Monday, December 31, 2007

Tumbleweeds, 1965-2007

With the news that Tom Ryan has ended "Tumbleweeds" after 42 years, Buzz Dixon, over at the Comics Curmudgeon forum, wrote about working on the strip's one and only appearance in Saturday Morning cartoons.

Years ago (1978, to be exact) I was working for Filmation Studios when they sold an animated anthology series to NBC called THE FABULOUS FUNNIES (which was neither, but that's another story). Segments included such hoary old strips as ALLEY OOP and NANCY, but there was one new one in the lot: TUMBLEWEEDS, what was by then only a few years old.

I liked TUMBLEWEEDS and quickly finagled a chance to write their segments. The network was anxious about having non-Native American voices cast as the Poohawk tribe, but when I circumvented that concern by limiting the on-screen Indians to Lotsa Luck (a mute-by-choice Indian who wrote through scribbled notes) and Bucolic Buffalo (who was not so much mute as a man of pure action), producer Lou Scheimer let me write three or four scripts.

There was only one problem: Lou's lawyer had approached Tom Ryan with an offer to do TUMBLEWEEDS as part of the show. Ryan was interested and said, "Great, show me a script and a storyboard so I'll know how you're going to handle the characters, and if I like 'em I'll make the deal."

The lawyer truncated this to: "He said okay."

So we wrote and storyboarded three or four segments and got at least two of them into animation. The first one aired on the premiere of the show, and the following Monday Lou got a call from Mr. Ryan's lawyer who said, "Tom liked what you did with his characters but was wondering why you never finalized the deal with him or paid him to use his characters."

In a word. oops...

The TUMBLEWEED segments were quickly canned, the TUMBLEWEEDS characters edited out of the opening title sequence, and all further discussion of TUMBLEWEEDS was verboten in the confines of Filmation.


Chris Sobieniak said...

See kids, this is why you should always read the fine print and never truncated anything in order to do business! Hiring lawyers who take down every word would probably be top priority as well.

Snappy said...

Were the two made destroyed or do they still exist? I know BCI has plans to release the series on DVD and I was wondering if this would be included. Why didn't they try to go ahead and actually work out a deal with him?

Brubaker said...

I believe the one that actually aired might exist, since it showed up in a "Fabulous Funnies" VHS tape.

Anonymous said...

funny =)