BEANY AND CECILOriginal Medium: Puppets
Produced by: Bob Clampett
First Appeared: 1949
Creator: Bob Clampett
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veteran Warner Bros. animation director Bob Clampett, whose credits include Porky in Wackyland (1938), Horton Hatches the Egg (1942), and Russian Rhapsody (1944), where Hitler himself was the villain.
Clampett had always had an interest in puppets as well as animation; and that's the medium he chose for this show, which originally aired on Los Angeles station KTLA. Beany and his uncle, the captain of the Leakin' Lena (both voiced by Daws Butler, who also did Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and many, many others), were marionets who sought adventure in all parts of the world, accompanied by Beany's best friend, Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent (Stan Freberg, also Joonyer Bear, Pogo's Albert the Alligator and more), a hand puppet. They were opposed by the villainous Dishonest John, also voiced by Freberg. Bill Scott, later known as the voice of Bullwinkle, did much of the writing. The show ran six years, during which it racked up an impressive total of three Emmy Awards.
In 1959, Clampett began a series of cartoons about his erstwhile puppet characters, for theatrical release overseas. Their budget precluded much of the fantastic visual humor characteristic of his Warner Bros. work, but they made up for that with wit, irreverence, outrageous puns, and appealing characters — not least of whom was "D.J.", as they usually addressed their villain, who by the way was one of the most relentlessly cheerful bad guys in all toondom. Another thing they had going for them was the voice work — Butler and Freberg both reprised their roles.
Three years later, those cartoons made their U.S. television debut in ABC's Matty's Funday Funnies. The show had begun in 1959, but originally featured old Famous Studios characters, such as Casper the Friendly Ghost and Baby Huey (owned, by that time, by Harvey Comics). Beany & Cecil took over starting January 6, 1962, and the title was changed to Beany & Cecil three months later. There were 26 half-hours (78 cartoons), which were rerun over and over until 1967. It was still syndicated in some markets as recently as 1976.
Like most cartoons of its time, Beany & Cecil was made into a comic book by Dell Comics. Twelve issues were published, seven during the run of the puppet show and five in the early years of the cartoon. It also had its share of toys and other licensed products, including a Little Golden Book, Beany Goes to Sea, in 1963.
The characters were revived for a new generation, when Clampett's production company collaborated with DiC Enterprises (Captain Planet, Kissyfur) to produce new episodes for ABC in 1988. Beany's voice was done by Mark Hildreth (also heard in Mobile Suit Gundam), Cecil's by Billy West (Doug), and D.J.'s by Maurice LaMarche (The Brain). Only eight episodes were made, and only five actually got on the air. Director John Kricfalusi (later famous as the creator of Ren & Stimpy) attributed the poor showing to interference by network officials who didn't understand the characters, or animation in general.
It may also be that the characters are resistant to revival — Clampett had been dead four years when these latter-day episodes were made. Whether that's the case or not, the ones made during his lifetime will always be remembered as classics.