On Strips: The Man Who Hated Laughter

By | Friday, January 20, 2017 Leave a Comment
In 1972, King Features produced an animated cartoon to be aired as part of The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie. The hour long piece was entitled The Man Who Hated Laughter and it was basically an exercise in trying to cram as many of their comic strip characters into one special as possible.

The basic plot revolved around a generic "evil" Professor Grimsby who wanted to remove laughter from the world so he could win a "Meanie" award. His solution (or, rather, his computer's solution) was capture all of the characters from the Sunday funnies because a lot of people laugh at them. (There are several flaws with this plan already, as you can guess.) The characters all get conned into a free cruise, and Grimsby captures them easily. The President then asks several adventure heroes from the funny pages to save them, but their plans backfire ending up with them getting captured as well. It's ultimately the children characters who convince Grimsby to let them go by getting him to laugh at himself. The all then escape the erupting volcano (what?!?) and the are all invited for a party at the White House.

The story is... mostly coherent, I guess? The internal logic falls apart repeatedly and, coupled with some really cheap animation (Hell, most of the backgrounds are little more than a single line between the floor and wall, if there's a background at all!) makes this eminently forgettable. But it is notable in that brought a large number of comic strip characters together in a single story, with many of those characters appearing in animated form for the first time!

Characters from the following comics made appearances...
  • Barney Google and Snuffy Smith
  • Blondie
  • Beetle Bailey
  • Bringing Up Father
  • Flash Gordon
  • Henry
  • Hi and Lois
  • The Katzenjammer Kids
  • Little Iodine
  • The Little King
  • Mandrake the Magician
  • The Phantom
  • Popeye
  • Prince Valiant
  • Quincy
  • Steve Canyon
  • Tiger
  • Tim Tyler's Luck
Jack Mercer is easily recognizable as the voice of Popeye; he also did Wimpy. The rest of the voices are split between Bob McFadden and Corinne Orr; I'll bet you can figure out who did what. McFadden is probably best known as the voice of Franken Berry, but he had a long career doing voice work in a lot of background roles. Orr was equally prolific and equally overlooked; she's probably best known as the voices of Trixie in the English-dubbed Speed Racer and the Snuggle fabric softener bear. (Minor aside: Although he passed away several years ago, McFadden's birthday was yesterday!)

I think my biggest curiosity is in the villain. Grimsby, as I said, was created for this cartoon, but his henchman is Brutus. I kind of understand Brutus being included since Popeye is given a heavy role in the story, but why create a new villain in Grimsby? I suppose someone like Ming the Merciless or Madame Lynx might have been thought to be too serious a villain to come up with such a ridiculous plot, but they couldn't pull out one decent antagonist from any of these strips?

There are probably any number of reasons why this hasn't been brought back to TV or made it to the home video market. At least we have the internet to give us a peak at weird curiosities like this...
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