Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Hot Hero Sandwich Clip Job! Animated Short Films — The Fantastic World of Jerry Lieberman

by G. Jack Urso


Whimsical, wild, and wonderful, the animated segments on Hot Hero Sandwich are a stand-out feature of the show. Series producers Bruce and Carole Hart’s experience with Sesame Street opened them up to the possibilities of engaging their young audience with animation to reinforce the themes of the show.  Appealing to the different learning styles of its young audience, Hot Hero Sandwich presented its themes in a variety of formats, including music, sketches, and, of course, animation.

The animated segments were created by Manhattan-based Jerry Lieberman Productions which produced award-winning commercials, corporate films, music videos, and in this case educational projects. 

Lieberman was a master of animation and mixed media, as amply shown in these segments. His films have been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, the Film Forum, and The Society of Illustrators. Unfortunately, Lieberman passed away in 2017 so much of the background of these animated segments is lost. Nevertheless, the wondrous mix of animation styles and fanciful imagery fits in perfectly with the era and the first generation weaned on the wondrous animation on Sesame Street, The Electric Company (Lieberman, in fact, contributed animation to that show), and other PBS programming. This footage, which, before being posted by the Hot Hero Sandwich Project, hasn't been seen since first broadcast in 1979 and 1980, gives long overdue notice to these important, if overlooked, Jerry Lieberman productions.

The majority of the animated segments are visualizations of children’s dreams. Esteemed child psychologist Dr. Lee Salk, as noted in episode 11's end credits, conducted the interviews. The Harts, in the course of their various educational-related projects developed connections in various professions, like with psychologist Dr. Tom Cottle (see his interview here) and animator Jerry Lieberman. Drawing upon these connections, the Harts were able to draw together outstanding talent and then gave them the space to do the work that brought them to their notice in the first place.

The animators for these segments are credited as: Mary Beams, Bruce Cayard, Al Jarnow, Eli Noyes, and, of course, Jerry Lieberman himself. There are two categories of animated segments on Hot Hero Sandwich, the dream sequences and music videos. All clips are hosted on the Hot Hero Sandwich Central YouTube channel.


Animated Children’s Dreams:
A young girl narrates the animation of her dream flying to Bermuda. When the plane crashes she goes on adventures, but they're saved and everything works out at the end because she likes happy endings. Animator: Mary Beams

A young girl narrates an animated sequence about a dream where her cat becomes king of all of Catdom. Animator: Bruce Cayard

In this unusual animation sequence combining animation and photography, when a young girl dreams her brother had an accident, she confronts her fears about death and mortality. Animator: Eli Noyes

A young girl narrates a fanciful dream of being a star of the stage and drinking tea!

A young girl and boy recount their dreams of flying. Animator: Mary Beams

A boy travels in search of his true identity only to find it was at home all along.  Animator: Ali Noyes

A short interview with LaVar Burton on dreams is followed by a Jerry Lieberman animated conceptual video with the song, Have You Seen the Stars Tonite, by the Jefferson Starship (written by Paul Kantner) off their 1971 album, Blows Against The Empire. Also, Barbara Feldon's appropriate "quiet" voiceover at the end announcing the break. Small details like this made the show unique, and of course, Agent 99 is wonderful in everything she does!

This segment is also identified as “Space” in the series official credits. Animators: Mary Beams and Al Jarnow

Animated Music Videos:

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Hot Hero Sandwich Clip Job! What In, What’s Out Segments

by G. Jack Urso

Hot Hero Sandwich’s “What In, What’s Out” segments are short clips of young people giving their opinion on the latest crazes, music, and slang. The introduction’s primal drumming and crunchy, screaming guitar work by the Hot Hero Band captures the unbridled teen spirit. What better way to explore what kids feel then letting them speak for themselves?

The children are from local schools on a field trip and coordinated with the show producers. The segments, directed by Gail Frank, wife of Hot Hero Sandwich writer Joe Bailey (who also wrote for Sesame Street and The Muppet Show), also show how difficult it is to pin down the likes and dislikes of the young teen demographic. This is amply demonstrated in the episode 6 segment about the great existential question in 1979, which is better, Rock or Disco music? Every kid seems to have a different answer.

To the historian, these “person on the street” interviews have more significance beyond just the entertainment value. Here, we see a snapshot of the attitudes, fashion, and language of NYC teens in the late 1970s (which were probably similar to teens in other urban areas). Whether it is a historian or a movie production trying to recreate an era, these segments can be invaluable.

All clips are hosted on the Hot Hero Sandwich Central YouTube channel.


What In, What’s Out Segments:


Sunday, January 28, 2024

Hot Hero Sandwich Clip Job! The Music Performances

by G. Jack Urso 

One big attraction for Hot Hero Sandwich’s appeal to its young audience was the music performances. Disco, New Wave, Rock, and even Latin Jazz found its way to Studio 8-H and Hot Hero managed to snap up some of the top names of the era, including Sister Sledge, Eddie Money, Joe Jackson, Rex Smith, Stephen Stills, The Little River Band, and more.

In the years just prior to the debut of MTV in 1981, just one year after Hot Hero Sandwich, teen interest in music videos was at an all-time high. Midnight Special, Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, Pop Clips, Friday Night Videos, and others, primed the late Baby Boomer/Gen X crowd for this genre and Hot Hero Sandwich was in an excellent position to capitalize on it. As noted by Paul O’Keefe in his interview for the Hot Hero Sandwich Project, “Studio 8-H was originally the radio studio for the NBC orchestra. It had very good acoustics for a TV studio.” Additionally, Hot Hero Sandwich shared crew with Saturday Night Live, which by 1979 had four solid years of recording acts for that show, so the performances for Hot Hero were filmed by top-notch technicians who needed only one or two run-throughs to nail down the acts on video. These taped performances are on par with anything SNL produced.

As for the performances themselves, Hot Hero Band producer Felix Pappalardi acknowledges in a Nov. 24, 1979, Record Word article, due to all the neon on stage, a loud hum was created when the amplifiers were turned on, so the performances were lip-synced, though it does appear that vocally the singers were still belting it out and the musicians hit their notes on target and on time.

All clips are hosted on the Hot Hero Sandwich Central YouTube channel. For all performances by the Hot Hero Band, please visit the article, Hot Hero Band Video Clips.


On Studio 8-H:


In addition to the performances on Studio 8-H, Hot Hero Sandwich also produced short films and animation (by Jerry Lieberman Productions) for a variety of music genres.

Animation and Short Films:
  • Episode 8, “When I'm 64”: Originally, this clip used the versions by The Beatles, here replaced with a cover version by the 101 Strings due to a limited copyright release.
  • Episode 10, “Ebony Eyes”: A tribute to Black girls and women set to Stevie Wonder's “Ebony Eyes,” overlayed with a woman doing snippets of "Phenomenal Woman," and another poem (“I’m Gonna Draw Me a Black Madonna”).

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Hot Hero Sandwich Clip Job! Ym and Ur, Alien Teen Social Satire

by G. Jack Urso

And now, the adventures of Ym and Ur!

Two teenaged aliens

cruising toward

the planet Earth . . .

studying our

television programs

and believing that

what they see

is real life.

The way that real people

really live it


Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!

(Opening narration to the Ym and Ur segments on Hot Hero Sandwich)

NBC PR photo for Denny Dillon (left) and Paul O’Keefe (right) as Ur and Ym (author's collection).

Ym and Ur ("Him" and "Her," Paul O’Keefe and Denny Dillon respectively) are two alien teens who “borrow” Ur’s father’s spaceship for a joy ride and cruise by the planet Earth close enough to monitor our television transmissions. Despite their long lives (Ym is 615 and Ur only 500), they are unfamiliar with Earth culture and they mistake many of our programs as accurately reflecting real life here on the planet. This naturally leads to humorous and sometimes somber social commentary. These segments were written by series writer Richard Camp (see Camp’s interview with the project for more information).

Episode 2                                                          Episode 3

As discussed by Denny Dillon in her interview for the Hot Hero Sandwich Project, the extensive make-up for the segments was the work of makeup artist Barbara Kelly, whose father Bob Kelly was a renowned Broadway wig maker and founder of Bob Kelly Cosmetics, a theatrical supply company. Kelly herself established her reputation with such films as Fame (the movie), Three Men and a Baby, Birdy, Desperately Seeking Susan, Big, Tootsie, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Star Dust Memories, Ragtime, and many more.

Dillon noted that the Ym and Ur segments had to be filmed fast because the heat from the lights would begin to heat up the make-up and cause the ends of the bald skull caps to curl up. Often the segments would be filmed late with the shooting going on until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. in the morning, according to Dillon.

Episode 4                                                          Episode 8

Paul O’Keefe, in his interview with the Hot Hero Sandwich Project, particularly recalled the sometime problematic costumes and make-up for the segments:

I should point out that the writing for the show was very well done. It gave us a lot to work with. Since they were aliens, we had some latitude in creating bits for the skits. You may be surprised to hear that physically the roles were very demanding. The spacesuits had no ventilation, so they were very hot under the lights. The makeup was very extensive, and needed to be worked on because we would be sweating it off. . . . our makeup lady . . . she and her father . . . developed a special color and type of makeup for the aliens, and she would work on us between takes. The bald cap also needed attention, but she did a great job keeping us looking like we came from outer space!

Jerry Lieberman provided an animated bit in the episode 2 segment — a commercial for a “Bermuda Belt,” a take-off on the Hawaiian Punch commercials of the time, which the alien teens mistake for humans at war. Throughout the segments, beauty contests are mistaken for elections, politicians are mistaken for beauty contestants, the numbers on football jerseys are mistaken for IQs, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is mistaken for a religious procession of Earth gods.

Hmm . . . maybe the kids got it right all along.

Episode 11

Production breakdown sheets for filming the Ym and Ur segment for July 20, 1979.

Ym and Ur Segments:  

  • Episode 2: Cults, Countries, Football, War, Peace.
  • Episode 3: Parades, Religion, and Staying Young.
  • Episode 4: Politics and Beauty Contests.
  • Episode 8: Race, Slang, and Communicating.
  • Episode 11: Parting comments. Going home with special guest stars producer Howard Malley as the alien dad and writer Andy Breckman (creator of the TV show Monk) as the Puberty Fairy!

Series' producer Howard Malley in real life (left) and in character as Ur’s father.

All clips are hosted on the Hot Hero Sandwich Central YouTube channel.

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