ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 4.7 - OCTOBER 1999
Now It's Time for the
Beany and Cecil Cartoons
by Robert Story
Bob Clampett and Beany. All images © 1999 Bob Clampett Productions LLC. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce in any form.
At what some people called the peak of his creative powers, Bob Clampett left his position as writer/animation designer/director at Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies to produce a live puppet show of his own creation, Time For Beany, a series about a freckle-faced kid who wore a propellered "beany" atop his head, a cast-in-plastic smile on his face and airbrushed freckles across his nose. Beany sailed the world in search of adventures and fortune in the good ship "Leakin' Lena," accompanied by "Uncle Captain," aka Horatio K. Huffenpuff, and the lovable and most stout-hearted hero of all heroes, Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent. Their antagonist, "D.J.," or Dishonest John, was an ever-present, single-minded villain whose unshakable intent is to thwart "the boys'" mission, whatever that may entail, and whose most distinct audible identity, his laugh, "nya-HA-ha," is expressed ominously, in the manner of melodramatic stage heavies of decades before.
These are the stars of Beany, the puppet show, but with them are numerous subsidiary characters, designed by Bob Clampett, dictated by dramatic necessity and manipulated by many of Hollywood's best-known acting talents.
Beany and Cecil celebrate Independence Day.
The Animated Beany and Cecil
Some people are extraordinary artists. Others are creative powerhouses. Still others excite the imagination of "angels" -- the people with the deep pockets. Bob Clampett was all of these. Bob worked hard, took his chances, and his TV puppet show series, Time For Beany, became an instant winner with an audience of millions of children, appearing in its heyday on TV sets in over 60 television markets nationwide. Clampett created two additional daily shows, Thunderbolt the Wondercolt and Buffalo Billy, and two 30 minute-shows that aired weekly, the Willy the Wolf Show and a Saturday episode of Time for Beany.
But Bob Clampett had a larger vision in mind than his backbreaking 5-day a week grind: he sought and found financing for a Beany and Cecil animation pilot -- a 7-minute animated show, produced on film and to be combined with other animated Beany segments into a one half-hour weekly color television show, color being a recent addition to TV-land's basket of tricks.
When first broadcast in 1961, Clampett's animated film series, Beany and Cecil, was to be among the first -- with Jay Ward's Rocky and Bullwinkle and Hanna-Barbera's The Flintstones -- of TV's original color animated shows, not created from recycled WB, MGM, Disney, UPA and other theatrical cartoons as they had been throughout all the previous years of television.
It was unquestionably Bob's talent, and his legendary reputation with Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, plus the popular acclaim of his puppet show, Time for Beany, and "Beany and Cecil Meet Billy the Squid," his cel-animation pilot, that led to the sale of Beany and Cecil, the animated half-hour series to the ABC network. It was probably in 1959 or `60 that Bob Clampett signed contracts binding him to an agreement to go into production, because about that time, Snowball, Inc. became a physical entity in a nondescript orangish 2-story 1935-ish brick building on Seward Street near Melrose Avenue, in the grim and gritty residential flatlands of Hollywood.
Bob Clampett at the Beany and Cecil production house. Behind him are storyboard sketches for a Beany and Cecil episode.
Setting Up Shop
After Bob settled himself comfortably behind his boomerang-shaped desk in the largest individual office in the building, he began staffing-up, creating the Snowball production food-chain. After they've been in the business for awhile, animation people begin to look like animated characters. Writers of all shapes, sizes and dispositions, dressed in Levis to Guccis, were immediately hired, because no production could begin without stories. Then came animators, designers, ink and paint artists, the editorial staff and dozens of others. I am reminded of the Seven Dwarfs' "It's Off To Work We Go," with more than two hundred writers, artists and technicians traipsing into Snowball each morning.
While each department had space logically assigned in the various rooms on the lower floor of the Snowball building, the Story Department was installed on the 2nd floor in a huge rectangular space with barracks-style brown asphalt tile floors, mint green-painted sandpaperish plaster walls and suspended fluorescent tube lighting. Story was a "bullpen" of work-tables, bulletin boards and folding chairs looking out onto the semi-residential Seward St.
Clampett's hand-picked half-dozen story-sketch men went immediately to work, writing, drawing and push-pinning production storyboards for various Beany segments -- as outlined by Bob -- onto rolling 4x8 "story" bulletin-boards. At any given moment, four or five half-hour shows could be in progress.
Meanwhile, downstairs, dozens of zolotone-green animation desks, tables, shelves, chairs, animation cameras, recording equipment, paint supplies, paper and cels, Moviolas, editing tables, film racks, splicers and synchronizers were being assembled in the cavernous structure. Identical white 2-door Ford Falcons became company cars.
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