Tele-tactics

Back around 1975-1977 there was a 3rd-rate non-union animation studio in New York that many of my friends worked for. It was called Tele-tactics and I know very little about the place, except that they produced commercials, industrial films and at least two animated specials so obscure they are not listed anywhere on the Internet, on IMDB, nor in any history books.

The specials were Days of Liberty (1976, pictured above) which was tied into the bicentennial and ran on New York’s WABC on July 4th that year, and Why the Bears Dance on Christmas Eve, which was telecast on December 12, 1977.

Mark Mayerson, Yvette Kaplan, Tom Sito, John Lopez, Kim Miskoe, Kevin Petrilak, David Burd, Eric Eiser and Bob Lusk got there start there. Veteran cartoonist Milt Stein worked there; Selby Kelly, Tony Eastman, Chuck Harriton, and even John Canemaker is rumored to have toiled there. Dan Haskett designed and directed his first animated film, an industrial short Journey to Nutrition-land (Man, I’d kill to see that one!).

In 1978, the company’s founder, 40-year-old Barry Drucker, had a massive heart attack on the sidewalk outside the studio (located at 19th Street and 5th Avenue) and died. The studio died with him and all its work has completely drifted into obscurity.

Well, not all its work. The studio did produce one classic commercial – this long-running Tootsie Roll spot:

If any readers recall these productions, or better yet, if Tele-tactics veterans reading this have any memories to share – we historians would be very grateful.

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  • http://www.thehungryreader.com Krepta

    I always thought the final tagline on that commercial was baffling. “Umm… it’s from Tootsie Roll… I think, maybe… gosh, maybe you should talk to my supervisor.”

  • http://www.jjsedelmaier.com J.J. Sedelmaier

    I learned about Drucker and Tele-Tactics from John Lopez when we both worked at Perpetual Motion Pictures (Buzz Potamkin/Hall Hoffer/Hal Silvermintz – Berenstain Bears, etc.) and Perpetual Animation (Hoffer/Silvermintz). The part I found most interesting is that TT evidently had the Fleischer 3D background table set-up used in the Popeye cartoons, etc., in the 1930′s. I guess it was dismantled or destroyed upon Drucker’s death. . . ouch. . .

  • http://www.michaelspornanimation.com/splog/ Michael Sporn

    Tele-Tactics was a great training ground for the staff at Raggedy Ann. We hired almost every one of those who came uptown to apply for a job. It’s amazing how talented those people – working for peanuts – were.

  • http://mayersononanimation.blogspot.com Mark Mayerson

    I believe that commercial is Yvette Kaplan’s work. You ought to know that, Jerry.

    John Canemaker definitely worked on Days of Liberty. I inbetweened some of his scenes.

    Other people who worked at the studio included Matt Rosensweig,
    Garry Terry and Rich Collado.

    There is no reason for historians to be grateful to learn about this studio. Yes, it had a lot of young talent (and some veteran talent) walk through the doors, but the studio was crippled by poor management. Had Barry Drucker lived, the results would not have been much different. Teletactics was a way-station; it was a place to pass through on the way to better opportunities.

  • http://jaggedsmile.wordpress.com Jaggedsmile

    Wow! I remember that Tootsie Roll commercial. In fact, I still hear that jingle in my head whenever I see a Tootsie Roll. I can think of no higher praise for a commercial.

    The slogan at the end was good for a laugh, though. “Umm…it’s from Tootsie Roll”. Classic! You can almost hear the meeting that came up with that gem:

    “Okay, team, we’ve been in this concept meeting for 14 hours. So far, we’ve got the jingle and it’s pretty good, but we need a slogan. Any ideas? Johnson, what about you? You’ve been quiet this whole time. You have anything? Johnson? JOHNSON! WAKE UP!”

    “Umm…it’s from Tootsie Roll?”

    Dead silence for a full 30 seconds.

    “BRILLIANT! Run with it.”

  • http://www.jonwilliamlopez.com Jon Lopez

    Hey Jerry – yes, Tele-Tactics was my first job after graduating from Pratt Institute in 1974, and “Days of Liberty” was the bicentennial special we worked on which none of us was prepared to tackle (and it shows). I won’t even talk about the Bears special. I will always remember that time with bemused feelings, but with affection for the people I worked with who have remained friends for all these years (thank goodness for Facebook, we can remain in touch). As for Drucker having the Popeye 3D turntable from Fleischer, I don’t recall ever having seen it – maybe it’d been dismantled by the time I started there. Barry Drucker and some of the other “execs” there were characters to say the least and we had a lot of fun at their expense. We were all shocked when he had his heart attack, and I’ll always recall looking out the window of the 9th floor and seeing him being wheeled into the ambulance below. I remember Selby Kelly (Walt Kelly’s widow) with fondness and was thrilled to work with someone I considered to be animation royalty – she had actually worked on “Snow White” for chrissakes! Anyway, after Tele-tactics I went on to work at Perpetual Motion, Buzzco and Broadcast Arts before relocating to Los Angeles to work on features during the animation boom of the ’90s. I finally achieved my dream of working at Disney Feature Animation for a couple of years and then Film Roman on “The Simpsons”. When 3D computer animation made my job as a special effects artist obsolete (2D that is) I relocated to New Mexico where I co-owned a gallery and began doing digital photography. Then there was a wild and crazy year in South Korea teaching English to children (don’t know what I was thinking, except that desperate times called for desperate measures). Now I’m in San Antonio, Texas (last place I’d ever thought I’d live, but then who knew I’d ever go to Korea) working as a freelance photographer for Apatments.com. I miss traditional animation very much and the people I worked with, but who knows, what goes around comes around. Thanks for this opportunity to share about blast from the past.

  • squirrel

    That story about the heart attack makes me feel better about MY luck. Will the studio I worked for become remembered like Tele-tactics?

  • http://2dwannabe.blogspot.com robcat2075

    Perhaps they were thinking “mmm” but wanted a way to spell it differently than what Campbells’ was doing with “mmm-mmm good”.

  • http://www.inkandpixelclub.com Sara

    I would guess it’s meant to be “Mmmm…it’s from Tootsie Roll,” but whoever was in charge of actually writing the copy thought the sound you make then something is tasty was spelled “Ummm.”

  • http://ericeiser.com eric eiser

    Yes, it was our first job out of school. I knew nothing and was a bit of a loose cannon on top of it. I wasn’t worth any more than Barry paid me. It was a place everyone got to learn everything about production.
    I learned more there in 6 months than 4 years of school.
    Lots of awesome talented people came out of there.
    I also had MANY laughs at Barry’s expense.

  • Amanda H.

    Yvette Kaplan, didn’t she also work on “Beavis and Butthead”? (the name kind of rings a bell for me)

  • troy joseph reyes

    That’s the thing about seventies animation, so much was produced and placed on TV, then dissapeared. I’ve posted about this before, I’d seen the Days of Liberty special and completely forgot about it till now.

  • Inkan1969

    I remember both specials vividly.

    I think “Days of Liberty” was a two-parter. It featured a kid named Joshua. His grandfather was a former pirate. His older brother Johnathan wound up KIA. A big part of the specials was Joshua and his friends discovering a British plot to attack Long Island. They manage to escape and reach Gen. Washington to tell him, but too late to stop the attack.

    I didn’t like “Why the Bears Dance” the first time I saw it. It featured a bunch of evil elemental spirits trying to destroy Santa’s sleigh.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Just having found out about this studio for the first time here, I guess I feel somewhat proud of having seen one of it’s legacies linger on into the 80′s, thanks to that jingle and the very funky-drawn children!

  • victoria

    Ahh Saturday morning memories! that’s when I would see that commercial, that and those woodsy wood commercials.

  • http://deadshrimpblues.livejournal.com Brooke Bolander

    Good lord, that jingle is a blast from the past. I’m 28 and I still remember it getting pretty heavy airplay on Saturday mornings when I was a wee lass.

  • http://www.thestoryboardbook.com corin lianides

    Ha! I think Sara is right about the “Ummm.” Probably a misspelled onomatopoeia. I LOVE that ad, though. It really brings back being young, and fiending after Tootsie Pops. And so 70′s-style multi-cultural, to boot.

  • Pasquale Cabuto

    That Tootsie Roll copy could have been written by Norty Amerman.

  • steve w.

    victoria, are you confusing Woodsy Owl (“Give a hoot, don’t pollute”) with Mr. Owl from that other fondly-remembered Tootsie Roll commercial (“Mr. Owl, how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll pop?”). Or maybe “woodsy wood” is something new to me.

    BTW, I always thought of Umm as a synonym for Mmm or Yumm. Nowadays, I guess it means more like “Duh…”, thanks to email and texting.

  • http://www.michaeljhayde.com Michael J. Hayde

    I dunno… that closing tagline looks like snark to me: “Hey, who makes this great candy?” “Ummm… it’s from Tootsie Roll (you moron).”

  • yvette kaplan

    Hi John, Eric! : ) Yes, I designed the characters for that spot, and animated it too– except for the plane which was done by Kim Miskoe I believe– or was it you, Eric? anyway, it’s the only part that moves well!
    But they are my little kids alright. I also designed the characters for the Bears special- in those days I wanted to be a character designer, but never did any more of that. And yes, Amanda, you’re right, I worked on Beavis and Butthead. This is a blast from the past, especially seeing all your comments– I can’t believe Jerry posted this, but it’s great to connect with you all! : )

    • Julie forsyth

      I remember you, Yvette! I did inking and painting for “D of L”.

  • Andy

    As long as we’re filling in all of the blanks on this commercial, I should mention this website I was pointed to recently. It describes the vocal recording, which involved just two children:

    http://www.tootsierollgirl.com/

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Funny someone would put up a webpage/domain just for that! It becomes an even smaller world when you find out these things.

  • http://www.tomsito.com Tom Sito

    Thanks Jerry for posting this. Kevin Petrilak just told me about it. Yes, it was my first job in animation working on the Nutritionland film in the Summer of 1975. I’ve never seen it on DVD or anywhere.

    Lou Scarborough and Eric Goldberg also did some work at Teletactics too. Retired Max Fleischer director Orestes Calpini once hung out around the studio.

    It was a great crew, but Barry was controversial, to put it kindly. What he did do was rustle up a lot of work for the place.

  • Jeffrey Gray

    This site in the UK seems to be selling video copies of Journey Through Nutritionland:

    http://www.viewtech.co.uk/detail.html?pgcode=00153

  • Jeffrey Gray

    I will add to my previous comment: Unfortunately, trying to add the order to your cart gives a script error message page.

    Anybody in the UK want to try to figure this site out and obtain a copy from these guys?

  • http://ericeiser.com eric eiser

    a guy i think.. Toby Fedder had the Fleischer multiplane camera, not “Wild Buck Druck” as we called him. Barry had Pete Q’s Oxberry.
    Fedders place was called Motomation or something like that.
    The more I think about it Barry’s place was like a John Waters movie.

  • Marbles

    I’m a 90s kid. That Tootsie Roll commercial was brought back to life for several runs during the ’90s and even ran briefly during the ’00s. That’s very unusual for any commercial.
    When I was a kid I immediately could tell that this thing was from the 70s—everything from the design to the soundtrack told me that (Perhaps even more than the characters, the “sparkle” effects tie this to the period.)
    After all this time it’s great to learn where it came from, and who designed it.

  • http://www.impko.com David Burd

    It’s great to see that Tootsie Roll spot. I don’t remember ever seeing it before!

    I painted the cels and I still have some of them. It was challenging because I had to ink the candy wrappers with a colored line. But I didn’t do the airbrush highlights. Was that you Eric?

    Great to see you here, John! I looked you up when I was doing some work for Disney but I guess you had already left at that point. Perhaps you were in Korea? (!)

    As far as TeleTactics is concerned, I was overpaid but it was a great place to break in. Fortunately I broke out shortly after.

    By the way, I still have all my Cel Vinyl if anyone knows of a job opening in the ink & paint department.

    • John Schloss

      WOW! It’s old home week. I was part these merry pranksters. Does anyone remember the rabbits running around on the 9th floor? I thought about TeleTactics this Halloween. We had the most creative parties. I remember David Burd came as “Mr Dynamo”. He had lots of wires with dozens of bulbs attached. Around midnight he set himself off in a giant explosion of light and smoke. No one noticed that they were FLASH bulbs. Ah…the good old days.Anyone interested in a reunion?

  • http://www.tootsierollgirl.com Rebecca

    This is all so interesting to me, as I am the singer of the jingle – the “tootsie roll girl.” It was 1976, not 77. I was nine. I am still in contact with the jingle writer from time to time. I have the reel to reel of the recording. I assume the only one in existence now. I have seen a version in black and white which looks like a previous version to this one. Though I never saw it on air, just on the internet. I don’t know where it comes from or if it ever aired. I remember seeing it for the first time on television not too long after I recorded it, it was the first time I saw the visuals.

    Now I have to go back and read all your posts. Nice to meet you all.

  • Adrian Sanchez

    Hello people! I am no animator of any kind ( just your ordinary kid who lurks on the internet) but I’ve been interested behind the history of this tootsie roll commercial for many years. I’ve seen the commercial on television around the 90′s a few times and then I never saw it again. Then youtube came in a couple of years later and I was able to see it again..how exciting it was to see it after all these years! I also saw it in a huge candy store in New York City called “Dylan’s Candy Bar” on a very big screen around a year ago.

    It’s nice to see the people who worked on the commercial commented to give their experience :)

  • http://n/a Julio Villarreal

    I loved Why The Bears Dance On Christmas Eve and I have been searching for it for years. If any one can help me find it, please e-mail me. Thank you.

  • Stew

    I truly appreciate the fact that the jingle is sung by kids who actually sound like kids, not like kids mimicking adult singers.

  • Stew

    I truly appreciate the kids sounding like kids, not kids mimicking adult singers.

  • Julie forsyth

    Hello, everyone! I did inking and painting for “Days of Liberty”. It was my first job in the art field and gave me the courage to apply for a position at Hallmark Cards. Been sculpting for them since ’78. Had to leave the east coast for KC, but, hey…still bringing in a paycheck! I remember several of you. LOVED the times Lusk brought in old ‘toons and we’d all watch them in the studio.

  • Tim

    hi, i was wondering if there are any sources where images or animations from days of liberty may be found. a family member of mine did some work with teletactics and id be greatly interested in digging up some of his work! hope to hear some direction on this!

  • John u

    Hello everyone, I don’t if anyone out there remember me and John Krumpelbeck or not, but we worked as cell painters for Days of liberty, Except fot that once or twice that it was aired, I have never being able to find any trace of it anywhere. until this morning when my son google it. I also remember doing a B&W Tootsie roll animation that was aired for a short time. It featured a magician in a top hat doing a song and dance routine about tootis roll. Like I said it was only in black and white. I remember it well because I spend an entire weekend painting it. Anyway, I’m surprised that someone out there is actualy blogging about Teletactics.

    • John C. Fredriksen

      Are you Johnny U of “Brewster Buffalo” fame?

      I thought Mao would have gotten you by now!

  • Julio Villarreal

    The wonderful Yvette Kaplan was generous to me to reunite me with a copy of Why The Bears Dance On Christmas Eve (1977). It brought back a lot of wonderful memories not to menton that it was ahead of its time for illustrating enviromental concerns. I was wondering if any of you wonderful Cartoon Brew folks can help me find out who the talente voice actors were and what parts they played. Thank you and Happy Holidays to all!

  • Michael Pettyjohn

    Greetings, salutations & wotevahz appropriatta! Iworked there during the summer of 1977 for the Christmas special, “Why the Bears Dance on christmas Eve” on ink and paint (check the credits) I look back on that summer as a wonderful beginning! Unfortunately, I decided to head back to PCA that fall instead of staying in NYC .I came back to visit in early spring 1978 thinking maybe to come back but the studio was in the process of folding!I remember Frank on camera, Yvette, John Lopez, yes, it’s been a long time…PJ

  • Tory

    I remember that Tootsie Roll commercial and love it. I always thought the ummmm was quite intentional and it went along with the type of comedy I would see in Rocky and Bullwinkle.

  • John C. Fredriksen

    Hi, all.

    In 1976 Teletactics served as my entree into show biz. Stayed there five months, worked at “Raggedy Anne” for two, then finally left NY for LA following six months of unemployment (I used to collect on the second floor of the World Trade Center!). It was Lou Scarborough and Dan Hasket who alerted me to the fact they were hiring–I owe you lunch, dudes!

    Many fond memories of teasing Jessica Leimsider about politics–we are still in touch and trading barbs 40 years later! There was also Linda, the lovely assistant of John Lopez, for whom I had the hots for (alas–married!) Selby was also very nice to work with. I had the most fun with Richard Collado and Gary Terry, who used to screen Japanese anime from Super-8 film shot off of a TV! This was years before anime went mainstream.

    There was also a second Tootsie Roll commercial involving a magician and a hoop. I painted it in my YMCA room one weekend and caught Hell on Monday for screwing up the “trace backs”–whatever they are–simply because nobody told me what the Hell they were!

    Ahhhh…the Big Apple in the seventies. A self contained world, perhaps, but LA could never complete with it. Still, I stayed in the biz at HB, Filmation, and, occasionally, Ralph Bakshi, before everything crashed and burned in 1988. I came back east, picked up my doctorate in history, and have written 30 books since.

    Teletacics was but a mere bump on a long and winding path, but I enjoyed my time there. But wishes to all involved.

    JCF, PH.D

  • Chris Sobieniak

    It’s cool to still see this thread jiving after so long!

  • Roger Scott

    Wow, Hey all! Been decades! I recall inhaling marker fumes for weeks working on the boards for Days of Liberty, I’ll always love Jon’s Grandpa Stroehman in drag, and wasn’t there a dancing bra, some backlit graphic thing, produced around the same time? Dan Haskett had left right before I was hired, but I remember seeing Journey to Nutrition Land, I’d love to see all the spots produced there, god it was all so tacky, but great memories.