Saturday, 30 January 2016

Cartoons of 1952, Part 2

The poor animated cartoon must have been a forlorn thing in the second half of 1952. Bugs Bunny was only a few years away from monster stardom in television. But in December 1952, he and Disney shorts were relegated to the “cartoon carnival” format in theatres (MGM did the same kind of thing), with several cartoons lumped together on the programme to provide assistance to the main feature.

Cartoons on television consisted of four kinds: a staff artist making sketches while telling a children’s story, ancient silent theatricals (“Farmer Gray” or Mutt and Jeff, for example), primitive made-for-TV animated shorts which barely moved (like the Tele-Comics that had run on NBC) and fully animated commercials. The latter attracted the most attention; they were even reviewed along with the live TV shows they accompanied (and generally received favourably).

We’ve skipped reviews of the TV commercials found in Variety in the second half of ’52 but we’ll bring you what else we could find. There isn’t an awful lot of news. You can see things bubbling but not quite at a boil. Disney eventually left RKO and set up its own distribution company. Paramount looked to set up a TV network (it had content, including old cartoons) but a deal with DuMont got scuttled.

You can read part of what was a full-page ad masquerading as news for the Swift-Chaplin commercial studio, co-founded by ex-Columbia director Howard Swift. A lot of old-time theatrical animators who got screen credit once-upon-a-time ended up working for industrial commercial firms with fans today wondering about their whereabouts. Former Warners director Norm McCabe pops up below; we’ve also spotted a trade directory from 1958 in our travels where McCabe was the animation director for a commercial division of 20th Century Fox.

We have our doubts about actual plans for a Fifi the Fish series at MGM, but the Tom and Jerry cartoon that little Danielle Baiu appeared in was renamed “Neapolitan Mouse.” Presumably, “Sofari So Good” was not the Popeye cartoon of that name produced in the 1940s but I’m baffled about what else it could have been.

July 3, 1952
Sutherland Consultant On Mutual Telepix
New York, July 2.—Tom O'Neil's General Telradio outfit, parent company of the Mutual, Don Lee and Yankee networks, has inked John Sutherland, commercial film producer, as consultant on vidpix.
Mutual is expected to get into TV via the vidfilm route. Sutherland is producer of cartoons, commercial and educational pix.

July 8, 1952
Scott Bradley today starts conducting scores of pair of Metro cartoons, "Life With Tom" and "Sleepy Time Squirrel." . . . Metro short subjects department personnel will take their regular mass vacation in August. Fred Quimby's cartoon section will take the first two weeks, and Pete Smith's staff the latter two weeks of the month.

July 9, 1952
All-Disney Combo Sought With ‘Hood’
Walt Disney organization and RKO are bringing all possible pressure to bear on exhibs to book the producer's current "Robin Hood" as part of an all-Disney program, rather than add an outside second feature. Disney feels that grosses on some of his previous pix have been hurt by bracketing with badly-chosen dualers, resulting in audience squawks.
In almost all current dates, the 85-minute live-action "Robin Hood" is playing as part of a Disney trio that includes one of Disney's True-Life Adventure series, "Water Birds" (30 minutes) and a cartoon short, "The Little House" (10 minutes). Combo has been racking up smash biz.
Disney's major problem in exhib bookings in the past has been the squawk that his films attract mainly matinee trade and that evening grosses are weak. Theatremen, as a result, have tried to double-bill the Disney product with a definitely adult type second feature, hoping to hypo the after-dark trade. Result has often been that parents who brought their moppets were shocked at what the kids saw on the twin bill. Likewise, lots of adults who are partial to Disney resent the other half of the dualers and Disney feels this has hurt him.
Thus he has set up his three pix into a 125-minute program. Fact that he's also getting film rental on the two added pictures is not being overlooked, either, of course.
RKO, in selling the all-Disney show, has been citing figures at the N. Y. Criterion and other houses to indicate the preponderance of matinee biz is not holding true on "Robin Hood." Opening day, for instance, the Criterion did $3,400 before 6 p. m. and $3,600 after that time.
RKO circuit has agreed to play the Disney combo, and it is already running at Keith's, Washington; Pantages and Hill St., Los Angeles; Imperial, Montreal, and other houses.
Disney is setting up another combo to play with "Peter Pan," which is on his release slate for next winter. There will be another True-Life, probably "Prowlers of the Everglades," and a short.

July 24, 1952
Moppet Danielle Baiu has been by inked Fred Quimby to dub in juve's voice in "My Friend Toto," Metro cartoon.

July 25, 1952
Twelve of United Productions of America's top animators have walked out of the cartoon plant in a dispute over a wage increase, action reportedly following the down-grading of one animator and fear of the others their over-scale wages could be cut by similar method.
Walking is not a strike action and local 839, IATSE Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists, currently meeting on a new contract with Animated Film Producers Association which would cover UPA, is status quo in the matter, as move was on employes' own initiative.
Top animators, who draw over-scale of $150 a week up, reportedly sought a raise on top of current stipends as a protection against down-grading. Request was nixed by management and walkout followed. Old scale for animators has a $125 weekly base and will jump to $187.50 base if and when ticket negotiated with AFPA is approved by Local 839 members.

August 12, 1952
Vidpix Chatter
Norman McCabe appointed animation director of Five Star Productions, vice Howard Swift who ankled to join Charles Chaplin.

August 15, 1952
WB Cartoonists Vacash
Warners cartoon studio closes down today for the annual summer vacation. Studio will reopen Sept. 2. . . . Edward Selzer, head of Warners' cartoon studio, leaves today for an Alaskan holiday with his wife.

On Air Waves
Walter Lantz yesterday inked deal with Auto-Lite to produce a series of one-minute cartoons in Technicolor for television.

August 18, 1952
New World Prod'ns Plans Documentary On Flying Saucers
Feature length documentary film, combining live action and animation, will be turned out by New World Productions as the first serious film on flying saucers. Pic will follow the format of "Victory Through Air Power" and will run exactly 60 minutes for both theatre and television distribution.
Pic is being done with the help of the American Rocket Society and its affiliate, the British Interplanetary Society. Animation will be used to explain certain technical portions of the documentary which will include guest appearances by top scientists discussing the saucer situation.
Ted Robinson will produce and direct with Arthur Scott [later of 'Beany and Cecil' and Hanna-Barbera] directing the animation and Sterling Barnett handling special effects.

Sheilah Graham column
Prince Aly objected to the cartoon characters in "Sofari So Good," and Jackson Leighter informs me the film is now in the hands of Aly's lawyers in Paris — "And whether it's finished is up to Aly."

August 20, 1952
Disney Ready to Start Producing Brit. 'Sword'
Paris, Aug. 12.
Walt Disney is here with his family on a combo looksee and biz trip prior to going to London later this week for the beginning of work on his next live-actioner, "The Rose and the Sword." It will be based on an incident during the reign of Marie Tudor in the 16th Century. The Technicolor film will star Richard Todd. A Paris preem of his "Robin Hood" will be held here this fall.
Disney stressed other new projects nearing completion in the U. S. such as "Peter Pan" and the cartoon, "Aquatic Birds." He has plans for an animated version of "The Sleeping Beauty" and a mixed, animated, live version of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."

Prestone antifreeze, via William Esty agency, has bought "Football This Week," quarter-hour vidpic series, from Station Distributors, Inc., for 46 markets. ... SD also distributes a "Magic Clown" series in 45 markets not covered by Bonomo candy; "Roller Derby," now running in 29 markets; "Koko the Clown" cartoons and "Tom Tyler" westerns.

August 25, 1952
Swift-Chaplin Productions Already In Operation: List Heavy Sked Of TV Comm'ls
Harry Hinkle, former Business Manager of George Pal Productions, announced today the formation of a new TV film-production unit, Swift-Chaplin Productions, Inc. Hinkle takes over immediately as General Manager of the new company, with Charles F. Chaplin, President; and Howard Swift, Vice-President.
"This new organization was formed," Hinkle said, "for the express purpose of producing top TV commercials. In Chaplin and Swift we are fortunate in having two men who have been doing just that for more than 3 years for such well-known advertisers as Heinz, Pabst, Swift & Co., Hotpoint, Alka-Seltzer, Eastside, Folger's, Zenith and many others."
The new studios are located at 4316 Jefferson Boulevard with actual stage space in excess of 4,000 square feet. In addition to complete facilities for live action, Swift-Chaplin Productions are already staffed with their own Animation Department for cartoon and Photo-Animation (headed by Howard Swift); and their own Stop-Motion Department for actual product and stringless-puppet animation.
"As far as we know," Hinkle concluded, "there is no other studio anywhere that can offer its clients all these phases of production under one roof." Charles Chaplin, in charge of client contact for Swift-Chaplin Productions, has a background of more than eight years in the advertising agency business. During the past three years he has devoted his time exclusively to the writing and production of television commercials, and during that time has produced TV ads for some of America's top advertisers through agencies such as Maxon, Grant, McCann-Erickson, Moggee-Privett, Geoffrey Wade, Mac Farland Aveyard, Warwick and Legler, Dancer-Fitzgerald-Sample, and many others.
Over 90% of the commercials produced by Chaplin during this time were also created and written by him. This same creative service will be available to clients of Swift-Chaplin Productions.
Already in production at Swift-Chaplin Studios are commercials for Ovaltine, Dodge, Folger's Coffee, Bab-O, Helen Curtis, One-A-Day Vitamins and Alka-Seltzer.

August 26, 1952
Fred Quimby Returns
Metro cartoon producer Fred Quimby returns today from a Hawaiian vacation. He'll immediately put into production two shorties, “The First Bad Man” and “Pup On a Picnic.”

Lantz Doubling His Output of Shorts For UI Release
Walter Lantz has inked a new distribution pact with UI, whereby he will boost his annual output of cartoons from six to 18 for the up-coming 1952-53 season. Producer simultaneously disclosed that he will virtually double his staff of artists, to provide for the new program which starts Sept. 1.
Under the new deal, Lantz will boost the number of "Woody Woodpecker" subjects from the six he's turned out for the past two years for UI, to seven. The remaining six subjects on new slate will be composed of individual stories, with new characters which he is now creating. Producer said last night he hoped to hit upon one which could be built up into a new series.

August 29, 1952
Oscar the Octopus and Fifi the Fish, cartoon characters created for a sequence with Esther Williams in Metro's "Dangerous When Wet," will now star in a new MGM cartoon series.

Sept. 22, 1952
Disney Producing Spot Telepix Blurbs
Marking his entry into commercial telepix production, Walt Disney has completed a series of spots for Mohawk Carpet Co. Telefilms in Technicolor, utilize cartoon characters never before used by Disney.

Sept. 23, 1952
UPA Open House
United Productions of America, which copped an Oscar for its "Gerald McBoing-Boing" cartoon two years ago, holds five-day open house at its Valley studio for all members of film Industry, starting tonight at 8 p.m.
Celebrating UPA's ninth annual festival, there will be continuous showings of cartoons, and exhibitions of art techniques used.

Oct. 1, 1952
Roy Disney, president of Walt Disney Productions, arrived in New York from the Coast yesterday (Tues.) to discuss a new distribution deal with RKO. Disney organizations is anxious to continue its long association with the distrib unless the new controlling group headed by Ralph Stolkin decides on some unexpectedly radical changes in the operation.
Disney product has been going through RKO the past 14 years. Last of a series of pacts expires with the handling of the new cartoon feature, “Peter Pan.”

Oct. 2, 1952
Disney To 'Wait, See' New RKO Regime Before Renewing Pact
New York, Oct. 1. — Until the new RKO management shows its hand and signifies future intentions, the Walt Disney organization apparently plans to play a waiting game concerning future releasing arrangements with the company.
Indication of this came today from Roy Disney who, at the same time, admitted "great admiration" for RKO personnel and commented that "everything being equal," Disney would want to stick with RKO handlers.
"I hope the new management is such that we can stay with them," he said. "Meanwhile, we will wait to see what the new owners look like, talk like, and what they have to say as their objective before we make up our minds."
"Peter Pan," Disney's latest all-cartoon feature and according to Roy Disney "our most expensive production by a wide margin" — it was budgeted at $4,000,000 — is the last Disney feature commitment with RKO under the present deal. Other commitments include one subject in the True Life Adventure series and several shorts.
Roy Disney, prexy of the Disney organization, said he was shooting for a world premiere on "Peter Pan" for shortly before Christmas, to be followed by from 200 to 300 pre-release engagements in key spots.
He is now discussing sales policy with Robert Mochrie, RKO sales head. Disney pointed out his company has always had short releasing commitments and that he didn't have to worry about a new distributor until Spring. He said the current outlook was for one cartoon feature and one live-action picture a year over the next three years. The latest True Life Adventure short, "Bear Country," is due for programmlng with "Peter Pan."
Currently in work in Britain are Disney's "The Sword And The Rose," due for release In July, 1953, and, on the Coast, "The Lady And The Tramp," a Disney original and an all-cartoon job. Planned are "The Sleeping Beauty," also a cartoon; "Rob McGregor," to roll in England April 27, and the live-action "20,000 Miles Under The Sea," Jules Verne story which won't be ready until late in 1954.

Oct. 8, 1952
French Authors Fight Over $1,500,000 Cartoon Film; in Prod. Since '47
Paris, Sept. 30.
Full-length animated film, "Shepherdess And The Chimneysweep," is evoking intense industry interest here via the legal squabble over its artistic authorship. This row was started by the original creators, Paul Grimault and Jacques Prevert, against producer Andre Sarrut. At the recent Venice Film Festival, orders were given by a French court to impound all copies of the film including the one at the fete until hearings were heard on the charge by the plaintiff. Grimault and Prevert had claimed disrespect of their moral rights as authors.
At first Antonio Petrucci, Venice Fete prexy, bowed to the French court order and decided not to have the picture shown. Producer Sarrut as well as National Cinema Center topper, Jacques Flaud, persuaded Petrucci that French courts had no jurisdiction over a film in Italy and that it should be shown as part of the French film effort which transcended this hassle. Film was shown without the names of Prevert and Grimault in the credits and copped a special prize.
This film has been in production since 1947 and cost an estimated $1,500,000. It was started by Grimault with a script by Prevert. They had been responsible for top Gallic animated films that copped prizes at various festivals. This was to have been the first full-length animated film in the French idiom. Jean Image finished his "Jeannot L’Intrepide" before Grimault but it was rated largely for special moppet audiences. Grimault claims that "Chimneysweep" was practically finished early in 1951 when difficulties started with associate Sarrut who took over the pic to finish it himself.
Grimault says that at that time only $600,000 had been spent on the film and only $129,000 was needed to finish it. He contends the production was nine-tenths done.
When pix were being selected for Venice Festival, three members of the selection committee flew to London to see a copy, and it was chosen on the strength of their testimony. Film is an Anglo-French coproduction with an English version also in the can. A meeting of industry authors, held here recently, decided that this had given a black eye to French film-making with the rights of the author being sacrificed by the producer. Affair remains to be settled. Film runs only 65 minutes and this may make it tough to book without good supporting fare.

Oct. 15, 1952
Mr. and Mrs. Norman Ferguson, son, San Fernando, Cal., Oct. 7. Father is a cartoon animator.

Nov. 3, 1952
Sheilah Graham column
Disney is quietly completing a full-length feature cartoon, titled "The Lady And The Tramp" — the story of a dog — told by a dog .

Nov. 4, 1952
RKO Will Release 81 Short Subjects During Next Year
RKO yesterday announced a release schedule of 81 abort subjects to supplement its 1952-53 feature pic output. ... the short subjects department will offer 18 new Walt Disney Technicolor one - reelers, two true-Life Adventures, and a special short program entitled "Mickey Mouse's Birthday Party," celebrating the 25th anni of the animal as a cartoon character.

Nov. 26, 1952
Rep to Release Oldies for TV?
Republic Pictures may be the first big Hollywood studio to sell its backlog of feature film oldies to television. ...
Paramount has also flirted with CBS-TV anent the selling of some old films for video exhibition. Par reportedly was offering only its short subjects, such as the "Betty Boop" and "Popeye" cartoons, sports reels, etc., on the assumption that exhibs woujd have no complaints if Par withheld its features. Company now, however, is talking of setting up its own TV network. If that goes through, it will hold onto all its old film for the time when its own stations can use it.

Dec. 3, 1952
Robert F. Moore, 41, Walt Disney artist, died Nov. 23 in Burbank, Cal., of injuries sustained in an auto accident. He had been with Disney for 20 years and created "Three Little Pigs" and other cartoon characters. Wife and two daughters survive.

Dec. 15, 1952
Walter Lantz en route to NY to confab with UI execs on his "Woody Woodpecker" cartoon series, and with Coca Cola Export Distribution on a second series of 12 Technicolor shorts.

Dec. 17, 1952
"Touche, Pussy Cat!" has been set by Metro cartoon producer Fred Quimby as a sequel to "The Two Mouseketeers," which won the cartoon Oscar last year.

Dec. 24, 1952
Guffaw-expert Fred Karbo has been inked by Fred Quimby to do 87 different laughs for the cartoon, "Life With Tom."

RCA Includes Kid Line In Bluebird Low-Pricers
RCA Victor will broaden its low-priced Bluebird label series next year with inclusion of a kidisk line. Juve platters in the Bluebird series will probably sell for slightly under 60c. although Victor execs have not yet decided the exact price. Victor's regular Little Nipper line sells from 85c to $1. The Bluebird kidisk releases will include a "Mighty Mouse" series, based on a Paul Terry cartoon character, plus standard juve works. Victor launched a Bluebird classical line at a low price several months ago.

Pittsburgh, Dec. 23.
Stanley (WB) (3,800 [seats]; 50-85 [cent ticket prices])—"Cattle Town (WB). String of animated one-reelers under collective title of "Bugs Bunny's Cartoon Revue" booked to bolster Dennis Morgan starrer but not helping.

Kansas City, Dec. 23.
Annual pre-Christmas lull is in full force here. Paramount is running five Bugs Bunny cartoons with "Abbott-Costello Meet Capt. Kidd" for fair session.

WCBS-TV has installed two moppet-slanted shows in the 8 to 8:30 strip. "Tele-Comics," comprising specially-produced vidpix cartoons, goes from 8 to 8:15 [a.m.], to be followed by "Time for Beany" from 8:15 to 8:30.

Dec. 31, 1952
San Francisco, Dec. 30.
Golden Gate (RKO) (2,850 [seats]; 65-95 [cent tickets])—"Blackbeard Pirate" (RKO) and Walt Disney Cartoon festival (2d wk). Big $11,000 or near. Last week, strong $13,000.


  1. Met Norm McCabe at the Marvel studio in 1986.

  2. Paramount eventually did acquire a TV network - 43 years later - with the relatively short-lived UPN.

  3. ......and what did Paramount eventually do with their pre-1950 cartoon and live-action shorts library?? They practically GAVE IT AWAY to U. M. & M. TV Corporation in 1955.....and then sold their pre-1949 feature films to MCA the following year for an even ridiculous figure!!!! And then their Popeye library went to Associated Artists Productions that same year.......and by the end of 1958, all of their characters and their post-1950 cartoon inventory were gobbled up by Harvey Publications! Paramount executives were in desperate need of cash....and wasn't thinking clearly about future TV profits at all.

  4. Funny thing: Paramount could have owned CBS earlier. In the late '30s, William Paley offered to sell the network to Paramount, but Adolph Zukor turned him down. Now, CBS and Paramount are corporate siblings in Viacom/National Amusements.

    1. From what I understand, Paramount Publix (as it then was) DID buy a chunk of CBS, and there was a move mooted to change the name of the network to Paramount Radio. The over-extension of PP (the firm soon went into receivership) meant that excess baggage had to go, and Paley bought back the shares.

    2. Here's a 1941 description of the transactions; the original sale of stock to Paramount took place in 1929.