April 25, 2009

Quazy, Man, Quazy!

I'm rereading Keith Scott's wonderful book The Moose That Roared: The Story Of Jay Ward, Bill Scott, A Flying Squirrel, And A Talking Moose and I just finished the chapter concerning Ward's 22 year relationship with The Quaker Oats Company. Here , through the magic of Youtube are some examples of the fruits of that joint venture, along with some choice quotes from that chapter. Happy Saturday!

Bill Scott recalled, "The studio was pretty much closed up; we were in summer vacation mode. One day the advertising people for Quaker phoned, and our secretary (Linda Simmons) enthusiastically told them Jay would be delighted to submit a proposal on a character they had in mind: a character called Captain Crunch. 'Why certainly.' she told them, 'Jay would be glad to.' Of course, Jay hated commercials! He never wanted to do them."

The truth of the matter is that Ward was always amenable to advertising work; it was agency interference he loathed. He would only produce commercials if granted total creative freedom, and cited Stan Freberg and John Hubley as role models.

By early 1966, Ward was enthusiastically overseeing the many recording sessions required for these commercials, and was proud of the fine animation emerging from his studios. As Leonard Maltin wrote in 1975, the Quaker commercials "are better in every way than most of the shows they interrupt."

Bill Hurtz recalled, "This was full animation with all the stops out. We had the money to do fine work, and we used the best people around: Bill Littlejohn, Frank Smith, and Ben Washam, who was Chuck Jones' number one guy- I kept taking Benny away from Chuck!"

As Bill Hurtz informed cereal-box expert Scott Bruce, the original Vitaman "was a funny cereal because when it first came on the market, the vitamins used in it spoiled on the shelf. The taste of the thing would fizzle out in a few weeks."

From 1977 the spots lost much of their comic sound and fury and, though still charming, were more closely targeted to a juvenile audience. A major reason was the advent of Action For Children's Television (ACT)...Bill Scott informed author Gary Grossman, "We've had to remove the Captain's sword. He can't even brandish it anymore. And we're forced to use boxing gloves on the ends of sticks for comics fights." Scott was disgusted with the most ludicrous rule, which called for the removal of "jeopardy," telling Grossman, "Captain Crunch is a sea captain, an adventurer who encounters strange beasts, animals, wild-looking natives, pirates, and typhoons. Each cartoon gets us right up to the brink of the abyss as far as the program practices people-the censors- are concerned, because it envisages peril, violence, jeopardy, and all those wonderful things with a dreadful name which make cartoons...Once we lock ourselves like that, we might as well be doing live-action programs."

Skip Craig recalls, "One day I heard Bill Scott ask Jay, ' You want to do any more of this crap?' and Jay said, 'Nope!'

As a bonus, here is John Kricfalusi's homage-of-sorts to Quisp!

April 23, 2009

Tarzan Of The Cows

The meticulous nature of the original National Lampoon's brand of parody is well-evidenced in this hilarious take-off of "Tarzan Of The Apes" written by Mike O'Donoghue and drawn by Frank Springer, from the April, 1971 issue. It isn't just Tarzan that's being satirized here, it's comic books themselves, right down to the ads. Good stuff!