Alan Shalleck; Brought Curious George to TV

Alan J. Shalleck, shown in a 2000 photo, gave a fictional monkey a new career in television. His death is being investigated as a possible homicide.
Alan J. Shalleck, shown in a 2000 photo, gave a fictional monkey a new career in television. His death is being investigated as a possible homicide. (By Taylor Jones -- Associated Press)
Associated Press
Thursday, February 9, 2006

Alan J. Shalleck, 76, who collaborated with the co-creator of Curious George to bring the mischievous monkey to television and a series of book sequels, was found dead Feb. 7 outside his home in Boynton Beach, Fla. Police were treating the death as a possible homicide.

Mr. Shalleck's bloodied body was found Tuesday morning covered with garbage bags in the driveway of his mobile home. Police said it had been there for at least a day before a maintenance man discovered it.

"I went to drag it . . . and said, 'This is a body; this isn't garbage,' " said Burt Venturelli, maintenance supervisor of the mobile home park. "I could see blood all over the place."

Boynton Beach police spokeswoman Gladys Cannon would not disclose details about how Mr. Shalleck died.

His death came as "Curious George" is debuting Friday as a full-length film featuring the voices of Will Ferrell, Drew Barrymore and Dick Van Dyke, among others.

Mr. Shalleck was the writer and director of more than 100 animated short episodes of "Curious George," which were seen on the Disney Channel.

The original series of seven "Curious George" books began in 1941, shortly after the series creators, Hans Rey and his wife, Margret, fled to the United States from war-torn Europe. A precursor of the character had appeared in a book they did in France in 1939. Hans Rey did the illustrations and his wife wrote the stories.

Mr. Shalleck approached Margret Rey in 1977, the year her husband died, about bringing Curious George to television. In addition to 104 five-minute TV shorts, he and Margret Rey wrote 28 additional books about George.

"I got $500 per 'Curious George' story -- no royalties, no residuals," Mr. Shalleck told the Palm Beach Post in 1997. But the experience of working with Margret Rey was the high point of his life, he said.

She died in 1996 at age 90. Mr. Shalleck said she and her husband identified with their readers because they were children at heart.

"They always considered children as little people and wanted to write for them as little people," he told the Associated Press in 1996.

Born in Westchester County, N.Y., Mr. Shalleck was a drama major at Syracuse University. He found a job in the CBS mailroom in 1950 and worked his way up to associate producer for "Winky Dink and You," a children's television show in which kids drew on a plastic film placed on the TV screen. He later produced children's films and formed his own company.

His marriage to Joan Shalleck ended in divorce.

In Florida, he worked at a bookstore and was known in his retirement village as a quiet but friendly man. He often visited schools to read books to children, who called him Gramps.

"Gramps is a persona that transcends everything else," he told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in 2001. "I'm a communicator, not an educator. My main goal is to get them to love to read."

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