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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