Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Animated TV Specials: The Complete Directory to the First Twenty-Five Years

a still from It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, from the ABC website

It's easy to assume nowadays that all of one's information needs can be met through the internet and other online resources.  In the areas of film and television two resources, the Internet Movie Database and The Wikipedia, have made mountains of information available to fans and researchers  -- information that was once very difficult to locate.  However, there are still reference books that provide detail and context not yet available through online sources.

Animated TV Specials by George W. Woolery from 1989 is an encyclopedia of American broadcast TV specials from 1962 to 1987, a period of time that could, in retrospect, be viewed as a sort of golden age of the form.

He traces the origin of this type of programming to the December 18, 1962 broadcast of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.  Later animated TV specials that have made a lasting mark on American popular culture include Rudolph, the Red Nose Reindeer (broadcast December 6, 1964) and A Charlie Brown Christmas (broadcast December 9, 1965).  The former generated two sequels, while the latter had generated 31 sequels through the beginning of 1987.

This reference book covers 434 titles, providing a summary of each program.  It also details the date of the broadcast premiere, the broadcast time, network, and the sponsor.  Additionally there is information about repeat broadcasts, and later syndication.  Finally the producers, directors, music and lyrics creators, company and distributors are also given.  There are also excellent credits for characters and voice actors.  In a few cases I found more detailed credits in this reference than were given in online sources.

The appendix includes a compilation of the most frequently aired animated specials (through 1986-7).  There is also a listing of animated TV specials using stop-motion animation, a listing of holiday and topical animated TV specials, and a list of specials by series. 

Very importantly for a reference book there are also indexes of producers, directors, and filmmakers, writers, musicians and lyricists, and voice actors.

There is one listing for the composer and music producer Quincy Jones.  He created the music for an animated special by the important husband and wife team of John and Faith Hubley entitled Dig.  Woolery describes Dig as a "fantasy trip through the layers of the earth and millions of years of history."

Jones' music alternates between cool jazz, electronic sounds and songs sung by his musical associates like Harry "Sweets" Edison, Don Elliott, and Ruth Price.

Famed soundtrack composer Danny Elfman has one listing in this book.  Family Dog appears to be the only animated program in Stephen Spielberg's Amazing Stories series.  This program was directed by Brad Bird.  Stan Freberg and Mercedes McCambridge are the principle voice actors.

There appears to have only ever been one Doonesbury animated film -- unsurprisingly entitled A Doonesbury Special.


This appears to be the only instance of voices being attached to the familiar characters of the long-running comic strip. Woolery's book provides complete credits and a summary of the show (not available through the Internet Movie Database).

It used to be very difficult to see the majority of these programs.  But with the advent of the hundreds of available cable and satellite channels and on demand viewing through the worldwide web, many of these programs are today very readily viewable. It's fascinating to skim this book and search for these films online.

Animated TV Specials: The Complete Directory to the First Twenty-Five Years, 1962-1987 by George W. Woolery (Scarecrow Press, 1989).

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