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“Tennessee Tuxedo will not fail!”
That catchphrase was often uttered by the penguin star of a 1960s show made by the Total TeleVision productions animation studio. Pop culture historian and author Mark Arnold chronicled the company’s story and programs in his 2009 book, Created and Produced by Total Television Productions. Now, more than a decade later, Arnold has teamed with Victoria Biggers, daughter of the studio’s co-founder Watts “Buck” Biggers, on a sequel of sorts titled The Total Television Scrapbook.
The TTV Scrapbook’s emphasis is on the images of the company’s cartoon characters. Over 80 pages of original artwork from Underdog’s 1970s Charlton and Gold Key comic books are featured. Storyboards, cels, and model sheets from the super hero pooch, Tennessee Tuxedo and his Tales, King Leonardo and his Short Subjects, and others are highlighted as well. The TTV favorites are also shown promoting breakfast cereal, fruit drinks, Halloween costumes, and playing cards.
Additionally, the book contains a transcript of an interview Arnold conducted with Harvey Siegel, who headed Gamma Productions in Mexico. Gamma provided the actual animation for all of the TTV shows as well as the majority of the Jay Ward cartoons. Another section focuses on the history of the Underdog balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, with several excellent photos. Victoria Biggers contributes a 49 page chapter about her father with anecdotes relating to the TTV programs, including him composing the Go Go Gophers theme song.
Underdog's pilot cartoon-Safe Waif
Images and Pictures
The 8" x 11" sized book is a lot of fun, but unfortunately, this edition’s images and photos are in black and white. If just a few color photos had been included, it would have brightened the book’s pages. There is a full-color, hardback edition, but that costs approximately thirty dollars more than this paperback one. A Go Go Gophers storyboard, from the episode Radio Raid, is composed of several faintly printed images with the captions difficult to read. On the other hand, the set of storyboard drawings for the first Go Go Gophers episode Moon Zoom, are much sharper and a pleasure to look at.
Photos of the studio's voice artists, animators, writers, and the rest of the production team are displayed in the section of the book labeled as TTV's Who's Who. A picky point, but while the actors pictures are shown, the characters they provided the voice characterizations for aren’t listed. That info was available in Arnold’s previous TTV book, but not here. Cartoon fans might know Don Adams (Get Smart, Inspector Gadget) as the voice of Tennessee Tuxedo and Larry Storch (F Troop) as Mr. Whoopee. Yet many night not be familiar with the names and photos of major voice talents Jackson Beck (King Leonardo), Bradley Bolke (Chumley the Walrus, not the Pawn Stars regular), and Allen Swift (Tooter Turtle, Simon Bar Sinister).
"Drizzle, drazzle, druzzle, drome" : Mr. Wizard the Lizard and Tooter Turtle-"Stuper Man Muscle Bounder"
The portion penned by Victoria Biggers is quite enjoyable, and is, at times, a mini biography of her dad. She describes how he and his three partners (Chet Stover, Joe Harris, and Tread Covington) left the Dancer Fitzgerald Sample Ad Agency to form Total TeleVision productions, That decision ultimately led to the creation of their most popular cartoon character and series, Underdog. Photos of Buck and Victoria Biggers at the 2007 premiere of the live-action Underdog movie grace one page of the book.
Plus, she explains how her father came up with the idea for Cup-a-Soup, years before Lipton began selling their product in 1972. He was just too early with the idea. He also had a chance to purchase the rights for numerous classic movies and T.V. shows, for a tiny amount of money, just before the home video market was introduced in the 1970s. Unfortunately, he turned down the offer, telling his daughter, “I’ll never make a dime out of it. Who in the world would want to clutter their shelves with those huge cassette boxes?” As she notes, little did he know the future popularity of VCR’s, DVD and Blu-ray players, and now streaming.
Tennessee Tuxedo-Wreck of a Record
Victoria Biggers' best story describes how Buck purchased 10 seconds of national TV air time for her surprise birthday gift one year. One can only guess how much that must have cost. Obviously, this was long before YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, or TikTok.
On that special day, Victoria and the Biggers family gathered to watch one of her favorite programs, American Bandstand. Several commercials were broadcast before the show began. Then, a drawing of pink and blue balloons and confetti appeared on-screen, with the words, “Happy Birthday, Victoria Lee Biggers.” An announcer next said, ”Happy Birthday, Victoria Lee Biggers from the whole world. Keep us happy as you are!” followed by the sound of a crowd cheering. She was amazed and delighted by this unique present. Soon after, Buck gave her a cassette tape of the TV spot and the glass slide that was used for the artwork, with her name and the balloons on it.
Victoria Biggers should write a whole book herself, with more of these stories. It would definitely make for an interesting read.
In the introductory chapter, Arnold says he wanted The Total Television Scrapbook to showcase the art of the company. On that point, Arnold and Biggers have delivered. It’s a good companion book to Created and Produced by Total Television Productions, especially as they're the only ones written about this cartoon studio and its characters. It’s too bad the one storyboard and a very small number of other images weren't more clearer.
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