Saturday, 21 May 2016
Cartoons of 1955, Part 2
As you can see, television continued to be the main story when it came to the animation industry in 1955, though there was no animation industry for television yet. Kids couldn’t get enough of the old theatrical cartoons run over and over and over again. Sponsors couldn’t line up fast enough. Syndicators continued to try to coax the major film studios to sell them TV rights to their animated shorts. CBS got around the situation by buying a studio. And one syndicator managed to convince Paramount to loosen more cartoons out of its vaults. The big deals for Bugs Bunny and Popeye would be brokered in 1956. MGM would come later, although the studio was responsible for a half-hour show on ABC called MGM Parade, featuring clips from its films, past and present, with the Tex Avery cartoon Screwball Squirrel being aired on the premiere broadcast on September 21st.
So let’s leaf through Variety’s pages for the second half of 1955. Warner Bros. Cartoons was absorbed by the parent company and left its familiar home (featured in the 1940 short You Ought To Be in Pictures) for a new, antiseptic building that writer Mike Maltese compared to a hospital. John Hubley’s dream of a feature-length “Finian’s Rainbow” died, with the whereabouts of a gorgeous soundtrack long forgotten. MGM’s two units were back in business, though Mike Lah never made a single Barney Bear cartoon as planned. And cartoons continued to be a mainstay in TV advertising.
July 6, 1955
National Boxoffice Survey
"Lady and Tramp" (BV), also promising, climbed to fifth. Disney CinemaScope cartoon, aided by school closings, is racking up an excellent showing at the wicket. [“The Seven Year Itch” was number one this week]
July 13, 1955
An ex-Disney cartoonist has been signed by NBC-TV to supply the comic strips as a feature of next season's "Howdy Doody." He's Norman Wright, who has been assigned to work up the animation motif on a three-a-week basis. Each will run from three to four minutes.
The web is also negotiating with a Hollywood studio for the rights to a top cartoon series to be used as a complementary feature to the Wright capsules on the other days of the week.
July 27, 1955
Cartoon film producer Walter Lantz yesterday put "The Ostrich Egg and I" into production under Alex Lovy.
[From a story on the postponed films from the Directors Corp. of America]
"[Long John] Silver" and "[I Am a] Camera" were DCA's first two major productions. Third, "Finian's Rainbow," was gotten underway but has been in a state of suspension for months.
Going well over budget on preliminaries, DCA shelled out $800,000 for "Finian's." Scoring (which comes first in a cartoon feature) is completed but no animation work has been done yet. Total budget, it's now figured, will reach $800,000. DCA wants another company to take over project, with DCA retaining partial interest, but so far, no deal. Allied Artists showed active interest but walked away when DCA refused to post production completion bonds.
August 1, 1955
As he prepares to launch Metro's fall production season, studio head Dore Schary this week will be host to NY and regional sales and promotion execs at preview screenings and confabs on distribution plans.
A preview also will be held for "Peace on Earth," cartoon short produced by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, also designed for holiday release.
August 3, 1955
Along with the tv films, CBS has agreed to partially finance a program of feature films produced by UPA for theatres. However, UPA will have to make its own distribution deal for the feature films as well as get the balance of the necessary financing away from CBS.
The cartoon programs will feature original and exclusive characters and songs designed for the family and geared for late afternoon audiences. They will mark UPA's initial entry into tv on the entertainment level, the company having previously only turned out filmed commercials and promotion film used on tv. UPA, which will continue to make 8 to 12 cartoon shorts yearly for Columbia Pictures release, has been nominated eight times for Academy Awards, and two of its shorts, "Gerald McBoing-Boing" and "When Magoo Flew" won Oscars.
Under the terms of the CBS deal, UPA will deliver 13 of the first 26 cartoon tv films by Sept., 1956, which gives the company virtually a year to prepare its entrance into entertainment tv.
July Box Office
"Lady and Tramp" (BV) copped third position although never finishing first all month. However, it ran nearly neck-'n'-neck with "[The Seven Year] Itch." Had the night business for this Walt Disney cartoon feature held up close to matinee trade it probably would have fared better. [“Not As Stranger” topped the box office in July]
Willy Pogany, 73, artist and designer, died July 30 in N. Y. He was a scenic and costume designer, muralist, book and magazine illustrator, caricaturist, architect, etcher, sculptor and portrait painter. Among the murals created by him is a forest and floral motif covering both walls of the Ziegfeld Theatre, N. Y.
Born in Szeged, Hungary, Pogany worked in Europe before settling in the U. S. in 1914. In this country, he designed the scenes, sets and costumes at the Metropolitan Opera House for the operas "Le Coq D'Or, "L'Italiana in Algeri" and "The Polish Jew." He also designed the sets and costumes for the Fokine and Adolph Bloom ballets, besides doing similar work on numerous Broadway productions.
His Main Stem credits include "Sumurun," "Queen High," "Merry Wives of Windsor," "Magic Melody," "Lassie," "Liliom," "Holy Terror," "Madame Pompadour," "House Boat on the Styx," "Hitchy Koo," "The Jeweled Tree," "Words and Music," "Century Girl Ballet," "Alimonies," "Hawk Island," "Carnival in Venice" and "Thunder Bird."
Pogany also worked in Hollywood where he was art director for United Artists, Warner Bros., 20th-Fox, Universal and the Charles Chaplin studios. At one time he designed animated cartoons for Universal. From 1940-51, he did cover illustrations for numerous mags, including all the cover designs for The American Weekly. Pogany was also the author of several books on art and art instruction and was considered an authority on color effects by lighting. Wife, two sons and a sister survive.
August 10, 1955
Special televersion of "Dumbo" will launch the new season of Disneyland Sept. 14 on ABC-TV. Full hour will be devoted to the circus cartoon feature with the inclusion of all the characters and musical score.
Arranger Phil Moore has been inked to orchestrate three special numbers for UPA cartoons.
August 11, 1955
Panda Prints, greeting card manufacturer, has closed a deal with UPA to reproduce letter's cartoon characters on note paper and other products, Fred Slavic, Panda prexy, and Stephen Bosustow, UPA prexy, jointly disclosed yesterday.
Included will be such characters as Gerald McBoing-Boing, Mister Magoo, Christopher Crumpet, Willy the Kid and Madeline.
August 16, 1955
Walter Lantz will launch a $20,000 remodelling job of his cartoon studio when personnel start annual mass vacation on Friday [19th].
Principal task will be a new cutting room to handle producer's expanded program. Crew will work two shifts to wind up chore by time studio reopens Sept. 6.
August 19, 1955
Warner Bros. Cartoons, Inc., formed in 1944 as a subsidiary by Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc., is being absorbed by the parent company and hereafter will operate under the title, Warner Bros. Pictures, Cartoon Division.
Move, under which WBCI will be dissolved as a corporation, is being made merely for expediency purposes and to eliminate details of the double setup, according to prexy Edward Selzer.
Company yesterday sent out formal notices of the commencement of proceedings for voluntary winding up and dissolution of WBCI to "shareholders, creditors and claimants," a formality.
Cartoon division, which will continue without any break or change under the direction and supervision of Selzer, will hereafter operate out of the Warner lot, where a new $200,000 building has just been completed at the east end of the studio to house all animation activities. Operations get under way on Sept. 18, following the department's mass vacation.
Actual moving from present quarters on the old Warner lot, south of Sunset Blvd., occupied for the past 11 years, starts tomorrow and will be completed Aug. 28, at windup of dissolution started July 28, according to Selzer.
August 30, 1955
Venice, Aug. 29.—UPA's "Fudget's Budget" copped the first International prize in the current film festival here over the weekend, named as best animated short subject. Technicolor cartoon, a Columbia release, was produced by Stephen Bosustow and directed by Robert Cannon.
September 2, 1955
New York, Sept. 1.—Four serials and 97 shorts are scheduled by Columbia's short subjects' sales department for the 1955-56 season. Chapter-plays will include two re-issues, "The Sea Hound" and "The Monster and the Ape."
On the shorts' slate are 27 two-reelers, including 12 re-runs, and 70 one-reelers, 27 of them reprints, including 13 UPA cartoons. Program will continue Screen Snapshots, oldest shorts series in existence, now going into its 35th year.
September 7, 1955
Buena Vista, Walt Disney's distribution subsid, is set for a European push with a sales program mapped for four pictures.
"Vanishing Prairie," second in the producer's True Life Adventure series, is to be released abroad beginning in early fall and running through the first two months of 1956. "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," now in distribution in the United Kingdom, goes into release on the Continent in the fall.
"Lady and the Tramp," cartoon feature, has been earmarked for Christmas release from Disney throughout Europe, and this is to be followed by "Davy Crockett—King of the Wild Frontier."
September 8, 1955
Metro general sales mgr. Charles Reagan has set Dec. 28 release for Yule cartoon, "Good Will To Men" . . . Metro cartoonery yesterday had three in the photographing stage: "The Flying Sorceress," "Busy Buddies" and "Muscle Beach Tom."
September 9, 1955
John Ployardt has been signed by United Productions of America prexy Stephen Bosustow, and joins UPA's story department to write material for company's all color cartoon program for CBS-[T]V.
Ployardt was an art director at RKO three years ago.
September 12, 1955
Fourth Annual Screen Cartoonists Film Festival will be held at Hollywood A.C. Oct. 15, with 19 animated cartoon producers indicating they will participate. Each producer will be allowed five minutes to present top product, according to Bill Perez, SCG financial secretary and festival chairman. Guild will continue past policy of showcasing producer product at festival, without accompanying award set-up. Over 1,000 people attended last year's cartoonists' festival.
September 14, 1955
John Hubley, former producer and executive of United Productions of America, who organized his own cartoonery, has opened offices in New York. Hubley is also supervising the animation of Distributors Corp. of America feature-length cartoon, "Finian's Operation."
Gene Deitch, longtime director at UPA, has joined Storyboard as creative director and designer. Another former UPAer, Bill Bernal, a sales staffer, has joined the Hubley outfit in a similar post. Another member of Storyboard's staff is Bob Bleichman, who will do storyboards and designs.
September 16, 1955
UPA wants to buy Harry Belafonte's tune, "Hello, Everybody," as a themer for its new CBS-TV cartoon series.
September 19, 1955
John Whitney, experimenter in abstract cinema, joins UPA today to direct a musical sequence in new color cartoon program the animated film firm is preparing for CBS-TV.
September 20, 1955
Daws Butler recording voices for a "Mr. Magoo" cartoon for UPA.
September 21, 1955
ANIMATED CARTOONS JUMPIN’ HOTTEST ITEMS IN TV FILMS
Animated cartoons, once the also-rans of the motion picture business, are currently the hottest properties in the films-for-tv business. It's variously estimated among trade sources that the animated shorts over the past year alone have done nearly $6,000,000 worth of business in station-by-station sales. This doesn't take into consideration the concurrent boom in comedy one- and two-reelers, sparked by the release some months ago of the "Our Gang" comedies.
Yen for cartoons has hit nearly every station in the country, and moreover, the stations are using 'em as fast as they can find them. In New York alone, for example, no less than three stations have half-hour exclusively-cartoon strips on the air daily, two more use the shorts cross-the-board as integral parts of kidshows, and a sixth uses them for a Saturday morning segment. Pattern, especially the packaging of the cartoons in half-hour strips, has been taken up all over the country, with top results in the rating department. In N. Y., WATV's pioneer cartoon segment, "Junior Frolics," has consistently been the station's top strip show; the more recently installed "Looney Tunes" on WABD shows in this week's VARIETY-ARB film chart as the second-rated non-network film show in the N. Y. market.
These three companies alone, since acquiring their product, have grossed about $5,000,000 on the shorts alone, according to the best estimates available. MPTV, which has had its catalog the longest, has already passed the $2,000,000 mark in sales. Guild, it's understood, is nearing $2,000,000, while Hygo has passed the $1,000,000 mark. In addition, there are other companies actively distributing cartoon product, among them Official Films, Sterling Television, Commonwealth and as of last week, Cinema-Vue, who have grabbed off substantial billings on the shorts.
Another factor was unquestionably the impact of Walt Disney and "Disneyland," which made the Doubting Thomases jump at the chance for animated product. These factors contributed to the initial decision to program the cartoons—once started, however, the stations immediately felt the need for additional product with which to keep the programs rolling, and everybody with any cartoon properties has felt the upbeat. Typical is the case of Cinema-Vue, which only a couple of days after acquiring some 100 oldies had made deals for them and 100 live-action comedy shorts in Chicago and Los Angeles for $100,000.
Walt Disney already has completed 400 15-minute filmed segments for use on his upcoming Mickey Mouse Club," which starts a five-times weekly one-hour television show (four-minute segments) on Oct. 3 over ABC. Program, Monday through Friday, will be telecast from 5 to 6 p.m. in all time zones.
Opening day telecast will include "Mickey Mouse Newsreel," "The Mouseketeers," "What I Want to Be" (a 10-day serial) and a Mickey Mouse cartoon. Latter will be the only previously produced subject, all others being freshly filmed.
"Newsreel" will be shown Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, comprising worldwide news and special events for young people. On Tuesday, this first 15-minute period will consist of "Meet —," in which various personalities and places will be intro'd. Opener here will be Sooty, Britain's No. 1 tv star. On Thursdays, this period will be "Jiminy Crickett" cartoons.
The Mouseketeers, composed of 24 singing moppets, on alternate days of week will vary their quarter-hour appearance. Tuesdays will be "Star Guest Day," with such guests as Buddy Ebsen, Fess Parker and others skedded; Wednesday will be "Anything Can Happen Day"; Thursday, "Circus Day"; Friday, "Junior Talent Roundup Day."
September 22, 1955
The name of Walt Disney will be perpetuated in Tullytown, Penn. School children of the town have voted to name their new elementary school after him and dedication ceremonies Saturday will be attended by the cartoon-maker. To carry out the Disney motif, each room will be given the name of a Disney character. The principal's office has been designed as "Capt. Hook."
September 23, 1955
Elevated to stardom yesterday at Metro were Spike and Tyke, the father-and-son bulldog team which has appeared in many of studio's "Tom and Jerry" cartoon subjects.
New series, with Spike and Tyke stars in their own right, was launched at Metro yesterday by William Hanna and Joseph Barbara, cartoon producers. First episode is tagged "Some Watch Dog."
September 27, 1955
Metro has doubled its cartoon schedule from nine to 18 annually as result of exhib pressure, according to studio. A second unit has been added to make nine "Droopy" and "Barney Bear" subjects under direction of Michael Lah.
William Hanna and Joseph Barbera unit will continue to turn out customary nine "Tom and Jerry" and "Spike and Tyke" briefies.
September 28, 1955
Opening and closing animated cartoon spots for Oct. 11 NBC-TV "Wide Wide World" program, a personal project of net prexy Sylvester L. (Pat) Weaver, Jr., will be created by Storyboard, Inc., local tv spot production outfit noted for their Ford Commercials.
October 6, 1955
Division, under the direction of Edward Selzer, is now in operation in its new quarters on the Warner lot, after having worked out of Warners Sunset studios since 1944. A separate studio apart from the Warner operations proper, located at southeast corner of lot, houses the cartoonery's three units, composed now of approximately 100 in personnel. Selzer tomorrow night is tossing a housewarming for employes and their families.
There is an increasing shortage in cartoon manpower, Selzer reported yesterday, due to commercial cartoon outfits luring experienced personnel away via higher pay. Despite this, studio is continuing to make its 30 shorts yearly, and is able to sandwich in an occasional outside subject. John Burton is production manager.
Latest in a series of odd requests from various branches of the Armed Services for cartoon characters arrived last week. A Navy Lieutenant Commander asked that cartoonery design and make up a shot of Bugs Bunny, vet Warner cartoon star, for the crew of the battleship New Jersey. Drawing will show Bugs leaning on a mop.
October 14, 1955
Nitery comic Red Coffey planed in to dub voice of the "Duckling" in Tom & Jerry cartoon at Metro.
October 19, 1955
New York, Oct. 18.—If there's a pot of gold at the end of the projected filmization of "Finian's Rainbow," it's still far from view. The feature cartoon version of the legit musical has been at a halt for more than six months, although $300,000 has been poured into project. Distributors Corp. of America, owned by a group of theatre operators, acquired the screen rights and, with John Hubley assigned to produce, spent the 300G on the production. Scoring, which comes first in animated film work, was completed, but the actual animation has never been undertaken because of lack of money.
DCA has been continuing with efforts to induce another company to take over the property. DCA would like to recoup on its investment, at least. Allied Artists has shown interest, but an agreement on terms has been elusive. DCA is continuing talks with others.
So, not much new in Glocca Morra.
November 2, 1955
In one of the most extensive such deals yet projected, Paramount is engaged in negotiations for the sale of nearly 2,000 short subjects for television. Basis of the talks is a price of about $4,500,000.
A. W. Schwalberg, who resigned six months ago as Par v.p. in charge of domestic distribution, now operating on his own as producers' and artists' representative in the theatrical film field, is representing the prospective buying group.
Both Schwalberg and Par execs are clamming on the details, preferring to await conclusion of the arrangement before making any announcements. Chances are the buyers, presuming the deal goes through, would license the shorts to various tv outlets instead of peddling the entire package to one network.
The films represent virtually Par's entire library of back-number reels. They're mostly one-reelers and include about 200 "Popeye" subjects along with other cartoons and musical and sports items.
Cartoon subject, designed to instill a feeling of brotherly love among men, has been prepared by Metro for distribution during the Christmas season. The eight-minute reel, produced by Fred Quimby, is being backed by religious groups.
Titled "Good Will to Men," the film depicts in cartoon fashion the destruction of man by the new implements of war. A creature of the forest lectures other animal survivors on the importance of the context of the Bible for maintaining peace on earth and brotherly love.
Joe Barbara and William Hanna, of Metro's cartoon staff, did the animation.
"Barker Bill's Cartoons" exits CBS-TV Nov. 25.
November 4, 1955
Metro’s forthcoming Spanish lingo cartoon, "Mucho Mouse," is not in any way related to Walt Disney's Mickey. [George E. Phair column]
November 7, 1955
New York, Nov. 6.—Out-of-court settlement for $22,500 has been accepted by John Hubley, prexy of Storyboard, Inc., from Fred Schwartz' Distributors Corp of America, producers of the incompleted theatrical feature cartoon, "Finian's Rainbow." Hubley directed that portion of the animated film which has been completed.
Hubley, in settlement arranged by attorney Max Toberoff, is thereby relieved of all further responsibility on project.
November 8, 1955
Significant of the trend to cartoon advertising was the mention of three commercials best remembered: Ford, Hamms Beer and Bank of America. That tv watchers do not resent commercial intrusions is reflected in the questionnaire, noting that 88% felt a sense of appreciation to the sponsor. In naming brand beers, women named 16 while men named only 14, leading to the conclusion by Hudson that "women are greater beer drinkers than men." In summarizing the sentiments' of the sampled families, Hudson counseled, "Don't smog up the air, instead just give 'em the facts ma'am."
November 9, 1955
Information is contained in a letter to stockholders from Guild prez Reub Kaufman. Kaufman also reported that the upbeat trend has continued into the present quarter. Letter contained no breakdown on billings, but it's understood that the Warner Bros. "Looney Tunes" cartoons accounted for more than $2,000,000 of the $5,000,000 total. Other shows contributing heavily were "Liberace" and "Confidential File."
Fred Steiner will compose and conduct for two UPA cartoons . . .
November 14, 1955
New York, Nov. 13. — Entire library of Paramount shorts, numbering some 1,800 subjects, has reportedly been purchased for television by UM&M, Inc., the telepix distribution firm headed by Charles M. Amory, onetime RKO-Pathe veep. Understood the purchase is an outright one, in perpetuity, with the price running about $3,600,000.
Under the deal, UM&M gets world rights in every medium and reportedly is mulling establishment of theatrical setup to play off some subjects in theatres before their television exposure. This wouldn't be too difficult for the company, since UM&M is owned by three companies, two of which, Motion Picture Advertising Service of New Orleans and United Film Service of Kansas City, blanket the country with their screen commercials business. They probably could handle theatrical distribution of the shorts.
Library contains some 200 "Popeye" cartoons, plus about 300 other assorted cartoon subjects, including "Little Lulu" and "Betty Boop." There are over 200 Grantland Rice sports shorts, plus a series of musical and variety subjects. Entire deal was agented by A. W. Schwalberg, Par's former distribution head, now on his own.
Terms are said to provide for a substantial down payment, with remainder to be paid out of grosses. Possible, however, that UM&M, currently working on a stock issue flotation, might pay balance out of the proceeds of the public issue.
UM&M was set up by Amory in 1953 and is unique in telefilm distribution in that its sales force numbers more than 175, most of these working out of MPA and UFS on a part-time-for-tv basis. Salesmen selling screen commercials devote part of their time to selling telefilms for UM&M, and MPA and UFS are partnered in UM&M with Amory's Minot TV. UM&M was really put into business a year ago when it took over distribution of "Sherlock Holmes," "Paris Precinct," "Janet Dean, R.N." and other series from Matty Fox's Motion Pictures for Television. Additionally, MPA filmed one new series, "New Orleans Police Dept.," at its studios there and is beginning production on another, "The Tracers."
UPA Pictures delivered 12-minute industrial cartoon, "Power and Progress," to Douglas Aircraft Corp., for tv and theatrical screenings.
November 16, 1955
UPA Pictures, Inc., animation production outfit, is seeking a new studio site to replace its present plant in Burbank, now inadequate to handle company's expansion program, prexy Stephen Bosustow reported yesterday.
UPA's operations, according to the prez, are now two years ahead of its blueprint, and new studio is required to house at least a 50% personnel increase. Company will shortly enter television via a weekly half-hour program for CBS-TV, and for this eight new units will be established within the next two weeks, veepee Robert Cannon stated. Each unit will be complete, with a director, artists, color and production designers and animators. Special music and script departments also will be established in near future for firm's tv activities.
Company in past has concentrated on entertainment cartoons for Columbia release, plus tv spots, educational and industrial films.
November 22, 1955
Homer Brightman, writer in Metro's cartoon unit, was inked to a new contract by studio over the weekend.
November 23, 1955
Deal under which some 1,800 Paramount short subjects were sold to UM&M Inc. last week did not include the studio's 174 "Popeye"shorts, it's been learned. Stumbling block to transfer of the cartoons is King Features, which owns a half-interest in the property with Paramount.
Understood King Features is asking well over $1,000,000 as its share in the subjects. This would be above and beyond the $3,500,000 paid Paramount by UM&M for the other 1,800 shorts, which include in the cartoon category "Little Lulu" and "Betty Boop" subjects. Charles Amory, UM&M prez, wouldn't comment on the "Popeye" situation, but it's understood that the telefilm outfit has an option on the cartoons but considers King's demands way out of line.
Columbia will release five UPA short subjects in 16m form to homes, schools and group organizations. Quintet, selected by Donald McConville, 16m sales manager for Columbia, from the 70 cartoons turned out by UPA for Col release during the past seven years, will include two "Mister Magoo" shorts, "Gerald McBoing-Boing," "Madeline" and "Family Circus."
Distrib plans further release of UPA minnies, as a follow-up in 16m market, company reported yesterday.
November 28, 1955
Company topper also disclosed UPA's gross for 1955 will be virtually double that of 1954, rising from last year's $850,000 to $1,600,000 plus. Up to now, cartoonery had looked to its NY office to handle from 90 to 95% of its tv spot orders, according to Bosustow. Rapid growth of this activity at this end, however, now has boosted Coast operations to a par with East Coast, so that output is shared 50-50. Company will gross approximately $600,000 from this source this year as against $300,000 in 1954, Bosustow said.
Tv units, to average 10 apiece in personnel, each a complete entity, will be a separate operation from UPA's other activity, which is expanding on a vast scale, exec stated. In addition to the tv spots and its program of from 10 to 15 shorts for Columbia, UPA is prepping a weekly program for CBS-TV and a cartoon feature, "The White Deer," based on the James Thurber yarn, after budgeting it at $1,500,000. To meet this stepup in pace, company will double its present 160 personnel by the end of 1956. Present roster carries 110 at the Burbank plant, already too limited in space to accommodate business, and 50 in NY. For UPA's CBS-TV program, which formally starts next September, four shows already have been roughed out, Bosustow declared. First segment must be delivered by Jan. 1, and 13 complete shows must be completed when program gets away next September.
As an adjunct to its tv activity, UPA also is setting up two music publishing houses to handle music written for program. UPA Music Co. will publish via ASCAP; UPA Music Publishers via BMI. Additionally, UPA is establishing national scholarships in from 10 to 15 art schools around the country, Bosustow reported, to develop artists for the future.
November 30, 1955
Unique format of operation established by Walt Disney over the past two years has reached the full payoff stage. Producer's principal source of revenue continues to be, of course, the theatrical runs of his pictures, with the help of his "entertainment commercials" on television.
In selling pix to exhibitor customers, Disney became strictly an independent, thereby producing some significant trade angles. The Buena Vista subsidiary company, which distributes the feature product, is very modest structurally, compared with a Metro or Paramount. But it is bringing in "major" loot.
Disney's approach is by-now well familiar. Each theatrical project is given considerable spotlighting on television such as the numerous segments on how "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" was being lensed. This proved entertainment for the tv audience and, naturally, hefty commercial for "Leagues" in theatres. "Davy Crockett—King of the Wild Frontier" was tv'ed in its entirety before exhibitors licensed it.
Now for the results. "Crockett," a poor starter in some spots such as New York and Cleveland, grossed $2,000,000 on 9,000 exhibition contracts in the United States. This is unusually high since the pic was widely regarded as little more than a program oater; the tv push obviously was largely responsible for the income.
"Vanishing Prairie," an entry in the True-Life Adventure series, raked in $1,800,000 on 10,000 pacts. "Lady and the Tramp," cartoon in CinemaScope", pulled in $4,000,000 on its first 2,500 dates. With perhaps 2,000 contracts still to be liquidated, "20,000 Leagues" has passed the $7,000,000 mark in U. S. rentals. In the history of the picture business, 153 productions have taken distribution grosses of $4,000,000 from both the U. S. and Canadian markets, thus reflecting the effectiveness, so far, at least, of Disney's success formula for wedding picture and tv enterprises.
Buena Vista meant the significant departure, trade-wise, from the usual pattern in distributing expensive product. Headed by Leo Samuels as president and general manager, BV has a limited sales force operating in eight district offices and 15 "sub" branches. Each of the latter has only one salesman and an assistant on the employment roster. (Major companies run 31 good-sized exchanges in the key cities).
BV has had a good run to date, cutting down substantially on–cost of distribution (Disney formerly paid 22% of the gross to RKO for selling his films) and still reaching the full market potential with its relatively small operation. Billing and collecting, incidentally, are handled by National Film Service. Important factor to be considered, however, is BV was plenty bolstered by the succession of click pictures from the Disney lot, in addition to the tv exploitation. Also, the releases were spaced sufficiently apart so that each pic could be given a maximum of executive sales attention.
A greater test of the outfit's efficiency is due over the next 18 months when a total of 10 productions will be tossed in the distribution hopper, beginning with the current "African Lion." Reissues on the list include "Song of the South," which is being set for sale in each area to correspond with school vacation periods, beginning Feb. 20 in New England and winding up with the summer layoff in the south. Full campaign is planned.
New product will include "Littlest Outlaw," Joseph Calleia starrer which was locationed in Mexico; "Great Locomotive Chase," Civil War actioner done in Cinema-Scope with Fess Parker in the lead; "Secrets of Life," first in the True-Life series to be done in C'Scope, and "Perri," which Disney is billing as a True-Life Fantasy.
December 5, 1955
Bluenoses, director-animator Art Babbitt has decided, never change.
Two decades ago an Ohio State censor nixed his Terry Toon cartoon because it showed udders on a cow. At about the same time, a Soviet censor decided that the idea of "cowboy" cats beating up "Indian" mice constituted "racial discrimination."
Now, Babbitt is having trouble with tv sponsors. A blurb he did for Storyboard, to be used by Wesson Oil for Snowdrift, has been nixed. Sponsor didn't mind the use of the Stan Freberg "John and Marsha" material, but frowned on the fadeout—in which an ecstatic husband, reconciled with his wife after she improved her cooking with Snowdrift, pulls down the curtain to give them some privacy. Said the sponsor—"Too suggestive."
December 8, 1955
Labor negotiations in the film cartooning field looms large today, with the indie Screen Cartoonists Guild meeting last night to discuss possible strike action against individual members of the Commercial Film Producers Assn., telefilm commercial producers group.
SCG spokesman stated that refusal of commercial makers to bargain individually was primary reason for the proposed strike action. CFPA spokesman confirmed that the producers' group, despite recent ruling by National Labor Relations Board denying it collective bargaining privileges, was adamant in refusing to bargain individually.
Besides individual bargaining issue, SCG demands include hike of work category to level "near" actual going rates in these fields and establishment of a "moderate" health-welfare fund plan.
List of firms against which SCG threatens strike action includes Kling Studios, Churchill-Wexler, Raphaell Wolff, Animation, Inc., Playhouse Pictures, Swift-Chaplin and TV Spots, Inc. However, SCG declared that "one or two" of the producers listed would be struck, if such drastic action eventuates. Meanwhile, Local 839, Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists, IATSE, will meet tonight at North Hollywood Women's Club to ratify demands to be presented to theatrical cartoon makers Jan. 15. Negotiation committee will also be elected, according to biz rep Don Hillary.
December 13, 1955
"MUCHO MOUSE," AT REQUEST of Loew's Intl., will be first Metro cartoon to be prepped for overseas release before it is seen domestically. Cartoon will be screened at February International conclave at the studio. Spanish dialog is currently being recorded by Manuel Perez and Pilar Arcos.
December 16, 1955
Metro plans an art house distribution of "Invitation to the Dance," Gene Kelly terp starrer which has no dialog, with first engagement planned for a NY theatre shortly after first of the year, a studio spokesman reported last night. Picture started in London in August, 1952, where shooting continued until early 1953, and more than a year was consumed in finishing cartoon sequence at studio, ending some months ago.
Film is developed into three sequences, cartoon, modern dance and ballet, with Kelly, who stars in last two also appearing in the animation footage. Kelly also directed.
December 23, 1955
Indie Screen Cartoonists Guild, in its on-again, off-again campaign against the telecommercial producers' org, Commercial Film Producers Assn., early last week issued a 24-hour strike notice to four member-firms, only to rescind action yesterday. (Observers point out cartoonists have two paid holidays coming up, Christmas and New Year's Day.)
TV Spots, Playhouse Pictures, Shamus-Culhane and Swift-Chaplin were firms served strike notice last Tuesday. But union yesterday notified them they intend to call a truce until Jan. 3 before taking further action on walkouts.
Meanwhile, CFPA has until Jan. 6 to file briefs in recent National Labor Relations Board hearing on issue of assn.-wide vs. individual producer bargaining, big issue between producers and SCG. Local hearing record then goes back to Washington for final determination, not expected before 90 days.
December 28, 1955
Network would take over 100% of the stock in the company together with its more than 1,100 cartoons and merchandising-licensing rights to Terrytoon characters. Deal points up CBS's growing interest in animation, since it already has an exclusive-for-tv production deal with United Productions of America. Deal probably means the end of Terry's distribution arrangement with 20th-Fox, an agreement that has been in effect for 25 years. It also means the end of the oldest indie cartoon production outfit still in existence, since the 68-year-old Terry started turning out animated films some 40 years ago. He set up his own plant, which employs some 60 persons, in New Rochelle, N.Y., 25 years ago.
Among the characters he has turned out are "Mighty Mouse," his biggest money-maker; "Neckle and Jeckle," [sic] the talking magpies, "Dinky the Duck" and "Farmer Al Falfa." Merchandising comprises no small part of the operation, with "Mighty Mouse," in particular, having projected itself as a top licensing money-maker.
Relationship between Terry and CBS goes back several years, since the producer has been turning out animated subjects for the network via his "Barker Bill" afternoon show. That was a straight package deal; however, now all the Terry subjects become CBS property.
New York, Dec. 27. — Metro's short subjects department is in a whimsical mood.
Among the company's upcoming one-reelers are "Canine Mutiny" and "Blackboard Jumble." [Note: “Canine Mutiny” was a 1956 Mr. Magoo cartoon from UPA. “Jumble” was an MGM Droopy cartoon].