Aug 14, 2021

What's Gay about Beany and Cecil?

Beany, a grinning 10-year old boy with blond hair, freckles, and a magic beanie that allowed him to fly, first appeared as a puppet on the local Los Angeles tv series Time for Beany (1949-1954). 

 A 26-episode animated version appeared on prime time (1962-63), and on Saturday mornings (1962-67). There were also books, toys, games, and comics.

This screencapt is from the short-lived 1988 remake, drawn by John Kricfalusi.

The plots involved Beany; his adult companion "Uncle Captain" Horatio Huffenpuff; and the giant green phallic symbol Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent.  There were a lot of puns which I didn't understand at the time: Hungry I-Land, "Malice in Wonderland," "Phantom of the Horse Opera," Cyrano de Bugs-R-Back (ok, that one is a bit of a stretch).

Their main antagonist was Dishonest John, a silent movie melodrama villain with a handlebar moustache and a sinister "Nya-ha-ha" catchphrase.  He often captured and threatened to torture or kill Beany, whereupon Beany would cry "Help, Cecil, help!" and Cecil would rush to the rescue.

When I was a kid, I didn't notice the heterosexism.  It was far more pervasive than in the Hanna Barbera cartoons (Yogi Bear, The Flintstones).  The crew explores No Bikini Atoll, an island that looks like a reclining woman.  The Captain is in love with a husky woman named Ida, Cecil is dating a female sea serpent named Cecilia, and even Beany has a girlfriend, Baby Ruth. 

I just noticed a boy who needed lots of rescues.  Beany and Cecil didn't have a romantic bond, but the inversion of the standard female damsel-in-distress plotline paved the way for more overt gay partners, boys who faded-out in each other's arms -- Jonny and Hadji, the Hardy Boys, the Adventure Boys in the Green Library.

The first childhood toy that I remember is a huge, cuddly Beany doll wearing a red turtleneck sweater and blue overalls (I didn't check to see if he was intact underneath, like I did a few years later with my G.I. Joe and my sister's Donny Osmond). When you pulled the string in back, he said random things:  "I'm Beany Boy!"; "Let's go explore!"; "Gee, this is fun!"; and "Help, Cecil, help!" 

He got rescued a lot.


  1. Really? Dishonest John? Not only do they plagiarize Pinocchio, but they suck the irony out. (I suppose one can't plagiarize a story that goes back to ancient Rome, but Disney's lawyers will dispute that.)

    1. Bob Clampett said that he was parodying a car salesman who did a lot of advertising in L.A. in the 1950s. TV Tropes calls the used car salesman trope "Honest John's Dealerships"

    2. Yeah, but Pinocchio was released in the 40s; you can tell by the fact that Pinocchio's creator's name is a racial slur.

      Honest John was the name of the fox who just wants to take boys to an island where they can play grown-up games all day. Certainly not a trafficker.

      In the Roman version, it's bawdier, with Pinocchio starring in donkey shows.

  2. Found an episode of the puppet show version in a compilation of Fifties Kids TV shows. It was weirdly disjointed and all over the place and felt rather like they just filmed a rehearsal.

    1. I think I have that on DVD. Never saw the puppet version, but since it was a live local broadcast, it would be less polished than we're used to.

    2. I want to request the lost episodes from 1962-63 Beany & Cecil TV series to Youtube Channel soon.

    3. I am the fan of classic cartoons it's my favorite hobby during childhood in the Philippines in the 1960's era in popular culture in TV films comics animation & media.


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