Saturday, 7 May 2016

Cartoons of 1955, Part 1

Bugs Bunny wasn’t on TV yet in 1955, but Porky Pig and Daffy Duck were.

Slowly, more and more of the old theatrical cartoons were making their way to television, thanks to the major film studios selling television rights to packagers who, in turn, went out to stations and spun some deals. The deals turned out to be very lucrative for the packagers. It would seem the studios missed out on a huge chunk of money, either because of a lack of desire or ability to get into the TV syndication business. So Sunset Productions, which had just been set up by Warner Bros. as its TV production subsidiary, sold the TV distribution rights for some old cartoons to the Liberace-syndicating Guild Films (this is why “Sunset Productions” is on opening/closing title cards of some old Warner cartoon prints for TV). Kids were rejoicing, many of them getting exposure to the work of Bob Clampett and Frank Tashlin for the first time, over and over and over.

The only studio that bucked the “arms-length-from-TV distribution” trend was Walt Disney, who reaped a windfall as a result. Early 1955 not only saw his Disneyland show maintain its success on ABC, but plans were formulated to add the Mickey Mouse Club, still beloved by several generations. At the same time, Disney kicked off the Davy Crockett craze. Suddenly, coonskin caps seemed to be everywhere and were the latest fad joked about and parodied by comedians. All the while, Uncle Walt found ways to promote the soon-to-be-opened Disneyland amongst the sleepy orange groves in Anaheim. Oh, and he had success at the box office with Lady and the Tramp, perhaps Disney’s most charming feature cartoon. Walt Disney simply knew how to tap into what America liked.

The other major development in the theatrical animation world in the first half of 1955 was a changing in the executive office at the MGM cartoon division. Fred Quimby went on a “vacation.” It was permanent. Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera were handed his job producing the studio’s cartoon output. Little did they know that less than 18 months later, they would be told they would be taking a permanent vacation from Metro, too.

Here’s another look through the pages of Variety for that period and their stories about theatrical cartoons. As you can judge by the lack of stories, the short subject industry was withering away, though it should be noted most January 1955 issues of the trade paper are unavailable for transcription. We’ve added a Billboard story as well to give you a better idea of the situation of cartoons on TV at the time.

January 12, 1955
Credit Walt Disney’s “Pinocchio” with a rare boxoffice performance. When this feature was first released in 1940, the domestic returns on a full playoff amounted to $1,700,000. In the past year, the usually secondary reissue brought $1,800,000.
Reason is that today’s market is stronger and a Disney film of this nature is timeless. “Pinoke” looks for sure to make VARIETY’S list of all time grossers ($4,000,000 and up) when it comes into redistribution the next time.

January 25, 1955
Dennis Farnon has been signed to write, arrange and conduct the score for UPA's forthcoming "Mr. Magoo's Opera," which will be the fifth UPA cartoon Farnon has scored in the past four months.

January 26, 1955
ANIMAL FARM
(British-Color)
Powerful preachment in color cartoon form of Orwell fable. Good for art spots but uncertain for general audiences.
RKO release of Halas-Batchelor production based presented by Louis de Rochemont. Based on the George Orwell fable. Story development: Lothar Wolff; Borden Mace, Philip Stapp, John Halas, Joy Batchelor; camera (Technicolor), S.G. Griffiths; music, Matyas Seiber; narration, Gordon Heath; animal voices, Mauric Denham. At Paris Theatre, N.Y., Dec. 29, ’54. Running time, 75 MINS.
Human greed, selfishness and conniving are lampooned in “Animal Farm” with the pigs behaving in a pig-like manner and the head pig, named Napoleon, corrupting and perverting an honest revolt into against evil social conditions into a new tyranny as bad as, and remarkably similar to, the old regime. In short, this cartoon feature running some 75 minutes is a sermon against all that is bestial in politics and rotten in the human will to live in luxury at the expense of slaves.
Made in Britain, the cartoon is vividly realized pictorially. The musical score, the narration, the sound effects and the editing all are of impressive imaginative quality. Although it may be a cliché for reviewers to observe “not for children,” the truth may be just the opposite. It could be argued that this is very much the sort of sobering lesson about glib oratorical protestations of equality and brotherhood, and how cruel, gangster-like leaders exploit the hopes of “sincere” men, which children should be exposed to young.
But while applauding the lesson and cheering the technical skills involved in creating this unusual attraction, the boxoffice question must remain open. Presumably “Animal Farm” is for the upper middles, the art houses, the discriminating clientele. Not that anybody should have too much difficulty “understanding.” Still it’s just not the kind of film fare which is likely to be “popular.” A wee mite on the sombre side. Land.

January 31, 1955
Waste of a purty face: Julie Bennett narrating "Tom And Jerry" cartoons.

...Disney's "Mickey Mouse Theatre," to be aired on ABC-TV from 5 to 6 p.m. five evenings a week, will be directed to the age group from 3 to 13. Says [ABC president Leonard] Goldenson: "They control the set at this hour and that means the rest of the family has no choice." Less than 20% of "Mickey" will be clips from old releases, the rest newly shot live-and-cartoon. Complete sellout of alternating or participating sponsorships is anticipated before the series gets underway...

The strong appeal ABC-TV's "Disneyland" has for youngsters is illustrated by Leonard Goldenson, ABPT chief, with an example in his own home. Bedtime at 7 for his three daughters has been strictly observed but rules that don't bend will break. In school last week the teacher asked the class of 40, "How many of you saw 'Disneyland' last night?" All hands were raised except one—Miss Goldenson. When she told her father of the incident the retiring hour for the girls was extended on Wednesday nights. Walt Disney will get a nice Valentine from the girls.

February 2, 1955
United Productions of America, the cartoon outfit which releases through Columbia, hopes to enter the tv programming field in 1955 with a five-day children’s show, prexy Stephen Bosustow disclosed at the annual meeting of the directors this week. Cartoonery, which in addition to theatrical cartoons, also makes industrial, educational, and tv commercials, has received permission from Col to use the UPA characters in tv advertising.
Bosustow disclosed that the company will up its production program in 1955. In line with the increased activity, the board okayed the purchase of adjacent property for further expansion of the Burbank studio.
The UPA topper disclosed that 1955 production will include 14 Columbia C’Scope short subjects, a backlog of $250,000 in industrial sales to be produced both in New York and on the Coast, and an increase in the eastern and western tv commercial sales to a $400,000 gross.
UPA has also started production on its first full-length animated feature, James Thurber’s “White Dear,” in a three-picture deal with Hecht-Lancaster, which will finance and distribute the films.
Bosustow was elected prexy and board chairman for the tenth consecutive year. Other officers re-elected were Robert Cannon, vee pee, Don McCormick, veepee in charge of UPA New York; T. Edward Hambleton, treasurer; Melvin Getzler, assistant treasurer, and M. Davis, secretary.

February 14, 1955
New York, Feb. 13.—Guild Films is acquiring tv distribution rights to 191 old Warner cartoons, including "Looney Tunes," "Porky Pig" and the "Daffy Duck" series, under a deal being wrapped up today. Deal negotiated by the William Morris office is believed to be on a straight distribution basis. Price Guild paid is reported to be $1,000,000.
Warners becomes the third major to lease cartoons to tv, others being UI and Columbia. Guild will sell on a library pattern. For Guild, deal makes up for what it lost on acquisition of Motion Pictures for Television features, when Matty Fox retained Walter Lantz cartoons, acquired recently from UI.

NOMINATIONS FOR 27th OSCAR DERBY
BEST CARTOON (1,000 Feet Or Less)
"Crazy Mixed Up Pup," UI. Walter Lantz, Producer.
"Pigs is Pigs," RKO. Walt Disney, Producer.
"Sandy Claws," Warner Bros. Edward Selzer, Producer.
"Touche, Pussy Cat," Metro. Fred Quimby, Producer.
"When Magoo Flew," United Productions of America, Columbia. Stephen Bosustow, Producer.

February 16, 1955 (Weekly Variety version)
Warner Bros. becomes the third major studio to unload its cartoons on the television market via a deal with Guild Films set this week. Via its short subject subsidiary, Sunset Productions, Warners is turning over 191 cartoons from the “Looney Tunes” and “Merrie Melodies” categories, most of them in color, to Guild on what’s believed to be a longterm lease deal. Others who have delivered their cartoons to telepix are Universal (the Walter Lantz cartoons) and Columbia.
Guild will sell the subjects as a library package, with Vitapix stations getting the first crack at them. For the telepixery, acquisition of the package makes up for its inability to get the Lantz cartoons from Matty Fox’s Motion Pictures for Television when it acquired the MPTV feature library (Fox is continuing to sell the Lantz package himself). William Morris office negotiated the deal.

February 17, 1955

Frank Comstock, arranger for Les Brown band, will score UPA's latest "Mister Magoo" cartoon, "Magoo's Express," to be released by Columbia.

February 18, 1955

William B. Zoellner, Metro short subject sales manager, arrives today for a weekend conference with Fred Quimby, head of studio shorts department and cartoon producer, to discuss plans for implementing immediately new policy of producing all cartoons in CinemaScope. Policy was set following strong sales approval given "Touche Pussy Cat," the first Metro C'Scope cartoon and a current Oscar nominee. Outline will be made by pair of the shorts product to be released for the new season to start in September. Also on agenda are sales plans for spring releases of Pete Smith specialties and the James A. FitzPatrick Travel-Talks.

February 23, 1955

RKO will distribute a pair of Walt Disney features and two short subjects in Latin America and the Far East, under a deal jointly disclosed yesterday by Roy Disney, prexy of Disney Productions, and James R. Grainger and Walter Branson, prexy and global sales manager, respectively, of RKO.
Features include "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and "The Vanishing Prairie," and shorts are "Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom," producer's first CinemaScope cartoon, and the 20-minute musical, "Willie, the Operatic Whale." Product is handled by Disney's own Buena Vista Film Distributing Co., for domestic release. Leo Samuels, BV sales chief, planed in from NY for finalization of pact.

Sales of westerns and cartoons to local stations has shown a sharp upbeat over the past three weeks, ever since it was disclosed that Walt Disney is entering the daytime field with his upcoming “Mickey Mouse Club.” Apparently the feeling among non-ABC affiliates is that they’d better start making plans early about who to compete for the kids audience once Disney gets going. In the cartoon field, the situation is especially interesting, coming at a time when demand for cartoons would ordinary be far outweighed by supply. Acquisition by Guild Films last week of 191 Warner Bros. cartoons brings the total of new cartoons available to television to nearly 600 over the past three months. This is more than enough to satisfy the requirements of most stations, which buy cartoons under library deals and insert them into existing kiddie shows. Nonetheless, Guild reports lots of interest in the cartoon package, and can only attribute it to the possibility that stations are planning an expansion of their cartoon shows, presumably to buck the Disney segment. Similarly, CBS Television Film Sales reports a sharp upbeat in the firm’s western library, one of the biggest. It’s assumed here also that other stations will take an opposite tack, slotting westerns and adventure shows against Disney in a bid to keep the moppet audience.

February 25, 1955

New hour-long daytimer will be presented by Walt Disney next season across the board, the "Mickey Mouse Club" beginning on the web Oct. 3 at 5 p.m., showing that same time in all zones.
Juve series is completely separate from producer's present Disneyland, his weekly series. Variety will mark new format, with not only cartoons, but animals, music, clowns, etc., included in the various segments.
New deal was disclosed by web prexy Robert E. Kintner and Roy O. Disney, prexy of Walt Disney Productions. Production on new series begins immediately.

UPA has upped its yearly program of Mister Magoo cartoons for Columbia release from six to eight, prexy Stephen Bosustow revealed yesterday.

February 26, 1955 (from Billboard)
2,000 SHORT SUBJECTS FROM PARA NEAR TV
NEW YORK, Feb. 19.—On the heels of its sale of 191 Warner Bros.’ cartoons to Guild Films, the William Morris office this week was making preparations to drop an even bigger blockbuster into TV. About to be put up for sale is a package of about 2,000 short subjects from the Paramount Pictures vaults, some of which are comedy sketches featuring top-name acts.
Understood to be included in the package, which is reported to carry a $4,000,000 price-tag, are a bundle of Popeye cartoons, a number of Grantland Rice Sportlights and a considerable number of comedy shorts starring personalities such as Jack Benny, Robert Benchley, Eddie Cantor, Burns and Allen, and others of similar calibre.
Furthermore, it’s understood that when a deal involving the Paramount bundle is closed, the Morris office is preparing to come out with yet additional product from other major film companies. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is said to be one of several films which will spring open its vaults for TV via the Morris office.
Report Confirmed
These developments serve to confirm an analysis published in The Billboard two weeks ago which predicted that a move by Warner’s, then still in the report stage, could be the initial step in bringing product from other major Hollywood firms into TV.
It is not known precisely how many cartoons are included in the Paramount package, but if the number is substantial, it will mark another development in changing the cartoon economy from one of scarcity less than a year ago to one which may verge on the superabundant.
Up to last fall, there were only about 1,000 cartoons in all of TV distribution, and of these about 90 per cent were originally silent to which sound tracks had been subsequently added. However, in rapid succession, Hygo acquired 150 Columbia Pictures cartoons, and Matty Fox got about 170 Walter Lantz cartoons from Universal. With Guild’s acquisition of 191 Warner cartoons a week ago, there would now seem to be sufficient to fill the industry’s need for some time. However, with Paramount making a move now and other firms still to be heard from, there is no way of telling now whether or not the dam will burst entirely.

March 9, 1955

Paramount’s KTLA yesterday bought 191 old Warner “Looney Tunes” cartoons from Guild Films Co. More than half the package, which Guild recently purchased from Warners, consists of “Porky the Pig” cartoons.
Deal gives KTLA rights to exclusive and unlimited runs of films for two years, with options, and stems from KTL’s first refusal rights n all Guild Films properties. Rights were acquired by channel through its stockholder membership in Vitapix before latter merged with Guild Films.
Deal was set by Klaus Landsberg, KTLA chief, and Guild’s recently appointed western sales manager John Cole.
[Note: the cartoons aired on "Cartoon Carousel," from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. starting April 11th. The station also signed on at 1:30 p.m. as of that date, two hours earlier]

March 14, 1955

UPA starts production on its fourth McBoing-Boing cartoon, "Gerald On the Planet Moo." Stephen Bosustow, prexy of the animated cartoon company, has assigned writing and direction to Robert Cannon. Columbia will release in the fall.

Fred Schwarts, prexy of Distributors Corp. of America, disclosed over the weekend that DCA will release "Animal Farm," feature film cartoon based on George Orwell's novel, and produced by Louis de Rochemont.

March 17, 1955

New York, March 16.—Under an agreement reached between the Eastern Screen Cartoonists, Local 841, IATSE, and Animating Studios in NY, the employers must contribute 80 cents to the union's welfare fund for each day or part of a day a cartoonist works on a freelance basis.
Members are not permitted to accept freelance work from a non-contract studio. All jobs must be cleared through the union and payments for freelance work must be cleared through the union. Members are prohibited from accepting payment for freelance work directly from the studios which are required to forward the check to the union.

March 29, 1955

UA's "Davy Crockett, Indian Scout," made in '50 with George Montgomery as Crockett, is being billed with a Walt Disney cartoon in Detroit theatres. Billboard reads: "Davy Crockett — Walt Disney"

March 31, 1955

OSCAR WINNERS
Short Subjects (Cartoon)
"WHEN MAGOO FLEW," United Productions of America, Columbia, Stephen Bosustow, Producer.

April 5, 1955

Package of 158 old "Scrappy" and "Krazy Kat" cartoons, produced by Columbia, has been acquired by KNXT for the station's Children's Library.

April 6, 1955

New York, April 5.—Walt Disney Productions has nixed an attempt by RKO to provide Disney's "Peter Pan" with elaborate reissue treatment. RKO has distribution rights to the cartoon.
RKO's plan was motivated by the success of NBC-TV beaming, as a Spectacular, the recent Broadway legit revival of "Pan" with Mary Martin in the lead. RKO figured the telecast would stimulate new public interest in the Disney work.
Disney, though, fearful of a clash with its new cartoon, "Lady and the Tramp," registered the veto. The producer's distribution subsidiary, Buena Vista, will release "Tramp" this summer and, it was felt, some attention might be diverted from "Tramp" If "Pan" were being given a big sales push almost simultaneously. Actually, "Pan," which was first distributed in 1953, never has been out of release. It's been constantly available to exhibitors at RKO exchanges and will continue to be. But a new buildup for the entry, via new ads, etc., at this time is now ruled out.

April 6, 1955
More than $700,000 in sales on its recently acquired Warner Bros. package of “Looney Tunes” cartoons has spurted Guild Films’ March billings to a record high of over $1,000,000. Mass of new business came from cartoon deals in key markets, with New York, Los Angeles and Chicago already sold. In Gotham, Du Mont’s WABD bought the package for a nightly stripping operation; in Chi it was WGN-TV; and the L.A. deal, one of the first on the package, was with KTLA.
Meanwhile, Guild has realigned its sales force to operate with all three categories of programming, syndicated, cartoons and features, with all salesmen handling all properties instead of splitting them as previously.
[Note: Variety announced March 2nd the package had also been sold in Detroit, Rockford, Ill. and Buffalo].

April 8, 1955

Billy May will score UPA's "The Jaywalker," satirical cartoon which will be released by Columbia.

April 13, 1955

"[Davey] Crockett [Indian Fighter]" is being withheld from NY, Chicago and L.A. theatres to avoid a clash with Disney's new cartoon feature, "The Lady And the Tramp," which opens in those towns in early summer. [Beuna Vista president Leo] Samuels wants to hold back on "Crockett" until "Tramp" runs are underway for about five weeks in the three cities.

April 19, 1955

Film Review
Lady and the Tramp
(C’Scope and Technicolor – Songs)
BEUNA VISTA RELEASE of Walt Disney production. Associate producer, Erdman Penner; directors, Hamilton Luske, Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson; directing animators, Milt Kahl, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman, Eric Larson, Hal King, Les Clark; story, Penuer, Joe Rinaldi, Ralph Wright, Don Dagradi; based on an original by Ward Greene; songs, Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke; musical score, Oliver Wallace; editor, Don Halliday.
PREVIEWED at Beekman Theatre, NY, April 15, 1955. Running timet 75 mins.
A complete delight for the juveniles, lots of fun for adults and a good money-maker for most situations, "Lady and the Tramp" marks Walt Disney's return to the cartoon arena where he's scored many previous conquests. This is the first animated feature in CinemaScope and the wider canvas and extra detail work reportedly meant an additional 30% in negative cost. It was a sound investment—for stature production-wise and more entertainment impact.
Disney's stable of imaginative characters is well enhanced with "Lady and the Tramp." This time out the producer turns to members of the canine world and each of these hounds of Disneyville reflects astute drawing-board knowhow and rich humorous invention. This, of course, paves the way for merchandising tieups which make for an additional boxoffice bolstering factor. The songs by Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke figure importantly, too, in the salability.
"Lady and Tramp" is suggestive in story line of soap opera, with a pedigree; and with comedy touches, which are characteristic of Disney product, in abundance. The early reels tend to slowness but these are forgotten once the film reaches, and maintains, its merry pace abort of the halfway mark. Characters of the title are a cutie-pie faced and ultra ladylike spaniel and the raffish mutt from the other side of the tracks. In "featured" roles are Trusty, the Bloodhound, who's lost his scent, and Jock, a Scottie with a sense of thrift. Both have a crush on Lady but her on-and-off romance with Tramp finally leads to a mating of the minds, etc, and litter basket.
Other characters, each with its own colorful "personality," include Boris, Russian wolfhound; Pedro, Mexican Chihuahua; Peg, a Pekinese with a showbiz background, and Bull, gruff English bulldog.
In making a hero out of the jaunty Tramp, the writers worked in a fight with a rat that recalls to mind the terror of the bat episode In "Lost Weekend." This for kids? Otherwise the pic is all straight entertainment.
A few "humans" are sketched in for purposes of the story telling. Among them are the folks in Lady's household who are referred to by the canines as Jim Dear and Darling. This is the way they address themselves and it comes off as amusing billing. Also, there are Tony and Joe, proprietor and cook at a pizza bistro, who engage in one of the hilarious highlights of the film. In this they serve Lady and Tramp with a backyard meal replete with candlelight and a serenade. Another standout item is a vocal of the tune "He's a Tramp," by the showgirl-like Peg. It's Miss Lee's voice and she torches it with great effect.
"Tramp" and "Bella Notte" are rated here as the best tunes and figure to cop attention on their own. "The Siamese Cat Song" goes over fine in the film because of the cleverly etched visual accompaniment. Other songs are "La-La-Lu," a lullaby; "Peace On Earth," Christmasy bit. "Home Sweet Home" Is the only non-original item in the score.
"Lady" la excellently tinted by Technicolor. Gene.

April 22, 1955

Two UPA Technicolor cartoons, "Baby Boogie" and "Magoo Express," head Columbia's short subjects releases for May.
"Hollywood Plays Golf," Screen Snapshorts one-reeler featuring Gordon MacRae, and two reprints, "Hiss and Yell," starring Vera Vague, and a cartoon, "Mother Hubba-Hubba Hubbard," round out sked.

May 4, 1955
Distributors Corp. of America expects to emerge from the doldrums this summer and fulfill its ambition to provide exhibitors with big pictures. Except for Joseph Kaufman’s Cinemascope “Long John Silver,” DCA has been living on a diet of films more suited for art houses or for double billing. With the completion and arrival from England of John Woolf’s “I Am Camera,” based on John van Druten’s N.Y. stage hit, DCA hopes to move into high gear. Woolf arrives with a print in May, with the picture’s release set for June or July. Following “Camera,” DCA will come up with its biggest endeavor to date—the feature-length cartoon of “Finian’s Rainbow” Meanwhile, DCA is readying a hefty bally campaign for “Camera,” teeing off with three recordings by Mitch Miller of theme music from “Camera” via Dartmouth Music.

May 13, 1955

Dave Kaufman column
When Walt Disney first talked a tv series with ABC, web wanted him to shoot a pilot to show prospective sponsors. He balked, on the grounds no pilot could actually mirror the Disneyland program he had planned. "I try to make every one of my shows different, and that's why it would have been impossible to show my pattern in one pilot," Disney says today. "After Mickey Mouse really caught on, I switched and put all the emphasis on Silly Symphonies; later on I did the same with Donald Duck. Point is, never let your audience get tired of what you're doing. If I hadn't followed this pattern, I'd just be producing Mickey Mouse cartoons today" . . . Other views from the man who started the major studio trend to tv: "In the early days we could states-rights pictures; today you can't. I think there's far more opportunity in tv . . . We've had lots of offers from other studios wanting to borrow Fess Parker from Disney Productions, but we've got four Davy Crockett pictures to make, and they'll have to wait until next winter for Fess . . . I think we'll make more money on Crockett tieups this year than we did in our best year with Mickey Mouse (that was $2,000,000) . . . My brother Roy's office is in plain view in the building next door, and when I come in in the morning, I look over there, and if I see him walking on the ceiling I know everything's okay, that we must be doing all right. Our stockholders seem to be happy . . . I didn't like the giant squid sequence in '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,' so had them redesign the squid and reshoot the sequence. It cost $500,000, but it was a key sequence, and was worth it . . . I don't go along with the guild ban on free pitches for pictures on tv. These newspapermen on tv help exploit our pictures. I think a producer should clearly incorporate into the contract when he signs the stars that they will do tv appearances to help sell the picture . . . About Frank Sinatra's refusal to help Sam Goldwyn plug 'Guys And Dolls' on tv — well, Sinatra's a special case. The way I see it, Goldwyn is pouring $5,000,000 into the picture to make it a success, and if it is he'll pour that money right back into another production. The guilds should encourage this" . . . Next season Disneyland goes on at 8 p.m., instead of 7:30 p.m.

May 16, 1955
Metro has slated total of 38 one-reel shorts for new season starting September, with 104 editions of News of the Day as added starters. Shorts will be topped by six C'Scope cartoons in Technicolor, six others in same tint process, 14 Gold Medal reprints in Techni, six Robert Benchley reissues and six reprints of “The Passing Parade.”

May 18, 1955
Dennis Farnon yesterday was set to compose and conduct the score for UPA's "Stage Door Magoo" cartoon.

May 27, 1955
Peggy Lee, hunting a video series, would like it dramatic in tone, but allowing her to warble at times . . . She's just cleffed a new tune, "Mr. Magoo," to be the theme for UPA's cartoon series, and will wax it with Jim Backus for Decca. The flip will be “Mr. Magoo Does the Cha-Cha-Cha.”

May 28, 1955 (from Billboard)
Frank Luther Readies TV Cartoon Film
NEW YORK, May 21.—Decca’s top kiddie recording artist, Frank Luther, is readying a series of semi-animated cartoon films for TV. Luther will handle the commentary behind the cartoon stories, which will feature some of his most popular characters, including that of “Wheatley the Whale.”
Luther will also write special songs for the series. The cartoons will run about five minutes in length and will be made available either as separate segs (which can be used as inserts on live video programs) or in groups of two to make up a 15-minute program.

May 31, 1955
A vastly augmented cartoon production schedule, requiring a 100% increase in studio's present cartoon dept., was disclosed by Metro over the weekend. New slate calls for the filming of 18 cartoons annually, doubling the current sked, with the entire program to be in Cinemascope and Technicolor.
With this expansion of cartoon production, Joseph Barbera and William Hanna, for past 16 years the writing and directing team of the Tom and Jerry cartoons, were promoted to full producer status. Hal Elias, for 18 years associated with the production and distribution of Metro short subjects and cartoons, has been promoted to manager of the cartoon department.
The promotions of Hanna, Barbera and Elias were made by E. J. Mannix, studio general manager, and Fred Quimby, head of Metro shorts production and producer of the company's cartoons, on eve of the latter's leaving on an extended vacation, his first long holiday in 30 years as an exec of the organization. Barbera and Hanna will be responsible for the production of all 18 cartoons, which will include nine starring Tom and Jerry, six Droopy one-reelers and three specials that will be adapted from published works.
The newly-named producers are scouting art schools and the cinema courses in universities in search for new talent to augment present experienced staff. Increased personnel required for the additional subjects will include directors, writers, animators, assistant animators, layout artists, painters and inkers, in-betweeners and animation checkers.
The Tom and Jerry cartoons, produced by Quimby and written and directed by Hanna and Barbera, have won a total of seven Academy Awards, while no other cartoon "personality" ever has been awarded more than one.

June 1, 1955
The board of directors of Allied Rocky Mountain Independent Theatres met here, elected officers, named an advisory committee and adopted a resolution condemning the sales policies of Buena Vista. The resolution “protested (a) the sales policies of the Buena Vista Distributing Co. which prevents small town exhibitors from profitable playing Walt Disney productions, and thereby denying a large segment of the public the opportunity of seeing these desirable films, (b) the indifference and inadequacy of the sales force representing such motion pictures, and (c) furthering the misconception of distribution, in general, that class entertainment in a comparatively few key theatres is healthier than mass entertainment available in all theatres.

June 14, 1955
Dawes Butler will dub voice for bulldog in Tom & Jerry Cartoon at Metro, "Barbecue Brawl."

June 15, 1955
New incentive plan for its sales force, designed to speed the liquidation of its 2-D releases and CinemaScope shorts and cartoons, is being mulled by 20th-Fox.
Company, in addition to its regular C'Scope sked, has taken on a number of 2-D programmers including quite a few British pictures. Apart from that, it still has to play off the last of the 2-D features it got under its deal with Panoramic Productions.
Incentive scheme is in line with the belief of 20th sales toppers that the sales force should share via bonuses when it manages to push such films over and above a "reasonable" quota. 20th, which has a considerable accumulation of shorts product, would like to see it move better. This holds true particularly for its Terrytoon Cartoons whose sales have been below par.

Nitery dance team Charles Lunard and Helen Lewis inked by Metro to "choreograph" new Tom & Jerry cartoon, "Down Beat Bear."

Arche Mayers has sold Unity Television Corp. to a group headed by Joseph Seidelman. Sale price was in excess of $5,000,000, according to Mayers. The catalog includes roughly 650 features, 140 cartoons, 25 serials and 400 miscellaneous short subjects. [Note: the cartoons controlled by Unity were Van Beuren shorts: 20 “Tom and Jerrys,” about 15 “Cubby Bears” and a number of “Aesop’s Fables”].

June 22, 1955
Songwriter Ann Ronell filed a $90,000 damage suit against Walt Disney Productions in New York Federal Court last week, claiming that Disney had neglected to give her writer’s credit on the “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” song when the filmed story of its creation was shown on Ed Sullivan’s “Toast of the Town” in January of 1954 and again on “Disneyland” in February of this year.
Miss Ronell claims she’s currently negotiating on the story of her life for motion pictures and tv, and failure by Disney to give her credit on the song is detrimental to those negotiations. Miss Ronell claims the song was sub-licensed by Irving Berlin’s music firm for use in the “Big Bad Wolf” cartoon, and in the subsequent tv showings that “gave credit to others,” she was “maliciously hurt and injured.”

N.Y.’s Museum of Modern Art is calling attention to United Productions of America operations with a two-month exhibit on the animated film outfit. After that the exhibit will be sent on tour to various key cities. Show is being conducted as part of the Museum’s current observance of its 25th anniversary year. Occupying a full floor of the Museum, the exhibit will be designed to illustrate to the public how ideas are shaped into cartoons, such as UPA’s “Gerald McBoing-Boing” series. Various shorts from the company will be screened. Exhibit opened yesterday (Tues.).

There still doesn’t seem to be any substitute for the strong ratings pulled by kid vidfilms, particularly animated cartoons. Seven weeks ago, WABD, N.Y., was running under 2 and 3 on the local Nielsen index in the 6:30 to 7 p.m. strip. Since “Looney Tunes” has been added, however, the latest weekly average was 8.9 at 6:30 and 10.6 at 6:45 p.m.
The WABD story is not new. WATV, in Newark, started cutting into the ratings of the once-all-powerful “Howdy Doody” in the metropolitan market with its afternoon animations. Then WPIX showed its juve strength with replays of the ancient “Our Gang” Hal Roach theatrical short subjects. Samples are abundant. “Tunes” has been running second in the half hour it appears only to WCBS-TV’s “Early Show” features. And roughly 40% of the WABD audience during this primarily kiddie stanza is adult viewership. While the WCBS-TV airer still leads in the seven-station market at 6:30 and 6:45 with 10.1 and 11, these figures are a slight comedown from last month’s status. The other five video stations have dropped off in that time period lately, and, for some incalculable reason, the show most hurt, since “Tunes” has been on, has been the WPIX Liberace strip.
Incidentally, WABD, on a real shorts kick, is extending “Looney Tunes” to Saturday and Sunday morning in the near future. Sandy Becker has been inked as emcee of the weekday airer, while Bob Bean, who has held the Monday-Friday time heretofore, will do the emceeing on the new weekend programs. Becker is also moving into the noon-to-12:30 time daily vice “Funny Bunny.” Station is given Becker the heavy chores in hopes of building him as a juve specialist.

3 comments:

  1. You read the blurbs on the huge success of the B&W Looney Tunes on television and the money Guild Films was making from the package, and you wonder how J.L. and his bean counters could look at that and still sell all the rest of their pre-1948 animation and live-action film library to Associated Artists Productions a year later.

    The East Coast Screen Cartoonists contract may have stated that "Members are not permitted to accept freelance work from a non-contract studio," but Shamus Culhane in his biography swore that moonlighting union animators working for below-scale pay helped kill his own commercial studio in the late 1950s, and was still going on when he was running Paramount in the mid-60s (Culhane's book offers a look at both sides of the divide, since he was a strong union supporter in the 1930s and early 40s before becoming management in the 1950s).

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  2. The impact of "THE MICKEY MOUSE CLUB", after its premiere in October, was "shattering" to ABC's competition at 5pm(et): Terry-Toons' "BARKER BILL'S CARTOON SHOW", which was CBS' only post-5pm weekday offering on Wednesdays and Fridays, was off the air by the end of November (the network gave the time slots back to their affiliates, ushering in the era of "old movies in the late afternoon" on many stations). NBC, with its "PINKY LEE CIRCUS TIME" and "HOWDY DOODY" combo, also suffered a major loss of kid viewers....yet they "hung on" until both ended their afternoon runs in June 1956 ["HOWDY" moved to Saturday mornings a few weeks later].

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  3. Wow! This is the news article whose "Lady and the Tramp" review was quoted in Leonard Maltin's historic 1973 (orig.date) book "The Disney Films" as saying "terror..bat episode, Lost Weekend. This is for kids?" Very good review..

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