Animator Bob Clampett's original Beany and Cecil series.
Premiered in syndication on February 28, 1949.
He had gauged audience reaction to puppets on televison as early as 1935, at the San Diego International Exposition. While viewing a crude demonstration of an early television prototype, he rushed out to his car for his puppets. The positive reaction of the audience further fueled his interest.
Through the years Clampett had to endure the taunting of his peers due to his interest. Even while at Warners his co-workers kidded him when they learned, in 1938, that he had set up an after hours puppet shop to continue his experimentation. He and partner Al Kendig worked not only on puppets, but stop motion animation as well. Among their projects were puppet recreations of Clifford McBride's then famous Napoleon the dog and Uncle Elby characters. While working on this project, Clampett developed a puppet of the dog whose face would be more mobile in showing expressions. After running into problems procuring the rights to the McBride characters, Clampett used the expertise he gained in expressions to develop his Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent. This was nearly twenty years before Jim Henson and his similar work with the Muppets.
Among his other projects was a test film done with Edgar Bergen and his Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist dummy. Clampett and Kendig developed a stop motion model of McCarthy with controllable facial expressions. The test film failed to sell and Clampett again took the knowledge gained and applied it towards Beany and Cecil.
On February 28, 1949, 2 years after Clampett left Warner Brothers, TIME FOR BEANY first appeared on television. It originated from Paramount's KTLA-TV studios in Hollywood as a 15 minute a day, 5 day a week, 52 week a year puppet show. The characters introduced on the first telecast included Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent (inspired by the pre-historic dinosaurs Clampett remembered from the 1920's silent feature "Lost World"), Captain Horatio K. Huffenpuff (a Baron Munchausen-like character which Clampett originally considered naming Captain Hornblower), and Huffenpuff's nephew Beany Boy (reminiscent of the precocious Charlie McCarthy). Another of his characters was the villainous Dishonest John, patterned after one of Clampett's former Warner Brothers bosses. Captain Huffenpuff, the commander of the good ship "Leakin' Lena", was a braggart with a penchant for telling tall tales.
Voice over artist Joe Bevilacqua, e-mailed me with this additional information about two men instrumental in the creation of the characters: "... voice actors and puppeteers Stan Freberg and Daws Butler. Daws's wife Myrtis designed and sewed the first Cecil puppet from their son's green pajama leg..." Here is an excerpt from an interview that Joe Bevilacqua did with Stan Freberg:
"Daws Butler and I met through Bob Clampett who had an idea for a children's puppet show about a little boy who sailed around the world with his uncle. It was Daws and I who talked Clampett into making it into an adventure with moving sets. That show became "Time for Beany". So Daws and I were brought in basically as voice people and after the first couple of days of doing the voices and looking at the puppets we said to Clampett, "Where are the puppeteers?" And Clampett said, "You're the puppeteers." So this came as news to Daws and I, who had never worked puppets in our lives, but we shrugged and I said to Daws, "It's called on the job training." Next thing we knew we were holding up these puppets and doing the voices and the writing. So Clampett managed to pull us together and it was the start of a long and terrific association. Daws and I were on that show, together every afternoon and night, five days a week, 52 weeks a year, for five years."
Daws Butler and Stan Freberg with one of
the Emmys won for Time For Beany
Beany, voiced by Daws Butler, was a cheery bright-eyed lad dressed in blue coveralls and wearing a cap with a propeller on top, who was forever running into precarious situations. Cecil, voiced by Stan Freberg, was a large, lovable green sea creature, a protective soul who became ill during storms, but was ever vigilant when it came to his buddy Beany. Along with Crowy the Crow, they sailed the seven seas in pursuit of adventure, exploring the universe from the undersea world to outer space.
Some of the characters they met during their travels showcased Clampett's talent at satire. They included Hare-cules, Ben Hare, Beepin' Tom, Buffalo Billy, Thunderbolt the Wonder Colt, Slopalong Catskill and Davey Crickett. Their familiar arch foe was Dishonest John, whose sneering-laugh "Nya ha ha!" was echoed nation wide by delighted fans. These fans included many noteable personalities including Lionel Barrymore, Jimmy Stewart and Joan Crawford. Albert Einstein, addressing a group of Nobel prize winners in 1950, stopped abruptly at 5 pm, telling his audience he had to leave as it was "Time for Beany". Groucho Marx once told Clampett that "Time for Beany" was the only kid's show adult enough for his daughter Melinda to watch. In addition to the support of fans, "Time for Beany" was a critical success as well. During its run the series garnered three Emmy awards
The puppet show left the air in 1955, but the characters refused to die. Clampett went on to develop Beany and Cecil, an animated version of the show.
For more information on Bob Clampett visit:
Toon Tracker's 'Matty's Funday Funnies' Page
Updated November 4, 2017