Diver Dan

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For the character on the Australian television series SeaChange, see Daniel Della Bosca.
Cover from Alpha Video's 2006 DVD release of Diver Dan.

Diver Dan was a series of 104 seven-minute live-action shorts made for children's television. Made by Brian Cartoons, it was syndicated (mainly to NBC affiliates)[1] and distributed by ITC Entertainment. The shows were sometimes re-edited into half-hour (including commercials) blocks by local stations.

The series featured the adventures of a diver in an old-fashioned diving suit who talked to the passing fish. The series was filmed in live action with puppet fish; the underwater effect was achieved by shooting through an aquarium.

Production[edit]

Diver Dan debuted in 1960, the brainchild of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, cartoonist J. Anthony (John) Ferlaine, as a spinoff of his comic strip, Fish Tales. Ferlaine, who worked as an art director at Philadelphia's CBS affiliate WCAU-TV, produced two Fish Tales live-action marionette pilots. When CBS did not pick up the show, Ferlaine and promoter Martin Young partnered with Philadelphia producer Louis W. Kellman, who with his staff produced local TV spots and film shorts and filmed NFL football games. They produced the shorts over nine months and syndicated them.[2]

In New York City, Diver Dan shorts ran as part of Felix & Diver Dan, a 30-minute children's show airing from January 4, 1960, to August 31, 1962, which also included Felix the Cat.[3] In Chicago during the 1960s, Diver Dan was regularly shown on the WGN-TV show "Ray Rayner and His Friends" even though Rayner would frequently read on-air letters from children requesting that he get other cartoons.

Main cast[edit]

  • Allen Swift as the voices of many puppets, the unseen Captain Murphy and the narrator
  • Frank D Freda. Freda is a playwright who received the Waldo Bellow Award for his play, Lunchtime. He has acted in a number of TV commercials, and was an early Ronald McDonald. Frank lived from 1936 to April 12, 2016. He performed in plays in Philadelphia and Broadway before Diver Dan. He made many Pall Mall and Budweiser commercials. In addition to acting Frank was a pioneer in sales of the cellphone, HBO cable TV company. He sold the first car cell phone in NYC for $20000.
  • Suzanne Turner as Miss Minerva, a mermaid, who referred to Diver Dan only as "the Diver" and shyly kept away from him.

Dramatis personæ[edit]

The characters included Diver Dan and Miss Minerva, the Captain (heard but not seen), and a puppet cast (with very obvious strings) including the villainous Baron Barracuda, his henchman Trigger (a trigger fish), Finley Haddock, Doc Sturgeon, Georgie Porgy, Gabby the Clam, Gill Espy, Glow Fish, Goldie the Goldfish (who spoke only in peeps and squeaks), Hermit Crab, Sam the Sawfish, Scout Fish, Sea Biscuit the Seahorse, and Skipper Kipper.

One of the running gags in the series was for Trigger to refer to the Baron as "Boss," at which the Baron would get angry and say some variation of, "Call me Baron, you idiot!"—to which Trigger would reply, "Okay, Baron, you idiot." All of the script writing was at a similar level.

Baron Barracuda wore a monocle in one eye, and spoke in a vaguely European accent; he sounded like a Bela Lugosi "Dracula" imitation. Trigger always had an apparently unlit cigarette jutting from the side of his mouth and sounded a bit like Ed Norton from The Honeymooners.

The series was not immune to ethnic stereotypes: One of the undersea characters was Scout Fish, who carried a tomahawk and always spoke in pidgin-Indian dialect. He occasionally used his tomahawk to extricate Diver Dan from seaweed (in the Sargasso Sea), fishing nets, or some nefarious trap.

"The Ballad of Diver Dan"[edit]

The series opening and closing themes were written, performed, and sung by the show's sound engineer, Jack Sky, in a double tracked recorded voice.[2]

  • Opening theme

Below in the deep there's adventure and danger;
That's where you'll find Diver Dan!
The sights that he sees are surprising and stranger
Than ever you'll see on the land!

Following those opening lyrics, the narrator sums up the recent situation in a short group of rhymes, during the second half of the song as an instrumental, before the episode resumes. Before the closing sung lyrics, the narrator brings up the new situation in a short group of rhymes, during the first half of the song, as an instrumental, as the episode concludes.

  • Closing theme

He moves among creatures
Of frightening features:
Flashing teeth, slashing jaws,
Flapping fins, snapping claws!
He protects and he saves
His friends under the waves;
That's where you'll find Diver Dan!

Episodes[edit]

Ep. # Episode title
01 Hard Water
02 Goldie The Goldfish
03 Talking Fish
04 Skippers Gold
05 Treasure Ship
06 Sawfish Rescue
07 Shell O Phone
08 The Octopus
09 Murder Ink
10 Bottomless Pit
11 Teetering Rock
12 Barons Capture
13 An Unusual Treasure
14 Triggers Revenge
15 An Unusual Fish
16 The Verdict
17 Horaces Dilemma
18 The Trap
19 The Trap Is Sprung
20 Riddle Of The Hermit Crab
21 Sargasso Sea
22 Lost In The Sargasso Sea
23 Current Flow
24 The Storm
25 Goldies Heroism
26 Dynamite
27 Ghost Is Clear
28 Captain Barney
29 Lost City
30 Secret Of The Throne
31 Crawling Danger
32 The Strange Fish
33 The Bomb
34 The Bubbling Pit
35 The Volcano
36 Depth Charge
37 School Daze
38 Strange Vines
39 Savage Seaweed
40 The Magnet

Credits[edit]

  • Produced by Louis W. Kellman
  • A Brian Cartoons, Inc. production in association with Young Productions, Inc.
  • Executive producer: Hal Tunis
  • Associate producer: Harvey Blake
  • Created by J. Anthony Ferlaine
  • Writers included: Joseph Bonaduce, Ron Ronszel
  • Puppeteers: Martin Kreiner, John Caracciolo, Harold Taylor, Alfred Sandstrom
  • Directors: Leon Rhodes, Mort Heilig
  • Production manager: Ben Berk
  • Cameraman: Morris Kellman
  • Script supervisor: Ruth Clyman
  • Editors: Arthur Spieller, Margot Mor
  • Sound: Jack Sky
  • Art director: Frank Heininger
  • Lighting: John Wynn

DVD release[edit]

Alpha Video released two collections of Diver Dan episodes on DVD (Region 0). All episodes in both volumes are black & white.

Diver Dan (Catalog # ALP 5152D, UPC #0 89218 51529 2, Release Date September 26, 2006)
  • 01 (Episode #34) THE BUBBLING PIT
  • 02 (Episode #35) THE VOLCANO
  • 03 (Episode #36) DEPTH CHARGE
  • 04 (Episode #25) GOLDIE'S HEROISM
  • 05 (Episode #26) DYNAMITE
  • 06 (Episode #27) GHOST IS CLEAR
  • 07 (Episode #37) SCHOOL DAZE
  • 08 (Episode #38) STRANGE VINES
  • 09 (Episode #39) SAVAGE SEAWEED
  • 10 (Episode #12) BARON'S CAPTURE
  • 11 (Episode #13) AN UNUSUAL TREASURE
  • 12 (Episode #14) TRIGGER'S REVENGE
  • 13 (Episode #20) RIDDLE OF THE HERMIT CRAB
  • 14 (Episode #21) SARGASSO SEA
  • 15 (Episode #22) LOST IN THE SARGASSO SEA
Diver Dan Volume 2 (Catalog # ALP 5710D, UPC #0 89218 57109 0)
  • 01 (Episode #01) HARD WATER
  • 02 (Episode #02) GOLDIE THE GOLDFISH
  • 03 (Episode #03) TALKING FISH
  • 04 (Episode #04) SKIPPER'S GOLD
  • 05 (Episode #05) TREASURE SHIP
  • 06 (Episode #06) SAWFISH RESCUE
  • 07 (Episode #32) THE STRANGE FISH
  • 08 (Episode #33) THE BOMB
  • 09 (Episode #23) CURRENT FLOW
  • 10 (Episode #24) THE STORM
  • 11 (Episode #11) TEETERING ROCK
  • 12 (Episode #40) THE MAGNET
  • 13 (Episode #31) CRAWLING DANGER
  • 14 (Episode #16) THE VERDICT
  • 15 (Episode #17) HORACE'S DILEMMA

Three DVD (Region 0) releases have also been produced by East West Entertainment LLC. All episodes in all three volumes are black & white.

Diver Dan Vol. One (UPC #8 43156 02012 2)
  • Episode #01 - HARD WATER
  • Episode #02 - GOLDIE THE GOLDFISH
  • Episode #03 - TALKING FISH
  • Episode #04 - SKIPPER'S GOLD
  • Episode #05 - TREASURE SHIP
  • Episode #06 - SAWFISH RESCUE
  • Episode #07 - SHELL-O-PHONE
  • Episode #08 - THE OCTOPUS
  • Episode #09 - MURDER INK

Note: Each of the first 8 episodes has its own chapter stop except for Episode #09. It continues immediately after Episode 08. Pressing >> skips Episode 09 and cycles back to Episode 01.

Diver Dan Vol. 2 (UPC #8 43156 02014 6)
  • Episode #01 - HARD WATER
  • Episode #02 - GOLDIE THE GOLDFISH
  • Episode #03 - TALKING FISH
  • Episode #04 - SKIPPER'S GOLD
  • Episode #05 - TREASURE SHIP
  • Episode #06 - SAWFISH RESCUE
  • Episode #07 - SHELL-O-PHONE
  • Episode #08 - THE OCTOPUS
  • Episode #09 - MURDER INK

Note: Followed by five Van Beuren Corporation and three Fleischer Studios cartoons on Track 2.

Diver Dan Vol. 3 (UPC #8 43156 02015 3)
  • Episode #19 - THE TRAP IS SPRUNG
  • Episode #20 - RIDDLE OF THE HERMIT CRAB
  • Episode #21 - SARGASSO SEA
  • Episode #22 - LOST IN THE SARGASSO SEA
  • Episode #23 - CURRENT FLOW

In addition to these DVD releases, the television series was shown in full color during the late 60s & early 70s on Ray Rayner and Friends. This early morning kid's show was produced by Chicago's WGN-TV/Channel 9. The Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention also occasionally shows episodes as fillers between movies.

In other media[edit]

Dell Publishing issued a Diver Dan comic book, as issue #1254 (February–April 1962) of its series Four Color.[2] A follow-up issue #2 was published dated June–August 1962 and then was cancelled. Diver Dan episodes are also available at tv4u.com.

In 1964, songwriter and record producer Tony Piano of Columbia Records put out a children's album based on the series titled "Diver Dan and the Bermuda Onion." With the exception of the theme song, which he legally borrowed from the series, Piano wrote the story, music, and lyrics for the album. His inspiration for producing it was his two young children at the time, who were 'hooked' on the Diver Dan TV series. In addition to producing the album, Piano took on three of the roles: Trigger, Sam the Sawfish, and Skipper Kipper. Aiding Piano on the album was the famous comedian Del Close, playing the role of Baron Barracuda. "Birthday House" and children's album star Kay Lande played Minerva the Mermaid.

Legacy[edit]

The Nickelodeon animated children's show Spongebob Squarepants seems to have been somewhat influenced by Diver Dan, either in directly parodying or by paying homage to it. In the Spongebob Squarepants episode, "One Krabs Trash", Mr. Krabs goes to a graveyard to retrieve a "soda-drink-hat", and there is a gravestone that reads "Diver Dan".

References[edit]

External links[edit]