Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Jay Ward Christmas

Jay Ward and Bill Scott sent out unusual Christmas cards and gifts to employees, freelancers and clients (see last year's post here) but perhaps the most unusual Christmas gift they ever gave was to director Ted Parmelee to commemorate his contributions to the success of the first year of Rocky and His Friends.  Since Bullwinkle the moose figured prominently in the series, the duo had delivered to Parmelee's home a full-sized stuffed moose head. 

Parmelee responded by bombarding Ward and Scott with a series of over a dozen gag cartoons riffing on the gift.  The above cartoon was included in The Art of Jay Ward Productions but space and content considerations prohibited including any more.  So, because the moose head was a Christmas present and we're in the Christmas season, here are many of those cartoons revealing not only Parmelee's sense of humor about his gift but also his confident, calligraphic drawing style.  Incidentally, the stuffed head hung in the Parmelee household for years afterwards.

The moose head was driven through Hollywood in a small sports car on it's way to Ted Parmelee's house.
One of Ted's passions was sailing.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The real origin of Dudley Do-right

Model sheet by director Pete Burness

If you've read either Keith Scott's The Moose That Roared or my book, The Art of Jay Ward Productions, you know that the Dudley Do-right we're all familiar with didn't spring fully formed on The Bullwinkle Show but had his origins in 1948 when Jay Ward and Alex Anderson teamed up to produce the first nationally broadcast animated television series, Crusader RabbitCrusader was only one of three proposed series, the other two being Hamhock Jones, a Sherlock Holmes parody, and Dudley Doright of the Mounties, a parody of  the Nelson Eddy/Jeanette McDonald filmed operetta, Rose-Marie, and classic melodramas.  Hamhock was destined to be a footnote in animation history but Jay Ward revived Dudley 13 years later with a tremendous assist from designer Al Shean and writers Chris Hayward and Lloyd Turner.

Ward and Anderson produced pilots for all three series, which consisted of Alex Anderson's drawings "animated" with camera movement on the still artwork and using a much slower narrator (Crusader Rabbit's Roy Whaley) than the later series.  The basic formula was established with the stereotypical melodramatic villain, here known as Sydney "The Snake" Snodgrass, the sweet heroine, Bess Blushmore, and the hero, Dudley Doright, a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  Only Dudley retained his name, the other two became Snidely Whiplash and Nell Fenwick.  The pilot was set in Deepfreeze Landing and the story unfolded in rhyme, as if from Robert W. Service's classic poem, "The Shooting of Dan McGrew."  Here, a very rare peak at some images from the lost Dudley Doright pilot:

That beer drinking, pistol shooting bad guy, Sydney "The Snake" Snodgrass.

The demure Bess Blushmore, patterned after Preston Blair's Red Hot Riding Hood.

No good can come of this; Sydney introduces himself to Bess.

Dudley Doright on the lookout for bad guys.

Somehow, a slide whistle figures into the plot.

Dudley Doright of the Mounties to the rescue.

Inspector Fenwick was never part of the original concept.

The pilot was produced as a cliffhanger, leaving the ending up to potential sponsors of the show.  The real outcome wouldn't be revealed for 13 years, when Dudley ended up with his own series on 1961's The Bullwinkle Show, replacing Peabody's Improbable History

Neither was Dudley's horse, Horse.

Chris Hayward and Lloyd Turner took Anderson's concept over the top, turning it from an adventure series into a parody of an adventure series while Jay Ward's ace designer, Al Shean, re-imagined the characters in his own inimitable style.

These last three model sheets by Al Shean.

To read more about Dudley's origin and how it came to be one of the best of all of Ward's shows, check out The Moose That Roared and/or The Art of Jay Ward Productions.  The latter can be purchased for half off Amazon's list price at

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Sweet Life of Jay Ward

For those of have been following my recent string of posts, you'll recall a series of insightful gag cartoons by Bill Scott recounting the trials and tribulations of the little studio that could, Jay Ward Productions.  The last of these posts are more personal; less about production and more about the two individuals helming the studio, Jay Ward and Bill Scott.

This week showcases Jay Ward's predilection for one of the finer things in life.  In a salute written by Bill Scott  for an ASIFA awards dinner that he was unable to present in person, Scott described one of his partner's primary weaknesses:

There is Jay Ward the eternal child, with a sweet tooth approximately the size of a mastodon tusk, who, when expanding his studio, made the first order of business, even before the desks were moved in, the installation of a complete soda fountain.  Ours is the only studio certified by the Pure Food and Drug Administration.

According to one of Jay's writers, Lloyd Turner, "We had a popcorn machine, an ice cream machine with tubs of every flavor plus two types of cone, and a Snow Cone machine with strawberry and cola flavors.  There were boxes of candy, hundreds of flavors of jelly beans, Kit Kats, Snickers bars and cases of real soft drink--not the diet stuff.  We'd all be drinking coffee at eight in the morning while Jay would have a breakfast of Coca-Cola and popcorn, or doughnuts.  God, his sweet tooth was legendary!"

Herewith, some of Bill Scott's observations about Jay Ward's culinary habits:

Thanks to Keith Scott and his book, The Moose That Roared, for the above quotations.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Life at the Jay Ward studio, as seen by Bill Scott, part 6

In the early days of the Ward studio, what success there was felt both ephemeral and transient to Bill Scott and Jay Ward.  After its initial run, Rocky and His Friends was renewed for a second season and although it was good news, it wasn't quite enough to calm the angst felt by the two producers.  

 Scott measured that success through a series of barometers:



Bill Scott was a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat so JFK touting the competition was tantamount to treason.  At the time Scott drew the above right cartoon, Amos and Andy had been in reruns for about 8 years; seeing an old show garner higher ratings than their newly produced show was tough to take.

Then, there was the agency's perception of Jay Ward's success; in their eyes, Ward & Co. were practically stealing their money.  The cartoon below was not drawn by Bill Scott but given to him by the artist.  Betty was Betty O'Hara who was Dancer-Fitzgerald-Samples' West Coast contact for Ward.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Life at the Jay Ward studio, as seen by Bill Scott, part 5

Jay Ward and Bill Scott, starting with nothing more than an idea for a single series, built a scrappy little independent animation studio from virtually nothing. And with fortuitous timing, they sold their pilot, Rocky The Flying Squirrel, to a major corporate sponsor, General Mills, as a series.  The future looked bright but, as they soon discovered, there was a dark side to the good news.

Through more chicanery than I can list here*, the duo was backed into a corner by General Mill's agency, D-F-S, and forced to produce the show for about half of a comparable Hanna-Barbera series, do the work in a foreign country where much of the staff lacked production experience, find talent to fly there and oversee the work, locate Hollywood animation talent to shore up the ragged edges, fight off constant agency meddling and deal with indifferent broadcasters (ABC and NBC).

It's no wonder that there were days when they felt they carried the weight of the world on their shoulders.  Just how much they felt that way became apparent when I discovered the cache of Bill Scott's gag cartoons.  Success was never guaranteed and they both knew it; the fledgling enterprise could have failed at any time.

Harmon-Tichton Studios was a producer of animated industrials & commercials.
Before 24 hour networks, TV animation was a largely cyclical business where animation talent would experience at least a 3 month hiatus while waiting for the networks to decide which shows would be chosen and/or renewed for the coming Fall season.  That maddening indecision was equally hard on the show's producers, which Bill Scott memorialized in the cartoons below.

Hanna-Barbera (The Huckleberry Hound Show, The Flintstones) and TV Spots (King Leonardo and His Loyal Subjects, Calvin and the Colonel) were two of Ward's chief competitors.

*I touch on that chicanery in The Art of Jay Ward Productions but for a more in-depth view, see The Moose That Roared by Keith Scott.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Life at the Jay Ward studio, as seen by Bill Scott, part 4

As we saw last week, not only was Jay Ward's and Bill Scott's relationship with General Mill's agency prickly on the best of days, their interaction with the network airing The Bullwinkle Show, NBC, wasn't much better.  The two producers felt that NBC didn't do enough promotion to ensure audience awareness of their show or its name change from Rocky and His Friends and its move to prime time.

 And, much as it is to most producers and creators today, Broadcast Standards and Practices was the bane of their existence.

Bill Scott responded to an early network "push" to make cartoons more educational*:

*For those too young to remember, PBS, the Public Broadcasting Service, was originally known as NET, National Educational Television, hence Scott's reference to "National Educational TV."

Monday, October 12, 2015

Life at the Jay Ward studio, as seen by Bill Scott, part 3

 Jay Ward and Bill Scott had what could be politely called a "challenging relationship" with General Mills' agency, Dancer-Fitzgerald-Samples.  Not only had the agency insisted on a ridiculously low budget from the outset (which had necessitated setting up production in Mexico) but key agency personnel were also the primary investors in the that same Mexican studio.  Keeping costs low ensured that those investors made a return on their investment, which in turn affected the quality of the studio's output.  The one person at D-F-S who seemed to be the consistent target of Bill and Jay's ire was agency exec, Gordon Johnson, pictured below in the first two cartoons. The the man holding the sign is Peter Piech, president of Producer's Associates of Television, who often found himself caught between the two adversaries.

Agency interference was a recurring theme.  Bill Scott took special joy in illustrating portions of their memos:

Several others in this series can be seen in The Art of Jay Ward Productions.  To read about more zany agency antics, check out Keith Scott's history of the Jay Ward studio, The Moose That Roared.  Anyone running a business today will recognize the situations depicted in the cartoons below; apparently some things never change.  (My apologies for the missing part of the third scan.)

Next week, dealing with NBC.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Life at the Jay Ward studio, as seen by Bill Scott, part 2

Last time, you may remember, our heroes had sent their shows to Mexico City hoping for the best; unfortunately, their dreams were dashed on the rocky shores of reality as shows came back looking nothing like the producers had imagined.  Bill Scott was especially unhappy with the results, having had much more animation experience than his partner, Jay Ward.

This week, the frustrations of long-distance producing a show south of the border.  Compounding the lack of local control over the production, there were also language and cultural barriers, severe inexperience with animation production by the locals and vastly different conceptions of urgency.  Retake requests were steady but, as a result of the studio having pushed up against the deadlines, the error-riddled shows were often forced to air as is.  Viewing the finished product, Bill Scott could only speculate on what was going on in Mexico City and scribbled out these gags for Jay Ward expressing his aggravation.