Thursday, 1 December 2016

Al Brodax Passes On

Al Brodax's cameo in Yellow Submarine
Al Brodax, who as head of King Features Syndicate's motion picture and television development oversaw the production of Popeye cartoons, cartoons based on various King Features properties, The Beatles Saturday morning cartoon, and the feature film Yellow Submarine (1968), died on November 24 2016 at the age of 90.

Al Brodax was born on February 14 1926 in Manhattan, New York. He spent his early years in Washington Heights, Manhattan. His family later moved to Brooklyn, where he attended Midwood High School. In 1943 he enlisted in the United States Army, where he served as a medic. During the Battle of the Bulge he was wounded. He earned a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, and a Combat Medical Badge.

Following the war he enrolled at the University of Wisocnsin, where he majored in literature. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1948. He started work at the William Morris Agency in the mailroom and eventually moved into programme development at the agency. He worked on such shows as Your Show of Shows and Omnibus. In 1958 he helped produce a Broadway adaptation of the book Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson. It was in 1960 that he joined Kings Features Syndicate as the head of its new motion picture and television development department. Among his first projects was the development of 200 new "Popeye the Sailor" shorts for television from 1960 to 1962. Paramount's contract to produce "Popeye" cartoons had ended in 1957.

At Kings Feature Syndicate Mr. Brodax oversaw the production of an unsold, live action pilot based on the comic strip character The Phantom in 1961. In 1963 he oversaw the production of animated shorts for television based on the King Features Syndicate comic strips "Beetle Bailey", "Krazy Kat", and "Snuffy Smith and Barney Google".

It was in 1964 that events would lead to one of his better known works. In 1964, with Beatlemania sweeping the United States, a cartoon based on The Beatles seemed like a surefire hit to King Features Syndicate. Al Brodax got the rights to do a Beatles cartoon and then set about getting financing from toy giant A. C. Gilbert Company with little more than a rough outline of the show and some preliminary artwork. It was A. C. Gilbert Company that sold ABC on the idea of a Beatles animated series. The Beatles proved extremely successful and ran from 1965 to 1969 on ABC.

In 1965 Al Brodax produced an unsold pilot titled Hello Dere, starring Marty Allen. In 1966 he served as the executive producer on the Saturday morning cartoon Cool McCool (created by "Batman" co-creator Bob Kane). It would be The Beatles cartoon that would lead to Mr. Brodax's most famous work. Al Brodax, proposed producing an animated feature based on The Beatles' songs, suggesting to the band's manager Brian Epstein that the film could satisfy The Beatles' agreement with United Artists for a third film after A Hard Days Night and Help!. Once he had the rights to do the film, Al Brodax hired TVC London to produce the feature itself. Yellow Submarine was directed by George Dunning of TVC London and Jack Stokes of TVC London served as its animation director. The production of the film would be tumultuous, with Al Brodax at heads with George Dunning and John Coates (among others) at times, but ultimately what emerged was a film today regarded a classic in animation.

In 1968 Al Brodax served as executive producer of the ill-fated, live action sitcom Blondie. Afterwards Mr. Brodax left King Features Syndicate for ABC. There he served as production suprevisor on such ABC children's shows as Make a Wish and Animals, Animals, Animals. He also served as supervisor on the 1972 television movie Between Time and Timbuktu. He later produced the 1980 animated special Sunshine Porcupine for HBO. He later served as a consultant for Marvel Comics and Computer Graphics Laboratories.

Things did not always go smoothly between Al Brodax and the rest of the team on Yellow Submarine, and his 2004 memoir Up Periscope Yellow: The Making of the Beatles' Yellow Submarine would be a source of some controversy, but ultimately it must be admitted that the movie could not have been made without him. After all, it was Mr. Brodax who initially came up with the idea of an animated Beatles film and it was he who secured permission from the band to do so. Quite simply, without Al Brodax, Yellow Submarine might never have happened.

Of course, Al Brodax did much more than serve as producer on Yellow Submarine. He also produced the many King Features Syndicate animated shorts featuring Beetle Bailey, Krazy Kat, and so on, as well as The Beatles Saturday morning cartoon and Cool McCool. Without Al Brodax weekday afternoons and Saturday mornings would have looked very  different for many children in the Sixties.

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