April 11, 2002
Sometime in the mid 1990s, when Greg, my web page partner and I were still both single (Greg has since married; I have not), Greg invited me to go on a camping trip. The name of the campsite was Garner State Park (north of Uvalde, TX, between two tiny towns of Concan and Río Frío, TX). During this trip we also went to a park, that I like very much called Lost Maples State Park (west of Kerrville, TX, near a small town called Vanderpool). Greg’s then girlfriend said to me:
“I’m happy you’re going, but just so you’re aware…………..you know that everyone else on this trip is going as ‘couples’ don’t you?………..” (I was not dating anyone, at the time).
I said: “No problem! I know I’ll still enjoy it!”.
Well………..I did enjoy it…………..but it was a lot harder, than I thought it would be: with three couples, while I was alone……………But I digress………..During that trip, I joked around from time to time. One of the things that I liked to do was to take words, or even people’s name, and switch them around in a humorous way (and see if people could guess who or what I was talking about). An example of this would be one of our local restaurants: “Fresh Choice”. Fresh Choice, in this word game, becomes: Stale Option.
One of our mutual friends, Jeff, said to me, during this camping trip:
“Brian, I’d like to take a trip inside of your mind!………….That’s bound to be a really WILD ride!!………….”
I thought of this little anecdote, while I was choosing a name for this most recent article, of the Walter Tetley Web Page: Chamber of My Mind. Once I thought of that, I just could not think of any other title that I felt fit better.
I wanted to share a few of my thoughts, about Jay Ward cartoons, that I have never shared with anyone before. These thoughts, for the most part, date back to my teenage years. When I was in junior high school (and also high school), I thought, many times, about how neat it would be if Jay Ward Productions brought ALL of their animated series back into a one-hour show entitled: The Jay Ward Cartoon Playhouse.
As I mentally noted the three cartoon series, that Jay and Bill Scott put out, in the 50s and the 60s, I realized that it would be very easy to squeeze all of them into a one-hour program. ‘How neat!’, I thought, ‘to have THREE of my all-time favorite cartoons, back again, in one show——-with all new episodes!!’ So here is a story about how I would do it, if the decision was up to me.
Though The Hoppity Hooper Show was not as good as George of the Jungle and
his friends, that show had a very special charm that George of the Jungle did not have. For those of you who have never seen that series, Hoppity was the frog, and there was a wolf, Uncle Waldo and a trumpet-playing bear, Fillmore (who was very stupid and talked a lot like Bullwinkle; he also did a TERRIBLE job of playing that trumpet!). The charm that Hoppity’s show had, which George of the Jungle did not have, was that, like the earlier Rocky and Bullwinkle series, the stories unfolded in an episodic format. There were not quite as many episodes, per story, as in the Rocky and Bullwinkle series, but there were a lot of similarities. The show also featured all woodland animals, as the stars. Hoppity, like Rocky, could also be cute and endearing………….a little bit different from Ward’s last series (with George of the Jungle, Super Chicken and Tom Slick).
Anyway, The Hoppity Hooper Show would be very easy to fit into this one-hour format. Most of the “side shows” from that series were not even Jay Ward cartoons. For some reason they decided to use some of the cartoons from Total Television Productions (the people who brought us Tennessee Tuxedo and Underdog). Most of their cartoons were not very funny at all (nor very good). The only one that I can remember is The World of Commander McBragg. The other side shows from Hoppity Hooper were just recycled episodes of Fractured Fairy Tales, Bullwinkle’s Corner and Mr. Know-It-All. Since those side shows were already part of the Rocky and Bullwinkle series, there were virtually no Hoppity Hooper “side shows”, that needed to be included in this hour-long show.
So here would be my outline, for The Jay Ward Cartoon Playhouse. I am keeping in mind that a 60-minute show would probably need at least 15 minutes of commercials and station identification time (so that whittles our time down to 45 minutes). I am also keeping in mind that most of Jay Ward’s cartoons were only 5 minutes in length (and Bullwinkle’s Corner and Mr. Know-it-All were usually only 1-2 minutes in length). I have had to reduce the shows to 4 minutes, just to make sure that everything could fit in:
- Opening episode of Rocky & Bullwinkle (4 minutes)
- Fractured Fairy Tales (4 minutes)
- Peabody’s Improbable History (4 minutes)
- Aesop & Son (4 minutes)
- Dudley Do-Right (4 minutes)
- Hoppity Hooper (4 minutes)
- George of the Jungle (4 minutes)
- Super Chicken (4 minutes)
- Tom Slick (4 minutes)
- Closing episode of Rocky & Bullwinkle (4 minutes)
- Bullwinkle’s Corner (1 minute—-to be inserted anywhere during the show)
- Mr. Know-it-All (1 minute—–to be inserted anywhere during the show)
Total: 42 minutes
This gives us another 3 minutes to play with. The writers of the show could
modify any of the above shows, as needed, if it would be tough to close out a script in 4 minutes. Frankly I was never really extremely fond of Bullwinkle’s Corner and Mr. Know-it-All…………but I realize that the show would just not be the same without these features.
This was my dream, which never materialized………and I wanted ALL NEW SHOWS!!…………NOT RE-RUNS!! At the time that I thought of all this, most of these cartoons had already been in re-runs for many, many years. This type of venture would not be worth much without new material.
Around the time that Daws Butler wrote to me, Hanna-Barbera, another animation giant, had already revived a lot of their cartoons, with brand new episodes, in a new series called Yogi’s Gang (around 1973). Unfortunately, Yogi’s Gang was not very good. All of the different characters (who were contemporaries to Huckleberry Hound and Yogi) were thrown together into one story. It wasn’t the same at all; the characters seemed to lose their special pizzazz, when the plot dealt with their “collective identity”. All of these Hanna-Barbera characters also lost some of their sophistication from the 50s and the 60s (now that the new show was geared more toward kids—-and toward crafting a message designed to TEACH the youth of that era).
Anyway, enough said on this topic. Maybe someone will use my idea, yet, and think:
“Carpe Diem!! Let’s do this as a tribute to Jay Ward and Bill Scott!! Let’s revive all those old shows, with the same spirit, and with all new adventures!!”
The question is, if it will occur in my lifetime. Probably not. But I am very pleased to think that perhaps I could help “plant the seed”, for such future entertainment!
Up until some of our readers sent me copies of The Great Gildersleeve and The Phil Harris and Alice Faye Show, I had had very little contact, with “radio shows”, as a form of entertainment. Had it not been for The CBS Mystery Radio Theater, in the 1970s, I would have had nearly no experience with this. For the record, I truly enjoyed that 70s radio program (I have heard from some “die-hard” radio fans, however, who felt that that program just did not do justice to what radio was like, decades ago).
Other than The CBS Mystery Radio Theater, the closest that I ever came, to experiencing radio, as my parents and grandparents did, was when I taped a huge number of the Fractured Fairy Tales from the Rocky and Bullwinkle shows………….and this was LONG BEFORE most folks had a VCR…………….so I am talking “taped” in the traditional sense of the word. It may have been possible to obtain the Fractured Fairy Tales, on video, back in the 70s, but I did not know where to look………….and our house did not have a VCR back then.
Taping the Fractured Fairy Tales began as a project after I learned that my great-aunt Esther had been acquainted with Edward Everett Horton (the narrator of the Fractured Fairy Tales) while he was still living in New York City (and performing in winter stock productions). They ran into each other, quite a few times, from what my great-aunt told me. I set out to try to get all of these tales on tape (I failed). I did fill up quite a few cassette tapes, however (I usually managed to fit at least 5 Fractured Fairy Tales per side; 10 per tape). It started out as a love for Horton’s grandfatherly voice, as he narrated the fairy tales (and the fact that his life had touched my aunt’s life). Eventually it blossomed into a love for the character voice actors. Horton’s voice was only the tip of the ice berg. I ended up falling much more in love with the talents of June Foray, Daws Butler, Bill Scott, and, on a few rare occasions, Paul Frees (he did not do too many of the Fractured Fairy Tales).
After a while, I forgot about much of the animated portion of the Fractured Fairy Tales, as I listened to them on tape. My memory, of what happened visually, became fuzzier and fuzzier. Soon, I became very dependent on the audio, as I listened to these stories. I found myself having to use my imagination more and more. The voices, themselves, became MUCH, MUCH MORE PRICELESS, to me, than the drawings…………MUCH, MUCH MORE ENDEARING too. I came to realize that, THE REAL TREASURE, in those fairy tales, was the gusto and warmth, that shined through in those humorous and charming character voices!! I came to understand, exactly, what my father meant, when he talked about how neat it was to use one’s imagination, in radio………..how precious that could be!!
One of my favorite Fractured Fairy Tales, of all time, was Sleeping Beautyland. In this tale, Daws Butler provided the voice of a prince, who talked like a con man, or a slick salesman, who sounded very much like Hokey Wolf, from Hanna-Barbera (or perhaps Phil Silvers, as Keith Scott points out, in his masterpiece book, The Moose That Roared). June Foray did the voice of a wicked fairy, which was masterfully done like so many of her witch and grandmotherly voices. When Greg Jones, my web partner, told me that many of R & B’s shows were available in video, in our hometown, I rented several of them. When I saw Sleeping Beautyland, for the first time in many years, in a very small way, some of the magic was gone, when I got the visual perspective. I had probably not seen this tale in at least 25 years. The wicked fairy, whom I had always pictured as a prune and ugly, looked more like a woman in her 30s or 40s………..and she was not even that bad-looking either!!
In addition, Jay Ward’s early animation was somewhat primitive, by today’s standards (Greg noticed this too, when he rented one video, and he pointed this out to me). This did not make any difference in my love for Jay Ward’s work, mind you (you have to expect that animation from around 1960 will look somewhat crude, when compared to the 21st Century). What it did do, however, was erase the image of the wicked fairy, that had burned in my memory………….an image that, by now, I had come to love, and consider very charming, as part of The Grimm Brothers’ contribution to our folklore and literature. I realized, when I saw many of the Fractured Fairy Tales, over the next few months, that the purely audio versions, that I had saved, were the closest that I had ever come, to experiencing “Radio” (apart from The CBS Mystery Radio Theater)!!