Every so often, classic animated characters are brought back for a new generation of children. Such was the case with Beany and Cecil, who started off as puppets on Time for Beany before becoming the stars of their own animated series in the 1960s. Following the latter’s long run on Saturday mornings and in syndication, in 1988, the characters were brought back for a new Saturday morning cartoon entitled The New Adventures of Beany and Cecil, courtesy of DIC (now a part of Cookie Jar) and future Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi. The series, which aired on ABC, would not last very long, unlike other shows such as Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and the various Scooby Doo shows which have introduced long running characters to new generations.
As was the case with the classic series, the show followed the adventures of Beany, the propeller cap-wearing boy; his pal Cecil, the lovable sea serpent; and Beany’s Uncle Huffenpuff, a famous explorer. They would visit numerous locations and meet a variety of characters, most notably the villainous Dishonest John, known for his wicked laugh and schemes that tended to backfire. While the cartoons tended to remain faithful to the classic shows, the animation was improved over the older version, and updated references to pop culture were added. In at least one episode, Cecil even broke the fourth wall by commenting about the biggest fight ever seen in a Saturday morning cartoon.
The only actor to return from the original series was Jim MacGeorge, who voiced Huffenpuff and Beany during the 1960s. Here, he once again voiced the good captain, but did not reprise his role as Beany. Instead, Beany was brought to life by Mark Hildreth, whose other voice credits included roles in Metal Gear Solid 4 and various computer animated Barbie movies. Billy West, known for voicing Stimpy the Cat and Futurama’s Philip Fry, was the voice of Cecil. Rounding out the voice cast was Maurice LaMarche, whose other voices included the Brain from Animaniacs and Chief Quimby from Inspector Gadget, as Dishonest John. The actors did their best to recreate the voices from the classic show, though Hildreth’s Beany sounded a bit too young.
Why this show is considered forgotten is because it only aired for a few weeks at the start of the 1988-1989 season. Eight episodes were produced, but only five of them aired before ABC abruptly canceled the show. As far as is known, the remaining three episodes were not shown anywhere, and the show was not brought back in repeats (it was a common action at the time to merely rebroadcast all of a show’s episodes from the present season before it was either brought back or canceled the following fall). While the original version has seen numerous episodes released on VHS and DVD, the 1980s version has never been commercially released. However, several episodes have ended up on YouTube so that people can see for themselves what Beany and Cecil were like in the 1980s.
I was quite young when the show first aired-three or four, to be precise-and I never saw the series when it aired. In fact, I did not know it existed until I found it listed in an encyclopedia for daytime television. Years later, I got to view some episodes online, and was pleasantly surprised at how the shows were generally faithful to the 1960s version. It is humorous, with some nice voice work and animation, and it would have been neat if the show had continued and possibly even catch on with younger viewers. At least several people involved with the show would move on to bigger projects, with their careers thriving long after Beany and Cecil were canceled.
I feel that many of today’s animated revivals tend to lose part of what made various characters so wonderful when they first appeared. Beany and Cecil, on the other hand, managed to avoid such a terrible fate. Imagine if they were brought back for today’s children, and they ended up becoming less than what they were in their heyday. Thankfully, these characters have not yet been tainted, and their short-lived revival is proof of that. I would like to see a DVD release of the newer Beany and Cecil cartoons, including never-before-seen episodes, so that every Beany and Cecil fan can relive, or experience for the first time, this lesser-known effort. In the meantime, look up some episodes on YouTube sometime and see how an animated revival more or less should be made.