A King Features Production Color Half-hour September 25, 1965 - September 7, 1969 Syndicated Executive Producer: Al Brodax Associate Producer: Mary Ellen Stewart Production Manager: Abe Goodman Voices of the Beatles: Paul Frees (John and George) Lance Percival (Paul and Ringo)
Produced in 1965, the series came about through the efforts of producer Al Brodax at King Features after he was approached by an ABC executive with the idea of producing a Beatles cartoon. Famous toymaker A.C. Gilmer, who envisioned a merchandising goldmine, financed the series.
For those that are unaware, King features made a cartoon series around the Beatles, that featured our heroes in cartoon form. The real Beatles really had little to do with the series, apart from the fact that original music was used for the soundtrack, this usually gave the episode its title. Each cartoon went for approx. 8-10 min, followed by a two-song sing-along, then followed again by another cartoon.
Premiering on ABC on Saturday, September 25, 1965, at 10:30am, the show was an instant ratings hit. The first episodes aired were "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and "A Hard Day's Night." It racked up a 13 score (or 52 percent share), which up to that time was unheard of in daytime television. Apart from the two cartoons per episode, each half-hour show comprised of two singalongs and occasional fillers. The singalongs were an original Beatles song with a small cartoon clip to go along with it. Generally these clips were pretty basic. The words of the songs were displayed, so the audience could get to learn the songs, and sing with the Beatles. The singalongs were a special part of the show, there were 76 in all. The fillers were basically small skits that were a few seconds long.
The Beatles cartoons got a number of Beatle's mannerisms down pat. For example, John's legs-apart, guitar-playing/singing stance, Paul's left-handed bass-playing, George's Gretch guitar and foot-tapping, etc.
Besides two weekly cartoons, the Beatles cartoon show was famous for its clever bridges between episodes and commercials. These included dry, comic vignettes, such as Ringo buying a newspaper from a street vendor and getting hit by a car, only to complain afterwards, "There's not a word in here about me accident!"
The voices of the Beatles' cartoon lookalikes were supplied by two voice actors, Paul Frees (John and George) and Lance Percival (Paul and Ringo). Frees recorded his voices in America, while Lance Percival recorded the voices of Paul and Ringo in England. Animation was sent overseas to TVC of London, which produced the Beatles cult feature, The Yellow Submarine, while Astransa an Australian company, did the bulk of the animation. And scripts were turned out rather easily since episodes were based on popular Beatles songs.
"It took about four weeks to animate each film and I enjoyed it immensely," recalled Chris Cuddington, a series animator. "The characters were easy to draw, and the stories were simple and uncomplicated."
Following the first season's success, Brodax considered producing four Beatles prime-time animated specials. But plans to produce them and several other musical-based cartoon seriessuch as, animated versions of "Herman's Hermits & Freddie" and the "Dreamers" were never fully materialized.
The Beatles remained on ABC for three more years until 1969, the series lost ground during its second season, and the final two seasons being reruns of original cartoons.
When "Batman" premiered on ABC's prime time lineup in January 1966, and became an instant hit, CBS decided to overhaul their Saturday morning lineup.
CBS were to focus on superheros, "Frankenstein Jr. and The Impossibles", "Space Ghost", "Superman", "Mighty Mouse" and "The Mighty Heroes." "Space Ghost" was slotted opposite the Beatles, and while the ratings for the Beatles were reasonable, at 7.7 a 36% share, "Space Ghost" was hot, at 9.66 a 44% share. Despite the fact that new episodes were made for the Beatles series, it was obvious that a trend had been set.
In the fall of 1967, seven more weeks of new episodes were made for the Beatles series which now aired on ABC at 12noon (Eastern time) opposite "Top Cat" on NBC and the second half of the "Superman/Aquaman" hour on CBS. The 1967 Beatles episodes were more surreal, meant to reach more than just kids as an audience. But CBS's strategy had paid off. "Jonny Quest" was CBS's hit, and its lead-in of "Superman/Aquaman" prompted ABC to begin phasing out the Beatles series by scheduling it at 9:30am, Sunday mornings, in the fall of 1968.
ABC's Sunday morning clearance rate was and still is very low. The Beatles last telecast was Sunday, September 7, 1969. Regarding the cancellation of the Beatles show, Fred Silverman (then of CBS) told TV Guide, "Kids get tired of shows quickly. They would rather watch new shows than repeats of old ones."
It is surprising to note that the series didn't have its debut on British television until 1980 when they featured on early morning TV on Granada. It wasn't until 1988 that the full series was featured on British television on ITV's Night Network magazine show. It has been reported that the Beatles themselves blocked the screening of the series on British televeision.
Now that Apple own the rights to the series, a video compilation is planned.
Excerpted and paraphrased from the Encyclopedia Of Animated Cartoons by Jeff Lenburg