Clutch Cargo

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Clutch Cargo
Written byClark Haas
Voices ofRichard Cotting
Margaret Kerry
Hal Smith
Theme music composerPaul Horn
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of episodes52
Producer(s)Dick Brown
Running time4 minutes
Production company(s)Cambria Productions
Original releaseMarch 9, 1959 – 1960

Clutch Cargo was an American animated television series produced by Cambria Productions and syndicated beginning on March 9, 1959. The series was notable for its very limited animation yet imaginative stories; it was a surprise hit at the time, and could be seen on 65 stations nationwide in 1960.


The stories centered on adventurer Clutch Cargo, who was sent around the world on dangerous assignments. Accompanying him on the assignments were his young ward Spinner and his pet dachshund Paddlefoot. Live-action footage of an airplane was used as well, specifically that of a rare 1929 Bellanca C-27 Airbus; series creator Clark Haas was previously a jet pilot.[1]

Episodes were produced and then serialized in five five-minute chapters each. The first four chapters naturally ended in cliffhangers, with the fifth chapter concluding the adventure. Haas explained the format of the show: "Each story is done in five five-minute segments so the stations can run one a day on weekdays, then recap the whole for a half-hour Saturday show. It's flexible and works very well."[2]


Because of budgetary limitations and the pressure to create television animation within a tight time frame, the show was the first to use the "Syncro-Vox" optical printing system. Syncro-Vox was invented by Edwin Gillette, television cameraman and partner in Cambria Studios, as a means of superimposing real human mouths on the faces of animals for the popular "talking animal" commercials of the 1950s. Clutch Cargo employed the Syncro-Vox technique by superimposing live-action human lips over limited-motion animation or even motionless animation cels.

To further cut costs, Gillette and special-effects man Scotty Tomany supplemented Syncro-Vox with other time- and money-saving tricks. Haas explained, "We are not making animated cartoons. We are photographing 'motorized movement' and—the biggest trick of all—combining it with live action. This enables us to produce film at about one-fifth what it costs Hanna and Barbera. Footage that Disney does for $250,000 we do for $18,000."[1]

Gillette and Tomany simulated action not by animation but in the real-time movement of either the camera or the cel itself. Other live-action shots were superimposed as a means of adding a certain degree of realism and to keep production costs down. For example, footage of real smoke was used for explosions.[1]

Occasionally traditional animation was also employed in the series, notably in the episode The Lost Plateau, in which brief segments of animated dinosaurs stood out. The character Paddlefoot, with his scratching and comical movements, was singled out as the most common cause of "skyrocketing" animation costs at Cambria.[citation needed]

The musical soundtrack to Clutch Cargo was, in its own way, as limited, and yet as inventive within those limitations, as the animation. Jazz musician Paul Horn provided a score using bongos, a vibraphone, and a flute.


In 1987, Clutch Cargo was referenced in the Max Headroom broadcast signal intrusion

The episode The Arctic Bird Giant was briefly shown in a scene from the 1994 film Pulp Fiction.

In 1996, a live music venue named after the series, Clutch Cargo's, opened in Pontiac, Michigan.[3]

In the April 18, 2011, strip of Retail, Marla's fiancé Scott suggests "Clutch Cargo" for the name of her new handbag business.[4]

In 2013, Clutch Cargo was featured on truTV's World's Dumbest TV Shows, where it placed #19 on the show's countdown.

DVD releases[edit]

On March 22, 2005, BCI Eclipse released the entire Clutch Cargo series in two 3-DVD box sets. Each volume contains 26 5-part episodes, and extras including one episode of Cambria Studios' other two Syncro-Vox series, Space Angel and Captain Fathom.[citation needed]


DVD name Episodes Release date Additional information
Volume 1 26 March 22, 2005
  • The Story of Clutch Cargo
  • Clutch Memorabilia
  • Clutch & Company: Mini-biographies and details of the cast
  • 1959 Facts and Trivia
  • Bonus Syncro-Vox Cartoon episode
Volume 2 26 March 22, 2005
  • The Making of Clutch Cargo
  • Politically Incorrect
  • As Seen in Pulp Fiction
  • 1959 Trailers
  • Bonus Syncro-Vox Cartoon Episode

Episode list[edit]

Episode and Title
  1. The Friendly Head Hunters
  2. The Arctic Bird Giant
  3. The Desert Queen
  4. The Pearl Pirates
  5. The Vanishing Gold
  6. The Race Car Mystery
  7. The Rocket Riot
  8. Mystery in the Northwoods
  9. Twaddle in Africa
  10. The Lost Plateau
  11. The Ghost Ship
  12. The Rustlers
  13. The Missing Train
  14. The Devil Bird
  15. Pipeline to Danger
  16. Mister Abominable
  17. Operation Moon Beam
  18. Air Race
  19. The Haunted Castle
  20. The Elephant-Nappers
  21. Dragon Fly
  22. Sky Circus
  23. The Midget Submarine
  24. Cliff Dwellers
  25. Jungle Train
  26. Space Station
  27. The Swamp Swindlers
  28. The Dinky Incas
  29. Kangaroo Express
  30. The Shipwreckers
  31. The Ivory Counterfeiters
  32. Dynamite Fury
  33. Alaskan Pilot
  34. Swiss Mystery
  35. Pirate Isle
  36. Crop Dusters
  37. The Smog Smuggler
  38. Global Test Flight
  39. Dead End Gulch
  40. The Missing Mermaid
  41. Flying Bus
  42. Road Race
  43. Feather Fuddle
  44. Water Wizards
  45. The Terrible Tiger
  46. The Circus
  47. Bush Pilots
  48. Cheddar Cheaters
  49. The Blunderbird
  50. The Case of Ripcord Van Winkle
  51. Fortune Cookie Caper
  52. Big "X"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Margaret Kerry: Memorabilia & Collectibles Archived May 13, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ "Don't believe your eyes! How 'Clutch Cargo' cuts corners as a television comic strip." TV Guide December 24, 1960, p. 29.
  3. ^ Clutch Cargo's, metromix detroit
  4. ^ Feuti, Norm. "Retail, 18 April 2011". King Features Syndicate. Retrieved April 19, 2011.

Further reading[edit]

  • "Don't believe your eyes! How 'Clutch Cargo' cuts corners as a television comic strip", TV Guide, December 24, 1960, pp. 28–29.
  • Erickson, Hal. Syndicated Television; The First Forty Years, 1947–1987. p. 119. ISBN 0-7864-1198-8
  • Terrace, Vincent. Encyclopedia of Television Series, Pilots and Specials, 1937–1973. New York, New York Zoetrope. 1986. pp. 96–97. ISBN 0-918432-69-3
  • Jack and Jill magazine, Feb. 1961 issue, 6-page Clutch Cargo comic strip.
  • Outré magazine #5.

External links[edit]