CLOSE
Original image

The Beatles Cartoons

Original image

In September of 1965, the Beatles were the hottest act in the history of show business.

In addition to their millions of record and album sales and their sold out concerts all over the world, the Fab Four garnered record-high ratings on their TV appearances and had starred in two smash hit movies, A Hard Day's Night (1964) and Help! (1965). Beatles T-shirts, posters, books, magazines, wigs, stockings, boots, guitars, bubble bath, trading cards, hats, and more were saturating the world market.

With all of the massive worldwide Beatles production machines churning away at full blast, what was left?

This question was answered on Saturday, September 25, 1965. On that date, at 10:30 a.m., The Beatles animated cartoon series aired on ABC.

Episode 1 of The Beatles cartoon

The Music

During season one, each show opened with a guitar riff from "A Hard Day's Night," then switched to the song "Can't Buy Me Love" as the foursome is seen being chased by a mob of crazed girl fans (a la the movie A Hard Day's Night). During season two, the theme from Help! was used. For season three, "And Your Bird Can Sing" was used over a different cartoon sequence.

Reality was often overlooked in the show, as sometimes John was shown singing lead on a Paul song, and vice versa. In one episode, during the song "I'll Be Back," left-handed drummer Ringo is seen playing a guitar right-handed.

Ringo receives a guitar in episode 9 around 1:12 and begins playing it right-handed shortly thereafter

The Episodes

Thirty-nine episodes of the series were to be aired over the next four years, each episode being divided into two separate segments (for 78 segments in all). Each segment told of the band's wacky adventures and featured a Beatles song.

To describe the segments as juvenile and puerile is possibly an understatement — in one, the boys encounter a lovesick octopus, in another they are upstaged by an intellectually gifted ape named "Mr. Marvelous," and in another they encounter a boxed-up elephant named "Beethoven" and try to get him released.

In between each set of two segments was a "sing-along" portion of the show, in which a Beatles song was played with its lyrics printed onscreen, encouraging the viewers to do just that: sing along.

In this clip from episode 22, George and Ringo introduce the sing-along to "Tell Me Why" (about 0:55 to 2:53)

The Characters

The Beatles characters on the show were based on the early "moptop" Beatles, an image that the band had already completely discarded early in the series' run. The John and Paul characters sported ties and collarless Beatles jackets, while the George and Ringo characters wore more casual turtleneck outfits.

One of the strange things about the series is the insistence on keeping the early "moptop" look for the Beatles, even though by the end of the show's run, they had all grown mustaches and beards, dropped their moptop haircuts, and dressed in psychedelic clothes. A brief nod is given in a later episode, as John is seen singing while wearing his trademark glasses, but this was the exception to the rule.

The early Beatles image and stereotypes can clearly be seen in the show, i.e. John, the brash and confident group leader; Paul, clearly second in command, the smooth and well-spoken one; George, rather less-defined than the others; and Ringo, the clown, the band's comic relief and foil.

In this episode from 1966, Ringo spills an entire vat of crushed grapes at a winery, and the boys have to refill it

The Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, is also glimpsed, albeit very briefly, in one of the series' later segments.

The Voices

John and George were both voiced by an American voice-over actor named Paul Frees, while a British voice-over actor named Lance Percival voiced Paul and Ringo. The voices of the animated band sounded not even remotely like the actual Beatles. (Paul Frees said he did John as "a Rex Harrison voice," which he thought was quite good.) Lance Percival recalled voicing Paul as "bright and cheerful" and Ringo as "the low-voiced fall guy for the humor." Jack Stokes, director for the series at TVC, says that the voices sounded nothing like the Beatles' own Liverpool accents, "just some daft idea of how we English sound to Americans."

"The Beatles hated them," he added.

The Band's Visit

A highlight of making the show for those who worked on it was the day the Beatles actually came to visit them at the show's New York studio and watch a few episodes of the series. For the visit, each of the Beatles was assigned his own personal bodyguard.

One of the members of the crew recalls the band was friendly and communicative, although George less so than the others. A strip club was located across the street from the animation studio, and another crew member recalls the strippers "hanging out the windows" trying to get a glimpse of the boys.

Ed Vane of ABC-TV remembers the reaction of the Beatles as being "very positive. They were extremely amused by it," he said, "Ringo especially. He was chuckling away and making little comments and joshing with the others."

"They liked it at first," says Lance Percival. "It was an ego thing, but then they got picky. Ringo was okay with it all, and he said to me, 'I see you made me the dumb-dumb.' I told him afterwards, 'No, that's just the way the scripts were written.'"

After the screening, there was a cocktail party and buffet. During the party, John crawled underneath the buffet table on all fours, where he asked for some wine. Interestingly, although there was a huge banquet of food at the gathering, when John looked out the window and saw a New York hot dog vendor, he immediately asked one of the Beatles aides to go down and buy him four or five hot dogs.

Reactions to the Show

The show was a smash hit in the ratings for season one, but the ratings slowly fell off in the intervening years. By the show's fourth—and final—season, it was switched from Saturday mornings to Sundays, and only reruns were shown. By September of 1969, when the show limped to a close, the episodes seemed hopelessly dated and irrelevant.

The Beatles' reported lack of initial interest in the animated film Yellow Submarine (1968) was mainly based on their less-than-positive memories of The Beatles cartoon series. (Both the film's director, George Dunning, and one of its animators, Al Brodax, worked on both projects.) After viewing Yellow Submarine, the Beatles were enthralled and agreed to film a brief 52-second cameo appearance at the film's conclusion.

Although there was definitely initial animosity toward the show, The Beatles cartoons seem to have grown on the boys as the years passed. In his later years in New York, John was to say, "You know, I still get a blast out of watching the Beatle cartoons on TV." Even George, often the surliest of the Beatles, was quoted as saying of the Beatles toons: "I always kind of liked them. They were so bad or silly they were good, if you know what I mean." Grinning, he added:

"And I think the passage of time might make them more fun now."

Eddie Deezen has appeared in over 30 motion pictures, including Grease, WarGames, 1941, and The Polar Express. He's also been featured in several TV shows, including Magnum PI, The Facts of Life, and The Gong Show. And he's done thousands of voice-overs for radio and cartoons, such as Dexter's Laboratory and Family Guy.

Read all Eddie's mental_floss stories.

twitterbanner.jpg

Original image
Karrah Kobus/NPG Records via Getty Images
arrow
Pop Culture
5 Killer Pieces of Rock History Up for Auction Now (Including Prince’s Guitar)
Original image
Karrah Kobus/NPG Records via Getty Images

If you’ve ever wanted to own a piece of rock history, now is the time. A whole host of cool music memorabilia from the 20th century is going up for sale through Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles as part of its “Icons and Idols” sale. If you’ve got the dough, you can nab everything from leather chairs from Graceland to a shirt worn by Jimi Hendrix to never-before-available prints that Joni Mitchell signed and gave to her friends. Here are five highlights from the auction:

1. ELVIS’S NUNCHUCKS

Elvis’s nunchucks
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

Elvis’s karate skills sometimes get a bad rap, but the King earned his first black belt in 1960, and went on to become a seventh-degree black belt before opening his own studio in 1974. You can cherish a piece of his martial arts legacy in the form of his nunchaku. One was broken during his training, but the other is still in ready-to-use shape. (But please don’t use it.) It seems Elvis wasn’t super convinced of his own karate skills, though, because he also supposedly carried a police baton (which you can also buy) for his personal protection.

2. PRINCE’S GUITAR

A blue guitar used by Prince
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

Prince’s blue Cloud guitar, estimated to be worth between $60,000 and $80,000, appeared on stage with him in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The custom guitar was made just for Prince by Cloud’s luthier (as in, guitar maker) Andy Beech. The artist first sold it at a 1994 auction to benefit relief efforts for the L.A. area’s devastating Northridge earthquake.

3. KURT COBAIN’S CHEERLEADER OUTFIT

Kurt Cobain wearing a cheerleader outfit in the pages of Rolling Stone
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

The Nirvana frontman wore the bright-yellow cheerleader’s uniform from his alma mater, J.M. Weatherwax High School in Aberdeen, Washington, during a photo shoot for a January 1994 issue of Rolling Stone, released just a few months before his death.

4. MICHAEL JACKSON’S WHITE GLOVE

A white glove covered in rhinestones
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

A young Michael Jackson wore this bejeweled right-hand glove on his 1981 Triumph Tour, one of the first of many single gloves he would don over the course of his career. Unlike later incarnations, this one isn’t a custom-made glove with hand-sewn crystals, but a regular glove topped with a layer of rhinestones cut into the shape of the glove and sewn on top.

The auction house is also selling a pair of jeans the star wore to his 2003 birthday party, as well as other clothes he wore for music videos and performances.

5. WOOD FROM ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS

A piece of wood in a frame under a picture of The Beatles
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

You can’t walk the halls of Abbey Road Studios, but you can pretend. First sold in 1986, the piece of wood in this frame reportedly came from Studio Two, a recording space that hosted not only The Beatles (pictured), but Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, and others.

Original image
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
arrow
Pop Culture
How Jimmy Buffett Turned 'Margaritaville' Into a Way of Life
Original image
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Few songs have proven as lucrative as “Margaritaville,” a modest 1977 hit by singer and songwriter Jimmy Buffett that became an anthem for an entire life philosophy. The track was the springboard for Buffett’s business empire—restaurants, apparel, kitchen appliances, and more—marketing the taking-it-easy message of its tropical print lyrics.

After just a few years of expanding that notion into other ventures, the “Parrot Heads” of Buffett’s fandom began to account for $40 million in annual revenue—and that was before the vacation resorts began popping up.

Jimmy Buffett performs for a crowd
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

“Margaritaville,” which turned 40 this year, was never intended to inspire this kind of devotion. It was written after Buffett, as an aspiring musician toiling in Nashville, found himself in Key West, Florida, following a cancelled booking in Miami and marveling at the sea of tourists clogging the beaches.

Like the other songs on his album, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, it didn’t receive a lot of radio play. Instead, Buffett began to develop his following by opening up for The Eagles. Even at 30, Buffett was something less than hip—a flip-flopped performer with a genial stage presence that seemed to invite an easygoing vibe among crowds. “Margaritaville,” an anthem to that kind of breezy attitude, peaked at number eight on the Billboard charts in 1977. While that’s impressive for any single, its legacy would quickly evolve beyond the music industry's method for gauging success.

What Buffett realized as he continued to perform and tour throughout the early 1980s is that “Margaritaville” had the ability to sedate audiences. Like a hypnotist, the singer could immediately conjure a specific time and place that listeners wanted to revisit. The lyrics painted a scene of serenity that became a kind of existential vacation for Buffett's fans:

Nibblin' on sponge cake,
Watchin' the sun bake;
All of those tourists covered with oil.
Strummin' my six string on my front porch swing.
Smell those shrimp —
They're beginnin' to boil.

By 1985, Buffett was ready to capitalize on that goodwill. In Key West, he opened a Margaritaville store, which sold hats, shirts, and other ephemera to residents and tourists looking to broadcast their allegiance to his sand-in-toes fantasy. (A portion of the proceeds went to Save the Manatees, a nonprofit organization devoted to animal conservation.) The store also sold the Coconut Telegraph, a kind of propaganda newsletter about all things Buffett and his chill perspective.

When Buffett realized patrons were coming in expecting a bar or food—the song was named after a mixed drink, after all—he opened a cafe adjacent to the store in late 1987. The configuration was ideal, and through the 1990s, Buffett and business partner John Cohlan began erecting Margaritaville locations in Florida, New Orleans, and eventually Las Vegas and New York. All told, more than 21 million people visit a Buffett-inspired hospitality destination every year.

A parrot at Margaritaville welcomes guests
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Margaritaville-branded tequila followed. So, too, did a line of retail foods like hummus, a book of short stories, massive resorts, a Sirius radio channel, and drink blenders. Buffett even wrote a 242-page script for a Margaritaville movie that he had hoped to film in the 1980s. It’s one of the very few Margaritaville projects that has yet to have come to fruition, but it might be hard for Buffett to complain much. In 2015, his entire empire took in $1.5 billion in sales.

As of late, Buffett has signed off on an Orlando resort due to open in 2018, offering “casual luxury” near the boundaries of Walt Disney World. (One in Hollywood, Florida, is already a hit, boasting a 93 percent occupancy rate.) Even for guests that aren’t particularly familiar with his music, “Jimmy Buffett” has become synonymous with comfort and relaxation just as surely as Walt Disney has with family entertainment. The association bodes well for a business that will eventually have to move beyond Buffett’s concert-going loyalists.

Not that he's looking to leave them behind. The 70-year-old Buffett is planning on a series of Margaritaville-themed retirement communities, with the first due to open in Daytona Beach in 2018. More than 10,000 Parrot Heads have already registered, eager to watch the sun set while idling in a frame of mind that Buffett has slowly but surely turned into a reality.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios