I will forgive you if you’ve never heard of Beany and Cecil. I totally understand. Who today would remember a boy and his talking sea serpent?
Even though, at one point in time, it was one of the most popular TV shows in the early medium.
So first, let’s go back to 1949. Animator Bob Clampett created an early televised puppet show, Time for Beany, which featured Beany – a little boy with a propeller-cap on his head, traveled the world with his sidekick, a seasick sea serpent named Cecil. They sailed on a boat called the Leakin’ Lena, piloted by Captain Huffnpuff, and always stayed one step ahead of the show’s mustache-twirling villain, Dishonest John. The early episodes were voiced by Daws Butler and Stan Freberg, when those actors left the program in the early 1950’s, Clampett himself voiced Cecil the sea serpent.
The original Time for Beany contained lots of topical humor and puns – sort of what Rocky and Bullwinkle might do in the 1960’s. And it had a ton of fans – including Albert Einstein, who never missed an episode. Wow.
Now we move forward to 1959, to a show called Matty’s Funday Funnies. Matty’s Funday Funnies was a fully-sponsored cartoon cavalcade, with Mattel Toys receiving the name sponsorship. The cartoons were the non-Popeye the Sailor “Famous Studios” cartoons, rebranded as “Harveytoons” for Harvey Comics, and featured Casper the Friendly Ghost and others.
But by 1962, Matty’s Funday Funnies was rebranded with an animated version of the classic Beany and Cecil puppet show. Here’s a rare clip with the opening and closing “Matty’s Funnies” titles.
Fun stuff, amirite?
Beany and Cecil would later move from prime time to ABC’s Saturday morning cartoon block, and eventually to syndication – minus the “Matty’s Funday Funnies” titles.
Even in the syndicated episodes, this show had a ton of puns. A ton of them. Check out “The Wildman of Wildsville,” a beatnik-themed adventure. And oh yeah, if you know who Lord Buckley is … he’s the Wildman in this cartoon.
But after time, Beany and Cecil faded out of the syndication mix. It wasn’t until the advent of home video, when VHS copies of the old Beany and Cecil cartoons became big sellers, that someone decided to remake the series for another Saturday morning run.
That someone … was John Kricfalusi. Kricfalusi, who would achieve fame with his Ren and Stimpy cartoon series, was hired to create the animation in time for ABC’s September 1988 premiere week. But …
This is what he produced.
The show was edgier than the 1960’s version, and there were moments in the revival that made ABC cringe – so much so, in fact, that although eight episodes were made, only four and a half ever aired – I say “and a half,” because half of one episode’s content was replaced with a 1960’s episode. Oof. And in a blink-and-you-miss it moment, this episode I’ve embedded, “The Brotherhood of B.L.E.C.H.,” was written by Chuck Lorre. Yes, Two and a Half Men / Big Bang Theory Chuck Lorre.
And then Beany and Cecil went back into the vaults.
Which, in itself, is kind of a shame. It was a really awesome show (the 1988 revival notwithstanding), and deserves another go-round. Or at least a rebroadcast of the 1960’s episodes.
So come on kids, let’s flip our lids …
Higher than the moon …
And now it’s Beany and Cecil in …
A Bob Clampett CartoooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON!!!