Monkey business from 50 years ago

“We’ve got a gorilla for sale…” went the jingle for Magilla Gorilla, a syndicated animated cartoon series which launched 50 years ago this month.
A half-hour promotional film for that launch will be shown Sunday, Jan. 12 in Pasadena as part of the semi-annual TCA press tour.
This is the second TCA screening held at press tour. The black and white, 16mm film is part of my collection or rare television shows. The TV on Film Project, begun in 2012, is part of an initiative to track down, archive and preserve “lost” television.
Magilla Gorilla was probably the first TV series created around a toy. The Ideal Toy Company approached Hanna-Barbera and asked if the TV cartoon factory, then cranking out The Flintstones and The Jetsons, if they could craft a show around their dool.
The film shows George Fenneman–Groucho’s on-air announcer from You Bet Your Life–visiting then then brand new Hanna-Barbera Studios on Ventura Blvd. near Universal Studios. The place has already been razzed with H-B undergoing several ownership changes after the deaths of its founding partners.
There are glimpses in the film of the studio as well as several key animators and even the voice artists as well as clips from other H-B stars such as Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and The Flintstones. The film was likely sent to affiliates in advance of the series launch in January of 1964, and probably aired in some markets. Some of is as tedious and misguided as the Magilla Gorilla cartoons were themselves–the series only lasted the one season. The late Allan Melvin–sounding very Crazy Guggenheim-ish–was the voice of Magilla.
The screening takes place at noon on Sunday, January 12 and is open to TCA members only. The TV on Film Project is not responsible for anyone leaving the screening with that damn jingle stuck in their head all day.

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