ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 4.7 - OCTOBER 1999
Now It's Time for the Beany and Cecil Cartoons
(continued from page 1)
A model sheet for Cecil as Prince Chow Mein.
Pad and Pencil
My job, I was told, was to sit down with blank storyboard pads and fill `em up with Beany and Cecil gags -- think `em up, draw `em up, pin `em up and hope they flew. I became a member of as unlikely a group of writers as one could find together in Hollywood. The "Head Writer," Eddie Brandt, was a youthful and hip man of 35 or so, trim and in good health, most often dressed for the tennis court. Today, almost 40 years later, he operates Eddie Brandt's Saturday Matinee, a family-involved, vintage video rental store in North Hollywood. Brandt's "Saturday Matinee" catalog lists 8 Beany and Cecil titles. Tedd Pierce -- who added the extra `d' to his name when puppeteer Bil Baird removed the `l' from his -- was an old pro credited with writing many of the classic Warner Bros. cartoons. Pierce resembled TV funnyman Robert Q. Lewis more than a little. Another writer in and out of Snowball at this time was Jack Kinney.
Bob monitored each storyboard as it developed, and attended each writer's session, during which storyboards were gone over frame by frame, from beginning to end. Progress would be noted, suggestions made and the moment Bob approved a finished board, it went downstairs to animation supervisor Art Scott, who made out the exposure sheets, trouble-shot the mechanics and with Production Manager Felix Zelenka, assigned scenes to layout, drawn by Al Stetter, Terrell Stapp and others.
"Today, violence is gone from cartoons," one former cartoon writer observed, comparing Beany and Cecil to the cartoons of 1999. "It was legislated out. Now there's only chases and gags." Mid-twentieth-century TV cartoons consisted of slapstick comedy and absolutely no "F" jokes: flatulence, feces, and fornication. Sex references were verboten although, without evidence, several Snowball survivors will swear that Cecil was a phallic symbol.
A little comic relief: editor Larry DeSoto would put the word out to various young inbetweeners to come to the cutting room to view the "erotic" frames on the Moviola. Erotic at Snowball meant somebody's underpants were missing ink lines in the frame or two where the wind blew the animated girl's dress up, revealing detail-free nudity. Some people got off on the inking error. Pretty hot stuff!
You're Hearing The Voices Of...
Once Bob approved the boards, a secretary typed a dialogue script which was given to Art Scott, the Recording Department and handed or messengered to the talent.
During recording sessions, Bob directed the talent in the studio run by Jim Dixon and Dave Holmes, set up in the small padded and carpeted room where day after day, hour after hour, production tracks, pick-up lines, promos and sound effects were recorded with voice actors Jimmy MacGeorge (Beany, Crowy, Capt. Huffenpuff), Erv Shoemaker (Cecil and D.J.) and other Hollywood vocal and acting pros, including Lord Buckley (Wildman of Wildsville), John Carradine (the Shakespearean Willie the Wolf), Kenny Delmar (Tear-Along-the-Dotted Lion), Walker Edmiston (Thunderbolt the Wonder Colt), Scatman Crothers, Joan Gardner, Mickey Katz (Slopalong Catskill) and Don Messick. Famed ventriloquist Señor Wences appeared one afternoon to produce voices for Butterfingers and the Invisible Man. Even Bob Clampett and various members of his family are credited with voice characterizations, adding residual contributions to Bob's already substantial ownership legacy. Snowball in action was a family matter.
A layout drawing for a Beany and Cecil episode.
By the middle of Snowball's first year in business, pandemonium reigned. Half-hour shows had to be delivered each week so scripts had to be written and storyboarded, animated, inbetweened, color keyed, inked and painted, shot, edited and finished toot sweet, as one of Bob's characters might say (and incidentally, was named). Around the clock, a dozen or more show segments were in progress simultaneously. Casting was a 12 hour-a-day effort and talent was in and out of the recording studio which functioned 24 hours per day. Audio tracks were transferred to 35 magnetic film, handed to an editor who read them and made out exposure sheets, layouts were drawn and placed in the hands of animators Bud Hester, Bill Nunes, Carl Bell, and sometimes as many as 60 others, who ground out scene after scene of the animation drawings. Assistant animators worked 7 days a week. Following scene checking, the camera department filmed finished scenes, pencil tests, and color tests on giant Oxberry cameras as quickly as the ink & paint crew, a 30-person assembly line set up in a large space between animation and editorial, finished the cels, color checked and delivered them. The background department with Curt Perkins, and the layout department with such artists as Willie Ito, kept a steady pace, delivering their product to camera to coincide with ink & paint. In editorial there was overtime for anyone willing.
Felix Zelenka controlled the floodgates by assuming the demanding Production Manager job, which required knowing precisely who was doing what and when it would be finished, and where each animation scene was and when it was to be shot and where the scene was stored after that, in case retakes were necessary.
Bob Clampett listed himself as director, although he was really the creative decision-maker to Art Scott's animation supervisor, a job that required dedicated attention to detail. Whereas Bob was in a dozen places at once, directing talent, designing new characters, working on scripts and answering to the network, Art smoothed the production road with a calm, friendly, encouraging attitude, while adding an artist's touch to a job that could have been chaotic under anyone else. Everyone's job would have been tougher without Art Scott, supervising checker Jean Rains observed.
Often creative short-cuts were taken to increase the output. "The biggest cheat of all in this big, hurry-up mode, was an episode about Beany and Cecil in the comics," Pete Verity, an assistant editor at the time, remembers. "It was the daily comics, which were just black and white -- black lines on white paper -- so there was no color. It sure saved time and money."
Ahmed Lateef, today a feature film producer-director, in 1962 another assistant editor plucked from the UCLA Animation Department, recalls that once, after-hours, he made a one-minute "experimental art film" by scratching emulsion and painting on a piece of 35mm leader, and editing it to a bongo track. Supervising Editor Dick Elliott fell in love with Lateef's film. "Dick made a screening appointment, called Bob Clampett, and we went across Seward [to Continental Sound] to view it. Bob, in his dark glasses, arrived, accompanied by Art Scott and several of the writers. Well, they all loved it and wanted to use it. My one-minute piece became one brief segment in a Beany and Cecil cartoon."
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