Commentary &Daily post 24 Mar 2010 08:14 am

Popeye, Burton & Sandy

- Good news for Segar lovers! Variety reports that Popeye is going cgi and Sony is about to make the film. Naturally, it’ll be in 3D so that when Bluto gets smashed out of the audience he can fly over our heads. The film will be directed by a relative neophyte, Mike Jones. He’d written a film called Eventland and another The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break which is now in production.

He doesn’t quite have the experience of theatrical director Des McAnuf who did The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle or Peter Hewitt (Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey) who did Garfield, but he brings plenty of enthusiasm. It should be fun, but I’m not sure if it’ll be better than Bob Altman’s Popeye. Then again, it will be 3D.

The good news is that the great compilation DVDs of the Fleischer years is still available from Amazon. Even after you’ve seen the cgi 3D Popeye you can come home to clear your palate with these first class copies of the original shorts.

- Then again, the other animated feature announced this past week sounds heavenly. According to the March 18th Nikki Finke article, Tim Burton‘s going to do a 3D puppet animated version of The Addams Family with Chris Meladandri producing. Sounds like an ideal marriage. However, the next day, according to Screen Rant, the Burton people adamantly denied the project had anything to do with the director. Let’s hope that Nikki Finke is correct – as she often is.

Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter would make an original Morticia and Gomez.

- Years ago children’s television wasn’t quite the slick wonderland that it is now. It was less of a babysitter, but on a local level tv stations tried a lot harder often depending on flamboyant actors to develop characters. These were usually voice over announcers who put on costumes and let ‘er rip.

In New York, you had the Sunday shows that included Wonderama on ch. 5 – before it had anything to do with Fox – and you had the Chuck McCann show on ch. 11 – before it had anything to do with the WB (or whatever they call themselves today.) McCann was a crazy kinda guy who read the comic strips in funny voices and wigs and entertained us all silly.

During the week, there were Johnny Jellybean, starring Joe Bova. He shared his lunch with us during the day and starred in Once Upon a Mattress on Broadway at night. The morning shows were mostly B&W cartoons with hosts like Cap’n Allan Swift – replaced by Cap’n Jack McCarthy – introducing Popeye and Officer Joe Bolton who gave us the Three Stooges.

The ch. 11 roundup: Chuck McCann (with Laurel & Hardy puppets),
Captain Jack McCarthy, Gloria Okon, Bill BOZO Britten, and
Officer Joe Bolton.

The mornings belonged to Sandy Becker. He was a manic kinda guy who seemed to be talking to kids but really playing for the grown ups using kids toys and games. I remember well how he did his best to destroy a Mr. Machine robot as he demonstrated the host, Mattel’s product. The robot kept walking off the desk. I remember another show where Sandy didn’t show up at the beginning of the program and they kept running B&W WB cartoons. Mid show he appeared somewhat breathless, and advised us kiddies that if we happened to see a red Volkswagen with such and such a license plate, could we call the police because his car had disappeared that morning.

You can see some of the nastier bits here.

I guess he had a one hour special in those years: Sandy Becker’s Christmas Carol. It featured a lot of the puppets and characters that appeared on his show. I’d received an email from Craig Marin of Flexitoons who is trying to “reimagine” the show for DVD. Here’s how they state it in their press release:

    The program starred Sandy’s entire ensemble of puppets – most memorably Geeba Geeba as Scrooge, Sir Clive as Bob Cratchit, and Marvin Mouse as Tiny Tim.

    For Millions of Baby Boomers, who grew up with Sandy as a vital member of their “TV-family”, it was their first introduction to Charles Dickens ghostly tale of greed and redemption. To this day, Sandy’s production lives warmly in their hearts and fondly in their memories. Unfortunately, as was the case with many live programs of the time, the tapes – to the best of anyone’s knowledge – were destroyed or erased or taped-over. 

    In the 1990‘s Sandy and Flexitoon partner Craig Marin – who as a child was greatly influenced by Sandy and later became his friend as an adult – often talked about and planned to remake his Christmas Carol. But sadly, when Sandy passed away those plans were put on hold.

    Now, through the power of Kickstarter, the Holiday special is back on track. FLEXITOON, one of America’s premier puppet production companies on television, film and stage is ready to produce a re-imagining of Sandy Becker’s Christmas Carol, using all the original puppets he bequeathed to them upon his passing.

You can see a video presentation here.
You can go to their Facebook page here.

- I’ve waited patiently for Mike Barrier to give his thoughts on the passing of Fess Parker. He didn’t disappoint with the excellent piece and companion interview that appears today on his blog. Mike showed us the man, Fess Parker, as opposed to the memorabilia which appeared in many other obituaries. (Come to think of it, Mike did the same for Walt Disney with his book, The Animated Man.) If you have any interest in the star of a Disney series that rocked the world for 15 minutes in the 1950′s, then head on over to his site.

14 Responses to “Popeye, Burton & Sandy”

  1. on 24 Mar 2010 at 10:39 am 1.Richard said …

    March 23, 2010

    Disney, ‘Alice’ scribe team for film about ‘Sleeping Beauty’s’ evil queen

    Having scored a hit with “Alice in Wonderland,” Disney and screenwriter Linda Woolverton are teaming to bring to the big screen “Maleficent,” a live-action take on the evil queen in the 1959 animated classic “Sleeping Beauty.”

    “Maleficent” might reunite Woolverton with Tim Burton; it’s one of a handful of projects the filmmaker is circling. His interest in the character was piqued in the summer when he was in post on “Alice,” and the studio and Burton’s camp have been trying to keep a lid on the project, though the Web site Ain’t It Cool News mentioned Burton’s interest in January.

    No deal has been made with Burton, and the hiring of Woolverton is the first concrete step forward in its development.

    (Read rest of the story at the Hollywood Reporter site linked above.)

  2. on 24 Mar 2010 at 10:43 am 2.Mark Mayerson said …

    That just sounds like Disney’s take on Wicked.

  3. on 24 Mar 2010 at 10:48 am 3.Michael said …

    I’d read about this last week calling it a Sleeping Beauty version of “Wicked” but the post said that Burton denied any connection. So I let it sit. Today the links are everywhere to it, and I guess Linda Woolverton, at least, is connected. Perhaps she’ll deal with it the way she did Alice and ignore the original creating another story full of clichés and borrowed set pieces.

  4. on 24 Mar 2010 at 1:15 pm 4.Stephen Macquignon said …

    If I want a 3D version of Popeye I could always watch Robin Williams performance

  5. on 24 Mar 2010 at 6:45 pm 5.Jeff Pickens said …

    Michael – Thanks for the memories, of the 1960′s TV shows we so fondly remember, and the mention of Craig’s project.
    – Jeff Pickens

  6. on 25 Mar 2010 at 12:38 am 6.Tom Sito said …

    As a kid I loved Sonny Fox hosting Wonderama, because even back then, one got the impression that he didn’t like children. And I enjoyed that. He wasn’t cloying or condescending, and that was refreshing among the crowd of children’s program hosts.
    I also enjoyed Chuck McCann playing Little Orphan Annie with white poker chips glued over his eyes, and Dick Tracy opening a can of beer with his nose as a can opener.

  7. on 25 Mar 2010 at 1:53 am 7.Ricardo Cantoral said …

    I got my fingers crossed for random popular celebrities voicing that new Popeye movie ! Ashton Kutcher for Popeye !

  8. on 25 Mar 2010 at 6:21 am 8.Kevin Butler said …

    Dear Mr.Spoorn,

    With all due respect..Mr.Joe Bova didn’t host”Time For Fun”as “Johnny Jellybean”.

    He hosted that WJZ/WABC TV Ch.7 NYC based kids tv show as “Uncle Joe”..Bill Britten and later on in the series run Keith Hefner played “Johnny Jellybean”on “Time For Fun”.

    And “Mr.Machine”was created and sold by The Ideal Toy Co. not by Mattel Toys Inc.

  9. on 25 Mar 2010 at 6:38 am 9.Kevin Butler said …

    I also have alot of happy memories of watching the local kids tv shows
    that aired on WNEW TV Ch.5,WPIX TV Ch.11,WOR TV Ch.9,WABC TV Ch.7
    and WNTA TV Ch.13(This was before Ch.13 became part of the PBS TV
    Network)in the NYC viewing area.

    Those were the days..when kids tv was fun,creative and personal.
    with human beings.Who could entertain,inform,educate and talk to
    you as a friend.

    Sandy Becker,Sonny Fox,”Uncles Fred Scott,Ed Ladd and Tom Gregory,
    Fred Hall,Soupy Sales,Bob McAllister,Herb Sheldon,”Freddie The Fireman”
    and Bill Britten were on WABD/WNEW TV Ch.5.”Officer Joe”Bolton,”Capt.’S
    Allen Swift,Ray Heatherton & Jack McCarthy,”Bozo”(Bill Britten),”Fireman Todd”
    Russell,”Fireman Frank”(Scoey Mitchell),”Beachcomber Bill”Biery,Carol Corbett,
    Chuck McCann and Paul Ashley,Terry Bennett,Milt Moss,Eddie Lawrence,” The
    Merry Mailman”(Ray Heatherton),Carol Demas,Paula Janis,Carey Antebi,Joya
    Sherrill,”Prof.Luther Henderson” and “Mr.BB”were on WPIX TV Ch.11,WOR TV/WWOR
    Ch.9 had Claude Kirchner,Joe King,Johnny Andrews,Chubby Jackson,Paul Tripp,Buster Crabbe,”Bozo”(Gordon Ramsey),”Capt.Universe”, Herb Sheldon, John Zacherley and Mario Cantone.

    WJZ/WABC TV Ch.7 had “Uncle Lumpy”Branum,”Corney The Clown”(Bob Keeshan),”Uncle Joe”Bova,”Johnny Jellybean”(Bill Britten & Keith Hefner), “Tinker”/”Tinker Tom The Toymaker”,Chubby Jackson,Buster Crabbe & amp; “Tommy Seven The Clown”(Ed Bakey).

    And WATV/WNTA TV Ch.13 had”Bonamo The Magic Clown”(Doug Anderson),
    “Capt.Video”(Al Hodge),”Jolly Jack”Gleason and”Uncle Fred” Sayles.

    The days when local kids tv was occupied by rare and extinct creature The Human Being.

  10. on 25 Mar 2010 at 7:12 am 10.Pierre said …

    There’s an interesting book available that discusses local children’s TV shows. It’s called “Hi There, Boys and Girls! America’s Local Children’s TV Programs” You can find it here at Amazon:

    Growing up in the Boston area, we had our own set of local children’s TV show celebrities like Major Mudd, Rex Trailer, and Willie Whistle, which amazingly continued into the 1980′s if I’m not mistaken.


  11. on 25 Mar 2010 at 7:38 am 11.Kevin Butler said …

    Dear Pierre,

    I have a copy of Tim Hollis’ book and the local kids tv shows that he documents in the book talks about local kids tv shows. There are some shows that remained on the air into the 1990′s.

    I’ve also contributed information about The NYC kids tv shows for that book.

  12. on 25 Mar 2010 at 10:03 am 12.Bridget Thorne said …

    Davy, Davy Crockett, l’homme qui n’a jamais peur!
    Fess Parker played my hero. I was astonished to hear
    he had died as I had no idea he was still alive! I would have written him some fan mail.Another “end of an era”.

  13. on 25 Mar 2010 at 12:12 pm 13.Kevin Butler said …

    Dear Mr.Sporn,

    “Captains Allen”Swift and Jack McCarthy didn’t host “The Popeye Show” on WPIX TV Ch.11 in NYC in the morning..they mc’d the show in the evening and afternoon hours.

    “Officer Joe”Bolton hosted”The Three Stooges Funhouse” and later”The Three Stooges Show”in the evening and afternoons hours on Ch.11.

    The only kids film show that “Officer Joe” mc’d during the morning hours was”The Little Rascals Show”his last kids tv show at Ch.11.And” Uncle Joe”Bova..along with “Corney The Clown”(Bob Keeshan),and “Johnny Jellybean”

    (Bill Britten and Keith Hefner)hosted”Time For Fun!”/”The Johnny Jellybean Show”first during the afternoon hours at lunchtime and then during it’s final run on Ch.7 in the morning hours.

  14. on 27 Mar 2010 at 6:50 am 14.Tom Carr said …

    My uncle, a sound engineer for the old Bell Labs, had some dealings with the (then) WNEW studios on East 67th Street in Manhattan. I’m not sure what he did there, what his job might have been, but I had a sort of acquaintance with Bob McAllister of “Wonderama.” I never appeared on the show, but we’d nod and wave to one another on the sidewalk.

    That studio was originally constructed for the DuMont Television Network, and I believe that it was once the location of the Ernie Kovacks Show, and also some pre- “Honeymooners” Jackie Gleason broadcasts.

    Kevin Butler still can’t spell and still has no idea of punctuation… which was one of the many reasons why I quit as a moderator of the Three Stooges Board.

    However, the Panther Brewing Company is still going strong. Better then DuMont, anyway.

    It’s one thing to watch Stooges and Goons on TV, but quite another to have to deal with them!

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