Friday, 8 February 2013

Punchy Backgrounds

The last Fox and Crow cartoon released by Columbia Pictures wasn’t made by Columbia Pictures. It was made by UPA. The story seems fairly well known. Columbia got rid of its own studio that made third-rate imitations of Warners cartoons and worked out a deal with Stephen Bosustow, whose studio was obligated to use the Fox and Crow characters in some of the shorts. By the time “Punchy De Leon” was released in January 1950, Columbia had already sent the first Mr. Magoo cartoon (“Ragtime Bear”) to theatres. Columbia loved Magoo. So the Fox and Crow were banished to Re-issue Land which, as the ‘50s wore on, became an increasingly busy place.

“Punchy” has some fun animation in places but, being a UPA cartoon, the designs are the main focus. Here are a few of the backgrounds.

This background is actually a gag. The Fox and Crow think they’ve found paradise in Florida. The camera pulls back to reveal it’s a billboard and then pans over an ugly swamp.

I haven’t been able to snip together the whole pan of the jungle to the opening where the golden fountain is. So here it is in two parts. The pan is right to left. Some liked plants shaped like hands and fingers.

This jungle background is used during a running scene, so the foliage is at an angle to heighten the impression of speed. The ends of the background don’t quite match up but because there’s a fast pan over it, you can’t tell. There’s another hand and what seems to be a shadow puppet of a rabbit.

The term “Background” isn’t used in this cartoon (this is UPA, not one of those other studios, you know). Bill Hurtz gets a design credit and Herb Klynn and Jules Engel receive colour credits.


  1. At least at this point in the game, UPA still cared about entertaining the audiences -- or at least, cared about making Columbia happy by making audiences happy. Once we get through the initial awards and praise period, UPA's efforts were designed more to impress than to entertain just as much as Hugh Harman's I-Can-Do-Anything-Walt-Can-Do 'toons of the late 30s and early 40s MGM efforts.

    (And, were it not for the end to block booking in 1948, the mash-up between UPA's more artsy/intellectual cartoons and Jules White's ultra-violent Columbia two-reelers of the time period would have been one of the oddest pre-feature combinations ever. It was almost poetic justice that some of the ex-UPAers ended up doing those awful Three Stooges cartoons in the 1960s).

  2. And who was doing the Fox and Crw's voice..? Probaly J.Smith..

    BTW COlumbia also went from doing Donna Reed, Dennis the Menacve, Fathr Knows best, and Partridge Family shows to Young and Restless, Married WIth Children, Who's the Boss, party of Five and Dawson';s Creek----certainly quite the long distance from their 1950s cays---and, yes, a Columbia cartoon short paired with the sister live action unit';s Jules White Stooges knock-fest WOULD be odd..Steve