ABC moves to tone down 'Cryptkeeper' cartoon

September 07, 1993|By Daniel Cerone | Daniel Cerone,Los Angeles Times

ABC, responding to concerns from stations across the country that the network's new Saturday morning cartoon, "Tales From the Cryptkeeper," might be too scary for young children, has decided to replace the rotting, cackling corpse puppet who was going to introduce the show with a milder, animated version in striped pajamas and fuzzy bunny slippers.

As an additional precautionary move, ABC is developing a "viewer guide package," with the help of a child psychologist, to detail what it says are the educational elements and morality tales in each episode. Those will be sent out to parents who write or call in with complaints after the series premieres Sept. 18.

In a letter mailed to network-affiliated stations last month, ABC's president of children's programming, Jenny Trias, called the new cartoon Cryptkeeper "more child-viewer friendly."

"I'm surprised that 'Tales From the Cryptkeeper' received such a strong reaction in the press and with the television affiliates before they ever saw the series," Toper Taylor, senior vice president of Nelvana Entertainment, which produces "Cryptkeeper" for ABC, said. "Because we're the company that produces 'Babar,' and we've won Emmy Awards for children's programming."

"Cryptkeeper" is being co-produced by the same people behind HBO's "Tales From the Crypt," an adult cable series that lets the blood flow.

Both series are based on the old E.C. Comics that in the 1950s were the subject of Senate hearings on whether comic books are harmful to children.

At an affiliates meeting in June in Los Angeles, some station executives were shocked when ABC showed footage of HBO's animatronic Cryptkeeper, a ghoulish corpse with putrid flesh, introducing him as the network's newest kiddie host.

"During the affiliates meeting, some of the general managers expressed concern about the animatronic host," said ABC spokeswoman Patty McTeague. "Although it only represents a minute-and-a-half worth of program time in each episode, they were concerned that it would be too frightening for children."

"We had not shot the wraparounds yet," Ms. McTeague said. "Nothing had been finalized. So we opted to take the conservative route and go with an animated Cryptkeeper, but much, much more conservative than the HBO character. Now he will be no more frightening than a Beetlejuice or Ghostbuster or any character you would see on Halloween night."

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