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Bad Dexter!

October 26th, 2010

Last night, at my annual visit to Jim Arnoff’s senior animation class at SVA in New York, I got a question about a mythical banned episode of Dexter’s Laboratory. Since it happened after my time on the series I called Genndy during the class.

“Actually there was one episode that they didn’t air. It was called ‘Rude Removal.’ Dexter made foul mouthed duplicates of him and DeeDee. Everytime they swore we bleeped them but standards didn’t like it.”

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts. Part 22.

October 25th, 2009

Dexter's Laboratory in
Video frame grabs from Genndy Tartakovsky’s “Dexter’s Laboratory in ‘The Big Sister‘”

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts.
Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13. Part 14. Part 15. Part 16. Part 17. Part 18. Part 19. Part 20. Part 21.

A server failure at our website caused the loss of our frame grab gallery of What A Cartoon! shorts. It seemed like a good push to add a post to our history.

What A Cartoon! was still an unnamed project of 48 “Looney Tunes length” shorts with more hope than actuality when we started taking pitches in earnest in 1993. No one had attempted anything like this before in the television animation era, and I wasn’t sure that anyone else shared my optimism at the beginning.

The Hanna-Barbera development team, led by Jeff Holder and Ellen Cockrill, with significant input from production head Buzz Potamkin, dug right in. They got the word out, literally all over the world, that the studio had entered an unprecedented phase, and that we were looking for the ideas from all corners. No longer would ours be a top down studio; animators had a better idea what cartoons should be than executives and we were out to support them in every way we could. Eventually, we received storyboards from all over the world, thousands of them. Many from within the studio and from the Los Angeles industry, but from also from schools and international centers of animation. (Occasionally, we even used the then brand new technology of video conferencing to take uncomfortable pitches from Turner Broadcasting’s London office.) In all, the development group estimated we received over 5000 pitches for the 48 slots we were planning.

I was hoping for an idealistic diversity in our filmmakers that could solve the inequities of our business overnight. It wasn’t just a uptopian hope either; I’d seen the direct benefits in other creative businesses like movies, television and music. The wider the palette of creative influences, the wider and bigger the audiences. It was time for cartoons to go in the same direction. And while we received a smattering of pitches from people of color, women, and international creators, it would take us at least 15 years before I really started seeing a clear progression. But, as it was, we had creators from Europe and Canada (like Bruno Bozetto), Asia (like Swamp & Tad), the heartland of the US (Jerry Reynolds), and colleges (like Seth MacFarlane). There were plenty of young series first timers (like Genndy Tartakovsky, Craig McCraken, Rob Renzetti, Butch Hartman, and John Dilworth), but veterans too (like Don Jurwich, Jerry Eisenberg, and Ralph Bakshi).

All in all, it was an incredible process with amazing results (yes, I’m aware of my justified hyperbole). 5000 pitches begat 48 shorts and seven series. No studio had attempted this scale in 30 or 40 years. Each creator was treated just so, as a filmmaker, not a factory worker with hands to do the bidding of management. And though our ends were definitely commercial, I think the results were almost like art films. Not too many voices in the mix, just one creator (or creating team), one film.

I’m very proud of the work everyone did on the What A Cartoon! shorts (eventually promoted as World Premiere Toons on Cartoon Network). Whether it was the development and production groups, marketing, PR, even accounting, we were all there to support the creators who put their asses on the line, pencils on the paper, and came up with original work in a business that hadn’t been interested for a very long time. Viva cartoons!

Video frame grabs from What A Cartoon!
What A Cartoon! titles The Powerpuff Girls in Courage the Cowardly Dog Yucky Duck in Jof in

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts.
Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13. Part 14. Part 15. Part 16. Part 17. Part 18. Part 19. Part 20. Part 21.

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts. Part 20.

September 16th, 2007

Organisational-Development2
We’d finally gotten the “shorts” program approved by my Turner bosses Scott Sassa and Ted Turner, and convinced the person running Cartoon Network it was actually her idea to produce 48 ‘classic length’ cartoon shorts over two years. If only I was right and the talented people in animation really wanted to make cartoons.

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts.
Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13. Part 14. Part 15. Part 16. Part 17. Part 18. Part 19.

Everyone at Hanna-Barbera Cartoons and Turner Broadcasting who cared fanned out across the globe to spread the word we were serious about making cartoons. Serious in every way. We were making 48 short cartoons over two years in a back-to-the-future kind of unit production way. Each “classic length” (7 minutes) short would debut, by itself, as a stand-alone cartoon on Cartoon Network. Each one would be a product of one cartoonist’s vision (or a self-selected team), produced the way the creator saw it. There was no concern on our part what an eventual series would be “about;” the short had to be great on its own without any allegiance to some preconceived “bible”. We didn’t care what the sitcom trends were, what Nickelodeon was doing, what the sales departments wanted. Even the music would be individually crafted scores, individually tailored to the film at hand, no stock library, pre-fabbed “beds” here. We wouldn’t ‘develop’ them; we wanted to make the cartoon the creator(s) wanted to make, not some executive idea of what they thought kids would like. And we wanted them to be laugh out loud funny.

We wanted cartoons.

Getting original cartoons into the studio and onto television required an army’s worth of work to begin with. Even those who thought this might be a good idea were hard pressed to explain it outside our BS sessions, and since not one person in the world had exactly been waiting for us to show up (at least, not consciously) it was going to require us to explain what we were talking about, explain it again, call back to cajole, convince artists that had never put together one classic cartoon idea from scratch (remember, studios and networks thought cartoons were hopefully passe´, animated sitcoms were where it was at) to put together a pitch storyboard. And, oh yes, the odds, as always in any entertainment project, were we were going to say “No” to their idea.

My closest studio co-conspirator during the run up to the shorts was the studio’s new head of production, Buzz Potamkin. We’d worked together on MTV in New York when he was an independent producer and he’d given me years of Hollywood cartoon biz insight which helped me get started at HB. Buzz could articulate better than I our strategy of re-creating the unit production system that had fueled the golden age, and suggested Larry Huber as the supervising producer for the new shorts unit (a role, among others, he’s successfully navigated through all 138 Hollywood based shorts we’ve produced). Buzz unsuccessfully suggested we make a short with Bill Plympton (it took me 20 years to get smart/brave enough to do it), but brought dozens of other creators to the table. Later, we’ll tell the story of how he convinced Ralph Bakshi to join our group of first-timers.

At Cartoon Network, founding programmer Mike Lazzo rallied his troops behind our efforts. He’d been managing Turner’s cartoons at Superstation TBS and TNT since he was, I don’t know, maybe two years old, and a uniquely brilliant blend of creative thinking and analytical programming. Mike was the person I turned to for inspiration, network thinking, and plain old jawing about cartoons.

The Hanna-Barbera development department (after slashing and pruning of about a dozen staff development writers –an extremely painful task– it was now primarily Jeff Holder, Ellen Cockrill, Margot McDonough, and Dan Smith) had a tough task. They needed to persuade folks that Hanna-Barbera was earnest about giving creative people a chance to do their own work. For decades HB had been a shop where you started or ended your career, but if you had creative ambitions you steered clear. I knew that to reverse the fortunes of the place, to keep Turner from closing the production studio altogether, we had to change that perception. Our shop had to become the place talent was clawing their way into. Hah!

And I was making the development job even harder. I didn’t want “development,” at least in the way they’d been trained, I just wanted them to go out and find hit cartoon creators (much easier typed than done, of course), people who could make a hit and sustain it no matter what happened to the executives or networks who discovered them in the first place. “Development” across television had become a haven for executives who had never produced anything themselves, or had washed out of the dog-eat-dog show biz environment, to take a fairly risk-less path to getting their own ideas out. A D-exec could lean back in their salaried chair and bark dictums (”make it funnier!” was a favorite of mine from an HBO executive) until an exciting, original piece of material resembled nothing more than a piece of product for the junk heap. When instead, they tried to bring me around to their point of view –why were they being paid as ‘development’ execs if their input wasn’t needed– I asked them a couple of simple questions.

“If there’s a successful cartoon series, who deserves the bonus? The creator or the executive?” “Both of us,” was the reply. Fine, and if there’s a failure, who gets fired? That wasn’t a question anyone wanted to answer. I was interested in a clear path back to a successful film, I wanted to know if the credit was “Created by Ray Sturgeon” it didn’t really mean “Created by Ray Sturgeon and a pack of execs.” Besides, I knew the average life of a development executive at studios was actually shorter than the time it took to get a hit series to air. If that was the case, and the exec was partially responsible for success, we were screwed if key members of the creative development worked for the competition by the time of the show. It had always struck me as a bogus approach anyway. William Shakespeare, Leonardo DaVinci, and Duke Ellington, had all made great, popular art with a singular vision. We could do it too. (Please don’t ras me with my artistic comparisons; I aim high.) When it was all said and done, our development folks bought the program, for as long as they were with us anyhow, and walked the walk and talked the talk.
So, anyway, all of us fanned out everywhere we could spreading the message, telling our story. Any way we could, we tried to put our money where our mouth was. We went to schools, we started a high visibility storyboard contest, we talked to union groups. We all had individual meetings with every artist in the studio who would be patient enough not to laugh in our faces. (Not a few came in ready to participate only to find out they wouldn’t be paid to create their storyboard. After all, all across the world entertainment business a creative idea was developed in free time, the creator got a royalty participation in all future success after all; no risk, no reward. But in animation, where it had always been “we have the ideas, you be the hands” it was pretty confusing to a lot of veterans.) We placed stories in the press in the US, Europe, and Asia. We were relentless in looking for talent. After all, we had 48 cartoons to make from a dead stop.

(More next time.)

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts.
Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13. Part 14. Part 15. Part 16. Part 17. Part 18. Part 19.

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts. Part 19.

September 2nd, 2007

The Powerpuff Girls storyboard
Convincing the Turner Broadcasting powers that be that Hanna-Barbera could lead the way in creating cartoon shorts as seeds for hit series took almost two years.

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts.
Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13. Part 14. Part 15. Part 16. Part 17. Part 18.

The question now was how do we actually make cartoons? Real cartoons, not animated sitcoms. Not shows that looked and sounded like cartoons, but were conceived and executed exactly the same way as animated sitcoms.

When I’d first started thinking about using authentic cartoon shorts as springboards for successful animated television series it was a blinding glimpse of the obvious that only the very best creative people could produce the best creative result. At the time, the late 80s, I’d only worked in live action (excepting things like the MTV network IDs) so I thought the answer was finding the best writers. I hadn’t yet heard John K’s Spumco admonition, “If you can’t draw, you can’t write.”

But, once I got into the business, it did strike me as odd that it seemed like the lowest people on the creative totem pole in animation were the artists, the animators, and the directors. Above them were network executives, studio management, development executives, writers, and producers. Jeeez, that made no sense, did it?

History and practicality had come to dictate to the cartoon biz that using writers in the same way as live action industry did. After all, there were more ‘writers’ coming to Hollywood to work than cartoonists, probably on a ratio of 100:1, and starting in the 60s it was easier to recruit trained television writers than re-train cartoonists to story. John K made it a crusade to reverse the tide, and I recalled my conversations with Joe Barbera, Bill Hanna, and Friz Freleng about making the great cartoons that defined the form I realized there was only one way for us to go if we were going to be successful.

There were a few times in the past where I’d try and institute a change in how creative productions were approached, and succeeding required what looked like a complete break with the status quo. Trying to straddle the old and the new had never worked for my groups and it didn’t look like it would work at Hanna-Barbera either. When I tried (with 2 Stupid Dogs and SWAT Kats) the old guard openly rebelled. Clearly a new approach was required.

So, for our new, unnamed, shorts program I laid down the law.

All pitches would be in storyboard form only. No pitch books, no ‘bibles’, no treatments, no episode ’springboards’. I wasn’t interested in what the show/series was going to be, I wanted to know exactly what film the creator was going to make. When we gave a green light, I wanted “development” to be over. We would start the actual production as soon as possible after “Yes.”

We would not take a pitch from a writer who hired an artist to make a storyboard. This project would be proof of (to me) a given. Cartoons were an aritst’s medium. If a writer originated a project, he/she would need to find an animation artist not as an employee but as a partner who was an integrated part of the project. From my perspective I would pay a lot more attention to the body language of the artist than the writer in making my final decision; I’d be looking to the artist as the leader of the project. Was I cutting noses off to spite our faces? Were we in danger of losing the opportunities wonderful writers might bring our way? Probably. Could artists really ‘write’? Who knew? The only thing I absolutely knew for sure was that most ‘writers’ couldn’t ‘write’ either. It’s really hard to create characters that the audience loved, and it didn’t matter a whit to me whether the originator used a pencil with drawings or a word processor. And for our cartoon studio the bias was always going to go to the artist/creator.

Lastly, and probably the most confusing to many, I wanted every final pitch to be in person. I wanted the board to be pinned up on the wall and the creator up in front telling us about the film he/she wanted to make. It was fine for a bunch of executives to read the board in privacy and then discuss it among themselves, but I wanted to see the creator, see the fire (or water) in their eyes, judge for myself exactly how much they cared about making cartoons. If they couldn’t prove it in person, with their film right in front of them, I wasn’t particularly interest. We would only win with the passionate filmmakers who had to make cartoons.

I guess the hard part to come would be in who would decide what cartoons to make? There were a number of interests to satisfy. Our studio development executives thought it was their job but our production executives thought it was theirs, the network wasn’t going to put up with anything it wasn’t completely satisfied with, and certainly there were my corporate financial overseers who were skeptical of the whole thing. And hey, there was me!

(More next time.)

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts.
Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13. Part 14. Part 15. Part 16. Part 17. Part 18.

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts. Part 17.

September 1st, 2007

410w.jpg

We’re going more shorts crazy around here than ever before. Aside from the long-awaited Random! Cartoons (Nickelodeon will eventually play these on TV, really), and The Meth Minute 39 launching this next week, we’ve got plans for millions more! You read it right, millions! What better time than now to continue the tale of our journey.

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts.
Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13. Part 14. Part 15. Part 16.

Now, what was the pitch going to be to my Turner Entertainment colleagues, a bunch of high flying, smarter than the room, young cable television executives? Why in hell would they want to do cartoon shorts like the old school?

There were some really smart people at Cartoon Network like Mike Lazzo (the original programmer and soul of the place, and not incidentally the brains behind [adult swim]) and Scott Sassa (Turner’s entertainment bossman and mine too), but it looked like some others around there were going to have to be finessed into agreeing to our wacky plan to go back-to-future and make cartoon shorts.

First up was the question “Does Cartoon Network really have to work with Hanna-Barbera on its original programming? There are a lot of other newer, cooler studios.” Yes, came the answer from on-high. Why else would we have paid hundreds of millions of dollars for the joint and kept the studio running?

Next, “Well, what have you got for us?”

This issue was more challenging. Everyone was used to a certain kind of programming (animated sitcoms) pitched in a certain way (character drawings, story premises, “bibles”) which would be picked to death by network executives. I had no interest in this system and wanted to give cartoonists freedom to make cartoons the way they wanted: funny, short, and funny.

Besides, Cartoon Network’s agenda wasn’t actually making good cartoons. The agenda was to get the network distributed across the world (they were in less than 5 million of 95million+ homes in America) and the cable companies wondered why Nickelodeon wasn’t enough. Original programming was one of the answers.

So, essentially my pitch went thusly:

The studio just released two series with a lot of seeming promise (2 Stupid Dogs and SWAT Kats). They cost over $10million and failed within six weeks and everyone at Cartoon Network had liked them. With all said and done they essentially failed.

Since cable companies don’t really watch cartoons, the quality of the cartoons didn’t particularly matter to them that much (not that it didn’t matter to us), it was the ability to promise new programs. Spending $10million for two public ‘promises’ (that is, two new cartoon series) didn’t seem like that great a deal to me.

Instead, why not let Hanna-Barbera spend the $10million to make forty eight promises. That’s right, Hanna-Barbera will produce 48 brand new cartoons for the Cartoon Network in two years. That would be a public relations announcement of an original program every two weeks for two years. Original premieres would debut at 7pm before every other Sunday night movie on the channel.

Additionally, it would add to the thousands of cartoons already in the Turner Entertainment library. And hadn’t the company been running hundreds of non-famous early Looney Tunes on their networks and selling ads around them 50 or 60 years after they were made and seemingly forgotten?

And besides, one of them could be spun off as a hit series. It was clear to everyone I had no experience making cartoons, but ignorant though I was, how stupid would I have to be to produce 48 shorts and not have one of them be good enough for a series?

(More next time.)

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts.
Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13. Part 14. Part 15. Part 16.

Stuart Snyder cartoons!

May 2nd, 2007

stu.gif

Stuart Snyder was running Turner Broadcasting’s GameTap when he visited Frederator Studios the other day. Now word comes about his promotion to leading a new youth media unit for Turner Broadcast that will not only encompass Adult Swim and Cartoon Network, but Cartoonnetwork.com, AdultSwim.com, Toonami Jetstream, Cartoon Network Video, GameTap and broadband comedy network Super Deluxe. Yo Yo Stu!

Stu and I worked together in the 90s at Turner when I was running Hanna-Barbera and he ran the home entertainment unit. Since then he’s had stints running the circus, another wilder circus, and CInar. He’s a great guy, and I hope all our friends at Cartoon Net will enjoy their time with him.

Series or one-shots?

April 11th, 2007

wpt.gif

From a Frederator fan:

Were all the CN’s World Premiere Toons and Nickelodeon’s Oh Yeah! Cartoons considered to be pilots for series or are some made to be one-shot stuff?

Andrés, from Chile.

Good question Andrés, and one we get fairly often, even from some of our potential creators.

Of course, the answer is “Yes and No.”

Ultimately, the purpose of doing all our shorts (not only World Premiere/What A Cartoon! and Oh Yeah!, but also the latest set of Random! Cartoons) is looking for filmmakers and characters that are strong enough to sustain lots of great cartoons. Not unlike it was back in the day when Felix, or Betty Boop, or Mickey or Bugs launched with one short that led to another and another and another. The optimistic hope we always have is developing the kinds of relationships we have had with creators over the last 15 years that lead to wonderful series of films.

However, when we call for ideas to come in, one of the first things we always say is that we’re not really looking for “pilots,” but great stand alone cartoons that have memorable characters at their center. A pilot” often tries to solve all the problems and answer all the questions that might arise in the future of a series. Frequently, there’s an attempt to introduce all the main characters and plot points. I think that’s a mistake, because the pilot episode then becames pedantic and sometimes pretty boring.

Our hope in a short is, not to put too fine a point on it, great. A tall order to be sure. But the way I figure it is that a fantastically funny short without all its questions answered has a better chance to be a wonderful series, than an only OK short. And yes, I understand that it’s not so darn easy to make a great cartoon. Look at all the talented creators we’ve worked with over the years, and how seldom their films become hit series.

In the end, the reality is no matter how hard we try to find cartoons with rich, memorable characters we have a lot of shorts that are just fun one-offs. We’ll be running one on Channel Frederator in a couple of weeks, Harvey Kurtzman’s Hey Look!. It’s based on an early newspaper strip of Harvey’s, sublimely adapted and directed by Vincent Waller, and we tried like the dickens to make the characters funny and indelible. Are they? You’ll tell us, but to my mind, it’s a great one-shot.

Ah well, that’s the way the cartoons animate.

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts. Part 16.

March 13th, 2007

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Frederator Studios is at the end producing the 39 original shorts that will make up the Random! Cartoons series on Nickelodeon. We started making original short cartoons in the early 90s at Hanna-Barbera and Cartoon Network with 48 What A Cartoon!s a.k.a. World Premiere Toons (six series were spun off from those shorts), then with 51 Oh Yeah! Cartoons (plus another 51 shorts and three series) and now these 39. Occasionally in this space I’ve been recounting how we got here. When we last left off the new Hanna-Barbera production team of 1992 (under Ted Turner’s recent acquisition of the studio) was busy putting together a production team for these cockamamie shorts.

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts:
Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6.
Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13.
Part 14. Part 15.

When I first joined the studio, completely ignorant of the process of making commercial cartoons, I’d talk to anyone who could give me a clue (and quite a few who couldn’t). John Kricfalusi introduced me to the artist/writer Pat Ventura when I told him I’d asked Joe Barbera to include an update of Screwball Squirrel in his new Fox Kids Droopy series (he rightly pointed out Pat, a Tex Avery fan, was already on the Tom & Jerry Kids Show writing staff, why start searching for someone new?). Along with John, Pat’s inadvertent influence on our future shorts would be incalculable.

As a little background, Pat graduated from CalArts in the 70s and proceeded to work all over the business as an artist, storyboarder, writer (he quickly found out that “writers” were in demand, writers-who-wrote-on-boards were not) and had done a great stint as a gag man at Disney features during their 1980s revival, writing many of the Roger Rabbit shorts. He left for the Tom & Jerry Kids Show because he had the great and rare insight to realize the opportunity to work with an old master of the shorts form was virtually extinct; working every day with Joe Barbera was too great to pass up. Which is when we met.

I took an immediate liking to Pat and he was one of the few people I took into my confidence about the looney idea of reviving the cartoon form through shorts. He was a great film historian and student (particularly the silents) and would patiently give me instruction. He’d tell me about his preference for Keaton, Chaplin and Laurel & Hardy. And why he preferred the composer Scott Bradley to the more revered Carl Stalling. He did his best to show me how gags were set up and staged and why, while he thought Looney Tunes were OK, he liked the Fleischers.

And we talked incessantly about short cartoons. Why they were good, why they weren’t. Why writing on boards was good and what you could learn from them. Because of Pat we started a weekly screening series at Hanna-Barbera where we could share some of the great shorts (animated and live action) Ted Turner had in his vast library with the studio staff who cared.

When I started talking to John and Pat I came at everything like a studio head. (It would take me a little while to get smarter.) How do I find hit shows? Shorts seemed like a good idea since we could get 25 “at bats” for every series we’d try the old way. So when I first broached the idea with Pat I said I wanted to do as many shorts as possible; I suggested that a bunch of three minute shorts would give us an idea of what characters we liked.

“No, not three minutes. Six, seven, eight,” Pat told me.

My logical “Why?” was answered that if I wanted to make cartoons then they needed to be made with artists who loved cartoons. And if I was going that way then the cartoons needed to be, well, cartoons. And cartoons absolutely were not three minutes.

Pat was so certain I just agreed on the spot. It took me a long time to realize just why his instinct was so right on. But from then on that was it. All our shorts, well over 100 by now, are seven minutes long. It drives some of our talented creators crazy (of course, we realize no matter what length we set, someone would be annoyed) but seven minutes it is. A real legacy of short cartoons. Shaped in part by our friend Pat Ventura.

Now, if only I could convince the folks at Cartoon Network.

(More next time.)

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts.
Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6.
Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13.
Part 14. Part 15.

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts. Part 14.

December 30th, 2006

(L)Mike Lazzo, originating programmer, Cartoon Network & (R) Joe Barbera
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It was almost an accident I became president of the famous Hanna-Barbera studio, but it was a chance to revive cartoons through my idea of making shorts the way they did in the theatrical days.

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts.
Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6.
Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13.

Cartoon Network had just launched and senior creative executive and programmer Mike Lazzo had a great idea for a “Cartoon Advisory Board” really just a great excuse to hang with legends. He assembled a room somewhere in Hollywood with Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera, Friz Freleng, Noel Blanc (Mel’s son), and John Kricfalusi. (…:::Later, Jerry Beck refreshes my recollections below in comments.) Mike had a bunch of questions he asked and they answered, but only one sticks in my mind. As I remember it went something like this:

Mike Lazzo: What makes a good producer?

Joe Barbera: Fred Quimby was a great producer!

(Note from FS: I knew Joe despised Quimby, so this confused me right off the bat.)

Quimby would come in around 10 in the morning, go right to his office and make some phone calls. Around 11 his barber would come in and give him his daily trim and shave. 12:30 he was off to lunch, back at 2:30 for some calls to East Coast distributors and then he’d go home.

Mike Lazzo: What was the production unit doing all day?

Joe Barbera: We were making the cartoons we felt like making. Like I said, Fred Quimby was a great producer!

I was listening closely. “Hey, I can do that job!” I said out loud.

(More next time.)

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts.
Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6.
Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13.

Meet the composer: Guy Moon.

September 29th, 2005

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I’ve been a huge fan of the cartoon music ever since I was a kid and realized there was a difference between Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera. I had an essay written once about the greatness of HB’s Hoyt Curtin (there was already plenty on Carl Stalling), and when I started making cartoons I vowed to pay special attention to the scoring, since I felt it was an essential ‘character’ in a film. So, every once in a while I’d like to pay homage to the great contemporary composers who work on Frederator cartoons.

Guy Moon has produced more scores for us than any other composer; we met through Bodie Chandler, Hanna-Barbera’s music director, a great champion of new artists. Starting with The Addams Family, Guy went on to really prove his chops on the deceptively challenging What A Cartoon! shorts, which led to Cow & Chicken and Johnny Bravo. When we moved over to Nickelodeon Guy would hold the record for the most scores for Oh Yeah! Cartoons, and those in turn led to the lead chair on The Fairly Oddparents and ChalkZone, in addition to one of our movies, The Electric Piper. And Guy’s been no slouch working on other shows and films either. Whew!

Growing up in Wisconsin, going to college in Arizona (loving Chick Corea’s Return to Forever), Guy and his family live in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley.

Thanks Guy, for all your great work.