Monday, 21 April 2014

Cartoon Commercials of 1948

Here’s a cartoon you wouldn’t have seen on Saturday mornings or in syndicated packages.

That’s because it’s a little over a minute long. This is a frame in a Sponsor magazine story from March 1948 about TV commercials. With television growing, albeit there were maybe a dozen stations in the U.S. at the time, the demand for non-live commercials was growing, too.

The John Sutherland studio had signed a deal with the United Fruit Company in February 1947 for a series of 60-second cartoon spots. Said Sponsor about this particular little fully-animated film:
He [Sutherland] has been able to take the Chiquita Banana character right out of the singing commercial radio spots and bring her to life with full color, comedy, and sales effectiveness. These pictures are basically for motion picture showing but even though they're in full Ansco color they can be effectively scanned for TV without loss of impact. Not that all color motion pictures make good TV fare. Some are shot without regard to how they'll show up in black and white and wash out when scanned by a television camera. However, many agency and motion picture men watch their gray scale when shooting color and the result is as good a picture in black and white as in full color.
Daily Variety reported on May 14, 1948:
FOURTEEN SHORTS which John Sutherland produced for United Fruit Co. in 35m Ansco are to be switched to Technicolor, for reduction to 16m. Ansco is reported by producer not particularly conducive to reduction from 35m to 16m, since finished product becomes fuzzy
And on May 17, 1949:
John Sutherland will adapt 22 one-minute Technicolor shorts originally made in animation for United Fruit Co., to television, in black-and-white.
If you’re familiar with the seven-to-eight minute “educational” shorts Sutherland did for Harding College that were released by MGM in the late ‘40s, you’ll notice the similarity in character design style to the Chiquita frame above.

There’s another cartoon ad frame in the same issue of Sponsor.

The studio which made the above spot for International Salt Co. isn’t mentioned but it was booked through ad agency J.M. Mathes. Cartoon Films, Ltd. had made some animated ads for International’s Sterling Salt in 1940-41; they were designed for movie theatres. Sponsor reported Mathes billed $4,050 to $6,750 (90 feet at from $45 to $75 per foot) for animated commercials. Something tells me this one wouldn’t go down well today.

The same edition of Sponsor has a story featuring a cartoon character plugging something, but not in cartoons. Bugs Bunny was used by the maker of Chuckles in a radio campaign. I would like to think Mel Blanc voiced the spots but I’ve never heard them. Oh, if those transcriptions were around today! Bugs looks great in the trade ad, similar to some poses in the Bob McKimson cartoon “Easter Yeggs.”

This post gives me a chance to once again plug Mike Kazaleh’s cartoon ad posts at Jerry Beck’s Cartoon Research web site. Those 1950s animated ads can be a lot of fun. This past weekend, Mike also linked to a UPA industrial short featuring the voice of Stan Freberg. I won’t guess at the animators on it, but Pat Matthews and Bobe Cannon were at UPA then. And there are some General Electric spots featuring Mr. Magoo; to the right you’ll notice a trade ad for the commercials.

You can see the post HERE.


  1. Looking at the Chiquita ads posted about a decade ago by Steve Worth at the ASIFA website, the initial 90 second spot seems to have a style reminiscent of Famous Studios' late 1940s look, while some of the others have character designs more in line with what the Avery unit was doing at MGM. Either way, they're visually more appealing than the early B&W Chiquita TV spots that turn up on YouTube and elsewhere.

  2. The link to MGM on the Sutherland Chiquita Banana spots is George Gordon, who directed many of them and animated on them. Paul Fennell did the Sterling Salt theatrical ads, they were on his 16mm sample reels which ASIFA Hollywood transferred to digital media. By the way, that's interesting detail on the Ansco prints of the Chiquita Banana commercials. There are some 16mm Technicolor Blue Track prints of the Chiquita spots around today, they look very colorful.

  3. Hi, Mark. I figured Gordon and Urbano probably worked on the Chiquitas. It's a shame the earliest Sutherland propaganda cartoons have no credits.
    It seems the Chiquita spots would have to have been re-shot to include the Technicolor mention in the opening title card.

  4. As I wrote for the incorrect Sutherland entry, Chicken of Tomorrow, I meant to say here that I assume Chuckles that Bugs Bunny's promoting is the classic old-time jellies candy pieces with sugar all over them..pretty sure Mel Blanc did those. Love the Robert McKimson unit design (as it looks to me,too).SC