Saturday, 21 February 2015

Peace For Parents, Thanks to Terrytoons

You wanted to watch cartoons at home before DVDs were invented and before they were broadcast on TV? Then you bugged your parents to get you a movie projector.

Probably the biggest name in home movies was Castle Films. The company had a catalogue offering all kinds of films, including cartoons. Department store ads in newspapers in the 1950s and ‘60s plugged them as well, especially Woody Woodpecker cartoons.

Here’s a newspaper story that reads like it was written from a Castle press release. I found it in a paper dated April 29, 1938 but it was obviously written before then.

PEACE at last! for Daddy and Mother. And “Peace, it's wonderful.”
No more must harassed parents lay aside their own newspapers time and again to read the comic sections “just once more” for little Jimmy and Nancy.
Thanks for that go to Eugene W. Castle, who is releasing these “rest cures for parents” under the title of “Terry-Toons.”
Now, when three-year old Penelope insists that she wants to hear the comic strips read for the firth time, Daddy can refuse with impunity, for he can switch on the home movie machine, and Presto! Little Penny can watch her favorite characters in action right in her play room.
Rip Van Winkle, Pandora, Beanstalk Jack and all the animals of the zoo have been household figures for ages. The youngsters have had pictures of them in books, on the playroom walls and on their cereal dishes and cups, but it remained for Mr. Castle and Paul Terry, one of the movie industry's top flight animators, to bring them to life in the home.
As a result, these characters no longer are just figures to amuse the children. Now they're the life of any party, for Mr. Terry has immortalized them in animated cartoons now available for the first time on 8 and 16 mm. film.
Until Mr. Castle hit upon the idea of adding full length cartoons to the release schedule of Castle Films, Inc., home movie tans who wanted cartoons in the film libraries had to be content with 100-foot clips cut from comics at least five years old.
When they put one of the new “Terry-Toons” into a projector, they know they're going to see a complete cartoon story of recent vintage. The first six to be released April 16 are “Pandora,” “Rip Van Winkle,” “Holland Days,” “Just a Clown,” “Beanstalk Jack,” and “Grand Uproar.”
Although they all will be released for both sound and silent projectors, Mr. Castle selected the cartoons for their effectiveness in silent version, with the thought in mind that the majority of the 2,000,000 home movie fans in the country have silent machines.

There’s no point in telling you more about Castle Films and its movies-for-sale. Others have done it for me. Scott MacGillvray wrote Castle Films: A Hobbyists’s Guide (published in 2004). You can read much of the book by going here and discover which Ub Iwerks movies the company sold for home viewing. And if you want a nice precis of the company, who better to tell you than Mark Evanier? You can read it on his site.


  1. Yep.....nothing like quite, peaceful comedy----as demonstrated in "The Talking Magpies" (1946):
    SALESMAN: [holding aspirin bottle after Farmer Al Falfa crashes into tree] "Yes, sir! I've just the little article you need! Guaranteed to cure ALL headaches! Now, I'll tell you what I'm gonna do......"
    AL: (somewhat groggy) "I ain't got no headache...."
    SALESMAN: (knowingly) "Oh, yes you HAVE, brother-----"
    [whacks him over the head with a mallet]

  2. If anything would put ME to sleep, it would certainly be a Terrytoon.

  3. Paul Terry called Terrytoons the “Woolworth’s” of the animation business, but (IMHO) it easily beat the quality of animation in the Saturday morning cartoons of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

    Before home VCRs, DVDs, and streaming video, Castle Films was one of a few home 8mm distributors that allowed you to watch what you wanted, when you wanted. I had a fairly large collection of silent 8mm movies (monster films, cartoons, documentaries, etc.) that gave me the freedom to watch something other than what the local TV stations broadcast.