Saturday, 25 July 2015

Oona Who?

Charlie the Tuna you’ve probably heard of. But what about that other salesman cartoon character, Oona O’Tuna?

Oona wasn’t a fish. She was a fish boat captain. And she came from imagination of an animator whose name you should recognise—Alex Anderson.

Anderson teamed with a real estate agent named Jay Ward to create Crusader Rabbit, the first real made-for-television animated series. He was a fount of ideas, and among them were early versions of a certain moose and squirrel that Ward rode to fame with his own production company. Anderson, though, faded away from Rocky and Bullwinkle before they appeared on television in 1959. Anderson and Ward were both from the Bay area, their original studio was set up in San Francisco, and that’s where Anderson elected to stay. He went into agency work and was a vice president of Guild, Bascom and Bonfigli in 1958 when Breast-O’-Chicken, Inc. came to the company with the idea of a series of animated/live action ads.

Considering the competition for business from firms in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, it’s a little surprising that G, B and B would win a national account. Sponsor magazine of May 3, 1958 reported Breast-O’-Chicken sunk $1,000,000 into the Oona account. Sponsor reveals:
Hers is an adventuresome life, with a recurrent challenge: to get her boat loads of freshly-caught tuna back to the packing plant on a tight time deadline. How she overcomes a long list of obstacles to insure fresh delivery provides a continuing theme for the company's commercials. ...
The campaign, which began last fall and has been building momentum since, will reach its peak this month when all media will get heavy play. Oona O’Tuna set sail last September on KCOP, Los Angeles, with 90-second spots, combining animation and live action.
There were plenty of excellent commercial animation houses in Los Angeles but who needed them when you had Paul Terry’s nephew as your agency’s vice-president?
To launch the cartoon tuna fleet Alex Anderson, GB&B vice-president, drew eight animated episodes. The live action segments were produced by Telepix Corp., Los Angeles, under the supervision of Karl Gruener, head of radio and tv production for GB&B in Los Angeles.
Poor Oona doesn’t appear to have lasted very long. She appeared in newspaper ads, but I can’t find any past 1958. As for her animated commercials, they must be out there somewhere. For now, you’ll have to get an idea of the art style from these screen shots taken from a murky scan of Sponsor. Aliens were still big in 1958.

When Oona aired, Anderson was already an award winner. The Art Directors Club of New York handed Anderson and the other principals in G, B & B a medal in the limited animation category in 1955 for a Skippy Peanut Butter spot. The Art Directors honoured Anderson in 1960 for a Rival Dog Food commercial animated by John Marshall at Pantomine Pictures in Los Angeles.

Keith Scott’s book, The Moose That Roared, reported Anderson contributed on rare occasion to Jay Ward’s studio once Rocky appeared on TV, but he more or less stuck with agency work. Anderson’s conceptual work on the Rocky and Bullwinkle characters was practically unknown until he won a court settlement after Ward’s death involving the characters. And an interesting coincidence may have sprung to your mind that several years later, Ward had his own animated sea-going captain in commercials. Unfortunately for Anderson, Oona didn’t plug cereal and is long forgotten, while Ward’s Cap’n Crunch is still sailing on.

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