Read part 2 here.
On the theatrical side The Blue Racer came out in 1972.
That'll be about right. He was very successful. People really liked that blue snake, the way he became involved, so it was a compliment to the rest of our library
Blue Racer chased the Japanese Beetle around. Did that character cause any complaints?
Not really. I will say this, though, on the ethnic subject. You are familiar with the original Tijuana Toads?
When they went on television, we had to completely change them around and the series became known as the Texas Toads, and we had to redo all of the tracks that had any type of ethnic content and it really watered down the series down. We all thought it was a hell of a lot more funny when it was the Tijuana Toads, but at the time we had to do it in order to bring the thing on television. However, I do not recall having that problem with the Blue Racer and the Japanese character. That one I don't remember. I think he went on just as he was in the theatrical cartoons.
And when the Blue Racer was still in production Hoot Kloot came out.
Hoot Kloot, to my recollection, was the last of the contractual theatrical cartoons we did for United Artists under the original 156 cartoon contract. Of course that was another one that went on to television. At one time we had a 90-minute show on NBC that lasted for a couple years, called the Pink Panther Laugh and a Half-Hour and a Half. Of course, 90 minutes, that really consumed alot of stuff and I think that's when we decided we needed another series and there came Hoot Kloot.
Several of the shorts were animated overseas. Do you remember any details of that?
Like so many of our competitors the time came when we financially had to move a certain amount of production overseas which we did. We worked primarily in Seoul, Korea. We had a studio over there run by a gentleman by the name of Nelson Shin. That's where we did most, if not all, of our overseas productions.
Nelson Shin was in Korea at the time?
Yes. Actually, he was an American but he was involved in a studio in Korea.
One of the Blue Racer shorts was done in Australia.
I don't remember that. It seems to me that we did experiment on Australia and it didn't work out for us. You may be correct there was one done there, but I don't remember except we did not have a good experience there. If we did anything, it would've been one or two at the most.
Some of the Hoot Kloot were done in Barcelona, Spain with Bob Balser.
Yes. Balser originally worked for us and he was [later] in Barcelona. We had a director by the name of Art Leonardi and we sent him over to work with Balser and we did do some work there.
After Hoot Kloot there was one more theatrical series called The Dogfather.
Yes, there was the Dogfather and Misterjaw that really concluded the series. I said earlier that it was Hoot Kloot but it really wasn't. It was Dogfather and Misterjaw, as I recall.
At this time Joe Ruby and Ken Spear came to the studio with The Barkleys and The Houndcats.
We negotiated a contract with Ruby and Spears. They have been writers at Hanna-Barbera and they were quite knowledgable in Saturday Morning programming. So I hired them and brought them over and you're right, the first thing they did for us was the Houndcats and the Barkleys, and I'm trying to remember what they did after that, but they were with us for several years.
Yes, that's the other one.
There was also the Marvel series, with Spider-Woman and the Fantastic Four.
Yes. I negotiated a deal with the Marvel Comics management to get the rights to these two shows and we did them. And I don't want to get ahead of myself but subsequently when Friz and I decided that we made enough cartoons we decided to shut down the studio and I founded Marvel Productions and was their first president and CEO for four years after Friz and I shut down our operation.
The studio also did several Dr. Seuss specials, starting with The Cat in the Hat. How did that deal came about?
Well, the first Dr. Seuss special was How the Grinch Stole Christmas and that was made by Chuck Jones at MGM. The second one was the Cat in the Hat [ed. note: actually the third, the second being Jones-directed Horton Hears a Who]. Jones and Dr. Seuss, Ted Geisel, did not get along. They were at each-others throats. Geisel and I were both represented by the International Creative Management (ICM) and my agent asked if we would be interested in taking over the work on The Cat in the Hat. We did, and we did all of the remaining specials. I think we did six in all. And that's how that got started.
Interview © Charles Brubaker
Blue Racer, Tijuana Toads, Hoot Kloot, Dogfather © MGM/UA
The Houndcats © Viacom
The Cat in the Hat © Dr. Seuss Enterprises
Part 4 tomorrow