20. Bob Elliott & Ray Goulding (Bob & Ray)

“Write if you get work. In the meantime, hang by your thumbs!”

These two guys gave my early career the greatest boost by taking on the voices of Bert & Harry Piel. The writing by Ed Graham was superb, and maybe the commercials would have gotten by with our animation, but without a doubt, Bob & Ray nailed it.

The Piels Beer commercials put us at UPA/NY on the map. Of course we got plenty of help and leeway from the Cunningham & Walsh agency and their art director Jack Sidebotham. (He was so inspired by our success with the series that he took off for Africa and became a Christian evangelist.  Really!!!)

Viewers in the New York area watched the commercials as entertainment, but did not drink the beer, which was no good.  The irony was that our commercials were so popular that the Piels Beer company ordered them taken off the air, and replaced them with live action commercials with the standard poop of happy people drinking the beer at parties.   Really!

In revenge the public bought even less Piels beer, and the company shortly went out of business. Really!  Look it up!

So apparently our Bert & Harry commercials did in fact come across to viewers as parodies, and the obviously unplanned, twisted effect, was that they actually succeeded in destroying the rotten beer they were supposed to be selling!!   Is that a success story or what?   Isn’t it amazing what we all got away with?      And isn’t it amazing that both the Cunningham & Walsh ad agency and the Piel’s Beer company went along with the casting of Bob & Ray in the first place as the duo’s entire shtick was satire and sendup! I can’t imagine a client taking such a risk today.

One thing we didn’t get away with was a gaff we hadn’t noticed. In the original Agency scripts the characters were “Harry & Bert.”

A woman viewer wrote a scathing letter to the Piel’s Beer company, castigating them in a fierce diatribe for their “Nazi” advertising campaign about “Aryan Bert!” The company went ballistic, and were demanding we immediately cancel the series, until we saved the situation and our hides, at least temporarily, by simply reversing the order of the names to “Bert & Harry.”

Whatever – the main thing here is that all the people of that project belong on my credits list. They had and have my thanks.

Bob Elliot & Ray Goulding, perhaps the most perceptive voice Masters of the classic Radio Days.

The first and second figures in the bottom row became the models for the gold Bert & Harry Fan Club pins shown later below.

Even funnier was how the Piels Beer folks actively took part In their own destruction!

12 thoughts on “20. Bob Elliott & Ray Goulding (Bob & Ray)

  1. Awesome story!! I have a book on advertising in the 1950s, and one of the featured ads was apparently a Deitch production! I guess it’s true you do learn something new everyday! In this case it comes as a 31st birthday present on the 31st of May!

  2. Hi again Gene,

    I meant to ask before but couldn’t reply to your above comment — do you have any particular recollections of David Piel, i.e., if you ever worked with him or ran into him here and there? I’m trying a bit to reconstruct the animation work he did in the 50s and 60s. Please do get in touch with me if you can, via e-mail (hopefully the e-mail address will come through to you via this comment?)

    Thanks again,
    -Zoe Piel

    • Hello, Zoe. The remarkable thing is that I never made the connection between David Piel and Piels’s beer. He never mentioned it to me, and I never asked. The important thing here is to remember the time-line. If you can fill in where David was, and what he was doing from 1945 to 1955 or 56, it would help me to recall when hand where it was that I was in contact with him ,
      and why. I’ve got his image in my head, but I still can’t connect the dots – about what we did or almost did together. It must have been something!!!

      The one definite thing I know is that he made the first HAROLD & THE PURPLE CRAYON film, and it was some years later (about 1959), that I made A PICTURE FOR HAROLD’S ROOM, and then a year after that, HAROLD’S FAIRY TAIL. But I do recall that the Harold film was just a minor item from Dave’s studio. Tell me more, and perhaps I will recall more!

    • WHAT???? Piel’s beer has come back to life and killed my story???
      Is that fair??? It can’t possibly be the same old Piel’s beer, which in my opinion
      should be left in its bier…

      • Hello Gene,

        Sadly, my family divested itself of the company name in the late 1960s. I think Stroh’s might have bought it?

        The intertwining of us Piels with animation is an interesting one to me. Did you ever work with my grandfather David when you were making these ads? He was a freelance artist/animator in the advertising business in Manhattan from about 1957 until ’72. The only film I know of that he made which I can find was the adaptation of Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson.

      • Yes, I knew David Piel, Zoe, but it never occurred to me that he was related to the Piels beer family! That is a great revelation! It happens that I later made two HAROLD PURPLE CRAYON films myself for Weston Woods. For my HAROLD films, I worked directly with the author, Crockett Johnson, (who coincidentally was actually named David!). He had specific rules about how his Purple Crayon stories should be animated. I will describe that in my upcoming “Credit” number 55,. Crockett Johnson, which will be posted soon on this site.

  3. The characters are great. I can see why people enjoyed them when they were airing. Even though they were only a minute long you can just feel the dynamics between the two. Bob and Ray should be proud.

    Some of the commercials are on YouTube. Here’s one:

    Any idea who animated this advert, Gene?

    • Most of our UPA/NY animators worked on the series, Grim Natwick, Duane Ceowther, Bard Wiggenhorn…. I’d like to hear a claim from whoever did this one. I can’t remember the individual animator who did this one. And also, I continued the series when I went to Terryoons, where Tom Golden did some brilliant animation on Bert & Harry!

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