Saturday, 3 June 2017

Cartoon Cars For Safety

What do Howard Morris, jazz and Methodists have in common?

The cartoon “Stop Driving Us Crazy.”

Industrial and commercial cartoons could be just as creative and entertaining as the ones shown in theatres. The 1950s were a heyday for animated commercials, with interesting movement and design. The same with industrial cartoons (made for businesses or organisations). They were generally animated in small studios by people who had worked in theatrical animation.

Below is a story from Business Screen magazine of December 30, 1959, explaining how the Methodist Church put the gears in motion to make a public service cartoon aimed at young drivers about road safety. Well, I supposed I’d better make that young Christian drivers, as the cartoon has a decided religious aspect to it. To make it appeal to young people, it eschewed old-fashioned Disney-type designs and went with the flat graphics that became popular in the ‘50s. And instead of aged public domain tunes like “Shortnin’ Bread” or old chestnuts such as “In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree,” a youth-appealing jazz combo was used on the sound track. Business Screen hailed it as a “first.”
This Teen-Age Safety Film — "the Most"
Methodist Board of Temperance Color Picture Is a Real Gasser

PROBABLY ONE of the wildest pieces of far-out jazz heard on disc in recent years is a 30-minute, practically continuous, drum solo by Art Blakey called Orgy in Rhythm.
The same Mr. Blakey who flips the wigs of the hipsters in the nation's most noted murky cellars is also the star attraction of a new film just released by the General Board of Temperance of The Methodist Church. The film, a groovy safe driving message titled Stop Driving Us Crazy, is directed to teen-agers, and no reason why they shouldn't dig it the most.
Ethical and Moral Appeal
Instead of the conventional documentary film, with warnings and safety slogans — approaches which have not proven completely effective — the film appeals to teen-agers on ethical and moral grounds. This new approach has the hearty endorsement of the President's Conmiittee for Traffic Safety and the National Safety Council, both of which cooperated in the production.
As a religious film, Stop Driving Us Crazy blazes a new trail. It is the first animated cartoon in the religious field and the first to have an original jazz score written especially for it. The drawings are frequently abstract and the message is conveyed, in some sequences, by an unusual combination of form, line, color and music.
Score By a Popular Artist
In addition to Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, who play the music, the score was composed by Benny Golson, whose new combo is currently the thing to hear in New York. Howard Morris, a TV funnyman with Sid Caesar, narrates the film.
Two of the pieces in the film, Crazy Drivin' Blues and No Time for Speed, have been recorded and are available on 45 rpm records. The National Safety Council is distributing 1,000 of these records to disc jockeys along with appropriate safe driving announcements addressed to teen-agers.
"We have no illusions that this film by itself will have any drastic ettect on teen-age driving habits," said Roger Burgess, associate secretary of the board. "What we hope to accomplish is discussion of the problem by teen-agers themselves. Ghastly pictures of wrecks, constant preaching, and attractive slogans may have had an effect but they have not done the complete job.
Cites Hope for Success
"We believe that an appeal to teen-agers on basic religious and ethical grounds may work where other appeals have failed. The vast majority of teen-agers have good religious and family backgrounds but it seems to leave them when they get behind the steering wheel. We hope this picture reminds them," Mr. Burgess said.
Stop Driving Us Crazy was written by Bill Bernal and produced by Creative Arts Studio, of Washington, D.C. It is available on rental from film libraries of The Methodist Publishing House (in many leading cities) for $6.
Purchase price, from General Board of Temperance, 100 Maryland Ave., N.E., Washington 2. D.C, is $125. TV distribution is being handled by Sterling-Movies U.S.A.
While the cartoon may have been produced by Creative Arts Studio, the people who worked on it (not mentioned in the story) were based on the West Coast. Animator Ken Mundie may be best known for “The Door,” released theatrically by Warner Bros. in 1967. He worked at DePatie-Freleng from 1964 to 1966 before FilmFair took him on as a director. He also directed an animated special featuring Bill Cosby’s Fat Albert prior to Filmation’s debasement of the character. Dick Drew animated on it. Sammy Kai had some connections with the ValMar studio in Mexico and worked for both Jay Ward and TV Spots. Bill Bernal was a reader at the Warner Bros. main studio in 1941. He worked in sales at UPA before moving to Storyboard, Inc. in 1955. These are not attempts at complete biographies. Don’t write to say “You forgot to mention...” However, I would welcome information on director Mel Emde. Incidentally, this was the first cartoon voice work (to my knowledge) by Howie Morris.

I’m sure many readers have seen this short film. If you have not, you can watch it below. This is for entertainment purposes, not to push a religious agenda.

1 comment:

  1. This is actually excellent! I think the modern animation graphics combined with the delicious Art Blakey music score is a great combination. It would never have worked as well with the ornate, elaborate Disney style of animation, although by the time this was made even Disney was starting to "get with the times" and go for a leaner animation Style.. The other neat thing about this is how the crashes and smash-ups are very refreshingly done with the modern graphics and are not gory at all, unlike the driver's ed film we saw in high school "Red Highway. So it gets the point of driver safety across firmly but with some subtlety. "Temperance" indeed! I think I will have a glass of white zinfandel whilst I break out a vintage comedy LP and listen to WC Fields' "The Temperance Lecture". I enjoyed this very much, and I was raised Lutheran!