<em>The Mad Magazine TV Special</em> (1974) <em>The Mad Magazine TV Special</em> (1974)

The Mad Magazine TV Special (1974)

I admit it, this one has me stumped. Don Martin, Antonio Prohias, Al Jafee, Mort Drucker and Dave Berg – adapted to animation! How did I miss this? Did it ever air? If so, what network?

It was co-directed by Chris Ishii, Jimmy Murakami and Gordon Bellamy. You can hear Allan Swift and Len Maxwell on the soundtrack. There are some New York animation veterans, such as Johnny Gent and Cosmo Anzilotti, as well as many Hollywood freelancers, including Gerard Baldwin and Bud Luckey, listed in the end credits. Perhaps my friends Mark Kausler and David Brain (who are also credited) can send us some info on this in the comments section below.

It’s been uploaded in three parts. Start here:

UPDATE: MAD’s Maddest Writer, Dick DeBartolo wrote to JJ Sedelmaier about the special. Quote: “We had a copy of that show up in the office, but I haven’t seen it in years. It never aired. That was the pilot. Nobody wanted to sponsor a show that made fun of products that were advertised on TV, like car manufacturers.”

(Thanks, Charles Brubaker)

  • DanO

    I worship the old MAD magazines, but that was pretty blaaah.

    (The Far Side animated pilot was better, if only for the wolf part at the end)

  • Yes, it aired. I have vaguely remembered it for years. Can’t wait to check out these links when I have time.

  • doug holverson

    Dang! I was mired in the heart of deepest darkest junior high in ’74. I would have extremely loved this back then!

    My guess is that it was an unsold pilot that was burned off as a Summertime “Special”.

    BTW, for obscure animation from the ’70s, how about all those animated bumpers and fillers from Summer Replacement Variety Shows?

  • Focus was the studio that produced this on the East side of Manhattan. I was trying to break in while it was in production, and I managed to get in with Phil Kimmelman at PK&A right after the show was completed. He broke off from Focus to form his own studio. Both his studio and Focus continued for years, though I believe PK&A outlasted the other.

    The show was a big deal in NY to those in the business, since most of the people in the industry here were working on it.

    The show, like the other big one-off, Rally Rosie, has a lot of the same problems. It’s very industrious but has some writing problems and some limited animation problems – those designers were illustration designers and only fuller animation really worked for their styles.

    It does look dated now, doesn’t it.

  • By the way, on my blog a while back I posted a piece by George Griffin about working for Focus on this show. He also contributed a caricature of the studio heads by Bill Peckmann in the style of a Rowland Wilson cartoon.


  • Thanks for posting this ! It helped me identify some of the artwork I have from Jan Svochak who animated on it. I always wondered what the “Walter Cronkite” character drawings were from. I’ll call Vinnie Bell and find out what he remembers from working on it. . .

  • Mark Kausler animated the “Spy vs. Spy” sequence, which has its own share of interesting story.

    Mark says he remember seeing it on television back in the ’70s, so it at least aired on some stations.

  • Scott

    Here’s some basic info, although no network listed


  • Harvey

    I saw it in 1974. I remember then feeling that it missed the magazine’s humor. Seeing it again 34 years later confirms it.

  • Kevin Wollenweber

    I loved this. I realize that there was “MAD TV”, but why wasn’t it made into an all-animated series, even if just direct to video? Think of all the parodies that could have been done throughout the years of so much horrible television!

  • uli

    Dreadful. How could they get this so wrong.

  • Did this really make it to the air? I can’t see how my Mad-obsessed barely-teen self would have missed it back in the day. It was never plugged in the mag as far as I can tell. A dub has been available on the convention circuit for years, but between “Mad TV” and “Up the Academy” my hopes for MAD successfully extending the brand into television have been slim. Although the “Spy Vs. Spy” TV spots from a while back were pretty neat. And Aragones has had some bits and pieces animated…was it Ed McMahon and Dick Clark’s clip show of the eighties? And maybe on one of the attempts to revive “Laugh In”???

  • I’ve tried very hard to forget that I worked on this atrocity, but now, “thanks” to the Internet, it is there for all to see. I was one of the few L.A. based animators to work on the special. Chris Ishii was not really too interested in directing the “Spy Vs. Spy” sequence. The show was done for very little money. I think they paid twenty dollars a foot for the animation. Chris was very unhappy with the Spy sequence as it turned out. He tried to lay it out like a comic page, which required a vertical set-up to see both Spys operating at cross-purposes to each other. I tried to animate it just as it was laid out, and really couldn’t bring it off. Now, I would just re-do the layouts for motion picture screen proportions (with TV cutoff) and try to clarify the staging. My attitude in those days was, I’m being paid to animate, not to lay-out and direct. The whole special suffered because it’s not easy to imitate Mort Drucker’s or Dave Berg’s style and do it in animation, full OR limited. At least the Spys were fun to draw. I wish I could have made Chris happy, it wasn’t to be.

  • troy joseph reyes

    i seem to remember tons of tv specials that aired during the seventies that was never seen again.wasnt there an animated pogo special, a where the wild things are special, the point, really rosie and so many others, rikki tikki tavi, horton hears a who, so much, where did they all go?

  • I have a goofy memory and I seem to remember seeing this on at 7 PM which would have been a half hour before prime time network schedules began in those days which makes me think it was a syndicated special. Note also the pause in the credits sequence when it says “Brought to you by” which seems to have been left for local stations to add the name of whatever local store, company, restaurant, etc was sponsoring it on the local station. Probably syndicated.

  • david

    I liked it. I thought some parts were really funny and entertaining. In the context of the other crap being made at the time its hundreds of times better, even compared to all the adult swim poopoo and new cartoons, it’s still better. The limited animation works okay because it makes it feel more like a comic. If it was fully animated it would probably look a bit weird.

  • Jon Reeves

    Google News archives show some hits from 1973 saying that ABC commissioned this, but nothing from 1974 or later showing that it actually aired, so assuming it did, it was under the radar.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Seems to be a love/hate thing going on with this, and yes, I too am a MAD lover as well, though sometimes I do wonder if it was really meant to just stay on the paper itself than to be taken into other venues such as television (let alone the movie Up The Academy if anyone remembers that). I would say this was a nice try for what they had hoped to do on such a venture. At least it’s nowhere near the level that MAD’s been at these days which I find hard to even grasp the real advertising that it’s infected with.

  • We had a copy of this when H-B was developing the second MAD special…which, like this first effort, had nothing “special” about it at all…in fact, H-B’s version was even worse. (At least this looks Jack Davis painted the BGs on his take on a racist Tarzan!) But what really surprises me is that the MAD contributor whose work is probably most suited for animation is Sergio Aragnonés…and none of the segments in either project featured him! Same thing goes for Paul Coker, Jr., who designed most of Rankin-Bass’ animation. I’ll ask Sergio and see if he remembers why he wasn’t represented here.

  • Kevin Dougherty, the Dick Clark show Sergio aragones did animation for was TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes.


    troy joseph reyes, I remember some of those specials. Rikki Tikki Tavi was directed by Chuck Jones and narrated by Orsion Welles. It is available on DVD. Maybe some of the others are, too. Lots of these were done by small companies, maybe formed just for that production. I have to imagine the rights are tangled or commercial potential seems limited for making them avaiolable. Bet some are on YouTube.

    I remember Funnyworld in the 70s had an ad by some NY Studio touted having Sergio and some of the other mad geniuses (Drucker? Jack Davis?) available to design animation spots.

  • Jorge Garrido

    That was cool! I didn’t even think the animation was all that limited. And as hard as it Mark says it was to translate Mort Drucker’s style onto animation, I think they did a phenomenal job of it! It was funny, too!

  • I don’t think the special was a total waste of time. You can’t say it was unfaithful since the segments were adapted almost word-for-word from the original comics.

    I can imagine trying to animate realistic people were difficult, but the animators did a pretty good job, especially with the small budget they had to work with.

    Dale Case was another animator who worked on it (on the uber-long Oddfather skit). He says that they xeroxed and blew up the original comic panels and used them as layouts. And yes, he confirmed that this was originally made for ABC, but they backed out. I guess it was sold to syndication instead.

  • Holy Sh!T!

    I actually knew someone in the credits! Tex Henson! I worked with Tex when he was trying to start a new studio in Dallas (c. 1991).

    I would be very curious to hear recollections from anyone who worked with him on this show and what his contribution was.

    Well, anyway… this wasn’t NEARLY as bad as I thought it was going to be when I heard the music that opened it.

    It seems like a brave attempt to make a faithful , maybe too faithful, transposition of MAD from page to screen. It got some laughs out of me.

    It didn’t have a laugh track! There’s some built-in integrity right there.

    What they shoulda’ done was strike a 16mm print of the show and book it into midnight movie screenings on college campuses. I think they would have gotten it.

  • Absolutely loved Mad magazine back in the day. Spy vs Spy!!

    This didn’t do it for us.

  • David Breneman

    Typical example of a radio show accompanied by a Powerpoint presentation. Too bad, as it was *that* close to being good. All it needed was good writers and animators. The concept was great. :-)

  • Joe Doaks

    Gerard Balwin did most of the work on the back half of The Oddfather. Pretty much from the hallway scene on. You can tell by the hand movements.

  • I thought this was pretty good! Yeah, MAD doesn’t exactly translate well into animation, but I thought it actually lent itself to this type of animation superbly (it captured the very feel of the magazine, IMHO), and this one effort was quite commendable. Not to mention it had talent from New York (my native town)!

    I can’t even imagine a Hanna-Barbera version.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    > i seem to remember tons of tv specials that aired during the seventies that was never seen again.wasnt there an animated pogo special, a where the wild things are special, the point, really rosie and so many others, rikki tikki tavi, horton hears a who, so much, where did they all go?

    The 70’s was a big time for some very innovative specials indeed. Being reminded of A Doonesbury Special myself. Quite a unique and more ‘adult’ special than most that were out at the time, though another one that comes to me is the adaption of Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks’ “The 2,000 Year Old Man” recordings.

    I do agree with robcat2075, they could’ve gone the college route on this and see how where it goes from there, if only to be some sort of cult classic people wanted to see again after so long.

  • Andrew Kieswetter

    Better than MAD TV.

  • Dave G

    The inappropriate, pseudo wacky score hurt this special more than just about anything else. The tone of the whole thing, other than the Oddfather bit, seems to belong more to the early 1960’s rather than a decade later.

  • I interviewed Bill Gaines three times in the mid to late 1970s. I have to go back and check the story, but I thought he told me this special never ran because the network was concerned it was going to offend automotive advertisers.

  • I have also heard the special never aired due to complaints from auto advertisers. In the special, there is even a blank where it says “Brought to you by…” There are a couple books out about MAD and they all cite the fact it never aired.

    Like with their feature film, MAD MAGAZINE PRESENTS UP THE ACADEMY, where the star Ron Leibman and later MAD itself took their name off it, MAD didn’t have much success translating to other formats (MAD TV had little to do with the magazine).

  • drmedula

    I thought it was a pretty-spot on translation of MAD Magazine, circa 1974- of course it really isn’t funny, but that stuff has dated pretty badly.(Although the gratuitous Spiro Agnew reference made me think of THE SIMPSONS).

  • The show DID air. I waited for it, and I saw it. It was before the days of vhs tapes, but I remember it. I also was disappointed in it, as I said.

  • Marc Baker

    I think the ‘Pogo’ special your referring was ‘Pogo’s Valentine Special’ that Chuck Jones worked on. While i’ve never seen that one, but i do remember see the clay animated film ‘I Go Pogo’. Anyhow, this ‘Mad Magazine’ special was a neat little find. Some of the jokes worked, while others didn’t. I’ve only seen images of this on ‘Toonarific’ before, and kinda wondered what it was like.

  • Awful music but quite a find. Was there another Mad Magazine TV special? (from the 60’s?) I vaguely remember one with a comic strip parody. Someone met Dick Tracy and touched his chin to see if it was as sharp as it looked. Tracy then got angry and chased the guy.

    Anyone else recall?

  • vzk

    I found it boring and unappealing. The only half-funny parts were the shorts based on Prohias and Martin.

    Did anyone else notice that during the car-assembly scene, the car’s front window completely broke and disappeared the moment one of its doors was slammed shut, only to magically reappear and break itself again a second later?

  • The problem with “MAD… Up The Academy” was that MAD was clearly trying to emulate National Lampoon’s success in branding itself as a film franchise. MAD should have waited 20 years for them to realize that it wasn’t such a hot idea after all. Some of those recent NatLamp films have been quite rancid!

    I also am vaguely remembering a MAD flexi-disc insert of an audio adaptation of one of it’s TV satires, called “Gall In The Family Fare” in which Allen Swift also participated, voicing the lead character (based on Archie Bunker) and others. Len Maxwell may have been involved, too.

  • Rose

    I remember this airing. I had been excited about it’s prospects, and dissapointed by it’s reality. It seems I still am.

    Someone mentioned Sergio Aragones work. Does anyone remember his small animated segments, and participation, in the “new” laugh in?

  • Daggum that was awesome to watch. enjoyable all the way through. Mad Magazine used to be where you could find all the best illustrators and cartoonists of our time. When is another magazine going to be as both good and successful as that? Something goofy and raunchy and awesome all at once.. hell.. I was surprised to see how a few jokes (though their deliver was off sometimes) were not nearly as dated as people would expect… but I suppose this would only be true because the godfather is still watched by millions to this day. But perhaps it was just more because they knew if they were going to do a TV special they better pick a cultural event like that film to lampoon.

  • david williams

    How can I get a dvd of this show? thanks.