Animation Artifacts 28 Jun 2006 07:32 am

Spunky & Tadpole

Spunky and Tadpole is a dark spot in my unconscious memory of bad animation that I
somehow have an affection for.
Jerry Beck listed it as one of the ten worst animated series ever created. (I don’t agree with that, certainly not with all those abominable Hanna-Barbera/Filmation/ Ruby-Spears shows that were so godawful and unwatchable. At least Spunky and Tadpole had a bit of style; perhaps because it stands out, it can be recognized as bad. It was bad; just not among the very worst. But I’m splitting hairs; bad is bad.)

There seems to be very little recorded about the production of the show. A couple of vhs copies of the series exists in the remainder bins of the internet and can be bought for little. The only credit listed anywhere on-line is that of a director, Art Moore, whoever he may be. I haven’t been able to locate any information about him either. (Someone on a chat room thinks he may be the producer of The Regis Philbin show.)

The show went into distribution via syndication in 1958 and was virtually knocked out of business by the rise and popularity of Hanna-Barbera’s product, Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear. Spunky & Tadpole were featured on local programs that had local hosts introducing shorts. I was surprised to find out that as many as 150 episodes of the serialized cartoon series were produced.

The cast included: Joan Gardner as Spunky, Don Messick as Tadpole. Ed Janis replaced Don Messick in the last episodes.
This cast means the show was probably done in LA.

(Click on images to enlarge and properly view the excellent inking.)

Some time ago, I still couldn’t resist buying a couple of cels which were selling on Ebay for just about nothing. They still amuse me.

- Speaking of good animation acting, Mark Mayerson has another chapter in his provocative series on Acting in Animation. I enjoy these posts; they get my mind working on a sore subject. (Sore subject because Bad Acting is pretty much all I see these days. Lots of jerking from pose to pose animation.)

24 Responses to “Spunky & Tadpole”

  1. on 28 Jun 2006 at 8:40 am 1.Frank said …

    I remember the NAME of this cartoon from my very youngest years, but have absolutely no recollection of anything else about them. The pictures you posted did not jog any memory at all. I was all over TV back then, and loved every cartoon that I saw. These little wonders made no impression whatsoever.

  2. on 28 Jun 2006 at 8:26 pm 2.Daniel Thomas said …

    I’m afriad I wouldn’t be a good judge whether or not this old show was any good. I’d much rather watch Rocky and Bullwinkle than anything else, so I guess my mind doesn’t conform to the whole Disney model. At the very least, I always thought that if the writing was good, the actors sounded right, and the jokes were funny, then it was a good cartoon show. Again, I’ve never seen Spunky and Tadpole (just try to write that without snickering!), and it may have been a crummy bit of animation. Who knows? If someone uploaded it to YouTube, I’d be happy to take a look.

    At the very least, those two cell drawing are really good. Very stylish. I think it works with the bold color backgrounds, like a psychedelic Charlie Brown.

    On a slightly related note (well, not really, but whataveh), I hope you aren’t burned out on watching animation just yet. I’ve just mailed a care package to the Sporn studio that I’m sure everyone will like….

  3. on 28 Jun 2006 at 10:04 pm 3.Joe Cabrera said …

    If you want to see the cartoon, Jerry Beck showed it at the San Diego ComicCon last summer in his Worst Cartoons Ever show (and were they ever!)

    He has last year’s program for sale on DVD. Check it out: http://www.cartoonresearch.com/garagesale.html

  4. on 29 Jun 2006 at 7:36 am 4.Michael said …

    Why would anyone want to pay to see the worst cartoons ever? Isn’t it enough just to turn on the television set? Spunky & Tadpole wasn’t a gem back then – I usually switched the channel ( even thought there were only 5), and it isn’t a gem now. It’s just part of my childhood. The two cels I bought looked interesting in their own right and were cheap.

  5. on 11 Jul 2006 at 10:35 am 5.nick caputo said …

    Michael,

    I too have a soft spot in my heart for Spunky & Tadpole, perhaps because I remember watching it on NY TV in the 1960s, when I was a wee lad. I remember the opening music, which was catchy. I did rent the show once many years ago, and, aside from the opening music, there wasn’t much to appreciate, still, like another poor show with a great opening song (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), it is an indelible part of my childhood, those days of children’s show hosts such as Officer Joe Bolton, Sandy Becker and Cpatain Jack McCarthy.

  6. on 12 Jul 2006 at 3:59 pm 6.nick caputo said …

    I made a mistake in my last post. The cartoon was called “Tales of the Wizard of Oz”, and I believe it was a Rankin/Bass Production.

  7. on 24 Jul 2006 at 10:46 pm 7.Tony said …

    I have found that this “techno world” is very unforgiving of the previous, less knowledgeable days. I recall this cartoon – with much respect and intrigue – and waited for the “next episode of Spunky and Tadpole” wondering if they would get out of thier predicament. As a child, the “quality” of the animation never registered as good or bad. The story lines always kept me interested.
    Contrast this with other “suspect” creations such as Fireball XL5, and Rocky and Bullwinkle, and you get a brief view of where the next generation began, but not a good feel for the impact simple programming had on the new initiates.

    Spunky and Tadpole, had thier place. I recall them fondly.

  8. on 24 Jul 2006 at 10:55 pm 8.Michael said …

    You have a good point. The earlier show, Crusader Rabbit was very popular, yet its animation was non-existent. It was all about the stories.

  9. on 05 Feb 2007 at 11:38 pm 9.wendy said …

    i LOVED “spunky & tadpole” and i was not aware that the animation was too grainy(saw this fact on some movie review website) to reproduce. i also loved the theme song music for it, wish i knew what it was, someone told me it was by robert anderson, but i would love to buy the music for the intro and end of “spunky & tadpole. i remember the stories were bery soft and nonviolent. not like some of the harvey cartoons. i would like to get ahold of the show that nick caputo states having rented. i would love to see it again.

  10. on 27 Feb 2007 at 5:52 pm 10.Joseph said …

    I agree with Wendy’s comments, the theme song with its sparkly cascade of some extended dominant seventh chord truly set the pace for a lifetime search of elusive wonderment.
    Several years ago I downloaded it from some cartoon site and the first time I heard it, after about 40 years, was unlike any experience nudging some forgotten fringe memory into consciousness.
    The actual melody was slightly different from my original way of thinking about it :
    ** ** # # / # ^* #__#
    correct way :
    ** # # # / ** # # # / # ^* #__#

    Legend:
    * = eighth note
    # = quarter note
    __ = tie( to make half note value )
    / = bar line ( measure )

    What the heck, I was only 3 years old !

  11. on 23 Mar 2007 at 1:58 pm 11.Dave said …

    I have been trying to find out the name of this composer for most of my adult life. I was about seven when I first heard the theme song. I loved it so much that I often watched Spunky and Tadpole just so I could hear it again. In the early 1960′s I heard this composition used during the intermission at movie theatres to plug the snack bar. Then it disappeared from the planet. I am going to research Robert Anderson to find out if he was the one. Thank you Wendy and Joseph for the help.

  12. on 12 Oct 2007 at 1:37 pm 12.Don said …

    While it may be a poorly produced cartoon show, I have a particular fondness for this series because my uncle Wally added the sound effects. The job paid well enough for him to open his own sound effects company in Hollywood where he also marketed his patented multi-reel editing device under the name Filmkraft. Sure wish I could round up that series somewhere as well as ALL the fairy tale films Ray Harryhausen made early in his career that Wally also did the sound for.

  13. on 19 Jan 2008 at 1:27 pm 13.Louie Seven said …

    This is incredible. I had COMPLETELY forgotten about SPUNKY & TADPOLE (I was about 9 or 10 when it was first broadcast) and that’s odd, because I have a terrific memory, otherwise. I guess this illustrates just how far down in the public awareness this show was pushed.

    I RE-discovered Spunky & Tadpole yesterday (1-18-08)completely by accident. I purchased a cheap CLUTCH CARGO video DVD for a dollar, and after three episodes of what really might be the worst animated cartoon series, I was totally amazed when my musical memory exploded into a million shining sparkling fragments as the opening theme to Spunky & Tadpole began.

    I notice that many of the comments here suggest that the opening and ending music of this show was the real attraction. I tend to agree. As I sat gaping at episodes of ‘A Message To Marcia’, I found that I was basically just waiting for the themes to replay! *haha*

    I’m a professional musician, and I’d like to comment that there is something slightly magical about this music. It’s so concise and evocotive. Reminds me of some early 50′s instrumentals by Les Paul. The cascading notes; the almost vaudevillian show-biz tone; yet somehow effective in it’s minimalism.

    I thought I had accounted for all the old cartoon shows of my youth. I certainly got a pleasant shock last night.

  14. on 21 Feb 2008 at 3:56 pm 14.nick caputo said …

    Wendy and company,

    You can view an episode or 2 of Spunky and Tadpole on You Tube.

    Nick

  15. on 23 Feb 2008 at 3:03 pm 15.Neal Finn said …

    I couldn’t have been older than four when I used to watch “S and T”. We could only get two tv channels where we lived and they were on every afternoon.

    While I have to agree that the animation was far from good, it did have a certain charm and subtle humor to it that holds up pretty well.

    There was one sequence where S and T were stuck in a rowboat with a live time bomb and they kept counting down the seconds till it would explode. And I recall how it kept me right on the edge of my seat. Finally it got down to “ONE SECOND TO GO” and let out a piercing scream that brought my mom in from the kitchen to see what was wrong. Well …..Tadpole found the bomb just in time, saving my childhood from permanent damage

  16. on 07 Mar 2008 at 7:03 pm 16.Charles Garofalo said …

    I remember Spunky and Tadpole as being overshadowed the live action comedy shorts they always showed them with on WPIX back when I was a snotty-nosed grade schooler. The Three Stooges and
    Laurel and Hardy both easily swiped the limelight from the boy-bear team. A friend says they were also shown against the Our Gang/Little Rascal’s shorts, but I don’t recall that. I’m more interested in finding the Crusader Rabbit DVDs I need to complete my collection, and does anybody have any suggestions where I can look? Clean ones, I mean, I know that bunny is also reguarded
    rather poorly in some parts of fandom.
    Charles Garofalo

  17. on 23 Mar 2008 at 2:26 pm 17.Tom Witzgall said …

    I came to this site because I recently encountered a Cd containing the theme music for Spunky & Tadpole. I recognized it as such immediately, and just wanted to verify it. Yep, it’s the theme to Spunky & Tadpole alright. It’s called “Toyshop Window” and was written by a French composer, Roger Roger. That’s really his name. The music appears on a Cd called Light Music-the 50′s Vol. 3. (for the 1 or 2 persons who just MAY be interested.) The cartoon itself is quite forgettable-just average “animated” fare from the 50′s, I suppose. Now, If I could only find some of the music used in the Terrytoons silent cartoons.

  18. on 28 Mar 2008 at 5:02 pm 18.Todd said …

    Does anyone collect the original cells for this long gone animation. I bought several years ago and have them in proper storage. Please Email me if interested???

  19. on 05 Feb 2009 at 1:06 am 19.Wendy said …

    Thanks, Nick. Now that I have DSL I am watching S&T on youtube. I noticed that the theme music seems repeats itself over and over throught the cartoon. As a kid, I never noticed that, I just liked the peaceful stories, the lead characters and the music. And also thanks to Tom Witzgall. I’ll see if I can get the Cd called Light Music-the 50’s Vol. 3, with “Toyshop Window” by Roger Roger. It is amazing how everyone pulled together and found out this valuable info.

  20. on 17 Apr 2009 at 2:56 am 20.Steve C. said …

    The theme definitely IS Roger Roger’s very lilting “Window with the toys”. A personal favorite. His name was pronounced Roh-JAY Roh-JAY, for anyone’s info.

  21. on 21 Apr 2009 at 2:29 am 21.dom said …

    Every time I hear Tchaikovsky – The Nutcracker – Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy, I think of Spunky & Tadpole. I was so sure it was used for the closing theme. I hear it tonight on TV and tell myself to look it up on the computer. I see I am wrong but what a consolation prize! I got the actual theme title and it’s composer and purchasing info. Now that’s what I call a sucessful search! I can’t wait to search YouTube for it. I so enjoyed everyone’s comments. I always list S&T as a favorite cartoon even though it’s name is all I really remember of it. (And of course loving the theme even though I don’t remember it, either).

  22. on 16 Oct 2009 at 10:44 am 22.Peter Hale said …

    The ‘Ed Janis’ who replaced Don Messick is presumably film producer Edward Janis, Joan Gardner’s husband. This sounds like a cost-cutting exercise, so I wondered if he was the producer of the show.

    Edward is best known for producing the (wonderfully?) awful “Beach Girls and the Monster” (aka “Monster from the Surf”) which he co-wrote with Joan, but I am trying to follow up a strange entry on a website listing copyright documents (I think! – ‘http://www.faqs.org/copyright/do-you-trust-your-daughter-the-patty-duke-show-the-genius/’ – nearly half way down the page)which reads:

    “Title:The Genius / Produced by Edward Janis, animation directed by George Moreno, written by Edward Janis & Joan Janis a.k.a. Joan Gardner, voice characterizations by Paul Frees & Joan Gardner.”

    I can find no other reference to any work at all that involved both George Moreno and the Janises, but given Joan’s voice-over work it does seem possible that Janis tried his hand at animation production at some point. Does anyone know if “Beverly Hills Productions” could have been the Janis’ company?

    (At the start of the 50s George Moreno’s distributor/backer for his London-based “Bubble & Squeek” cartoons [British Lion, I think!] had withdrawn their interest [temporary exclusion from the USA market had hit British film Producers very hard] so George could well have been trying to do deals all over.)

  23. on 23 Apr 2010 at 11:32 pm 23.Martin R. said …

    I’d long forgotten the cartoon show but not the few bars of music of the opening theme. It’s been stuck in my mind for fifty years. Thanks to others for identifying the song and composer.

  24. on 11 Aug 2014 at 11:13 pm 24.Jerry Stern said …

    I remember Joan Gardner and and Ed Janis fondly, as they were my next door neighbors when I lived in Encino (suburb of LA). I don’t remember a lot about the cartoon shows, but they were very warm individuals. It was sad when Joan, and then Ed passed away many years ago.

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