Hankerin’ for a hunk o’ Timer: The little yellow blob was part of a well-balanced 70s childhood

By on December 9, 2015

Time for Timer were a series of educational PSA’s promoting healthy eating and personal hygiene that ran on Saturday mornings in the early 70s, during the ABC’s children’s cartoon programming, primarily during “Schoolhouse Rock!” and “The Bod Squad.”

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Timer was a cheese-lovin’, bowtie and hat-wearin’ yellow blob of no discernible or particular size (sometimes he appeared to be microscopic, other times he was regular-sized) who we’ve only recently discovered represented the concept of time: he’s the little dude in your head (we’re guessin’) that tells you when it’s “time for ______” (fill in the blank: time to eat, time to sleep, time for a hunk of cheese, etc.).

He lived inside a host body that wasn’t always identified, helping to explain bodily functions and the importance of nutrition, eating everything on your plate, etc. We find it a little curious that Timer would himself need a reminder of time, then, havin’ to carry around a rather large pocket watch, don’t you?

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In the PSA we’re callin’ “I Hanker for a Hunk of Cheese,” Timer — now sportin’ a cowboy hat and a friendly “howdy partner” western accent — suggests a nutritious snack of what he calls “wagon wheels,” sandwiches made with cheese slices and crackers. (When Timer prepares one on a kitchen counter, he rolls it down the counter on its edge and tells us, “Look! A wagon wheel!”). For the longest time we actually thought Timer was a hunk of cheese!

Some of the other untitled “Timer” PSA segments — produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, who did the “Pink Panther” cartoon — included his explanation of what happens to the food you eat (“You Are What You Eat”), how to make leftovers when you’re in a hurry and unable to cook a healthy breakfast (“Quickie Breakfast”) and how to make an after-school popsicle-type snack with fruit juice, an ice tray, and toothpicks (“Sunshine on a Stick”).

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In addition to being educational, and a bit of a healthy snack nag, Timer was also a lot of fun and saw himself as a miniaturized entertainer, doing song and dance numbers and imitating celebrities such as Jimmy Cagney, Jackie Gleason and several others that many children may have been too young to actually identify, which was often the case with cartoons created by grown-ass adults who had no clue whatsoever.

Timer may have first appeared in a made-for-TV movie circa 1973, called I Am Joe’s Heart, which personally and graphically informed children about the heart, its function, its needs and the effects that various abuses have on its very life. The movie was based on an article that had been published earlier in Reader’s Digest, and starred actor Henry Morgan.

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He then appeared on February 7, 1973, in ABC’s 1973 afterschool special “The Incredible, Indelible, Magical, Physical Mystery Trip,” in which Timer lived inside the host body that of a rather unhealthy middle-aged dolt named “Uncle Carl,” played by actor Hal Smith, but you might remember his better as Otis Campbell, Mayberry’s town drunk on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

At the time, Timer was originally voiced by Clio Award-winning voice actor Len Maxwell, who worked as a stand-up comedian during the 60s, even recording the classic cult hit album A Merry Monster Christmas in 1964. He was probably best known, however, for doing Woody Allen’s voiceovers in 1966’s What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (where he’s also credited as a writer) and other films and appearing in many, many TV shows and shorts.

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SatAMBrainfood.com

Timer also appeared in the ABC Afterschool Special “The Magical Mystery Trip Through Little Red’s Head,” airing on May 15, 1974:

He was now voiced by Lennie Weinrib, a voice actor who had worked in TV since the late 1950s. As an on-screen actor, he was a regular on “The Spike Jones TV Show” (1961) and many, many TV sitcoms and dramas before moving into the world of animated voice-over work.

Weinrib also provided voices for many series during the sixties and early 70s, in particular, including “H.R. Pufnstuf,” “Doctor Dolittle,” “The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show,” “Lidsville,” and “The New Scooby-Doo Movies,” providing the original voice of Scrappy Doo in the “Scooby-Doo” franchise (leaving after the first season), as well as credited as a writer and voice actor on the primetime cartoon “What Till Your Father Gets Home” (1972-1974), and lots of great Saturday morning cartoons, including “Inch High, Private Eye” (1973), “The Addams Family” (1973), and “Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch” (1974). He continued to work well into the 1990s, before retiring and moving to Santiago, Chile, where he died in June 2006.

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SatAMBrainfood.com

The success of these shows prompted the creation of Timer’s continuing public service announcements during the 1970s, and were fondly-remembered by the generation who grew up with him, which of course made him ripe for parody too, including this quickie appearance decades later on “Family Guy,” in which he’s portrayed as a crack addict:

And here’s one made by an obvious amateur who does a pretty good job of pokin’ fun at a childhood cartoon hero:

SCHOOL HOUSE ROCK

(h/t SatAMBrainfood.com)

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.