Sunday, 20 March 2016

Tralfaz Sunday Theatre – We Learn About the Telephone

All kinds of industrial films were made about telephones but only one combined John Hubley, Mel Blanc, the Capitol Hi-Q library and the girl who played Felix Unger’s daughter on TV. It’s the 1965 two-reeler We Learn About the Telephone, produced by Jerry Fairbanks Productions.

A. T. and T. evidently had some kind of special educational campaign going on at the time. A 24-page booklet aimed at young people was copyrighted in late 1964.

Animation fans should like the cartoon segments which take up a good portion of the first half of the film. I especially like the designs of the circus animals about half-way through which teach us phone etiquette from the days before everyone carried around their own hand-held. Director Hubley’s career, which spanned and included the Disney strike, a McCarthyist ouster at UPA and Oscar wins as an independent producer, should be well-known to readers here. As for the voices, you’ll recognise Blanc doing a host of voices and Paul Frees as the sleepy bear and the fox (I should know who is doing the female voices but I don’t).

The opening theme is SF-1004 Happy Outing by Marc Lanjean. It’s originally from the KPM library but is found on Hi-Q reel L-95. The closing cue is Bright Title by Bill Loose and Emil Cadkin from the Capitol Production Music library. Spencer Moore’s L-1144 Animation Light makes an appearance during the running scene at the 2:30 mark and there are cues by Phil Green and some from the Hi-Q ‘D’ (Dramatic) series.

Mike Kazaleh helpfully listed some of the animators in a post on the late Michael Sporn’s blog, all veterans of the theatrical world.
The animators I can spot are Phil Duncan, Bill Littlejohn (these two did the most footage) Don Towsley (the lion and the raven), Emery Hawkins (the beaver and the bear), Ben Washam (the elephants) Tom Ray (the fox and the pig), and one other person I can’t identify (the Samuel Morse sequence.) Some of the stuff Duncan animated were the opening section, and the scenes of the ringmaster. Littlejohn animated the messenger traveling through time, and the two musicians.
Oh, the little girl is Pamelyn Ferdin, who appeared on The Odd Couple and was one of the voices of Lucy in the Peanuts cartoons (which Littlejohn also worked on).


  1. I remember seeing this one as a kid in school way back when. Thanks! Pam Ferdyn was also the voice of "Fern" in HB's "Charlotte's Web." She kinda took a trip on the crazy train since then.

    1. Pamelyn Ferdin is my dearest friend and a woman of great courage and compassion. If only more people were as "crazy."

  2. Pam's done a lot of 1960s-70s cartoon voice. I've seen this one before..