is an animated television series
produced by Cambria Productions
beginning on March 9
. Notable for its very limited animation
, yet imaginative stories, the series was a surprise hit at the time, and could be seen on 65 stations nationwide in 1960.
The stories centered around Clutch Cargo (voiced by radio actor Richard Cotting
), described as "a writer and pilot with a muscular build, white hair and rugged good looks". As was typical of adventure serials, Clutch Cargo was sent around the world on dangerous assignments. With him on the assignments were his young ward Spinner and his pet dachshund
, Paddlefoot. Actress Margaret Kerry
, who provided the look, style and movement of Tinker Bell
in the 1953 Walt Disney Studios
production of Peter Pan
, provided both the voices and lips of Spinner and Paddlefoot. Live-action footage of an airplane was used as well, specifically that of a rare 1929 Bellanca C-27 Airbus
. The attention to detail shown to the aircraft in the series is no doubt due to the fact that the creator of the series, Clark Haas
, was a pioneer jet pilot.
Hal Smith, the voice of Owl in Disney's Winnie the Pooh series, and Otis Campbell on The Andy Griffith Show, was the voice of Clutch's grizzled, pith-helmeted friend Swampy, as well as numerous other characters.
In all, fifty-two Clutch Cargo adventures were produced and then serialized in five five-minute chapters each. The first four chapters naturally ended in cliffhangers with the fifth chapter concluding the adventure. Haas explained the format of the show: "Each story is done in five five-minute segments so the stations can run one a day on weekdays, then recap the whole for a half-hour Saturday show. It's flexible and works very well."
Because of budgetary limitations and the pressure to create television animation within a tight time frame, the show was the first to use the "Syncro-Vox
" optical printing system. Syncro-Vox was invented by television cameraman, and partner in Cambria Studios, Edwin Gillette
(1909-2003) as a means of superimposing real human mouths on the faces of animals for the popular "talking animal" commercials of the 1950s. Clutch Cargo
employed the Syncro-Vox technique by superimposing live-action human lips over limited-motion animation or even motionless animation cels
To further cut costs, Gillette and special-effects man, Scotty Tomany supplemented Syncro-Vox with other time- and money-saving tricks. Haas explained, "We are not making animated cartoons. We are photographing 'motorized movement' and — the biggest trick of all — combining it with live action. This enables us to produce film at about one-fifth what it costs Hanna and Barbera. Footage that Disney does for $250,000 we do for $18,000."
Gillette and Tomany simulated action not by animation but in the real-time movement of either the camera or the cel itself. Other live-action shots were superimposed as a means of adding a certain degree of realism and to keep production costs down. For example, footage of real smoke was used for explosions.
Gillette said, "We are constantly discovering new dimensions. We have used real balloons to simulate bubble gum, developed windmills that really turn-- mechanically; and Scotty can come up with the darndest snowstorms you've ever seen-- on a turning drum. With a camera capable of zooming, walkers that jog, and judicious cutting away from costly animated movement we manage to do things which otherwise would be impossible. With fewer than a dozen men we produce the equivalent of a half-hour film every week."
Occasionally traditional animation was also employed in the series, notably in the episode The Lost Plateau, in which brief segments of animated dinosaurs stood out. The character Paddlefoot, with his scratching and comical movements, was singled out as the most common cause of "skyrocketing" animation costs at Cambria.
The musical soundtrack to Clutch Cargo was, in its own way, as limited, and yet as inventive within those limitations, as the animation was. Jazz musician Paul Horn provided a score using nothing more than bongos and a flute.
Haas summed up the lasting appeal of Clutch Cargo: "Let's face it, Clutch is a square. But there's a place for him. One thing about this kind of business: It's fun. That's because what you can do is limited only by your ingenuity."
Perhaps because of its unique style, Clutch Cargo
has been referenced and parodied many times in contemporary pop culture. In 1990, clips from Clutch Cargo
were run on The Higgins Boys and Gruber
, one of the first shows to air on the Comedy Channel (later Comedy Central
). They plugged it with "If it weren't for the lips. it'd be a filmstrip!" In 1994, the film Pulp Fiction
included a scene in which a character was watching Clutch Cargo
. And finally, for the past several years the late-night television talk show Late Night with Conan O'Brien
has frequently included fake interviews with celebrities in which live video of the impersonator's lips is superimposed over a still photo of the celebrity; this routine has consequently been referred to as "Clutch Cargo".
The person in the Max Headroom pirating incident can be heard humming the theme song, pausing halfway to say "I still see the X", a reference to the last episode of Clutch Cargo. (Some people hear the line as "I stole CBS", but reasoning for him saying that is less clear.)
In the Doug Anthony All Stars' DAAS Kapital, TV hero Wayne Kerr's sidekicks were called Spinner and Paddlefoot.
A nod to Syncro-Vox is used in the talking pirate painting seen in the opening sequence of the SpongeBob SquarePants television program, and briefly on the alien clone of Daffy Duck in the 1990's Warner Brothers cartoon short Invasion of the Bunny Snatchers.
Clutch Cargo's is the name of a club in Pontiac, Michigan.
The DVD release of the Disney/Pixar film The Incredibles includes a short cartoon called Mr. Incredible and Pals featuring Mr. Incredible and Frozone animated in Clutch Cargo style.
On March 22
, BCI Eclipse released the entire Clutch Cargo
series in two 3-DVD box sets. Each volume contains 26 5-part episodes, and extras including one episode of Cambria Studios
' other two Syncro-Vox series, Space Angel
and Captain Fathom
||Additional Information |
|| Volume 1
|| March 22 2005
- The Story of Clutch Cargo
- Clutch Memorabilia
- Clutch & Company: Mini-biographies and details of the cast
- 1959 Facts and Trivia
- Bonus Syncro-Vox Cartoon episode
|| Volumne 2
|| March 22 2005
- The Making of Clutch Cargo
- Politically Incorrect
- As Seen in Pulp Fiction
- 1959 Trailers
- Bonus Syncro-Vox Cartoon Episode
- The Friendly Head Hunters
- The Arctic Bird Giant
- The Desert Queen
- The Pearl Pirates
- The Vanishing Gold
- The Race Car Mystery
- The Rocket Riot
- Mystery in the Northwoods
- Twaddle in Africa
- The Lost Plateau
- The Ghost Ship
- The Rustlers
- The Missing Train
- The Devil Bird
- Pipeline to Danger
- Mister Abominable
- Operation Moon Beam
- Air Race
- The Haunted Castle
- The Elephant-Nappers
- Dragon Fly
- Sky Circus
- The Midget Submarine
- Cliff Dwellers
- Jungle Train
- Space Station
- The Swamp Swindlers
- The Dinky Incas
- Kangaroo Express
- The Shipwreckers
- The Ivory Counterfeiters
- Dynamite Fury
- Alaskan Pilot
- Swiss Mystery
- Pirate Isle
- Crop Dusters
- The Smog Smuggler
- Global Test Flight
- Dead End Gulch
- The Missing Mermaid
- Flying Bus
- Road Race
- Feather Fuddle
- Water Wizards
- The Terrible Tiger
- The Circus
- Bush Pilots
- Cheddar Cheaters
- The Blunderbird
- The Case of Ripcord Van Winkle
- Fortune Cookie Caper
- Big "X"
|| City |
|| Atlanta, Georgia |
|| Chicago, Illinois |
|| Cleveland, Ohio |
|| Los Angeles, California |
|| New Haven, Connecticut |
|| New York, New York |
|| Philadelphia, Pennsylvania |
|| Tampa, Florida |
|| Tulsa, Oklahoma |
|| Youngstown, Ohio |
- Clutch Cargo at toonopedia.com
- "Don't believe your eyes! How 'Clutch Cargo' cuts corners as a television comic strip", TV Guide, December 24, 1960, pp. 28-29.
- Erickson, Hal. Syndicated Television; The First Forty Years, 1947-1987. p.119. ISBN 0-7864-1198-8
- Terrace, Vincent. Encyclopedia of Television Series, Pilots and Specials, 1937-1973. New York, New York Zoetrope. 1986. p.96-97. ISBN 0-918432-69-3
- Jack and Jill magazine, Feb. 1961 issue, 6-page Clutch Cargo comic strip.
- Outré magazine #5.