ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 4.7 - OCTOBER 1999
Now It's Time for the Beany and Cecil Cartoons
(continued from page 2)
In a closet near Bob's office, stood the "Monster," a massive, ungainly and temperamental Moviola projector -- probably the only one of its kind in Hollywood -- squatting ominously in the projection room behind a cramped, airless theater, and employed in the showing of dailies, answer prints, tests and the like. The "Monster" was thusly named because of its size, unwieldy nature and unpredictability.
Each night, completed scenes were shot on 35mm color film and the next morning, when Bob came into the screening room to view each day's "dailies," an editor would have threaded them up, in sync with the audio on the Monster, and was ready to roll -- if the Monster would cooperate, which it often did not.
Then there were the finished shows. "We'd screen an answer print [the final edited, composited mixed show] on the Monster," recalls a member of Snowball's creative staff, "and, of course, Clampett viewed all the final shows with the writers. Well, the writers absolutely rolled in the aisles, so hilarious did they find their gags." The writers were smart enough to "sing for their supper," or give their own work exaggerated vocal approval when Bob was near.
Some Day My Prints Will Come
Dick Elliott's Editorial Department was in full swing with editors Sam Moore, Larry DeSoto and John Soh driving the Moviolas, while Pete Verity, Ahmed Lateef and several others were assistant editors.
Editorial's job was to read tracks, assemble dailies as they came out of the lab and were approved by Bob and Art, cut a work print of each show, set up sound dubbing units of music and sound effects, and supervise dubbing sessions at Ryder Sound during which final mixed tracks were to be composited. After this, the edited work print was sent to the negative cutter for conforming, following which, with the optical track negative, sent to the lab for making of a 35mm "first trial" or answer print. Sometimes things went smoothly, other times, not.
Bob was under tremendous stress, remembers Verity, who was in regular contact with the director. A main source of this stress were the wholesale changes demanded by the network and sponsors at very late stages of production -- sometimes even after episodes had been completed! Finished work prints would have to be changed for extremely minor tweaks. For example, one final print had to be changed when the network decided it suddenly didn't like one of the character's voices. More aggravating was the fact that most of these changes could have been made at the storyboard stage or even beforehand, thereby avoiding costly and time consuming re-dos. "He was spending his days checking on all the work with every little group [of animators, checkers, writers, ink and paint, audio and of course, editing] and leaving his orange-penciled instructions.
"Sometimes, when Bob would come down [to editorial] to check on the editing," Verity recalls, "he'd bring the writers with him. We always hated this because there were about 5 writers and Bob, and we'd start showing the cut, and it seemed like it was obligatory for each writer to find something wrong -- changes needing to be made -- in order to justify his job. And so, we knew we were in for unnecessary changes...because they wanted to keep their jobs, and needed to speak up and find something wrong."
"At the very end, we were working way too many hours," one former assistant editor recalls. "I remember one time working close to 24 hours straight, and then starting a new day. We were so tired, we were unable to function. The editing department was dripping in magnetic track trims taped to the walls and the overhead pipes... like moss hanging from trees in the Everglades. It was complete disorder. The problem was most of us assistants were kids, and we didn't know how to edit; we just did it! Still, we did a pretty good job."
To control runaway costs during this tremendous production push, the financial management of Snowball finally came under the control of A.C.R. Stone, Bob's brother-in-law. Stony was a determined businessman whose most recent gig was helming a national soft drink bottling company, however he had no previous experience with an animation company. He was smart, shrewd and sufficiently unimpressed with the romance of showbiz to handle the day-to-day business affairs of Snowball, Inc.
Snowball was contractually obliged to deliver one show a week to ABC, and payments from the network weren't made to Snowball unless the mix was completed and approved -- a difficult task. It boiled down to this: If Snowball didn't deliver, neither did ABC, so the week's payroll could not be met. The pressure on every department was excruciating.
It was almost the end of the final production push, and everyone at Snowball was working day and night. "The last days of Snowball were hectic, frantic," Verity remembers, "I can't recall exactly what the other departments were doing, but it sure was crazy for editorial."
"We got paid royally for all those hours," recalls Verity, "we were making all sorts of money. The British payroll-lady -- the one that called Cecil, "Sessil" -- paid us, but begrudgingly. She was probably making $65 a week and here we were, kids in our twenties, going home with $1000 checks."
It's Over, Beany, It's Over!
Finally, it was all over. The Beany's were delivered and on the air and everyone breathed a sigh of relief and celebrated at a wrap party held at the Grapevine, a restaurant-bar in the Hollywood Greyhound Bus Station where animation industry parties were most often held. (Is that a statement about the animation industry of the time?)
Everyone attended from the front office girls to Bob and Stony, and even some ABC execs. It was a grand and melancholy occasion. We had pulled together, and against heavy odds, won. It was over and we were both proud and relieved.
Ahmed Lateef remembers years later watching television, and seeing Bob Clampett, in person, holding forth on a Beany and Cecil float in the Hollywood Thanksgiving Parade. "Seeing Bob," Lateef says, "reminded me of those old Snowball days -- the characters we worked with, and the fun and frantic confusion. Those days are gone forever."
One day, we were folding up shop and I was looking for a can of film in the Snowball vault, and came upon a Del Monte Catsup box containing reel after reel of old black and white 16mm Beany kinescopes carelessly stashed and unwinding themselves among other production paraphernalia, which included one tattered Cecil hand-puppet, looking sorrowfully up at me. "It's all over," Cecil seemed to be saying.
Time For Beany, the Beany and Cecil cartoons and Bob Clampett are but a memory in the minds of those of us who participated the golden age of television. It's comforting to dream, though, that somewhere out there beyond the Milky Way, the boys are on another adventure, and the voice of Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent can be heard singing his signature song:
R. I say ra
Rag - Ragg
And the voice of Bob Clampett rings through the darkness, asking, "Can you run it one more time, fellas?"
On October 26, 1999 in the US, Image Entertainment is releasing Bob Clampett's Beany And Cecil: The Special Edition DVD. The DVD will include a dozen of the original Beany and Cecil cartoons from 1962. Plus, a huge amount of bonus material, including: the original Matty's Funnies (the show during which Beany And Cecil cartoons were first shown) opening in color; a couple of the original Matty's Funnies bumpers; four full episodes of Time For Beany that have not been seen since their original airing fifty years ago; a full episode of Thunderbolt The Wondercolt; a musical number from The Willy The Wolf Show; a fund-raiser promotional film featuring the Mr. Peepers Wolf puppet and a sexy live-action little Red Riding Hood; backstage and home movies from Time For Beany and Thunderbolt; Bob Clampett's first television interview; and other early home movies. It will also include a section called "The Lost Work," which will include ten projects Clampett developed, but never released to the public. There is also an audio oral history from Bob Clampett speaking about his career that was edited by Milt Gray, and an audio commentary from Stan Freberg, who, with Daws Butler, did the voices on Time For Beany, talking in depth about the experience of working on Time For Beany, and a commentary from Walker Edmiston talking about Beany and his work on Thunderbolt and Willy The Wolf. There is also a story session recording of a Time For Beany episode where Bob Clampett and staff create a satire of the McCarthy hearings. There are even over 550 stills! The disc's producer, Rob Clampett, Jr., also promises some more surprises. The suggested retail price is US$29.99.
Robert Story is a producer and writer. He lives in Laguna Beach, California.
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