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Filmation’s Marx Brothers?

Thank God for small favors… As far as I know this show doesn’t exist. Fred Grandinetti sent me this trade ad from Broadcasting Magazine (February, 1966) offering a Marx Bros. cartoon package from Filmation. Was there be a pilot? The ad offers a screening, so… could be? This was in the era when Hanna Barbera was producing Abbott and Costello, and Laurel and Hardy cartoons. In light of what Filmation would do to Jerry Lewis a few years later, let’s consider ourselves lucky the brothers Marx weren’t subjected to their cheapjack production methods.

  • Couldn’t have been any worse than Hanna-Barbera’s “3 Robonic Stooges”.

  • Jay Sabicer

    WTF?—I mean, why a duck? I’m curious on who did the character designs, and if Harpo would’ve been a blond or a red-head?

    Could’ve been worse Jerry, Sam Singer might have been attached to it.

  • Christopher Cook

    Related: In 1973, Filmation was tapped to do a “McHale’s Navy” cartoon for ABC on Saturday mornings.

  • fishmorgjp

    Yow, I never heard of this one before! Ahh, the anarchic antics of the Marx Brothers depicted in Filmation SatAM cartoons… pee-yew!!

  • Daniel J. Drazen

    I’m surprised that they didn’t do a guest shot on Scooby-Doo along with Laurel and Hardy and the Harlem Globetrotters.

  • Sorry to disagree, but, “Will the Real jerry Lewis Please Sit Down?” was “must see TV” for me, back in the day!

    Even if it wasn’t the Real jerry Lewis.

  • Tom Heres

    Remember those extra cheesy non-Robonic Stooge ‘toons of yore? They featured Joe DeRita’s fake curly, and I believe they were sprung on the public sometime in the sixties. Awful stuff. Wait a minute! I forgot about the Google machine! Hold on…

    Yup! Here we go. It was a product of Cambria Studios in 1965. I watched it on Paul Shannon’s Adventuretime in Pittsburgh as a tad.

    BTW, Cambria was the outfit that made Space Angel and Clutch Cargo.

  • top cat james

    This post reminds me of a proposed Blues Brothers prime time animated series produced by Film Roman that I saw numerous articles and trade announcements about in the mid to late 90’s. Guess the failure of the “Blues Brothers 2000” movie put the kibosh on that project.

  • Scott

    Looks like a “trial balloon” to me.

  • Joseph Nebus

    Didn’t … uh … Rankin-Bass do a special with various Classic Comedians of Yore, including a segment with the Four Marx Brothers from one of their stage routines? I have this nagging feeling of wonder at (Paul Frees?) doing the voices of two or three Marx Brothers for the same feature. Though I think one of them was Zeppo.

  • Jason

    My god, can you think of a more inappropriate cartoon for kids? One featuring Groucho slinking along flipping those eyebrows, spouting double-entendres, and even worse, *smoking a cigar*? Harpo chasing blondes over tables? Chico speaking in an Italian accent so lamentable it could easily have sparked a lawsuit from the Italian Anti-Defamation League? Sheesh. And yet I can see such an abomination being produced. After all, Depatie-Freleng did a doggie version of “All In The Family”. GAHH!!! One of my worst childhood memories…

  • Bob Kane, co-creator of Batman, met with Groucho Marx and drew proposals for a series called “The Marx Brothers.” He wrote of this in his autobiography, “Batman and Me.” Could this be the fruits of his labor?

  • They may have tried to tape a pilot but they couldn’t get a pilot to tape.

  • I’m guessing Groucho didn’t like the project. Groucho typically (and usually) threaten to sue anyone attempting to use his image.

    The 1960’s also subjected us to “The New Three Stooges” with Moe, Larry & Curly Joe doing live introductions for each cartoon (which they also voiced).

  • darin m

    I love the Marx Brothers but there was something sad at the end there. Reminds me of the attempt to get Chico out of gambling debts with that gawd awful guardian angels pilot. Bleechh.

  • John

    I suppose the world missed out on the stock image — used with different characters in just about every single Filmation show of the late 60s-early 70s — of Groucho and Harpo playing electric guitars (Groucho in the Archie position, Harpo in the Reggie pose), with Chico taking Betty’s place on the keyboard (no they weren’t going to spend any extra $$$ to acutally animate Harpo playing a harp).

    And to finish it off, Zeppo either on drums, like Jughead, or dancing through the scene, like Hot Dog.

  • Ron

    There’s already an animated incarnation of the Marx Brothers- it’s called the Animaniacs! Seriously though, the Marxes have influenced animation in many ways. Not the least of which is several iconic characters that are clearly derived from them: Bugs Bunny from Groucho and Dopey from Harpo to name two. My dream project would be to animate the Marx Brothers for something. I would just hope that it would be true to their spirit.

    There was an unmade movie that the Marxes were going to make called “A Day at the U.N.” with Billy Wilder directing. Chico died before they could make it though. I wonder if Animation would be the way to finally bring it to life. If not that, there was a Broadway musical written for the Marx Bros. after they died called “A Day in Hollywood, A Night in the Ukraine” that might be good for animation too.

  • cliffclaven

    Yes, there was a strange Rankin-Bass special titled, I think, “The Mad Mad Mad Comedians”, with an annoying theme song. It felt like a pilot, and the gimmick was animating comedy records and old radio shows (live laughs, audience noises and low-grade sound).

    Pretty sure the Marx Brothers bit was a radio show. Aside from a few Dr. Katz-type added gags the animation was totally redundant, since the bits were naturally designed to be heard only.

  • Peter

    Mad mad mad comedians had the voice of Groucho as himself. That may be the pilot they were offering to screen. They did the Napoleon scene with Paul Frees as Chico. Groucho reportedly raved at how good Frees’ Chico impression was. I’m sure Groucho would have been happy to do the series, he was always amazed that people still loved the Brothers.

  • Peter
  • The Rankin-Bass special was “The Mad, Mad, Mad Comedians.” The Marx Bros “contribution” was the Napoleon scene from their 1924 Broadway hodgepodge, “I’ll Say She Is.” Groucho provided his own voice; Frees did Chico and Zeppo. George Burns and Jack Benny appear as well in a different sketch, voicing themselves. It’s an interesting curio. I’d be shocked if Jerry didn’t have a copy somewhere in his archive.


  • Christopher Smigliano

    I remember seeing artwork (publicity still) for yet ANOTHER Marx Brothers series a few years ago. THE MARX BROTHERS ENCYLOPEDIA commented that the series only got as far as a press kit, and that there were a lot of imaginative ideas- as well as a big dollop of political correctiveness, espceiclly with the Marxes being a mentor to a young, modern woman, rather than the Margaret Dumont type.

  • uncle wayne

    if ever you want to punish someone……ANNNNNY one….just make ’em sit thru 1 MINUTE of those L&H or 3 S. toons!!

    And a 60s Popeye for dessert!!

  • I saw “A Day in Hollywood, A Night in the Ukrane”.
    Better to leave well enough alone.

  • In researching my book (see link above) I was informed of an animated series from Japan that was based on the Marx Brothers’ radio series Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel. I have no idea as to the style or content of the show but one of my contacts apparently has an episode. It’s one I’d love to see just as reassurance it actually exists!

  • sporridge

    A Groucho children’s record, c. 1949:

    It’s selection #12, just follow the instructions. I recall hearing Groucho’s other attempts to entertain the kiddies years ago on “Dr. Demento.”

    (When in NYC, see if the Paley Center for Media still has Groucho’s turn in “The Mikado” immediately accessible)

  • John S

    Writer/producer Mark Evanier (best known among animation viewers for GARFIELD AND FRIENDS) tells a very funny story about meeting with producers for a proposed Marx Brothers animated series here. He offered some opinions on voice talent.

  • Christopher Cook

    On “Will The Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down?,” Jerry created it but that was his only input. His voice was David L. Lander, then of the underground comedy troupe the Credibility Gap, more well known as Lenny on “Laverne & Shirley.”

  • Christopher Cook

    My bad…Lander was Squiggy.

  • Mike Fontanelli

    I agree – popular culture dodged a bullet. Thank the Great Pumpkin this was never produced. Only thing worse I could think of would be if DIC produced a color, CGI remake of Keaton’s “The GENERAL”. (Buster laughs, sings, and – just to make the nightmare complete – the South wins for a happy ending…)

  • Alex Printz

    marx brothers can be seen in 4 disney shorts…

    three marx brothers are king cole’s fiddlers three in “Mother Goose Goes Hollywood”

    Harpo Marx is on the Hollywood team in “Mickey’s Polo Team”

    4 Marx Birds are featured in the silly symphoneis “The Bird Store”

    Mickey’s Gala Premiere also features them, but I’ve never personally seen it.

  • Bob

    I don’t suppose there were any plans to do a Ritz Brothers cartoon show?

  • Professor Widebottom

    As we all hold our noses at these grotesque cartoon recasts, isn’t it the same retread-a-franchise trajectory of the film business for last couple decades? At least this old crap was confined to the margins of TV. Our culture hasn’t given us much of a pedestal to look down and judge.

  • Jason

    I remember seeing that “Mad Mad Comedians” thing. I think it opened with a skit from the Smothers Brothers, where they were singing the song “Slithery Dee”, and then a sea monster ate Tommy Smothers. I was just a kid and I didn’t like that part at all. It kinda freaked me out. And I vaguely remember the Marx Bros. thing. My overall memory though is that it wasn’t a very good special.

    I also remember seeing an Abbott and Costello cartoon, and Abbott voiced himself (Costello had died years before). Didn’t care for it either (although I loved many of A & C’s movies).

  • Tom Heres

    Does anybody have any information on the George Pal Wheeler and Woolsey shorts of the late thirties?

    /I keed, I keed!

  • Alfons Moline

    There was also a project to do a Charlie Chaplin animated series in the late 80´s, based on his Little Tramp character, to be co-produced between Nelvana and Ellipse, under licence of the Chaplin estate. Apparently it was never produced (I wonder if at least a pilot exists?), though there is a full-page ad in the catalogue of the 1989 Annecy Festival promoting such series.

  • Dimetrodon O’Donoghue

    Warners is said to be developing a CGI cartoon series around Olsen and Johnson wearing metallic exo-suits, set 4000 years in the future. The first sign of a real project is it sounds like a horrible joke.

  • vzk

    I take that Termite Terrace short with the 3 Stooges, Laurel, and Groucho a million times over anything so-far mentioned on this blogpost.

  • The early (1930s-1940s) animated caricatures of famous comedians were fairly accurate because they were contemporary, and generally the cartoons were well-produced. These later incarnations were produced in the 1960s and 1970s when the vintage funnymen were mostly dead and only half-remembered by the cartoon producers, and were resurrected in incredibly cheap cartoons.

    The 1960s Laurel & Hardy cartoons were produced by Larry Harmon, who assured Stan Laurel that he (Stan) would have plenty of input on the series. Once Laurel signed the contract, he never heard from Harmon again regarding the cartoons. The L&H cartoon pilot that Larry Harmon produced was so bad that NBC refused to pick up the series, so Harmon was forced to syndicate them.

    A good website containing Stan Laurel’s correspondence with Harmon is called “Letters from Stan”:

  • Chrisbo

    Was that “Mad Comedians” show the one where Flip Wilson (as Geraldine playing queen Isabella of Spain) is excited at the prospect of Christopher Columbus sailing to America and discovering Ray Charles? Sounds crazy, I know, but it’s a very clear late 60’s childhood memory.

  • Rob Sanchez

    After noticing this blog about a month ago or so , I was compelled to write something at that point of time . But it so happens that I process a six minute cartoon short – of the marx-bros . It was produced by a late friend of mine & was made , I believe in the Early 70’s . It contains some popular name voice-over’s in it . I do believe it was shown on a major network- one early Saturday morning , briefly in the late 70’s , but I’m not entirely sure ? I plan in January 2010 to maybe give to a museum of sort , to give it the proper respect that it’s deserved . Unfortunately , It is not allowed to be duplicated or even shown at any time due to the strict policy – that involves that of the Groucho Marx Estate . For now we see what happens . And hope for the best , because this is my second plea on this subject . I will post in the future of any new developments that should happen to occure after this ~ On this very site . And By The Way , Happy Birthday ! Groucho Marx !

  • J Jolles

    Does anyone know where I can get a copy of the DVD of this marx bros cartoon from 1966? I will gladly pay for it.

  • Eyyecch! Well…twice there was Warner Brothers’s W.C.Fields..I mean, “W.C.Gimbel” in 1940 and “Merlin the Magic Mouse” in 1967-1969.

  • Filmation produced the whole pilot for this show and you can actually see pretty much the whole thing in a video of “SDCC 2012: Lou Scheimer Creating the Filmation Generation Panel” from last year, where they played it (except that at the very end of it, they turned away and showed the panel):

    It doesn’t seem that bad. (Though it’s hard to tell from the poor “taping of a projection picture” quality).

    It’s pretty much like any other 60’s low budget cartoon. Like a cross between the HB, Jay Ward and Rankin Bass stuff of the time. And as always, the backgrounds are better that those other studios, making up for the limited animation. Since all of their stuff before Archie was super adventure, I always wondered what a comedy show by them in ’66 or before would have been like.

    The producer names “dance” around, changing position, prefuguring the circle (That Scheimer said was to make it so that neither ws “first”).

    Pat Harrington is Groucho. In the Scheimer book, he says “an old vaudeville guy” was the Indian, and you’ll clearly recognize in the film as Joe Besser, sounding identical to “Babu” (Did he think no one would recognize the name?) Another guy sounds like Paul Frees, but Scheimer had said Ted Knight did all the other voices.

    As far as the Jerry Lewis show, Scheimer was actually pretty hard on himself in the book. Sounding much like Jerry [here] and others, he said “It was a terrible show. I mean, we didn’t do him justice, and it was tough”. (p.76)

    I don’t really remember the Jerry Lewis show enough to judge, but this Marx Bros. pilot seemed OK enough to have been made into a series. They should put a directly recorded video file of this on YouTube, or at least as an extra on Classic Media DVD’s.

    • Carson Maitland – Smith

      If only Matt Groening did a reboot on Scooby Doo

  • Here’s some testt footage;

    • James Fox

      That’s not the Filmation pilot

  • Carson Maitland – Smith

    How Seth MacFaarlane put Laurel and Hardy on Family Guy like he did with The Three Stooges