Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cartoon Beatles

I grew up watching the Beatles cartoons. However being a 2nd generation fan, I grew up watching the reruns of them on Mtv in the 1980's. (followed by the Jackson 5 cartoon). But I vividly remember watching them on Mtv and totally loving them! They were so silly! Ringo was such a dummy! They were so cute! The music was so good!

There is an amazing book about the Beatles cartoons call, Beatletoons, by Mitch Axelrod. If you have any interest in the cartoon series of the 1960's this book is a must have! I was lucky to have heard the author speak at a Beatles convention in the early 2000's. In his book, Mitch has stories told by executives and people who worked on the Beatles cartoons about the day in July 1965 when the Beatles had a press reception for the cartoons. Here are those stories.

Norman Kauffman remembers the Beatles coming by to see the progress being made on the films. "TVC had moved to 38 Dean Street in the West End of London in Soho. I had took some old eight millimeter film of the Beatles coming along to Dean Street. The police stood on both sides of the street, which was closed off. They allowed the Beatles' car to come through. They had been to a play or show, and they were recognized in the audience, which was not difficult. They ended up leaving early so they arrived at the studio a bit early as well. This surprised everybody, and we were all waiting. Here was me, this 17 year old kid with his movie camera ready to film the arrival of the Beatles. In those days, in order to shoot film, you had to have lots of lighting. I had four spotlights on a frame and a cine-camera in the middle, and as they walked in, I switched on the lights and started filming. I got into trouble because George Harrison didn't like it very much that we were filming. He thought that they were just coming along to have a little chat to meet the people who were going to do their cartoons, and there was this kid with a camera. He got rather annoyed and I captured this on film where he wasn't that happy. you can tell by his face. But John Lennon decided that wasn't fair. Here is this young kid trying to make a bit of film and he came out and posed for me. After the filming, he started chatting with me. We all got along quite well."

Jim Hiltz of Cine Cartoon Centrum gives his recollections of the atmosphere of the party. "There was lots of goodies and booze at the party. Long buffet tables of food, such as smoked salmon and caviar. It was a summer day and the Beatles were coming to the press conference on Dean Street in Soho to launch the cartoon series. It was funny because they didn't want to attract too much attention so they had security guards stand inside the doorway. They showed up in two huge limousines. The guys got out and stood around before entering the building, which attracted a LOT of attention." In those days each Beatles was assigned their own bodyguard. "I was talking to John and George. John was sitting on the window sill looking out onto the street which was two or three floors up. I told them the Snav Sniekus story. They both thought it was funny, but as I was talking, John saw a hot dog pushcart on the street below. He sent his bodyguard out to get four or five hot dogs. All that great food at the party, and John wanted hot dogs."

Ed Vane remembers: "The four Beatles came into the party and there was a lot of milling around and conversation about the animation series. I called the ABC news people in London and asked them to please send a film crew. I figured I'd get some good Saturday morning promotion and ABC London could maybe pick up something for their news feed. They sent their crew right over and taped the press conference for about twenty minutes right in front of the big enlargement of the animated Beatles characters. I got some use out of it for promotional purposes. The footage was transferred to eight millimeter kinescope. I had a copy of it, but through the years it has been lost. George was not being as communicative as the others Paul was wonderful. I sat and talked to him for a long time. He was so brainy. It was amazing. The kid was twenty-two years old. He was asking all these great questions like how do we plan to market the series?, did we have affiliates?, etc. They were the most sophisticated, penetrating , questions that a marketing expert might not know, and he was asking them. I thought, wow, this guy is more than just a guitarist. Ringo sat over in the corner looking like a frightened little sparrow. I went over there to talk to him, but I didn't get very far. One word answers. He didn't seem to be particularly interested. Looked a bit intimidated by the whole thing. The news crew came in, turned the lights on, and asked him a question, and the little sparrow became a roaring eagle. He came alive. He said all the funniest things and dominated the press conference. Then the lights went off and he shriveled up again. It was amazing. I got a chance to talk to all of the Beatles with the exception of John Lennon, who had climbed underneath one of the buffet tables. I thought he dropped something. I asked one of their assistants if he needed help, but they said not to pay any attention, and that he would come out in due time. It was funny. A grown man under a table with just his boots sticking out.

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