Saturday, 1 April 2017

Making Cartoon Commercials, 1939

Commercials were illegal on TV in the U.S. until July 1, 1941 by decision of the F.C.C. The first animated ad followed on October 14th. It was for Botany Crinkle-Proof Ties; we wrote about it in this post.

However, further research has discovered a TV cartoon commercial in 1939—the time when the experimental NBC station in New York, W2XBS, was televising from the World’s Fair.

Animated ads were nothing new; they had appeared in theatres in the 1930s, some of them the same length as the cartoon shorts put out by theatrical studios. Business Screen magazine of June 15, 1940 published a feature story about them with a mention of television at the end. The low-resolution pictures you see here accompanied the article.

Several industrial cartoon studios are mentioned. By the end of the ‘40s, when the television boom was underway, and animated ads began to fill the airwaves, new studios came along to dominate the commercial business. They were set up after the War by former theatrical cartoonists who jumped on the opportunity TV afforded after MGM, Warners and Columbia shut down cartoon units (in Columbia’s case, the whole Screen Gems cartoon studio), bringing with them a high level of quality and, as the ‘50s moved along, new styles of artwork.


Here is a "primer" which introduces the fantasy and humor of the animated cartoon to business. On theatre screens everywhere, art and selling are meeting in a happy, joyous combination that audiences approve most enthusiastically. Thus screen advertising again proves audience receptivity to its message; shows that the way to the publics heart may often be through a smile or carefree laughter where argument well might fail to succeed.
♦ Let us presume you are the advertising manager of the Amalgamated Skinners, Inc., and an animated cartoon producer has successfully approached you with the idea of telling your story to the consumer through a cartoon film. He has shown you the efficacy, economy, and selectivity of the approach, and you are convinced; what happens next?
First, and entirely foremost, you must select your means of distribution. All other considerations are subordinate to this. But, assuming you have investigated your market, and have planned your distribution through a reliable distributor to coincide with the distribution problems of your own product or service, then what happens? How is an animated cartoon put together?
Your producer will put his story and animation departments to work on a script for your picture. In many cases the bare outline of this story has been incorporated in his original presentation to you. Conferences between the producers' creative staff and your department will decide what length of film is best suited to your problem and type of consumer; then the framework of the plot is constructed and the characters are "cast." This framework, in most cases, will consist of thirty or forty key scenes which are the base upon which the picture will be scored and animated.
At this point, the producer will have your okay on the characters, color schemes, general music theme, and the plot; he can now go ahead with the production of the picture without fear of later basic corrections (he hopes).
Before any action drawings are made, the entire production must be planned — foot for foot — simultaneously for sight and sound, and the results entered on a master chart which, when complete, embodies action, musical tempo, dialogue, and sound effects.
The scenes must be laid out with special emphasis on continuity. The overall or general action of these scenes is roughly timed with a stopwatch as a member of the animation staff "acts out" the part. The musical director then writes music for each of these scenes while considering the picture as a whole. Screen time for each scene is then known by the tempo of the music and the number of measures or beats allotted to that scene and, as twenty-four frames of picture pass through the projector in one second, and since it is usually desirable to synchronize each individual movement of the characters to the musical beats, an exact timing may now be given to the action.
The music, dialogue, and sound effects are now recorded, usually on separate tracks. Dialogue tracks are "broken down," syllable by syllable, and the frames counted so that lip action may be synchronized on the corresponding drawings.
When all these preliminary but highly important phases of the production are complete, the actual animation may be started. The scenes are given to animators along with "exposure sheets" which ultimately will act as guides for photography at a later stage, but upon which are already recorded tempo, required action, dialogue, etc., corresponding to that of the master short. The animators draw the "extremes" or key positions of movement throughout the scene — usually each fourth, sixth, eighth, or twelfth frame, depending upon the complexity of the action or the tempo of the music. The assistants further break down the action by adding all intermediate steps except single drawings which are made by the "in-betweeners."
The original drawings are in pencil, usually about eight by ten inches and are held in registry by pegs over a light box which permits the artist to gauge and space each drawing to correspond to the desired movement. All drawings are numbered and the animator records the desired number or combination of numbers for each frame of the scene on the exposure sheet.
The pencil drawings are then photographed frame by frame and the film projected as a preliminary test which serves as a guide for the animator and director to even out any irregularities or to make any necessary corrections.

The drawings are then traced by "Tracers" or "Inkers" on transparent sheets of celluloid in black and colored inks and then passed on to "opaquers" who fill in areas with the proper colors on the reverse side of the celluloid. In general, each character, if acting independently of other characters, is traced on a separate "cell" and the final result may consist of three, four, or more "cells" superimposed on the background, which is rendered in water colors.
Now the background drawings and "cells" are taken into the camera room for the final stage. Here each set of drawings is photographed in order, to correspond with the numbers which were entered on the exposure sheets by the animator. All sorts of effects may be obtained as in regular photography — fades, dissolves, zooms, and "pan" shots are all part of (he animation camera technique.
After the photography is complete, the scenes are all pieced together; music, dialogue, and sound effects are "cut in." A combined track is made by a re-recording and finally a combined picture and sound positive print is ready for the preview. We think you'll be pleased!
A short excerpt from an advertising brochure recently published contains an interesting viewpoint on the animating angle:
"Cartoon and technical animation often serve to lift a production from the commonplace. And to demonstrate a complicated idea or mechanism, animation is frequently the only means by which the objective can be accomplished. A trade-mark comes to life and directs a scene. Mother Goose tours tile country in her new runabout, demonstrating safely in driving. A sectional view of a Diesel engine slowly changes shape as a piston moves up and down. Anything can happen!"
In his article for Nancy Naumburg's "We Make the Movies," Walt Disney says of the animated cartoon technique:
"There has been a great improvement in the mechanical end of production. In the old days before sound came into existence most of the cartoon equipment used was makeshift and crude. Gradually we have improved our cartoon technique by improved equipment, so that today the cartoon is steady and flickerless and the animators produce better and smoother action. But the main improvements have been in our understanding of the medium, better artists, drawing and story technique."
Business can well afford to study the many applications of this technique to short sales and advertising films. What has been done most successfully in the world of make-believe (as witness "Snow-White") can be done as well in the realm of actuality. The cost need not be excessive — in fact it can be well controlled.

♦ What may well be a prophetic step in the field of television and screen advertising may be seen in the first televising of the Pepsi-Cola cartoons through the facilities of the National Broadcasting Company's New York television station W2ZBS [W2XBS].
These minute-long screen advertisements were first shown during June. The Pepsi-Cola cops are featured in comic adventures together with a popular theme tune originated for the sponsor.

: Presented by the Chevrolet Motor Division of the General Motors Sales Corporation; an animated cartoon comedy in Technicolor for theatrical release.
ONE BAD KNIGHT: Another of the theatrical all-Technicolor cartoon comedies typified by the Chevrolet film described.
BOY MEETS DOG: Sponsored by Bristol-Myers Company, makers of Ipana Toothpaste, for theatrical release. Another all-color cartoon with noteworthy entertainment qualities.
ONCE UPON A TIME: The outstanding safety cartoon sponsored by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company for theatrical release. Black and white only. Shown to audiences nationally.
(The above cartoons are typical of short subject releases of approximately ten-minute screening time; others described below are one-minute screen advertisements prepared for national and local release.)
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SHELL OIL PLAYLETS: A series of six Technicolor playlets was prepared for Shell Oil through the motion picture department of J. Walter Thompson.
PLANTER'S PEANUT PLAYLETS: Also shown in theatres is this series telling the story of Mr. Peanut and the sponsor's product from plant to consumer. (Color.)
W. K. KELLOGG PLAYLETS: A series for Rice Krispies continues to be shown on a regional campaign basis during 1940.
PEPSI-COLA PLAYLETS: Starring the Pepsi-Cola cops, Pepsi and Pete in a light comic series introduced by the sponsor's catchy theme tune now also being heard via radio. (Filmed in Technicolor).

Producer Credits
A Coach for Cinderella and One Bad Knight were produced by the Animation Department of the Jam Handy Organization.
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Boy Meets Dog was produced by Caravel Films, Inc.
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Once Upon a Time was produced by Audio Productions, Inc.
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The Shell, Kellogg, Lever and Kraft playlets were produced by Cartoon Films. Ltd., of Beverly Hills and New York City. Also producers of the non-theatrical cartoon for Ford (above, left). The Motion Picture Department of J. Walter Thompson Company was the agency in charge of Shell, Kellogg and Kraft production.
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Planter's Peanut Playlets were produced by Ted Eshbaugh Animation Studios, New York City.
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Pepsi-Cola Playlets were produced by Caravel Films, Inc.
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National Distribution by Screen Broadcasts, Inc. and General Screen Advertising, Inc.

1 comment:

  1. The Pepsi and Pete films are credited to Caravel. I'm kind of curious though if they or some of them were contracted out to Ted Eshbaugh to do as the one Ive seen does look similar to his work;
    Caravel did contract out Boy meets Dog to Lantz...