How Television was Made in the 1970s

In the 1970s, I spent my Saturday mornings on an orange carpet, where I would consume Shreddies with about a half cup of sugar on top and a plastic cup of Tang and, like every other kid, I’d watch the cartoons.

Super Friends was a favourite because it combined the ubiquitous Hanna-Barbera cartoons of the 70s with the Justice League of America to come up with gems like this:
One of my other favourites was Scooby-Doo. In those days it was a love song to skepticism. Invariably, Shaggy and Scooby would be frightened of a ghost. Fred, Daphne, and Velma would prove that it wasn’t real. OK, so the dog spoke and once in a while Sonny and Cher would join them on their adventures but still, skeptical. Over the years, the show would start incorporating elements of the supernatural but most people in the forties would agree, I believe, that the show went to shit when Scrappy Doo showed up.

Still, back in the early halcyon days of Scooby-Doo, it was the centrepiece of my Saturday morning routine. I wondered, then, how such a show was made.

We had two TV channels at the time and the one I watched most was CHSJ located at channel 4. CHSJ was a sort-of CBC affiliate as New Brunswick didn’t have a proper CBC Station until about 25 years ago. Most programming was either produced locally, from the CBC, or was from the U.S.

On the corner of McAllister Drive and Rothesay Avenue, there used to be a TV transmitter which I mistook for the actual TV and radio station which was silly because there was no way they could run a TV station and a radio station and TV studio all from all 500 by 500 foot building. That was actually done at the real studio uptown.

Where the magic happened.
Where the magic happened. It’s now the offices for a tire warehouse or something.

I naturally assumed Super Friends came from the US because the resources to create such stunning special effects as “Aquaman rides flying fish” would only come from a nation with its own space programme. Miss Ann, a Romper Room style children’s show was filmed locally because my sister was on it and I remember being kept outside the studio doors when they were filming.

Scooby Doo was a mystery to me. I was aware that most programmes were created somewhere far away. And I knew, in a general way, how animation worked. Scooby Doo had similar production values to Super Friends but the audience laughter clearly, clearly, indicated that it was shot before a live audience. And the only place I ever saw an audience was at CHSJ when they’d run the Empty Stocking Fund.

Therefore Scooby Doo was filmed before a live studio audience in a small regional television station in New Brunswick. It’s the only explanation that made any sense.

Luckily, my brother, who was seven years older than me, knew everything. He explained that actors record the voices of the characters which is then set to animation . This meant the cast would gather round a microphone as the animation would play before them and their lines would synch with the action on screen. And all this would happen before a live audience. That’s why you’d hear laughter.

I imagined that the characters of Scooby Doo were drawn to look like the actors who portrayed them.  And, yes, the cast included a specially trained Great Dane.

Clearly, the resemblance is uncanny.
Clearly, the resemblance is uncanny.
In later years, I would somehow imagine that the actress who voiced Velma looked like this. This would result in experiencing some unfamiliar feelings.
In later years, I would somehow imagine that the actress who voiced Velma Dinkley looked like this. This resulted in new feelings.

(image source: Gina B Cosplay at Deviant Art)

Of course, as I grew older I realized that Shaggy’s voice could also be heard in just about every other cartoon character back then and that most of my entertainment came from Toronto or California and that the stuff that was produced locally wasn’t quite up to the same standard. It actually took me a while to connect Robin the Boy Wonder and Norville “Shaggy” Rogers as the same voice.

I would also learn that, despite the resemblance to the King of Kensington actor, my father was not actually Al Waxman.

I am not convinced that realizing any of the actual facts surrounding television production has made me a happier person.


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