The forgotten Gene Kelly animated television special

Ah, Gene Kelly. One of the greatest actors / dancers in cinema. His films are classics. Singin’ in the Rain. An American in Paris. Anchors Aweigh. Jack and the Beanstalk.

Wait… Jack and the Beanstalk?!?

Yeps.  In 1967, Gene Kelly worked with the Hanna-Barbera animation studio to craft a musical version of the vintage children’s story.  No, Kelly didn’t play Jack; he played the peddler Jeremy Keen, to whom Jack sold a cow for magic beans.  Well, those beans grew into a cloud-splitting beanstalk (as do most magic beans), and next thing you know Jack and Jeremy climb the beanstalk – all the way up to an animated world of giants and golden geese.

For Kelly, this film is a return to working with Hanna-Barbera; he did a dance with Jerry the mouse (a Hanna-Barbera creation) in Anchors Aweigh.  And if you watch the animation in this film, almost any time Kelly dances with one of the cartoon characters, the characters themselves tend to have been rotoscoped (a process where the animators trace over the movements of a human dancer or actor).

The television special, which aired on NBC in February 1967, won an Emmy award for best children’s program (beating two Peanuts / Charlie Brown specials in the process).

So… it’s Saturday morning… you want to watch the special?  You want to have a bunch of earworm songs to sing along with for the rest of the day?  Do you want to see Gene Kelly dancing and interacting and showing off his astounding athleticism?

All you have to do is click the image below… sit back… and enjoy.

And I bet that brought back a TON of memories.   Didn’t it?

I should note that this special was also a test project for Hanna-Barbera.  A couple of years later, they produced a live-action/animated series called The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in which Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher interacted with an animated world.  Many of the techniques they used for THAT show were first experimented with in the Jack and the Beanstalk experiment.

Nice.