Frames of Time...
087_04 - Cro Knows
The series was based on the children's book "How Things Work". It was an educational series done for ABC to help them meet FCC requirements. To make the factual book into a series, Children's Television Workshop built it around the idea of a mammoth being unfrozen in modern times. The mammoth would then relate his adventures in prehistoric times with early man as such things as the wheel and lever were being discovered. Along with CTW, the National Science Institute (I believe was the name of the org) was involved as factual watchdog.
From the start, the series proved to be extremely difficult. Scripts were continually being re-written due to the needs for "correct science". Even after they were approved and put into production, we would get new notes about "concerns" on how the science was being handled. The art side was equally in flux. At first the Science group demanded all the animals look realistic, with no "cartoon" look. They did not want 'jelly bean' mammoths. However, when CTW and ABC saw a cast of characters that were all brown, a wider range of colors were allowed.
This was the first of the difficult series I had to handle. Rather than a single creator, there were no less than three parties to meld. There was CTW, the Science group, and ABC, and all were often at odds with each other. ABC was the easiest to deal with, they just wanted an educational show. The Science group, though generally unable to visualize anything by strict science, at least was a constant.
CTW was in constant revision mode. Part of this was because it was the first animated series CTW had ever attempted. They weren't aware of the time necessary for production, nor of the hurdles they were throwing at production. The story editor once stated they had the perfect name - Children's Television Workshop. He said they were like a lot of children in a workshop trying to create TV programming.
The strongest guiding hand was the producer, Bob Richardson. It was my first time working with Bob. He was a perfectionist, but also a man of great patience. At times, when a new demand or revision would come in, he would take a deep breath, and I expected an explosion. Not Bob. He would simply hold that breath, then slowly let it out. Then he would look at the note and move on.
Finally, we were finishing shows and delivering them to the network. ABC had almost half a dozen shows in hand. They were going to debut the series in a few weeks. Then a new memo came in. CTW suddenly felt there were "too many" teeth in the dire wolve's mouths. It would be too frightening to children. At about this point, Bob and I were heading off to Marvel Films. The new producer was forced to pull all the prints back from ABC, and call retakes on all the scenes that featured wolves so they could re-animate them with the new model that had fewer teeth.
It is no surprise that a series with so little "teeth" is so little remembered. However, I was surprised to recently see it repeating on the Hallmark channel. It looks good. It has some good science. Cro knows.
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