Chapter 14: The Terry-fying Challenge
John Doormat: A new character they were already working on was named "John Doe," a harrassed husband; a completely stock character. I felt right off that the name, "John Doe," meaning the average man, was uncopyrightable, too generic, and didn't say anything to indicate his character, a browbeaten husband. So I changed his name to John Doormat, which was at least an original name, and it did describe the character. Al Kouzel created a new model, and directed.
Clint Clobber: Terry had a long running series called "The Terry Bears," and the voice of the Daddy Bear was Doug Moye, a big and aggressive black cameraman at the studio. Doug was a funny guy to talk with, and he had a great booming voice. I felt that the Bears were really an old fashioned concept. In my attempt to quickly develop new characters, and still hoping to make use of Doug's voice, I created an overweight apartment house super, who underneath his grumpy exterior was a man in love with his job and his seedy apartment house. We made a special Terrytoons promotional film with the character. I named him "De Witt Clinton Clobber," with Doug Moye doing the voice. I really liked Clobber, and with Morrison and the other story guys we began to develop and deepen the character. Recording sessions for the new Clobber films proved out that even with his funny deep voice, Doug Moye simply did not have the acting talent to put across the emotion the character now required, so I brought in my old friend and colleague Allen Swift to take over the voice. Understandably, Doug's feelings were hurt. I knew was treading on sensitive racial territory, and it was touchy trying to convince Doug that the decision was purely a case of acting requirement.
Tom Terrific: Right in the first year, I got a call from the office of CBS' Captain Kangaroo show. They were informed about us, and wanted a new animated serial created for the show, and they needed it quickly. I was invited to have lunch with Bob Keeshan, (Captain Kangaroo), and his business manager, Marvin Josephson, at the posh Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. I was surprised to see that the "old" Captain was a crew cut young man of 32. Over the years, he needed less and less make up! But right then, he needed a strong new cartoon character. While I was still creative director at UPA I was writing and drawing a daily and Sunday comic strip for United Features Syndicate on the side, titled, "Terr'ble Thompson!" It was about a little boy who had his "Werld Heddquarters" in a tree house, and who was called upon by the great figures of wrld history to help them solve varjious desperate problem. I had to give up my comic strip just before I joined Terrytoons, but I still owned the copyright. I decided to throw it into the Terry pot, assuming I would be there forever. I reworked it of course to fit the needs of animation, and created the new characters of Mighty Manfred the Wonder Dog, and Crabby Appleton, Rotten To The Core, who were not in the original strip. Terr'ble Thompson became Tom Terrific.
In adapting TT to TT, a great deal of simplifying was necessary, and also, a purely animation device. Whereas Terr'ble Thompson was an adventurous little boy, who just ran energetically into situations that needed to be saved, I felt that Tom Terrific needed to have something magic about him, that would take advantage of the possibilities of animation. I was always fascinated with metamorphosis, so I decided that Tom had the ability to quickly change his shape into any kind of form that could solve the problem at hand. I also gave him the sidekick I had not yet introduced into the comic strip, Mighty Manfred the Wonder Dog, an anti hero who was neither mighty nor wondrous, except in the eyes of his loving master. Tom gave Manfred credit for every idea that he himself thought of. Manfred was only interested in food and sleep. Hey, he was a dog, wasn't he?