Emmy-winning gameshow director and producer Paul Alter, a key figure at Goodson-Todman Prods., which created many of the best TV gamers of the last 60 years, and who won a lawsuit against the Walt Disney Co. over similarities between a treatment he penned and the storyline of the film “Honey, I Blew Up the Kid,” died June 11 of natural causes in Los Angeles. He was 89.
At Goodson-Todman, Alter helped created more than 60 gameshows from 1956-2000 and directed almost all of the pilots for the company’s shows, even if another director went on to helm the series.
Alter directed gameshows starting in the early days of television with “Beat the Clock” in 1950. He went on to helm gamers ranging from “What’s My Line?,” “I’ve Got a Secret” and “To Tell the Truth” to the more recent “Family Feud” (on which he was the original director) and, until 2000, “The Price Is Right.” In addition he was a producer on two iterations of “Tattletales” plus “Beat the Clock” and composed the theme music for “To Tell the Truth.”
He won Daytime Emmys in 1982 and 1996 for “Family Feud” and “The Price Is Right,” respectively.
In the 1991 finale of “To Tell the Truth,” Alter appeared as the mystery guest.
Alter also did work outside the TV gameshow arena. He edited and scripted episodes of the 1950s crime drama “Man Against Crime,” starring Ralph Bellamy; he was a.d. and occasional editor to director Sidney Lumet, a lifelong friend, on the TV series “Danger”; and he helmed episodes of “The Perry Como Show.”
In 1972, he produced Simon Gray’s “A Wise Child,” starring Bud Cort, on Broadway.
Alter filed suit against Disney in 1992. He asserted that he had submitted a story outline to the studio for a project that eventually became “Honey, I Blew Up the Kid,” which Disney used without crediting him. In his suit Alter listed 17 areas of similarity between his work, entitled “Now That’s a Baby,” which he’d submitted to Disney in the late 1970s, and the 1992 pic, a sequel to the 1989 comedy “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.”
Disney settled with Alter after a jury sided with him and awarded him $300,000.
Born in Chicago, Alter studied piano with Teddy Wilson of the Benny Goodman Quartet and served as an aerial photographer and intelligence officer for the U.S. Army during WWII. He graduated from NYU and the Yale School of Drama.
Drawing on his music background late in life, he penned, at age 87, the music and lyrics for yuletide album “The True Spirit of Christmas,” recorded by Pat Boone.
Alter was married for 40 years to Shirley Burrows Alter. Survivors include his second wife, Lorraine Cole Alter; three daughters, including casting director Julie Alter; four grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and a nephew, TV director-producer James Burrows.