ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 4.6 - SEPTEMBER 1999

Bob Clampett, Boy Wonder Of Stage C
(continued from page 1)

The opening theme fades out, and what follows, sprinkled with cleverly integrated commercials of course, is a few minutes of adventure, chases, comedy, explosions, fights, shipwrecks, funny dialogue and turmoil, visually expressed by the Clampett hand-puppet characters, among whom is everyone's favorite, the marvelous and goofy personage of Beany's sidekick, Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent, pronounced in all narratives as "sur-pent," with pent emphasized. Beany was created for kids, but Cecil was created for everyone! Beany and Cecil and their adventures captured an enormous children's audience and, unexpectedly, an adult audience as well. In fact, even Albert Einstein called Beany his favorite TV show!

In an early kinescope, first broadcast in December, 1952 from Paramount, Los Angeles' Channel 5, the Time for Beany story-line concerns Cecil's confrontation with a menacing robot-Cecil who has appeared in previous Beany episodes as an evil threat to the boys on the Leakin' Lena and their friends, the natives of nearby islands. Except for its "metal" skin and the deliberately visible nuts and bolts that hold him together, the robot-Cecil character is a dead-ringer for the "real" Cecil. During one confrontation, robot-Cecil lands one tremendous haymaker on Cecil's noggin, who spins backwards, landing on the "set" on his back, mouth open, unconscious. Fade to commercial...

When we come back to the story, robot-Cecil has disappeared, and Cecil awakens, saying: "Like the lollipop said to the lollipop sticker: `I'm not licked yet!'" In the meantime, robot-Cecil is chasing Beany who calls for help. Cecil hears Beany and zips out of the frame: "I'm comin' Beany. I'm comin'...."

As today's story evolves, robot-Cecil, although presumed evil ("ee-vee-il," as the word "evil" is invariably pronounced during the Beany opening narratives), is in reality good natured and not one whit brighter than the Cecil "in the flesh." It can be surmised that following Beany, Cecil and robot-Cecil's predictable reconciliation, the show, as many segments of Beany do, concludes with a Ragg Mopp duet:

"Rag Mopp Doodly-dah-de-do-dah... Rag Mopp Doodly-dah-de-do-dah... Rag Mopp Ragg Mopp R-a-g-g M-o-p-p (spelled out) Ragg Mop! Ragg Mop!"

...and so on. The song, Rag Mopp, represented the good natured Cecil's joie de vivre and piece of mind following another hair-raising adventure. After its fleeting but spectacular moment of public recognition in the `50s, Ragg Mopp became on some level unquestionably the on-air property of Cecil the Seasick Sea Ser-pent; Cecil "owned it," as they say.

Time For Beany audiences were both loyal and colossal. In its heyday, TV rating bureaus estimated that during the Time for Beany broadcast time-period, of the total number of sets turned on to watch anything on TV, 60% were tuned into Beany, an enormous audience for a children's show. Additionally, Time for Beany was syndicated into roughly 60 television broadcasting markets, nationwide.

It is also something to note that Bob Clampett had two other shows in production at the same time, Thunderbolt the Wondercolt and Buffalo Billy. Plus, a half-hour weekly show The Willy the Wolf Show and another Time for Beany half-hour to do on Saturdays. Bob and his entire staff was spread between these shows.

Bob Clampett Productions
Bob Clampett is a stickler for security, and the doors leading from Sunset Boulevard into the Clampett production offices complex adjoining Stage C are loaded with locks, buzzers and alarm devices to keep employees in and the unwashed out. Behind the doors, gates and locks are conference rooms for meetings, offices for storyboard and script pick-and-shovel work, workrooms for puppet manufacturing and Bob's office which houses a quagmire of models and drawings on bulletin boards, artwork, scripts, books and puppets. In addition, other areas of the Clampett complex are jammed with wardrobe, props and sets, while elsewhere on the lot sit thousands of pounds of equipment -- owned by the broadcasting station -- necessary to transmit Beany over the airwaves. While Beany is being broadcast live from Hollywood to Southern California audiences, downstairs it is "Kinescoped," a system whereby the broadcast TV picture is sent on wires to the Kinescope or Kine (pronounced "kinnie") department -- a dimly lit, refrigerated series of rooms called Master Control wherein the massive kinescoping equipment sat. The rooms house the big, black, humming machines with buttons, dials and switches and one very bright televised picture the size of a 35mm movie frame, originating on Stage C and projected into yet another 35mm frame-size aperture where it is exposed onto black and white motion picture film. This is the videotape equivalent of its time. Years later, when I am working on the animated Beany and Cecil cartoon series, in the bowels of Clampett's Snowball Productions on Seward Street in Hollywood, I come upon reel after reel of 16mm Beany kinnies carelessly stashed among other production paraphernalia including one Cecil hand-puppet, looking sorrowfully up at me, displaced by animation.


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