Updated July 7, 2012
Born in May 1917, Hal Seeger got his start in the animation business in his teens, when he was an assistant animator at the Fleischer Studios and also ghostwriter of Bud Counihan's Betty Boop comic strip. He dabbled in live-action films in the 1940's and 1950's. These included a documentary film called "Hands Tell The Story" which told a story using only closeups of people's hands. The film was released through Warner Bros. in 1949 (release no. 1886A).
He also wrote at least six black-audience films for director Josh Binney at All-American Productions, between 1946 and 1949. They were "Midnight Menace", "Hi-De-Ho", "Merry Go Round", "Boarding House Blues", "Killer Diller" and "The Joint Is Jumpin'". For Cab Calloway (star of "Hi-De-Ho"), Seeger contributed lyrics to his song "Don't Falter At The Altar."
Hal made his debut as an animation producer in the early 1940's, creating a commissioned film called "The Vacationer's Paradise." There is some disagreement in the Seeger camp as to who commissioned it. According to Seeger's assistant Len Bird, it was the Miami Chamber of Commerce, and son David Seeger remembers the Jewish Anti-Defamation League. The film carries no credits other than a Western Electric Recording logo, but was thought to be animated by Myron Waldman and others from the Fleischer studios. It was an instructional film on beach and seaside etiquette.
In the late 1950's, Hal Seeger Productions opened in New York City. The studio specialized in television commercials, but they also produced some fondly-remembered cartoon series for syndication and Saturday morning television. A remake of Max Fleischer's "Out Of The Inkwell" was first in the early 1960's, a production for Seven Arts Associated. Max Fleischer, who appeared in the pilot film which was animated by Waldman, was said to be extremely dissatisfied with the finished product but the quality is on a par with contemporary work from Paramount Cartoon Studios.
Seeger's studio also produced the main and end titles for "The Porky Pig Show" for Warner Bros. Television (WB having shuttered their animation department earlier in the decade). Then came "The Milton The Monster Show", which premiered on ABC in September 1965 and was the only network series from Hal Seeger Productions. The syndicated "Batfink" was released in the fall of 1967 with 100 five-minute episodes.
Hal Seeger Productions (located at 45 West 45th Street) endured into the 1970's, thanks to Hal's creative energy and a virtual Who's Who of classic New York animators, designers and voice talent. Besides the prolific Waldman, those who were prominent at the studio included, Jim Tyer, John Gentilella (Johnny Gent), Shamus Culhane, Morey Reden, Dave Tendlar, Orestes Calpini, Izzy Klein, Robert Owen, Tom Golden, Martin Taras, Jack Mercer, and Dayton Allen. Their work was supplemented by younger artists like Ray Seti, Bob Taylor, David Ubinas and William Ackerman. Even MAD Magazine writers Stan Hart and Nick Meglin took the plunge and wrote some Seeger scripts.
Hal Seeger continued a healthy career after he folded his cartoon studio. He was principal in a production and post-production company called Today Video, with son, director David.Seeger. Father and son produced the main title sequence for the Fox sitcom "Duet", which was co-created by Hal's daughter Susan, and a three-volume video collection "Daytime's Greatest Weddings" for ABC-TV, just a few of the many projects the elder Seeger had a hand in. David Seeger has won multiple awards for such work as the opening titles of ABC/ESPN Monday Night Football, continuing a decades-long connection between the Seeger family and ABC.
Most importantly for cartoon fans, Hal retained the rights to all of his films and characters and negotiations to bring the popular Batfink and Milton The Monster back resulted in comprehensive DVD releases for both. Additionally, the Batfink cartoons are still popular around the world and have had two recent revivals in the US on two different cable TV outlets.
Hal's five children carry on the family legacy with credits as writers, actors, directors, and other creative ventures. Besides the aforementioned David and Susan, Efrem has been busy as a writer and showrunner on a number of primetime series. Charlene has contributed scripts to "Duet" and "Family Matters". Mindy is an actress in films and television and is also a very talented artist (visit her website) as well as a breast cancer survivor.
Hal Seeger died on March 13, 2005, in New York City at the age of 87. He was predeceased by wife Beverly Arnold Seeger (who performed as a voice actress in Hal's productions) in 2003, and the Seeger children eventually gifted him with ten grandchildren. Hal is missed as a person, creative light, father, grandfather, and husband. His films are his legacy and are remembered fondly by those of a certain age and are cherished by the youth of today, as they still run on television in many countries. We celebrate them here.
All Hal Seeger Productions Material © by Hal Seeger Productions.