Frames of Time...
077_04 - Garfield & Friends' Tails
As mentioned earlier, the series was a true melting pot of personalities. I mentioned a few briefly, and thought I would talk a bit more on some of the amazing crew.
George Singer was the first producer on the series. He had come over from Hanna-Barbera. Upon my arrival on the series, a few weeks into production, I was told we would have to "keep an eye" on George to keep him on schedule. Actually, George was very good at getting the material through on time. This would have made him the perfect producer... except for his continual desire to revise and change material. George would suddenly decide to look at a storyboard approved months ago for "tweaks". He would tell the overseas studio to change the order of segments, creating chaos as they had to stop one segment and start on another in an attempt to keep on schedule.
Though completely frustrating to the studio, network and overseas production, at least George was doing what he thought was best. Sadly, he began to have "creative differences" with some of the other major elements involved. His desire to throw in small visual gags and takes were not always appreciated. One of the upper elements discovered that Jim Davis did not like most Saturday morning cartoons, complaining that Hanna-Barbera was a poor studio. Whenever George might add a bit of business, all someone had to tell Jim was that it looked "Hanna-Barbera" and the gag was cut.
After around 26 half hours, George moved on. He eventually worked on some overseas features, who regarded his experience at Hanna-Barbera as a benefit, not detraction. George eventually retired from the business. (A number of folks were shocked when one of these elements who worked so hard to discredit George on the show wrote an obit on George and spoke of nothing but praise... but then few seldom speak ill of the dead.)
Second in line was Bob Curtis, a genial fellow who had experience in live-action films as well as commercial animation. Bob's laid-back style hid a sharp wit. He had come into the Garfield family as our first overseas supervisors. In fact, after one fax when George had, once again, changed the order of shows. Bob wrote back that he was at an animation studio, not a fast food restaurant.
After a short stint on Garfield, Bob was moved over to other series at Film Roman including ZAZOO U (FOX) and MOTHER GOOSE AND GRIMM (CBS). Neither were hits, causing the networks to "blame" Bob for their failures. To show how this works, Phil (Roman) once got a TV series away from his old boss Bill Melendez because of Melendez's Saturday morning Peanuts show. Despite having done dozens of popular and award winning Peanut specials, the network felt the failure of the Saturday morning show was due to Melendez! Bob is now working in Germany.
Bob Nessler was brought on for a season to produce the show. His style was quite different from George's and Bob's. Eventually Bob moved over to the feature division to work on TOM AND JERRY: THE MOTION PICTURE. Ironically, the year that Bob worked on the show was the same year Lee Mendelson (exec producer for United Media), decided to buy TV Academy memberships for the entire studio. The increase in membership allowed Garfield to be nominated in the Saturday Morning category. Mendelson did not renew any memberships; so most employees dropped out. The series was never nominated again.
Vincent ("Vince") Davis was the final producer. Vince is a true rarity in the producing business. He is a guy who really likes to make cartoons and wants everyone else to have fun too. Vince had worked at various studios, and on independent films and comics. This gave him a creative depth that other TV animation producers did not always develop. He had also worked overseas, where he met his lovely wife. This experience allowed Vince to keep shows clear of confusion for the overseas workers.
As much as he enjoyed his work, he was never taken in by the process or those who ran it. One of his favorite "gags" was to tape money onto an inner page of a storyboard sent to networks. These boards were the ones that the network supposedly read to approve for use. Sometimes he taped a $1 bill, sometimes a $5. Once he taped a $20 bill. He would always state he was doing it to see if anyone at the network really looked at the board.
After doing this for almost two years we received a call from Judy Price, head of the network. She had found a Garfield board with a $10 bill in it. She asked us if we were trying to bribe the network to let it pass! He laughed and told her that he did that frequently just to see if folks were reading the board. Judy paused and then said she did read all the boards. But this was the first with money she had seen. Vince then said, "now you know how your assistant can afford all those expensive lunches!"
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