Saturday, 26 January 2019

TV Animation, 1961

Theatrical animation in 1961? It was sputtering and wheezing. Television animation in 1961? That was a different story.

Remember this was before the big Saturday morning cartoon industry existed. That was a time period where old cartoons were dumped. TV animation meant syndication and when The Flintstones became a smash in 1960, studios tried to chow down on the prime-time pie. The prime-time animation fad was gone almost after it started as most new shows on the 1961 schedule were failures long before the season ended (but then provided already-produced fodder for Saturday mornings).

Daily Variety kept abreast of the animation industry several times a year. Here’s a story from May 3, 1961 which gives you an idea of the number of cartoons being made, as well as some dollar-figures.

1961 TOTAL RUNS TO $14,000,000

Hollywood, May 2.
Cartoon an animation biz is zooming. Never as much going on as now, according to Lawrence Kilty, biz rep for Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists Union, IATSE local 839. Exec figures $14,000,000 being spent on overall pen sketches production this year. Compared to live action shorts, he realizes, this is puny.
“But there’s more cartoon and animated production going on now than ever before in our history.” Of estimated figure, Kilty sees $12,000,000 being spent on teevee films, as entertainment and commercials.
Format Films, one of the largest, if not most active animated producers, is spending $1,500,000 on its program. Snowball, Inc., with its 85 men working, estimates spending $1,500,000 million too. Hanna-Barbera, has five successful teevee series, and 12 “Loopy de Loop” theatrical shorts being made for Columbia, is going full blast with a staff of 150.
Day of pen-and-inker, whether b. & w. or color, is here. They (he and she) never had it so good. And Kilty insists no other country can do better producing cartoons. If producers think they can make cartoons or animations abroad cheaper and better, union head challenges anyone for proof.
Noted in volume of teevee shorts are 6 to 7 min. subjects, many of which are put together in groups of three for half hour shows. This is particularly true with “Popeye” subjects, “Beany and Cecil,” “Dick Tracy” and “Mr. Magoo.”
Most animations in work have been sold for teeveeing next season, according to studio heads. Pilots on several new series are either in work or fini, with outlook good, according to producers.
Activity and local cartoon and animation studios, including all phases of production, follows:
26 half hour tv “Alvin and the Chipmunks” in production; 26 half hour tv “The Shrimp” preparing; maximum 26, maximum of 32 “Calvin and the Colonel” half hours; “King Leonardo,” 34 half hours in work’ “Fractured Fairy-tales,” 32 6-min. subjects; 27 finished; 26 “Beetle Bailey” 7 ½ min. segs; 28 7 min. “Popeyes”; working on new series “Keemar, Invisible Boy” for tv, three pilots fini; half hour “Sir Loin and the Dragon,” half hour “Cat Tales,” and 7-min. “Shaggy Dog Tales.” In preparation, half dozen theatrical shorts and two features, “Icarus Montgolfier Wright” and “The Illustrated Man” from Ray Bradbury.
Five tv weekly shows in production: “Yogi Bear” (26), “Huckleberry Hound” (26), “Quick Draw McGraw” (26), “Flintstones” (30), “Top Cat” (30). Also making 12 “Loopy de Loop” for Columbia, along with feature “Yogi Bear.” Company shoots 4,500 animated feet weekly.
Preparing “Bozo the Clown.” Hopes to make half hour Laurel & Hardy tv cartoons, if copyrights can be cleared.
78 “Beany & Cecil” segs for ABC-TV half hour shows, 22 fine.
(United Productions of Am.)
For tv: “Dick Tracy” (130 5-min. segs), “Mr. Magoo” (104 5-min. segs), GE commercials of 7-10 mins or less. Finished ATT industrial, 18 mins, “Mr. Digit and the Battle of Babbling Brook.” Also producing 3 6-min theatrical shorts for own distribution system.
Feature, “Sword and the Stones” [sic] in preparation, 2 shorts for Buena Vista. Also, 4 ATT series in next 18 months, each at $400,000. Additionally, working on NBC-TV weekly show, come Fall, to be known as “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” with Pro. Ludvig Von Drake, Donald’s uncle, emceeing opening show. New characters to be introduced from time to time.
Plans tv and theatricals, 18 of the latter, and “Beary Family” tv series.
20 theatrical shorts. Also “Bugs Bunny” teevee half hour show. No limited sked on latter.


  1. Format Films' 1961 schedule isn't quiet as busy as Hanna-Barbera's was, but it was pretty close (and when you look at the work that was produced by the studio, caused it to suffer from the same 'stretched too thin' problem H-B began suffering from around this time, where the quality story material can't keep up with the production schedule).

    'Lawrence Harmon' makes him sound like a guy doing animation for National Educational Television, as opposed to the bargain basement syndication work his studio was churning out at the time (with several staffers going on the following year to found Filmation, which could be the most annoying cartoon studio ever).

  2. Think an offbeat(?) comic strip would "explain" why the Chipettes didn't appear in Alvin cartoons of the 60s?LOL