers, Herbert Klynn, Leo Salkin , Bud Getzler; directors, Osmond Evans, Rudy Larriva, Alan Zaslove; writers, Salkin, Ed Nofziger, Cal Howard, Bob Kurtz, Dale Hale, Jan Strejan, Chris Jenkyns, Al Bertino, Dick Kinney, Bill Danch, Tedd Pierce, Jack Cosgriff; camera Jack Eckes; cutting, Joe Siracusa.
Cast: voices of Ross Bagdasarian, Shepard Menken, June Foray, Lee Patrick, Johnny Mann, Bill Lee, William Stafford, Res Dennis.
The surroundings aren't going to be very compatible for the frolicking chipmunks. On one side is "Wagon Train" and the other flanking is Steve Allen. Worse still, it looks like one of CBS-TV's weakest rating nights. Rather than buck them at their own game, General Foods chose a kid show and don't let that 7:30 slot fool you. They used to schedule these kind on Saturday mornings. For the smaller sizes, sheer delirium; adult-wise, nyet. The three inky Imps, Alvin, Simon and Theodore, are vignette in panelled antics, like trying to make an eagle fly, contesting at archery, gondoliering in Venice and inventing a game called baseball, which was infantile thinking and probably hooted at by the sub-teeners. The animation is skilled, the characters spirited and the matched voices infallible.
From the list of credits submitted by Format Films, the payroll must be the largest numerically of any half-hour show on the air. Animated cartoons being a costly item, around $65,000, it behoves the chipmunks to start foraging fast in the Nielsen pasture to keen the cost-per-thousand below the danger line. Helm

October 11, 1961
With the voices of Charles Correll, Freeman Gosden, Virginia Gregg, Beatrice Kay, Paul Frees, Barney Phillips, Gloria Blondell
Producers: Joe Connelly, Bob Mosher
Writers: Connelly, Mosher
Animation: Creston Studios
30 Mins.; Tues., 8:30 p.m.
ABC-TV (cartoon)
Amos 'n' Andy are back but this time instead of worrying the NAACP they'll probably bother the ASPCA. In their resurrection, the comedy team, so long popular on radio and tv and who in later years touched sensitive points because of their portrayal of stereotype Negroes, have been put into the guise of animals to cash in on tv's current cartoon trend. Nothing much else has changed.
The plot and characterization are cut from the same cloth and even though they're on screen this time out as a slow-witted bear (Calvin) and a crafty fox (The Colonel) the cartoon series smacks of bygone days. The Creston Studios, however, must be complimented for its nifty animation efforts but much of its good work is dissipated in the use of a laugh track. By the sound of it, the track loved the show.
The series opener, called "The Television Job," had to do with the lazy Colonel being forced into a job delivering tv sets and how he, through some fast talking, gets Calvin to do the heavy work— and without pay. Familiar?
No matter how you slice it, it's still Amos ‘n’ Andy, and times have changed. Gros

With David Seville
Voices: Ross Bagdasarian, Shepard Menken, June Foray, Lee Patrick, Johnny Mann, Bill Lee, William Stafford, Res Dennis [sic]
Executive Producer: Herbert Klynn
30 Mins.; Wed., 7:30
CBS-TV (animation)
{Benton & Bowles)
With cartoon shows in boomsville, subject matter is getting harder to find. "The Alvin Show" is pegged to a group called the Chipmunks which was a big disk seller on the Liberty label and which now finds itself starring in a half-hour variety-type show Wednesday evenings (7:30) over the CBS web, with its inascible leader Alvin getting top billing.
It will be a tough nut for these pleasantly-animated fellows to crack, figuring that they are slotted against such stalwarts as "Wagon Train" and the new Steve Allen opus. There may be some interest here for the younger set who haven't graduated to the oater leagues, but for the graduates "The Alvin Show" doesn't offer very much.
Format is basically a variety show with the munks singing tunes In different settings and performing blackout and longer skits. The show doesn't lack humor, but it's pretty weak funny stuff, spiced with sight gags and the byplay between David Seville, a songwriter human who sort of manages the group, and the misbehaving of Alvin and his cohorts. It's all animated nicely and the voices are effective in the variety of their ranges and characterizations.
Perhaps one of the more successful elements of the show didn't involve the chipmunks but a nutty inventor instead. He seems slated to become a regular on the show along with a knowing but downtrodden assistant. For the opener they invented baseball in a sometimes amusing fashion. They are animated humans. In all it's a mildly diverting show, with the munks doing all the General Foods commercials, designed to fit CBS' pattern of trying to innovate a comedy and light programming image along with their other material. It's [sic] appeal is limited and dubious. Kali.

October 12, 1961
(Tues., 7:30-8 p.m., ABC-TV)
Filmed by Warner Bros. for General Foods, Mars Inc. Producers-directors-writers, Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng; original story, Michael Maltese, Warren Foster; editor, Treg Brown; animators, Ken Harris, Richard Thompson, Tom Ray, Robert Bransford; voice, Mel Blanc.
Years of theatrical exposure lend these characters of Warner Bros. animated zoo the security of proven public acceptance. Yet the same aging public that has supported "Bugs Bunny" and the rest of the Looney Tunes crew lo these many years is apt to be growing less and less enchanted with these essentially static characters, thus passing this show on, by default, to youngsters less familiar with and more susceptible to the changeless nature of their madcap merriment.
Unlike some of the newer, trickier cartoons that have descended on the animal-happy medium this year, the "Bugs Bunny" show, now a tv two-year-old, adheres to the elementary storylines and techniques of the traditional theatrical cartoon. Bursts of witty dialog indicate adult potential in the script department, but the episodes seem inevitably and irresistibly to evolve into the old-fashioned cartoon "chase," with resultant body disasters and facial disfigurations followed by astonishingly rapid and complete recoveries. That's the way the tykes like it, though, and at 7:30 most of them are still masters of the rabbit-eared box. Tube.

October 18, 1961
With Mel Blanc Voices
Producers-Directors: Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng
Writers: Michael Maltese, Warren Foster
30 Mins.; Tues., 7:30 p.m.
ABC-TV (animated film)
The Warner Bros. cartoon menagerie, well established via feature exhibition and maybe even overexposed in tv syndication, will meet some stiff competition for the adult audience at 7:30 this semester with the reruns of "Gunsmoke" ("Marshal Dillion") [sic] slotted against it on CBS-TV. How well the cartoon series will bear up with the Junior set in its second season on ABC ought to depend on whether or not there is a surfeit of Bugs & Co.—and animationers, in general —in video today. In the Chicago market, for instance, the independent station, WGN-TV, has two "Bugs Bunny" shows daily off the old theatrical releases. The question is, how much can the traffic bear? It would stand to reason that an 11th "Bugs Bunny" show per week—even though tailor-made for tv—might be superfluous. The Chi situation may be an isolated instance, however. Incidentally, last season the network "Bugs" met the syndicated "Bugs" head-on in the Windy City, and the local entry won the honors a good share of the time.
The hazard of over-exposure is unfortunate because the ABC "Bugs Bunny" is an amusing and skillfully produced show. The troupe of Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Sylvester, the Road Runner, et. al., makes for an all-star cartoon cast, and the especially-for-tv scripts are satisfactory vehicles for the usual animated cartoon nonsense, the familiar slapstick and the standard miracles that can only happen in fantasy-land. Somehow, repetitious though their antics are, they stand up all right and are still reasonably funny.
Opening installment for the new season was pegged on a "Reading Out Loud" theme, with the WB cast enacting absurd variations of the "Hansel & Gretel," "Robin Hood" and "Jack the Beanstalk" tales. The "retellings" bore only a coincidental resemblance to the original stories, but they afforded a context for the silly business. Bugs Bunny is a first-class emcee and standup comic in his own right. Les.


  1. I guess producers of animated fare for prime time had to walk a fine line between making the cartoons "too adult" or "too juvenile." If its appeal was mainly to adults, then it had less chance of getting recycled on Saturday mornings. But if it was skewed too young, it would risk alienating the adults, thus resulting in premature cancellation. It seems that in the early 60's it was still a little unclear whether cartoons were for adults or for children. (Today, alas, even the most sophisticated animated fare is considered kid stuff by most adults.)

    What a great time to be a kid, or an adult with a young family! I remember some of these shows from their first run. I don't recall that Top Cat came on at 8:30 PM, because I know that would have been considered too late for me to stay up, but I definitely remember watching Top Cat in prime time on at least a few occasions, so my parents must have allowed me to stay up to watch it. We continued to watch and enjoy when the show transferred to Saturday mornings. My father especially enjoyed the show and thought Benny was hilarious.

    We regularly watched "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color" on Sunday nights. To this day, it remains my favorite iteration of the Disney anthology series. Ludwig Von Drake was another family favorite. (Of course at the time I had no idea that he and Boris Badenov were voiced by the same actor.)Those Disney shows made an indelible impression on my memory which lasts to this day. I still recall exact words and phrases from the show, and can still recite the lyrics to the theme song.

    So Rocky the flying squirrel has no personality? This I didn't know. Hokey Smokes!

    And Bugs Bunny and his Looney Tunes cohorts are "static characters"? What's up with that, doc?

    Thanks for sharing these great reviews. Stirs up good memories.

    1. (Today, alas, even the most sophisticated animated fare is considered kid stuff by most adults.)

      Even Rick & Morty?

  2. The concept of recycling on Saturday mornings hadn't been invented yet. I don't think it was a consideration. Judging by the demographic clauses in the sponsors' contracts with ABC involving the Jetsons, children were not the target audience.

  3. Re: Review of The Flintstones episode "The Hit Songwriters":

    *Hoagy Carmichael is the only guest star on the show whose name wasn't "Flintstone-ized", à la Ann-Margrock or Stony Curtis.

    *I wonder how said guest star felt about one particular line in the script: "...Remember, Mr. Carmichael, you haven't had a hit in five years." Ouch!

    *A comparison to Tony Bennett could be made - Like Carmichael on The Flintstones, Bennett was the first "real-life" guest star on The Simpsons, both episodes aired during the respective series' second season, and both entertainers were somewhat past their prime at the time of their appearances.

  4. Interesting how the first reviewer claimed the Bugs Bunny cartoons seemed like they evolved into the old fashioned chase...not realizing these WERE the old cartoons, only with new wraparounds added.

  5. Can't agree with the Top Cat review....that series was a notch above with great voices, good scripts and wonderful music. Calvin and The Colonel always struck me as shoestring animation with dusty old A and A scripts.