Archive for the ‘Genre: Children's Television’ Category

Happy Birthday to Mr. Rogers’ King Friday the 13th!

Friday, April 13th, 2012

A very special someone celebrates a birthday today. The honorable King Friday XIII, ruler of Calendarland in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, is the birthday boy not only today, but every Friday the 13th! King Friday paid us a visit during our 1999 interview with Mr. Rogers and we learned how the King got his name:

Happy birthday, King Friday!!

Watch Fred Rogers’ full Archive interview for more in-depth looks at some of your favorite childhood puppets.

- by Adrienne Faillace

“What’s up, Doc?” Saturday Mornings with Bugs Began 50 Years Ago

Saturday, April 7th, 2012

Somewhere in your memory there’s likely an image of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck donning hats and canes, singing “This is It.” That was the intro to The Bugs Bunny Show, which debuted on Saturday mornings on April 7, 1962 and became the longest, continuously-running morning children’s program in network TV history.

The Bugs Bunny Show actually premiered in primetime 2 years earlier, on October 11, 1960, and ran through September 25, 1962 on ABC ’s Tuesday nights from 7:30-8:00pm. (1960 was a big year for primetime cartoons -The Filnstones premiered that same season.) The program was developed for television after ABC President Ollie Treyz learned that WGN Chicago enjoyed ratings success by airing Bugs Bunny cartoons in primetime. ABC promptly purchased all Warner Brothers theatrical cartoons that had not yet been released for TV and packaged them into a half-hour program with new introductions and transitions by the Warner Brothers characters. While still airing in primetime, an A.M. version began airing on ABC on April 7, 1962 – the program generations of children would come to equate with Saturday mornings.

The shorts within the show were never intended to solely appeal to kids. The Warner Brothers cartoons were created for theatrical release as entertainment before the main film began, not as sketches for a children’s television program. Kids and adults have been loving them for decades now.

The Saturday morning show employed several names over the years (The Bugs Bunny Show, The Bugs Bunny-Roadrunner Show, The Bugs Bunny/Looney Tunes Comedy Hour, The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show) and ran on ABC from 1962-68 (on Sunday mornings during the final year), on CBS from 1968-73, back on ABC from 1973-75, again on CBS from 1975-85, and once more on ABC from 1985-2000. Mel Blanc did all of the original voices, and Archive interviewee Chuck Jones animated and created several of the legendary Warner Brothers characters.

Chuck Jones on creating Bugs Bunny:

And on putting together shorts for The Bugs Bunny Show:

Bugs got an afternoon show on the WB from 1996-98 (Bugs ‘n’ Daffy), but is no longer a part of the Saturday morning cartoon block on network television. Cartoon Network now owns the rights to the Looney Toons/Merrie Melodies library and Bugs and friends can still be seen there.

That’s all, Folks!

Watch animator Chuck Jones’ full interview and visit our Bugs Bunny Show page for more info.

- by Adrienne Faillace

“The Electric Company” Turns F-O-R-T-Y

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

You gotta love a show with a character named “Easy Reader.” Morgan Freeman portrayed him, a laid back Easy Rider-esque guy who loved reading on PBS’ The Electric Company. Bill Cosby and Rita Moreno joined Freeman on the program – the first show from The Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) after the hugely successful Sesame Street.

In her Archive Interview, CTW co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney discusses the creation of The Electric Company, a show geared towards seven to nine-year-olds that taught youngsters the basics of reading and grammar. She describes how government funds, allocated for then-First Lady Pat Nixon’s literacy initiative, proved crucial to the development of the show, which debuted on October 25, 1971:

The Electric Company utilized songs, animation, and live sketches to teach phonics and fundamentals. Popular skits included “The Adventures of Letterman” (no, not David, but an animated superhero who loved wordplay), “Here’s Cooking at You” (a spoof of Julia Child’s cooking show), and “The Six-Dollar and Thirty-Nine Cent Man” (you can guess the show being parodied there). Archive interviewee Rita Moreno reflects on the show’s delicate balance of entertainment and education:

A new version of The Electric Company now airs on PBSKids. Learn more about the original version at our show page:

The Secret Word is: 25! Twenty-five Years of Being Cuckoo at Pee-Wee’s Playhouse!

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Chairy, Jambi, Pterri, Randy… on September 13, 1986, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse introduced dozens of lovable characters to millions of viewers on Saturday mornings. Expanded from a live stage show into a children’s program by Paul Reubens, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse was a smashing success that featured Reubens as Pee-Wee Herman, a kid at heart who enjoyed the company of his fanciful Puppetland friends. Steve Binder, producer of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, talks about the early days of the program and the decision to go off the air after the fifth season, in 1991:

Mekka Lekka Hi-Mekka Hiney Ho!

Watch Steve Binder’s full interview online:

About this interview:

Producer/Director Steve Binder was interviewed for the Archive’s Living Television Collection in 2004. He talks about his early work at Los Angeles’ KABC, and directing The Steve Allen Westinghouse Show in the early 60s. He discusses at-length writing and directing his breakthrough rock documentary, The T.A.M.I. Show, which showcased such stars as The Supremes, The Rolling Stones, and James Brown. He also discusses many other programs he worked on including Hullabaloo, The Danny Kaye Show, Gilligan’s Island, Diana Ross in Central Park and Lucy in London, a CBS special starring Lucille Ball. He talks at length about producing and directing NBC’s Elvis: The ‘68 Comeback Special, which relaunched Elvis Presley’s career and set the bar for music specials. Steve Binder was interviewed at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences headquarters in North Hollywood, CA on March 4, 2004 by Stephen J. Abramson.

Yabba Dabba Dooo! Joseph Barbera centennial today

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Joseph Barbera (1911-2006)

Television Animation Creator/ Producer

“I just hope they remember I was the creator of some very warm and loving, funny characters that made everybody happy and smile.”

See Joseph Barbera’s 1997 Archive Interview here.

James Wall, Longtime CBS Stage Manager, Has Died

Friday, October 29th, 2010

James Wall served as a stage manager for CBS for nearly 50 years and appeared on camera as teacher “Mr. Baxter” on Captain Kangaroo.  It was Wall’s idea that Captain Kangaroo should feature an African-American regular, and after serving as the show’s stage manager for six years, he was given the on-screen role starting in 1968.  Wall was semi-retired for the last two decades, but frequently came back to CBS as a fill-in stage manager— a job he continued to do until 2009.

James Wall’s Archive interview was conducted on October 21, 1999.

Interview description:

James Wall was interviewed for four-and-a-half hours in New York, NY. Wall candidly discussed his experiences as an African-American actor and stage manager in early television. He worked on entertainment programs, sports and news programs including The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. Mr. Wall also spoke of his work on Captain Kangaroo, first as stage manager, and later as “Mr. Baxter,” a teacher on the program. The interview was conducted by Michael Rosen.

Wall was given a tribute on the CBS Evening News, link.

“Howdy Doody” Writer Eddie Kean Has Died

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Eddie Kean, the sole writer for the first seven years of the classic children’s show Howdy Doody, has died at age 85.  Kean also wrote the songs for the show.  Out of Howdy Doody comes one of Kean’s most lasting contributions to pop culture — the creation of the word “cowabunga” (also spelled kowabunga) used by everyone from ’60s surfers to Bart Simpson.

Eddie Kean’s Archive interview was conducted on November 3, 2005.  In the excerpt below from his interview he discusses “cowabunga”

Interview description:

Eddie Kean talked about his background growing up in a musical household.  He discussed his early years as a songwriter that led to his meeting Bob Smith and working as a writer on Smith’s radio show.  He described in great detail his subsequent work as the sole writer for Howdy Doody for over seven years, which starred Smith as “Buffalo Bob.”  Kean talked about the launching of the show in 1947 as Puppet Playhouse and how it grew from a weekly to a daily program.  He talked about some of the series memorable characters (and the performers who played them) including: “Clarabell,” “Mr. Bluster,” “Chief Thunderthud,” “Princess Summerfall Winterspring,” “Flubadub,” and “Howdy Doody” himself.  He described the series as a “soap opera” for kids and discussed such memorable storylines as the “Howdy Doody for President” campaigns and the “Mystery of the Four Ls.”  He talked about the music he wrote for the show, including the memorable theme song and such instructional songs as “You Don’t Cross the Road With Your Feet.”  He described how he used to gauge the reaction that the show was getting by reading fan letters and also by anonymously sitting in the screening room in which the children’s parents sat during show time.  He also discussed: the licensing for the show, the talented cast and crew, and the series impact.  He spoke in detail about the legacy of a single word he created for Chief Thunderthud— “Kowabunga”— which has since outlived the show as a catchphrase in various forms (usually spelled “Cowabunga”), notably by Bart Simpson on The Simpsons.  He talked about leaving the show that he felt was running him down (a daily grind of “type-puff-phone-coffee”) and running the cast down as well.  Kean also talked about writing for The Gabby Hayes Show during his years on Howdy Doody, and such series as Going Places subsequently.  He talked about his later pursuits including entertaining as a piano player.  The interview was conducted by Karen Herman.

Tonight on ABC: A Perennial Favorite: "A Charlie Brown Christmas"

Monday, December 8th, 2008

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” airs tonight, celebrating its 43rd anniversary. The timeless classic was the very first Charlie Brown special and Variety noted in its 1965 review that “author [Charles M.] Schulz is in such strong command of his charismatic characters that it would be successful in any medium.” Variety also noted that “Snoopy, the wildly hedonistic dog was particularly well-conceived and stole every scene that he was in.” The review spoke of the religious nature of the show: “…. Charlie Brown could not get into the spirit of Christmas, and his search for the meaning of the holiday only brought him into jarring contact with the crassness of his playmates. Just when it seemed as though the Scrooges of the world were right, little Linus took his thumb and blanket out of his mouth and briefly narrated the story of the birth of Jesus. The recital had a transforming effect on the tykes and they regrouped joined together by love.”

The Archive of American Television interviewed both the special’s producer Lee Mendelson and director Bill Melendez (1916-2008), as well as animator Phil Roman.

Bill Melendez on Linus’s speech:
“It’s one of the things that I get asked [about most] and we get more comment on, about that reading….Schulz said, you know, at one time Linus should come up and tell the real story of Christmas, the biblical story. And I said, no, Sparky, you can’t do that. That would be religious. And we can’t get religion into the shows. You’ll ruin it. Again, he looks up at me with those beady blue eyes of his and he said, ‘Bill, if we don’t do it, who will?’ I didn’t think that we had to do it anyhow. But I did it, I agreed with that philosophy that we could do it. And get away with it. Because the strip was gentle enough and it would not be taken, it would not be criticized. So, it was Schulz’s idea. And he was right… [it] just appeals to everybody. And no other show has ever done it.”

Lee Mendelson on the special’s use of music:
“Well, when we had the meeting about A Charlie Brown Christmas, and I say we only had a day for an outline, and [Charles] Schulz wanted to talk about what he felt was the true meaning of Christmas. He said I think we’ve lost that. So we kind of worked backwards from that. We wanted to do the true meaning of Christmas. I wanted to use different kinds of music. We knew we’d use traditional Christmas music, and we would use some Beethoven because Schroeder played Beethoven. But when we did [a previous] documentary we hired a fellow named Vince Guaraldi to do the music on the documentary, and I thought it might be fun to use some of that music on the Christmas show. And we called Vince, and he wrote an opening title song for the show. And I remember I thought maybe we should put some words on it, and I just wrote — scribbled some words down on an envelope, ‘Christmas time is here, happiness…’ and so forth, and never thought much about it. And I think the music was critical to it’s acceptance. And we thought of different elements about the Christmas tree and so forth, and put it all down in the outline, and the outline pretty much is the way the show eventually evolved. But I think that the Guaraldi music was crucial to it’s success because that was the first time a cartoon had used jazz, had used adult music. That raised it a certain level.”

40 Years Ago: "Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood" Premieres

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

Forty years ago, on February 19th, 1968, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood premiered. Originally titled Misterogers (as its precursor had been called in Canada) the show emanated from WQED Pittsburgh and aired on EEN (Eastern Educational Network). The series moved to PBS in 1970. Production ceased in 2001. Sadly, Fred Rogers passed away in 2003; the series continues to air nationwide.

In 1999, the Archive of American Television interviewed Mr. Rogers. Click here to Fred Rogers’ 9-part interview (and be on the lookout for puppet cameos). Also, check out this link on the show’s homepage for Mister Rogers trivia.

A favorite excerpt from the interview:

“My mother, as long as I could remember, made at least one sweater every month. And at Christmas time she would give us each a hand-knit sweater. And so, until she died, those zipper sweaters that I wear on The Neighborhood were all made by my mother. We would open up the boxes at Christmas and, and we’d all try on the sweaters. Then she would say, ‘Okay, now what kind of do you want next year? Now, I know what kind you want, Freddy, you want the one with the zipper up the front.’ There are ties that many people don’t know, just watching certain programs and it makes the experience so much deeper to know from whence Mr. McFeely came or where the sweaters came from. And the music is a huge part of my work. That was always my way of saying who I was and how I felt. In those days, you didn’t speak your feelings as much as express them artistically. I was always able to cry or laugh or say I was angry through the tips of my fingers on the piano. I would go to the piano, even when I was five years old, and start to play how I felt. So it was very natural for me to become a composer. Having written all of the music for The Neighborhood, I feel as if that’s one of my gifts to children. Here is a way that doesn’t hurt you or anybody else, to say who you are and how you feel.”

Interview description:
In his 4-1/2 hour interview, Fred Rogers described his work as the creator and host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which began its run in 1968. He described the show’s evolution, which started with Misterogers which he produced in Canada for the CBC. He described each aspect of the show including the origin of his trademark sweaters. He described his early years in television working as a floor manager for NBC on such shows as NBC Opera Theatre, The Kate Smith Hour, and The Gabby Hayes Show. He detailed his move into public television in 1953 with his work as the program director for WQED, Pittsburgh. He described his first children’s program The Children’s Corner (1954-61 WQED; 1955-56 NBC), which introduced several puppets later used on Mister Rogers. He talked about the importance of children’s programming and his longevity as a childrens’ show host. The interview was conducted on July 22, 1999 at WQED in Pittsburgh, PA.

"The Jetsons" Turns 45!

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

On September 23, 1962, following the success of The Flintstones, Hanna-Barbera’s animated sitcom The Jetsons premiered as one of the first color television programs on ABC. Hard to believe, but only 24 “classic” episodes were made at that time — another 50+ episodes were later created in the 1980s.

The Creation of “The Jetsons” – From Part 5 of Joseph Barbera’s 7-part interview

When the network came in and said, “You want to do another show.” It’s not particularly brainy to say, “Well, with stone age [The Flintstones] here, let’s go into the future there.” So we started on that basis. And what I did was I created a living quarters that were based actually on the remnants of the 1939 New York World’s Fair. And there’s still a couple of those buildings left on the way in from the airport. Circular buildings up on a taff. So I converted those to apartments with hydraulic lifts in case the smog was up there, you would just lift the apartment above. What I was doing looking into the future. This is what we can do in the future. Now the same thing applied to parking. Parking that’s a problem of the future. A problem right now. So in that particular show, what we did in parking for The Jetsons, when he came into a stop, and pressed button, his vehicle became a briefcase that he carried. Later on I converted where it became a box like a shoe box that fitted into a slot like a lsafety deposit box. Here’s my parking space right here. So the idea was to make life easier and smoother and more interesting. His job was to simply go in in the morning and sit down and press one button. Anything easier than that? … That’s future living — parking, and buying clothes. Like the way I had it in The Jetsons is you stand behind the board, and you flash the clothes on the screen below you. Well you can see your dress before you buy it or your suit, or something like that. And you don’t have to try it on even or put it on. I had the sky crowded with vehicles just like it is today, except there was long lines. And they pick up on this because there’s a highway with no crowd on it, and you cut over there and in two seconds, they gridlock again. So that’s about the way I handled that stuff.

Full interview description:

Joseph Barbera discussed his start as a young animator at the Van Beuren Studios in New York, before his move to California and MGM’s cartoon studio. He recalled working for executive Fred Quimby, and his eventual partnership with William Hanna at MGM. This collaboration with Hanna ultimately led to their own cartoon production company, and Barbera shared many stories about the creation of some of their more memorable characters and shows including: Tom and Jerry, Quick Draw McGraw, Yogi Bear, The Flintstones, Top Cat, The Jetsons, and The Smurfs. The Archive of American Television interview was conducted in 1997 by Leonard Maltin and Sunny Parich.

Click here to access the entire 7-part interview.