Posts Tagged ‘Beany and Cecil’

I’d like to close this thread on sea monsters with a giant of early television: Cecil the Sea-Sick Sea Serpent. Cecil starred, together with his best buddy, a boy named Beany, in the seminal puppet fantasy, Time For Beany, a.k.a. Beany and Cecil.

Beany and Cecil were created by Bob Clampett after he left the Warner Brothers animation studio. Indeed, the show shares many attributes of Warner Brothers cartoons: broad characterization, slapstick humor, and rampant cartoon violence. At the same time, the shows were full of sly asides and political comment directed at adult viewers. This mélange was actually quite common in the era when there were only three channels and the whole family watched TV together. Rocky and Bullwinkle and The Flintstones used much the same approach.

Time For Beany began airing in 1949. In the initial incarnation, Cecil was a hand puppet, so you only saw his head. Voices were provided by masters such as Daws Butler and Stan Freberg. In 1959, the show became one of the first animated cartoons on TV. The black and white show became color in 1962 and lasted in that form until 1964. It then went into syndication, which is how I came to be watching it during the ’70s.

Cecil, himself, was a big green sea serpent. (Duh…) Why they called him sea-sick, I’m not sure. He endured lots of cartoon violence, but I don’t remember him ever getting sea-sick.

Cecil was devoted to Beany, although not very bright — it was all too easy for bad guys to trick him. Beany was the little blond boy with the propeller hat. In some episodes, he actually flew! These two traveled the sea with Uncle Horatio and his crew, aboard the Leakin’ Lena. Ostensibly, they were searching for treasure.

In their adventures, they often came up against Dishonest John, who was trying to get the treasures first. Dishonest John had that famous laugh, “nya-ah-ah!” His motto was “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.” The villain often kidnapped Beany in hopes of forcing Horatio to turn over the loot. It never quite worked out that way.

Though long gone from TV, the show’s influence continues to be felt. Dishonest John’s motto became a rock song. Villains in all media still laugh with a version of “nya-ah-ah!” Cecil’s image is said to have inspired Larry Niven to create his Puppet Masters. And there’s more… Not a bad legacy for a hand puppet and a kid in a silly hat!

By modern standards, these shows are crude but spirited. If you like your funnies old-style, with lots of slap in the schtick, you could do worse than scrounging up some Beany and Cecil. Episodes are widely available on the Internet.

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