In honor of MTV’s 30th, an animation frame from MTV’s 1st birthday.
Produced for MTV by Alan Goodman0 comments Tagged: MTV, MTV 30th, MTVposts, animation, logo, MTV 1st,.
Anyone who knows me is aware of my music habit, and close readers of this blog will pick up on my affection for cartoon music in particular.
So it was extremely gratifying when my friend, Rhino Records founder Richard Foos, agreed to indulge me in the 1990’s with a (now out-of-print) four CD boxed set of Hanna-Barbera Cartoons themes, underscores, sound effects, and other audio ephemera and artifacts of our historic studio. It was compiled and produced with passion and knowledge by cartoon writer/producer Earl Kress.
I’ve posted about my worship and respect for the under appreciated HB music director and composer Hoyt Curtin but, a few years ago, I finally got around to scanning the great booklet Earl put together for the set. It not only includes a listing of all the sound in the box, but has great essays by Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera, David Burd, Bill Burnett, and Barry Hansen (Dr. Demento). Plus Marty Pekar conducted an interview about the studio’s unique sound effects library with Joe, Bill, Greg Watson, and Pat Foley. (As we get around to it, you can look at separate transcripts of the essays here.)
For a quick preview, here’s a Quick Draw McGraw track from the box set, composed, arranged and conducted by Hoyt:0 comments Tagged: Hanna-Barbera, 1995, scoring, music, cartoons, animation, Hoyt Curtin,.
From the minute I went to work for Bob Pittman (he was 25, I was 27) at the Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment Company in May of 1980, he told me about the company’s plan for a television channel that would be exclusively rock videos and how he envisioned the TV equivalent of radio jingles: network identifications (‘IDs’) short, wacked out pieces of animation that would reveal the network logo. Not like the staid CBS Eye (“You’re watching CBS.”) but rock’n’roll wrapped up into a little picture explosion.
As soon as we started working on what would become MTV: Music Television a month later I started thinking about these IDs and realized they could be the album covers of the new generation of music fans. For baby boomers the album cover came of age with the first American Beatles album representing every phase of their cultural development. I had bemoaned my lateness to that party, but my self-importance hoped the MTV network IDs could serve the same purpose.
Little did I know they’d achieve an almost equal prominence, and more. For me and Alan Goodman, my first partner in the enterprise (and countless more), they led the way for how we would become the first people to ‘brand’ American cable television networks throughout the 1980s. First as employees at MTV, then for our clients at Fred/Alan, we made over 1000 more of these 10-second visual operas for networks ranging from Nickelodeon and Comedy Central to TMTV in Japan and Lifetime. We worked with some of the greatest indie animators the world had to offer (some we’re still doing projects with today) and started a lot of companies on their way. These IDs might have been the most fun I had during the years we were doing television branding. (And for me, inadvertendly, they began what was to become a late life career change into producing cartoons.)
Not for nothing, I need to stress the crucial role of Manhattan Design’s innovative MTV logo on the amazing work of each and every designer, artist, and filmmaker involved in making these films. Not just for the years we were directly involved, but for the last three decades. Without the initial inspiration of their groundbreaking conception, no one would give a flying hoot about any design that’s come out of MTV.
Update: I just got around to editing a new compilation of the IDs, using better quality video sources and adding more spots.
One Small Step (Concept, Fred Seibert; Animation, Buzzco Associates, NY; Music by Elias/Peterson Associates, NY; July 27, 1981)
Alphabet Lesson (Buzzco Associates, NY; March 26, 1982)
Club M (Broadcast Arts, Washington DC; April 28, 1982)
French Fries (Colossal Pictures, San Francisco; Voice overs: Marcy Brafman, Alan Goodman, Richard Schenkman; February 19. 1982)
Atomic Era (Colossal Pictures, San Francisco; July 16, 1982)
Bonnie (Tom Pomposello, NY; April 1, 1983)
Chainsaw (Colossal Pictures, San Francisco; February 18, 1983)
Swick (Broadcast Arts, Washington DC; July 27, 1981)
Dot to Dot (Silver Cloud Productions, Los Angeles; Music, Bill Johnson; September 27, 1982)
Bubble Gum (Broadcast Arts, Washington DC; July 27, 1981)
Freddie Buys It (Broadcast Arts, Washington DC; June 29, 1982)
Altered M (Colossal Pictures, San Francisco; June 29, 1982)
Hairy M (Broadcast Arts, Washington DC; Frank Olinsky, illustration; April 28. 1982)
M Factory (Colossal Pictures, San Francisco; February 19. 1982)
Pre Christmas Card (Concept & design, Manhattan Design, NY; Animation, Jerry Leiberman Productions, NY; December 18, 1981)
Post Christmas Card (Concept & design, Manhattan Design, NY; Animation, Jerry Leiberman Productions, NY; December 18, 1981)
Raiders of the Lost M (Colossal Pictures, San Francisco; February 19, 1982)
Street Life (Jerry Leiberman Productions, NY; Lou Brooks, illustration; October 6, 1983)
Electric Wet (Broadcast Arts, Washington DC; August 12, 1981)
Construction Worker (Concept & storyboard, David Burd; Animation, Edward Bakst Productions, NY; Voice over, Alan Goodman; July 26, 1982)
M Motel (Colossal Pictures, San Francisco; August 6, 1982)
Dancing Cats (Buzzco Associates, NY; Sam Steinberg, illustration; February 18, 1983)
Dancing Pants (Buzzco Associates, NY; Sam Steinberg, illustration; February 18, 1983)
Jackson Pollack (Broadcast Arts, Washington DC; July 27, 1981)
MTV Birthday ID (Design, Manhattan Design, NY; Animation, George Griffin, NY; July 26, 1982)
Suburbia II (green) (Tom Pomposello, NY; April 1, 1983)
White House (Tom Pomposello, NY; April 1, 1983)
Top of the Hour 1984 (Concept, Fred/Alan, NY; Animation, Buzzco Associates, NY; Music, Tom Pomposello, NY, Del Fuegos, NY; May 14, 1984)
There were very few “ideas” for spots I could claim as mine at MTV. Identifying talent and strategy were my strengths, and I felt from there everything else would flow. But this spot was different; it’s the one for which I feel complete ownership.
Bob Pittman wanted there to be a signal identification at the top and bottom of each and every hour of MTV: Music Television, where the VJ would identify the most important music videos in that half hour. We agreed it would be voice over animation, with stills IDing the songs.
But, what should the animation be? It had to be memorable, repeatable, and not drive a viewer completely crazy. After all, it was going to play almost 17,000 times every year. And we had only 90 days until launch.
It seemed to me MTV had the most stuck up and conceited view of ourselves. We were completely enamored of the fact that we had no TV shows on our TV networks (a new “show” every three minutes, when a new video started). That was world changing, right? (Well, not really. CNN beat us to it. But we conveniently forgot about that.)
My mentor Dale Pon had introduced me to the treasure trove of free images and film from NASA, a public government entity which we all “owned” as US citizens. It would be an inexpensive source of public domain video for us. As a start-up —no one was really sure this thing would work except us— we needed all the financial short-cuts we could find.
“Space is very rock’n’roll,” said senior producer Marcy Brafman.
This spot was going to be our most important. There would be over 30 changing video pieces every hour (music videos, promos, VJs, and commercials) and this would be the only thing all day that was constant. It would get a lot of scrutiny.
So, I thought the “top of the hour” spot should do it’s job and reflect our conceit, be inexpensive, and use our ever changing logo. Oh right, it had to have that indefinable rock attitude.
I thought the simplest way to combine all that stuff was to steal the shine from an already existing piece of video. Let’s take the most famous television moment ever and fold, spindle, and mutilate it to our nefarious purposes.
Our brainstorming turned up some famous, or really infamous, stuff. The biggest one we thought about was the Lee Harvey Oswald shooting by Jack Ruby that was live on television in 1963. Aside from it’s wrongness, it occurred to me that it was only an American moment. We were claiming that MTV would be “the world’s first video music channel.” We needed a world moment.
Right then it came to me. In the summer of ‘69 I was traveling behind the Iron Curtain with my family on the day of the Apollo 11 moonwalk. The streets of dirt poor Sofia, Bulgaria were chocked with walkers looking for apartments with televisions to witness this seemingly impossible achievement of man. Truly, the most memorable worldwide event in TV history.
Let’s cop it, I figured. The worst that could happen is that a generation of kids would grow up wondering why NASA photoshopped in an American flag with MTV’s used to be.
Alan Goodman and I enlisted Buzz Potamkin’s Perpetual Motion Pictures (soon to be Buzzco) to put together the spot. David Sameth produced for Buzz, Candy Kugel illustrated and directed (logos originally designed and illustrated by Manhattan Design), and music was by John Petersen and Jonathan Elias at Elias/Peterson.
By the way, this version of the spot never ran. The day before launch the lawyers informed me we needed, and would never receive, permission from astronaut Neil Armstrong to use his quotation. For launch night only —midnight, August 1, 1981— one of our big bosses did a voice over. John Lack, the executive vice president of our parent, Warner Amex Satellite Entertainment Company, who’s idea had been the seed from which MTV grew, announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen, rock’n’roll.” John, a huge music fan was proud of his role in jump starting this phase of the evolution. And from 1 a.m. until the very end, the rocket blast sounded with only a ‘beep beep beep’ in place of Mr. Armstrong.
The VMA Moonman
The spot ran more than 75,000 times, more than 15,000 each year, through variations of animation and music. Now, it’s sense memory DNA is left in the “Moonman” award from the VMAs (the idea of Manhattan Design’s Frank Olinsky, I believe); no one in the audience knows why it exists. It was only retired, tragically, on January 28, 1986, when the Challenger Shuttle exploded in mid-air. The end of the first space era.
This story’s shorter. A couple of months after the network launch, Bob promoted me to Vice President, MTV’s first (a big deal in those pre-title inflationary days); I was probably whining too much about how hard I was working. He put together a huge congratulatory event and asked Alan to make some video just for the party. He asked director Steve Oakes and producer Peter Rosenthal at Broadcast Arts in Washington DC to modify one of the awesome claymation spots they’d made for us. They put a plasticine me in the spot and ignobly ran me over. I got what I deserved.
My promotion party, October 1981. That’s my boss, Bob Pittman, to my right.
Photo by Pat Gorman, courtesy of John Sykes.
Fred/Alan was my agency in partnership with Alan Goodman and we worked with Nickelodeon from 1984 through 1992 as brand, marketing, and programming consults, as their advertising agency, and with Albie Hecht through it’s Chauncey Street Productions subsidiary, as television producers.0 comments Tagged: Nickelodeon, television, branding, networks IDs, animation,.
1994 was our year to revive The Flintstones. Steven Spielberg was producing a live action movie, Cartoon Network had just launched and was featuring the series, and we had produced a laser disc set of the original episodes with John Kricfalusi and Earl Kress. We asked Drew Hodges and his Spot Design in New York to showcase The Flintstones with the quality we thought they deserved.
From the credits page:
All the toys pictured in this calendar are from the collection of Justin Strauss. Justin has been collecting Flinstones and Hanna-Barbera memorabilia for 12 years. He lives in an apartment in New York City with his wife, two daughters, and a lot of shelves. Justin’s kids are not allowed to play with his toys but he does play with theirs.
Art Direction: Hanna-Barbera Creative Services,
Design: Spot Design, NY, Copy: Overnight Inspirations, Photography: Mark Hill,
Film/Printing: Digital Imaging of Southern California
TM and ©1993 Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, Inc.
©1993 Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
From the credits page:
Calendar Production Staff
Creative Director: Bill Burnett
Art Director: Jesse Stagg
Designer: Tom Allain: Stimuli
Project Coordinators: Amy Mattingly, Ken Weisbrod
Executive assistant: Gina Lamar
Production: Lawrence Wilcox
Artwork: Alex Nino, Jennifer Yuh, Francisco Mora, Tom Allain
Colorists: Andrew Hinnebush, Al Gmuer, Steve Firchow, Marc Siry, Peter Steigerwald, Laurence Wilcox
Copy: Peter Lawrence
Printing: Kathleen Ryan at AGT/Gore Graphics
Call me crazy, but I’ve always loved calendars (heaven knows, I never actually use one). And when I got to Hanna-Barbera it seemed they would be a great way to communicate the studio was heralding a new future. Every year we focused on our most important creative and strategic initiatives, and brought a high quality design focus that had never really existed at the studio in the past. Great photography, illustration, and most of all great cartoons would let the world know we were back.
These calendars were distributed to studio employees, and a select list of colleagues, business partners, and friends of the company.
From the introduction:
Hanna-Barbera Cartoons Calendar 1995
1995’s calendar celebrated Hanna-Barbera’s last era as a creative production studio and we’d spent the previous three years preparing. After rebuilding the production system from the ground up for the first time in 20 years, the studio started the ambitious What A Cartoon!/World Premiere Shorts project. Animators across the world were invited to pitch original characters for an original short cartoon completely, creatively supervised by the creator. It was our attempt to go “back to the future” and develop an environment that produced the great cartoon characters of the mid 20th Century. Thousands of storyboards later, we selected 48 shorts to produce and ended up with new classics like The Powerpuff Girls, Cow & Chicken, Johnny Bravo, Courage the Cowardly Dog, and Dexter’s Laboratory. And solidified the future of the industry’s talent with stars including Genndy Tartakovsky, David Feiss, John Dilworth, and Craig McCraken. Cartoons would never be the same.
I wanted the calendar creative to be as exciting as our studio, so we selected a design style reflecting the revival of the modern rock posters inspired by Frank Kozik. The studio’s Creative Director, Bill Burnett, led his design team to real heights while highlighting twelve of the first shorts released.
Hanna-Barbera Cartoons Creative Director: Bill Burnett
Art Direction & Design by Jesse Stagg & Kelly Wheeler
TM and ©1994 Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, Inc.
©1994 Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved.