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