Second in a two part series
Orgel was hired as Director of Program Development and Producer for his projects that made it into production. He arrived as The Mr. Magoo Show, which already had a producer, was nearing the end of production. Having developed live-action properties prior to his arrival, he continued in that vein at the animation studio and in December of 1961, pitched a series of four shows to be called “Spectaculars”. They were to be one hour specials and lit by famed stage lighting designer, Jo Mielziner. The first one, “Solo”, was to involve individual recording stars, two of which were approached-Lena Horne and Peggy Lee. The second, “Fashion”, would feature Miss Teen-Ager. The third was to be Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, while the fourth was to be a Milton Berle spectacular, “Berle’s World”, featuring animated sequences within a live action episode. The proposed series was never produced although Christmas Carol was to have its own future.
Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol
book will already know of Orgel’s inspiration and tenacity in finding songwriters and in getting Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol sold and produced. With the groundbreaking special’s huge success, the show went on to become a Christmas perennial. NBC was so pleased they asked UPA for more Magoo and Lee complied, developing the 1964 series, The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo. Orgel hoped to build on his success and continued to develop new projects for the UPA studio. One, another holiday project entitled Christmas with Grandma Moses, was to be a one hour animated musical TV special based on the paintings by Anna Mary Robertson with a score and lyrics by Christmas Carol lyricist, Bob Merrill. He also remained good friends with his collaborators from Gay Purr-ee, Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, and initiated discussions with them regarding a musical on Lewis Carroll, whom he acknowledged was “dull, dull, dull” as a subject. Lee enlisted Christmas Carol scribe Barbara Chain to write a treatment and, although he was unable to generate enough interest in the project to get it produced, continued to shop the project for much of his career.
Orgel's first success, with his newly formed company, JoMar Productions, was developing and selling the animated series, The New Three Stooges, which featured live-action wraparounds with the Stooges themselves. The show was produced by Cambria Studios (who had also done Clutch Cargo) where a few Christmas Carol alumni also picked up work on the series. Following this, his next project was an animated series on Abbott and Costello, and although he had planned on producing the series at Cambria, the show sponsor insisted it be done entirely at Hanna Barbera. (The above still was an early publicity drawing, the final designs were far less caricatured and interesting.) It seems that Orgel had an affinity for comedians as there are two storyboard pilots in his files, one for a Burns and Allen animated show, with George and Gracie appearing as a dog and a cat respectively, and one for a Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance show featuring Morey Amsterdam as their agent. There’s also a budget for a later proposed Red Skelton project.
Lee once again turned to live-action in the years after UPA. The producers of the Batman TV series asked Orgel to partner with neophyte screenwriter Stanley Ralph Ross and the two collaborated on the first two Catwoman episodes. Ross caught on so quickly he went on to solo for 27 episodes, more than any other series writer. They also collaborated on an episode for the series, Mr. Roberts. Other shows for which he pitched episode treatments were The Dick Van Dyke Show, F Troop and Bewitched.
|Orgel with the Christopher award|
However, Orgel never strayed too far from animation and in the mid-70s, did freelance writing for Hanna Barbera on The Scooby-Doo/DynoMutt Hour. Around the same time, Hank Saperstein enlisted Orgel to find a licensee for a new Magoo series and the result was the 1977 DePatie-Freleng produced Saturday morning series, What’s New, Mr. Magoo?
By this point, Orgel had spent a long career in animation and had tired of the grind of developing and pitching projects. In 1986, he joined Marvel Studios as a producer and writer on the action series, Defenders of the Earth, which featured such familiar comic strip characters as Flash Gordon, The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician. A few years later, Orgel fell ill with a kidney issue, which was preliminarily diagnosed as cancer. It later turned out to be a “football-sized” cyst on his kidney and both it and the kidney were removed. However, the illness had taken its toll and he became weaker and weaker, culminating in a two year deep depression in which he didn’t work at all.