Saturday, 12 January 2013

Bill Scott and Jay Ward on Cartoon TV Ads

Jay Ward Productions had a tie-in for years with cereal makers, first with the great TV show Rocky and His Friends sponsored by General Mills, and then with animated commercials for Cap’n Crunch starting in 1963 (prior to that, Ward’s characters hawked Cheerios and other General Mills products). So Broadcasting magazine saw fit in 1960 to interview Ward’s main man, Bill Scott, about cartoons selling products, specifically adult products.

The 1950s were a Golden Age of animated commercials. Cartoons seem to have sold just about everything. Despite’s Scott’s prediction in Broadcasting, animated spots in the ‘60s were aimed almost exclusively at children; cartoons were kids’ things, after all, was the attitude, though they’d been selling beer and cars in the ‘50s.

Here’s the complete story, with accompanying pictures, from the article dated August 15th. It’s a little long. You can download both pages HERE and HERE.

An expert argues that cartoons can sell things live actors can't

The little animated man in the commercials is continuing to win awards and influence sponsors.
Most recent example came from the Advertising Assn. of West which selected the top tv commercials produced in the West during the past year (BROADCASTING, July 4). There were five classes: 60-second spots, 20-second, ID's, program commercials and color commercials. The five first place awards for the best spot in each category all went to animated commercials.
"That's as it should be," commented Bill Scott of Jay Ward Productions, where he is co-producer of Rocky and His Friends, cartoon program sponsored by General Mills twice a week in its across-the-board late afternoon half-hour period on ABC-TV. "Cartoon commercials ought to be best because this is the only mass medium where the advertiser has absolute control of every second of time and every square inch of screen and so has complete control of everything the audience sees or hears from start to finish."
"Cartoon characters have one major shortcoming in comparison with live performers," he admitted. "They can't act. They can't look the viewer straight in the eye and make a believable pitch. But cartoon characters can make him believe things a live actor can't.
More Latitude ■ "There are only so many ways you can photograph a bottle of beer, only so many ways an actor can show his satisfaction after sipping it. But the Burgie man, by flubbing the commercial, can make folks love him and pity him and identify with him more strongly than they do with any live actor and some of that affection inevitably attaches itself to the product as well.
"What do you do with fats? Grease —and that's all shortening is when you come right down to it—what can you do to make that appealing? Well, Snowdrift answered that question with a foppish character dripping with superiority. On his first tv appearance he described himself, with deadly accuracy, as 'an identifiable character' and commanded his viewers to think of Snowdrift whenever they saw him. 'When you don't see me you may think of anything you please,' he condescendingly concluded. 'That's fair enough, isn't it?'
"Some months later, appearing in a yachting cap, he stated that Snowdrift is 'superb for kitchen or galley.' Then, staring imperiously at the audience, he went on, 'You do have a yacht, don't you?'
"The one field of broadcast advertising that seems to have been overlooked by the animators—or perhaps it's the other way 'round—is politics," Mr. Scott observed, "and this is very strange, considering the preeminent position of the political cartoons in newspapers. The only use of the tv cartoon in politics that I know of was one titled 'Hell Bent for Election' that UAW-CIO used to support Roosevelt in 1944 and that was a wrong use as the cartoon was so slanted that the only people it had any appeal for were those who had already decided to vote for FDR.
"Yet, there's no doubt that political cartoons on tv could be very effective. People will look at a cartoon almost automatically as soon as it comes on the screen and a party or candidate might capture the attention—and votes —of viewers who started out opposed and who would not ordinarily watch, listen to or read an appeal from this man or party.
Could Humor Backfire? ■ "I can't believe that many practical politicians have shied away from the tv cartoon as being too emotional a device. Perhaps they're afraid of destroying the serious image of a party or a candidate by what is generally considered to be a humorous medium. That would make somewhat more sense. Yet our armed forces have made good use of cartoons in their training programs and even the State Department has used them to get over serious but complicated messages that were difficult to present effectively by the more conventional means of communication.
Mr. Scott said that it takes six weeks from assignment to delivery for a one-minute commercial and calls on the services of a staff of five or six persons. For a five-minute cartoon, the time requirement is six to eight weeks, with a staff of 30. To turn out a half-hour series, where titles and other elements can be reused in many segments, takes a staff of 150 eight to ten weeks, and the same staff will spend six months in producing a one-hour cartoon special, with no repeats. A feature film for theatrical use, running an hour and 25 minutes, usually takes 18 months.
What It Costs ■ An animated program or commercial costs more than live action, he said, with an average half-hour cartoon series this fall costing around $40,000 per program. This is not an exorbitant sum, he commented, when one realizes that a half-hour program comprises 39,000 individual hand-drawn pictures.
A good one-minute animated commercial today costs $8,000-9,000 and Mr. Scott predicted that the price will go up to around $11,000 within the next two years. One reason is a shortage of animators. The entire cartoon output—theatrical films, tv programs and commercials, industrial films—is the work of slightly more than 1,000 people, many of them veterans who started with Disney 20 years ago or more. Unless some way is found to restore the glamour to cartooning that it had then to attract more artists to this field, advertisers wishing to use animated tv commmercials or sponsor original cartoon programs may find themselves standing in line waiting to be served and paying the kind of prices that occur when demand exceeds supply.
Mr. Scott does not look for more cartoon commercials in the months ahead, but he does look for better ones. There will be more humor, more soft sell, more sophisticated appeal, he believes, and not so many hard sell spots delivered in the piping voices of dancing cartoon children. "We'll see more characters like the L&M caveman," he predicted, "fewer animals like the Hamm's Beer bear."
The change is coming, he asserted, because agencies are waking up to the fact that creating a story board based on a radio commercial and giving it to the cartoon producer making the lowest bid for the job is not the way to get a commercial that will move merchandise. "Cartooning, good cartooning, is a creative activity," he declared, "and the best results are obtained only when the cartoonist has a hand in creating a character appropriate to the product and the kind of appeal its manufacturer wants it to make to the buying public."

Cartoonists in their element ■ Jay Ward Productions, the two-year-old corporation which produces Rocky and His Friends, is an aggregation of 125 actors, directors, writers, animators, musicians, artists, designers and editors, headed by Jay Ward (at left in caricature above) and Bill Scott, co-producers of Rocky.
Jay Ward, executive producer, was also co-producer of Crusader Rabbit, which introduced animation to television away back in 1947 [sic].
Bill Scott is a top writer in the cartoon field. His credits include scripts for Mister Magoo, Gerald McBoing Boing and Bugs Bunny. His tv career dates back to Time for Beany, a puppet show which was a top favorite with west coast audiences pre-1950, and he since has written and produced many industrial films and tv spots.
The Ward staff has collected a total of 72 awards, including nine Oscars and seven prizes from film festivals in Cannes, Venice and Edinburgh. Ready for release at JWP are two new half-hour cartoon series, Super Chicken and Hoppity Hooper, a satirical comedy cartoon-and-puppet show called What's Gnu? and an hour-long Yuletide special, Magic of Christmas.

Other than the cost numbers, the last paragraph is perhaps the most interesting. Ward developed a bunch of different programme ideas, detailed minutely in Keith Scott’s excellent book The Moose That Roared, which every Jay Ward fan should own. Watts Gnu never did make it to air; a deal with ABC collapsed at the last minute. Hoppity and Super Chicken (after a make-over) made it on TV later. The only thing I’ve found about the Magic of Christmas is a short item in the Screen Cartoonists newsletter Top Cel from March 1961 which describes it as a 90-minute special featuring carols, hymns and Christmas stories. Keith reports it never got to the voice-track state. If it had been made and picked up, it would have been the first animated-for-TV special. And probably very funny.


  1. And now that I think about it, Scott and Ward would have heard about the competition's MAGOO CHRISTMAS SPECIAL, even from its pre-production days. Scott's was likely abandoned with, "Well they beat us to that." I've been back over my notes on Ward's correspondence with ad agency and sponsor and it's not mentioned.

  2. Only partially on topic, but referring to the Golden Age of animated ads from the 1950s -- I was surfing YouTube and found a Jack Benny Show I hadn't seen, from 1955, complete with the commercials for the American Tobacco Co., including one at 28:32 in the show for Tareyton, which contains a female drum major (using a cigarette as a baton) where I'd swear her motions have been either Rotoscoped or directly copied from one of Preston Blair's dance numbers for Red in Avery's MGM cartoons (It's also more fully animated that the company's other "Happy Joe Lucky" ads of the time, which were fully into UPA stylization).

    There's nothing in any of the Blair 'Red' sequences that look exactly like it, but the Tareyton girl's high leg kicks seem awfully familiar -- as does the commercial's announcer in terms of cartoon connections, which IIRC, is Bradley Bolke.

  3. CAP'N CRUNCH cereal, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, was/is from THE QUAKER OATS COMPANY, not GENERAL MILLS, INC.