Saturday, 31 March 2018

Birthday Bugs? Not Quite

When was Bugs Bunny born? Answer—Easter Sunday, 1936.

At least that’s the answer the publicists at Warner Bros. Cartoons pawned off on people until animation historians started digging to get the facts. And the facts are a little murky to begin with.

We’ve reprinted a couple of publicity handouts to newspapers written by the folks at Warners. You can read them in this post. We’ve stumbled across another one, published in the Utica Daily Press, March 20, 1956. There’s no byline, which leaves me to believe it’s a studio press release. It’s chock-full of ridiculousness. It mentions a wholly imaginary Elmer Fudd cartoon made in 1936 (what it could have been, I have no idea), then a 1939 “conference” of the Warners directors and writers—as per the studio’s roster in 1956. Nothing about Tex Avery; “he isn’t at Warners any more, so why mention him?” seems to have been the attitude. Tedd Pierce wasn’t even at Warners at the time, Mike Maltese was an assistant animator and Friz Freleng may still have been at MGM. However, the story is correct after it gets to 1940 (okay, the line about Errol Flynn is facetious). “A Wild Hare” was a huge hit. Oh, and the “allergic to carrots” business was a publicity gimmick. Many years later, Mel Blanc changed the story to say he simply didn’t like the taste of carrots.

Anyway, here’s the story.
Biggest Star of Them All
Bugs Bunny, the most popular short subjects star of them all—voted No 1 by exhibitors for 12 straight years, passed his 20th birthday this year making him at least 18 years older than any other cottontail rabbit in the country, and certainly a good deal more popular than all of them.
Bugs was not always a star. His is a success story to stiffen the spine of any chicken-hearted rabbit who would conquer Hollywood. Born in 1936 on the end of a Warner Bros. art director’s pen he played only a bit roll in an Elmer Fudd starrer, then was put back in the ink bottle. But no cork could frustrate the irrepressible bounce of this bunny. In 1938, Bugs who had been living on discarded beet (ugh) tops, began eating high off the carrot as befits a new star.
He got his break when I. Freleng, Charles Jones and Robert McKimson, directors, and writers Michael Maltese, Warren Foster and Tedd Pierce, got together to give Bugs a format worthy of his talent. From then on, he was another Gobel. Only nakeder.
“Bugs has never worn clothes,” Freleng pointed out. “His tastes are too expensive. Besides, he looks better au naturel. He never wears shoes, his feet’s too big. He has a Brooklyn accent because he escaped from there. He never looks for trouble, but trouble seeks him like a guided missile. Bugs can handle any situation with his wits.”
Seven thousand drawings and one year after the historic conference a new star named Bugs Bunny burst upon the cinematic world in his own vehicle, “Wild Hare.” Acclaim was immediate, but it did not turn his head (only a pretty girl rabbit can do that). Bugs is still the same unspoiled bunny, houseless, hungry, unmarried.
Since 1938 he has starred in 138 of his own pictures—more than Peck and Gable combined, including such classics as “Up Swept Hare,” “John Brown’s Bunny,” “Rabbit Transit,” “Hare Meets Hair,” [sic] and “Rabbit Hood.” In the latter Bunny, with the insouciance of a true star, boosted the career of an upcoming youngster named Errol Flynn by allowing the latter to play a small part. He also helped out a couple of other actors named Doris Day and Jack Carson by consenting to appear in their pictures: “My Dream is Yours,” and “Two Guys From Texas.”
Few bunnies can equal Bugs’ war record. He helped the boys at the front by, for example, leading the first Liberator bomber to attack Davao on the march back to the Philippines. He helped the Treasury Department sell war bonds. He allowed himself to be appointed official mascot of many air groups, tank battalions, and infantry companies. He is officially a member of the Marine Corps, and his service record is on file in Washington, D.C.
Bugs has no trouble in talking with other rabbits, but when it comes to human conversation he employs Mel Blanc, one is not only the voice of Bugs Bunny, but of practically all of the Warner Bros. Cartoons characters, such as Tweety, Sylvester, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Pepe Le Pew, Foghorn Leghorn and other incidental characters. The strange thing about Mel Blanc is that although he is the voice of Bugs Bunny, who is very fond of carrots, Mel himself is allergic to carrots. The creation and development of Bugs Bunny to his present high box-office position is no accident. As much care is given to the selection of the proper story for a Bugs Bunny cartoon as is devoted by the major studios to the material picked for the most popular human stars.
The carrot is Bugs Bunny’s principal prop. There is no limit to the range of his talents.
Incidentally, more than two million Bugs Bunny comic books are sold each month and these comic books, which are distributed by the Dell Publishing Company, are as clean and wholesome as a rabbit’s tooth. Bugs never does anything that is apt to lead a youngster into juvenile delinquency. The same may be said for his newspaper comic strips which are syndicated by the NEA to over 600 newspapers, daily and Sunday.
Recently, Warner Bros. Cartoon Department moved into a new building in Burbank, Calif., on the company’s own studio property. It could be very aptly called, “The House That Bugs Bunny Built,” but Bugs, being of a modest nature, prefers to have the building known as the Warner Bros. Cartoon Studio.
The 1936 birth date is mentioned in an earlier newspaper story, one by the Newspaper Enterprise Association to publicise its Bugs comic strip in subscribing papers. This came from the Morning Herald of Johnstown, New York, April 10, 1950.
14-CARROT BIRTHDAY FOR BUGS
By NEA Service

Bugs Bunny, carrot-chomping star of the movie cartoons and The Morning Herald’s daily comic strip, celebrated his 14th birthday yesterday.
The rascally rabbit has appeared in the comics for half of his 14 years, made more than 100 screen cartoons and for five years in a row has reigned as box office champion of all movie short subjects. NEA Service, the world's largest picture and feature organization, distributes the "Bugs Bunny" daily comic strips and Sunday color pages to more than 800 newspapers.
Like many famous stars. Bugs got his start as a bit player. He popped out of the inkwell at the Warner Brothers Hollywood studios one day to be the intended victim of the intrepid hunter, Elmer Fudd. Saved from the shotgun by his nimble feet the zany bunny went back on the shelf for a couple of years until he was finally "discovered" in true Hollywood style.
Pretty soon Bugs Bunny was popping up out of rabbit holes, chewing his carrot and shouting "What's cookin', Doc?" as the star of his own cartoon series, while Elmer was playing supporting roles. Now Bugs condescends to let frustrated Elmer appear in his daily comic strips, too, along with other screen pals like stuttering Porky Pig, plump Petunia, little Cicero and a new comic page discovery, Sylvester the languid cat.
The bold, brash character of Bugs Bunny—so unlike the everyday rabbits you meet—developed as the cartoon star matured. At 14. he is as full of pep and mischief as the average teen-ager, although his Brooklynese repartee is about as average as Ladies' Day at Ebbet's Field.
Much of Bugs' popularity is due to the fact that all red-blooded Americana enjoy watching the underdog get the better of his oppressor. The happy hare always gets deep into trouble through no fault of his own—then turns the tables on the bad guys.
Bugs Bunny has an impressive war record. He was adopted by units of every branch of the armed forces and became the most widely-traveled Hollywood star—going around the world on bombers, warships, tanks, jeeps and other military vehicles.
In celebrating his birthday on Easter Sunday, Bugs shares the spotlight with another well-known rabbit. However, he and the Easter Bunny have rather opposite views on what constitutes fun, and Bugs definitely hates eggs. He's had too many thrown at him in his 14 years as a slapstick comedian.
So celebrate Bugs’ birthday tomorrow on Easter Sunday if you wish. Try to find that 1936 cartoon they keep talking about. I’ll still consider July 27th his birthday. But, of course, you don’t need a birthday as an excuse to haul out a DVD or go to a video web site and enjoy a cartoon starring the greatest rabbit in animation history (and you can’t go wrong with “Rabbit Hood”).

Friday, 30 March 2018

A Ball of Dogs

Here’s a gag from the sixth Looney Tunes cartoon that was stolen from the 1929 Mickey Mouse cartoon The Plowboy (and earlier; see Mark Kausler’s comment).

In Big Man From the North (released January 10, 1931), three dogs pulling Bosko in a sleigh roll down a hill smash into a wall. The animals emerge as a single character in a ball.



Billboard reviewed the cartoon on January 17, 1931.
Bosco, the chief character in all these Looney Tunes, and Honey, his inspiration in all his adventures, are the hero and heroine in this animated cartoon travesty on the Northwestern Mounted Police tale. This Warner Vitaphone short is up to the usual standard of cartoons and should prove effective competition to other similar cartoons in the market. Intricate action and background, plot and animation and sound synchronization are all satisfactory, and the laugh qualities to this short should be worth any exhibitor’s showing time. The caricatured drama shows Bosco as a member of the Mounties sent out to get a bad man and bring him in. Little Bosco is shaking like a leaf when he enters one of the Northwest saloons to find his man. Ultimately the gigantic bad man shows up and proceeds to shoot up the pace. Poor Bosco’s puny stature and ineffectual bravado are insufficient to capture the outlaw, but morally supported by his sweetheart, and assisted by the effectiveness of a high-powered shotgun. Bosco gets his man and how! Animation is sandwiched with the usual dancing animals and rhythmic convolutions of other inanimate props in the background. A reel worth booking. C.G.B.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

The Accurate Avery Sign

“A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute Saloon,” intones narrator Frank Graham at the start of Tex Avery’s The Shooting of Dan McGoo. Cut to a slow pan right of the fighting, drinking and gunfire inside. The camera passes a (misspelled) sign typical in an Avery cartoon as it carries along. It’s on an overlay.



Ed Love, Preston Blair and Ray Abrams are the credited animators. Heck Allen gets a story credit and Robert W. Service is acknowledged.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Western Union Delivers Johnny Olson

By all accounts, the best warm-up man in television at one time was Johnny Olson.

Everyone thinks of Johnny as an announcer, but he kind of fell into that job in the mid-1950s. Before that, he had hosted a number of shows, first on network radio, then network television.

The warm-up guy basically gave some technical information the studio audience needed to know about applauding and behaviour during the broadcast. But he had to get them in the mood for fun. Olson did silly and funny stunts to get the people in the seats primed for the big show ahead.

We’ve written about warm-ups, and Johnny Olson, before, but I’ve spotted another wire service story from June 20, 1963. Olson was working out of New York then, mainly on Goodson-Todman game or panel shows. For whatever reason, his name was constantly misspelled in newspaper stories. I don’t envy anyone trying to warm up an audience for Keefe Brasselle.

What the Stars Owe To Warmer-Upper
By JOAN CROSBY

New York — When Bud Collyer, John Daly, Gene Rayburn, Robert Q. Lewis, Keefe Brasselle, Jackie Gleason, Sid Caesar and Victor Borge walk out on a stage to face a television studio audience, they find a group of relaxed, happy people waiting to laugh at the least flicker of an eyebrow. And the performers owe it all to Johnny Olsen, the industry's number one audience warmer-upper.
To give you an idea of the esteem in which Olsen is held, Jackie Gleason flew him to Florida this past season to perform a ten-minute warm-up for a ten-minute skit to be inserted in one of the Great One's shows. Johnny, in addition to warming up the audience is also the off-camera announcer for most of-these shows, and he is even, occasionally, seen on-camera.
Olsen is a 25-year veteran of radio and television—20 years in New York—and one of the busiest commercial men around. Between his announcing and warm-up chores, it's not unusual for him to be scheduled for 23 shows within one week.
Why is it considered so important for an audience to be warmed-up before the star appears? "The majority of people in audiences are not from New York," Johnny said. "They are often distracted in a television studio by the lights, the cue cards, the technicians and the cameras--which get in their way. Well, we can't have them grumbling 'I'd rather stay home.' So the warm up man comes out ahead of show time and acts as a liaison between the personality and the audience."
Johnny works Play Your Hunch, then follows this immediately with The Match Game. "Here I act as a Pied Piper. Many times at Hunch, I tell the audience I'm going upstairs to do another show, and I ask them if they want to join me. We march up the stairs together, and I know at least I've got part of the group set and ready to respond."
• • •
OLSEN, who hosted such shows as Ladies, Be Seated, Break the Bank and Rumpus Room, sometimes has some tight schedules which necessitate an imaginative to the problem of beating New York traffic.
"Once I hired two detectives to take me from one show to another. With their help I got 23 blocks uptown and 8 blocks crosstown in four-and-a-half minutes. "Another time I had approximately 70 seconds to get five blocks down Sixth Avenue. But, Sixth Avenue is a one-way street, going the wrong way for my purposes. I finally hired a Western Union kid and his bicycle and we sped through the one-way traffic and made it just in time."

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Egging On Warren

Long-outdated pop culture references drive the story in Slap Happy Pappy, a 1940 Warner Bros. cartoon. The gags are based around Eddie Cantor having only girls and wanting a boy, and Bing Crosby only having boys.

The “Bing” rooster excites a hen so much with her crooning, she lays a tower of eggs.



On closer inspection, some are named after Warner Bros. cartoon staff, beginning with director Bob Clampett and writer Warren Foster. Or could it be assistant animator Warren Batchelder?



You can probably guess at some of the others: Chuck Jones (or maybe Chuck McKimson), Sid Sutherland, Ben Hardaway, Alex Ignatiev, Dick Bickenbach (or maybe Dick Thomas), Ray Katz, Art Loomer, Roger is perhaps Roger Daley (in the long shot, you can spot Rev Chaney, Norm McCabe and what may be Sam Nicholson). I don't know if George Grandpre was at the studio then.

Other celebs include Walter Winchell, Jack Benny (Jack Lescoulie does the voice), Andy Devine, Eddie (Rochester) Anderson (by Mel Blanc), Ned Sparks and Kay Kyser, with catchphrases of Bert (the Mad Russian) Gordon and the Al Pearce version of Mr. Kitzel.

John Carey and Izzy Ellis (who doesn’t get an egg named for him) are the credited animators.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Multiple Woodys

The Woody Woodpecker cartoon Ace in the Hole (1942) is pretty lacklustre. One thing I like is the brushwork when Woody bounces over some bombs (twice for no particular reason). Notice how the first two drawings and the last two aren’t quite the same.



Woody’s apparently in the military but doesn’t wear a uniform. He wants to “fly like the birds,” except he is a bird. And there times Woody talks without his mouth moving and his mouth moves but no words come out.

George Dane is the only animator credited on screen. Kent Rogers is Woody.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Youth, Mary and Hospitals

If someone believes Jack Benny’s radio shows in the final season, 1954-55, were weak, the reason could simply be lack of enthusiasm.

Benny had pretty much lost interest in radio after spending more than two decades on it. And listeners had lost interest in radio, too. They could see the big-time stars now, thanks to television. What did they need with a talking box?

Jack talked about radio and a number of other things in an interview with syndicated columnist Sheilah Graham in 1954. He told her he’d never play Vegas. He did. He worried about where new comic talent would come from. He needn’t have. And it’s interesting he points out Mary’s ill health when his wife outlived him. By the way, Mary appeared with him on the final radio season but recorded her parts at home to be edited in later.

Age Does Not Wither Jack Benny
By SHEILAH GRAHAM
North American Newspaper Alliance
HOLLYWOOD, Feb. 27—The gals—from 5 to 50 and even 60—go for Jack Benny. Barbara Stanwyck took her television plunge with him; so did Claudette Colbert and Irene Dunne. As for Marilyn Monroe, I’m surprised she didn’t ask Jack to go along on the honeymoon with Joe Di Maggio. She wouldn’t go to Korea without him—before she married Joe, that is. And when I was lunching at Romanoff’s recently with Jack, Portland Mason, the precocious 5-year-old daughter of the James Masons, waved frantically at Mr. Benny and hollered, “You’re very attractive.”
Jack, who was 60 years old two weeks ago, doesn’t know the secret of his charm for the fair sex, but he has me enchanted and I think I know why. He’s been happily married to Mary Livingstone for 27 years, but there’s still that old glint in his eye, and he’s just as easygoing in real life as on radio and the TV screens. You relax, you shine, so you think HE’S wonderful.
“I don’t feel 60,” Jack confided. “I think the secret of looking young is to be working all the time on something you enjoy. Look how young George Burns looks, and Bing Crosby looked about 28 on my TV show. EVERYBODY looks like a kid!” glowed Mr. Benny.
I asked Jack how he got stuck with being 39. “It started years and years ago, when I was 36. I decided to stay 36 for several years. Some years later I became 37. Then 38. I’ve been 39 for five or six years and I don’t think I’ll get any older. There’s something about 40 that’s a little discouraging.” Jack has starred on radio for 22 years, but he’s about ready to quit the kilocycles.
“I started in May, 1932,” he recalled. “But I don’t know about next season. I’m not crazy about radio now and I’d like to quit. If I do, I’ll step up my television shows to two a month. I’ll film some, but most of them will be ‘live.’ One thing is sure—Mary (Livingstone) won’t do any more radio or TV shows with me. She doesn’t want to work any more. She hasn’t been well. And everything happened to her lately. A box of matches exploded in her hand, burnt two fingers. She went to throw something in the waste basket, and put her back out of kilter. We have the house in Palm Springs, but Mary hasn’t felt well enough for us to go there much this season.”
Most radio and television stars can’t wait for the Summer hiatus to get away from it all. “But I can’t stand still for more than eight weeks,” Jack told me, “so I’ll have to find something to do for the other five. He may do the Palace in New York—“but never Las Vegas.”
Jack has entertained most of the Presidents—“since Lincoln,” he added with a grin. When he was at the White House visiting then President Truman with whom he was very palsy-walsy, Jack told him, “I’d give anything for an autographed photograph, Mr. President.” Mr. Truman deadpanned, “How MUCH would you give?” He was at the Eisenhower inauguration and, when he visited Ike last year, the President told Jack: “I can give you a few minutes.” But he “gave” him two hours!
I asked Jack what he was giving daughter Joan for a wedding present. “I’m giving her the wedding,” he replied.
I’m invited, so I’ll tell you how much poppa went for. The ceremony is scheduled next month and I’ve never seen Jack exhibit nerves in all the time I’ve known him—but I’ll bet he quivers walking up the aisle.
“She’ll live in New York after the honeymoon,” Jack revealed. “And I’m glad. I’ll make Mary go to New York a little oftener.”
We talked of television, which Jack loves. “Eventually it won’t hurt movies,” he prophesied. “People want to go out. But no one knows where the comedians of the future are coming from—they used to come up through vaudeville and burlesque. As George Burns says, young comedians have no chance to be off-beat. On TV with millions watching, they can’t take a chance. As far as I see, there is only one great comic coming up—George Gobel—he’s the best in years.”
Jack will soon be going into the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital for his annual check up. “I’ll stay a week this time. I love to rest in a hospital. I have a TV set installed, a radio, magazines, books, and have a wonderful time.”
The Bennys stay home four nights a week and, in pajamas and dressing gown, watch television in his bedroom. But, when it comes to practicing on the violin, Jack does that in his spacious bathroom. Mary can’t stand the noise.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

The Propaganda Cartoon King

There was a lot more to the animation industry than making entertainment shorts back in the days when studios were creating Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry, Mighty Mouse and Popeye cartoons. Smaller outfits were animating commercials or films sponsored by companies or organisations. They experimented in design and movement and produced some entertaining cartoons, attracting veterans from theatrical studios.

My favourite of the industrial studios is John Sutherland Productions. The Sutherland cartoons are entertaining, well-written and well-animated. The studio employed top creative people: designers included Maurice Noble and Tom Oreb; among the animation staff were Emery Hawkins, Phil Monroe and Bill Melendez; voice actors included Marvin Miller, Frank Nelson, Bud Hiestand and Herb Vigran. Les Baxter and Gene Poddany wrote scores, while Bill Scott and Warren Foster were employed as writers. Its main directors were Carl Urbano and George Gordon, both of whom were veterans of Fred Quimby’s MGM studio.

Like many of the industrial studios, it supplied cartoons to television stations of the early 1950s to run when they pleased; such a practice had gone back to the 1930s. However, Sutherland also managed to have one of his series released along with Tom and Jerry and Droopy by MGM; it happened coincidentally when Quimby dropped the third unit headed by Mike Lah and Preston Blair.

There was only one problem. While the Sutherland cartoons were entertaining, they weren’t entertainment. The ones MGM released were bought and paid for by the Alfred P. Sloan foundation to push a big business/small government agenda as being the patriotic thing to do for America. Finally, a hue and cry rose up against one Sutherland cartoon as being against Truman government policies (it ridiculed a subsidy programme). Soon, Sutherland’s cartoons weren’t on the MGM schedule any more.

But Sutherland was still making industrial films and commercials (he had success in the 1940s with ads for Chiquita Bananas). His magnum opus was Rhapsody in Steel, a 22-minute release in 1959 with eye-popping designs by Maurice Noble and a score by Dimitri Tiomkin that was released on an LP.

Industrial studios rarely got noticed outside of the trade press, but here’s a story about the Sutherland studio from the Christian Science Monitor of August 29, 1957.

Cartoons Animate Ideas In Business-Subject Films
By Richard Dyer MacCann
Hollywood
Ever since he wrote 108 reels of training and information films for the government during World War II, John Sutherland has been figuring out new ways of putting abstract ideas on the screen.
Most film critics doubt whether this can be done at all. Mr. Sutherland does it with animation. He has become, in a dozen profitable years, one of the leading producers of sponsoring films in Hollywood.
Ideas, especially the interesting ones, often have a tendency to be controversial. Mr. Sutherland, who still writes much of his own material and therefore is something of a reader, has a theory that controversy is a continuous factor in the progress of mankind. The gentleness and love taught by Jesus—and in Oriental countries by Buddha—are constantly striving, he feels, with the intellectual approach to life offered by Plato and Aristotle and with the materialistic, person and economic forcefulness worshiped by Nietzsche and Marx.
● ● ●
He comes down quickly enough from this dizzy philosophical height to point out that in our time there is a quite different three-sided battle going on—among big government, big labor, and big business. His preference is one of conviction, entirely apart from the source of his sponsorships. He believes that big business, these days, is far more dependably responsible toward the public welfare than are the “politicians” or labor and of governmental agencies.
His statement of the case used to be more extreme than it is now. Mr. Sutherland made a series of animated films several years ago for distribution by Harding College in Arkansas. They stirred up a regular storm of criticism among political scientists because they attacked, with devastatingly burlesque humor, a number of New Deal assumptions. “Fresh Laid Plan,” for example, took the view that agricultural subsidies would lead to bankruptcy for the whole community. In the end, the “professor” had to lock up all the producers in the community for violating his “plan” and body was left to produce.
John Sutherland, Inc., is continuing to make films in the category of “economic education.” They are more broadly informative than the older ones, and less likely to irritate people of a different persuasion. “You can’t tell people anything, anyway,” Mr. Sutherland says. “You can’t preach to them on film. All you can do is present information from a point of view and in a manner the audience has never seen or thought about before. If it’s reasonable, then the audience will accept it and perhaps be stimulated to participate more in public affairs.”
● ● ●
An admirable example of his latest work in this field is “It’s Everybody’s Business.” In this 20-minute animated Technicolor film, a seller of ladies’ hats in colonial times is compared with a seller of refrigerators in modern days. Economic freedom and competition are the abstract heroes of the story. There is just enough fun in it to keep everybody delighted—as when the newest model of the refrigerator has space in the rear for keeping ladies’ fur coats during the summer. And there is some especially stunning animation explaining how investors’ money keeps factories going.
“The Story of Creative Capitalism,” now completed and ready for release, is in the same groove—with more of a Disney touch. Alf the Elf explains capitalism to a sad young man who thinks he’s useless. Even his insurance policy and savings account make him a participant in big business, he is assured. Both of these films were sponsored by E.I. du Pont de Nemours Company and distributed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Among the 61 films in the current catalogue—some of them live action, some cartoons, some a combination of both—are advertising and sales promotion items on electric lift-trucks, meats for babies, bananas, frozen foods, arc projection equipment, carpeting, wood, and industrial research. Occasionally, pictures are made simply to impress retail dealers with the best way to handle a national product.
● ● ●
In the wider field of public relations, Mr. Sutherland has won nine different awards for an educational film (sponsored by General Electric) called “A Is for Atom,” and three more for “The Atom Goes to Sea,” “Horizons of Hope” (cancer research) and “What Makes Us Tick” (New York Stock Exchange) have won further prizes.
“The Story of a Main Street Merchant” (J.C. Penney) undertakes to dramatize a company’s employee policy, and, in a more specialized way, “The Dragon Slayer” (du Pont) describes in animation a whole series of employee benefit plans. “The Littlest Giant” traces national wealthy to the constructive force of consumer credit.
One of the most entertaining of Mr. Sutherland’s excursions into abstractions is a 16-minute combination of live action and animation he did for the American Telephone and Telegraph Company. In brightly rhymed couplets, a narrator explains the new electronic bookkeeping and billing system “Behind Your Telephone Bill.”
Mr. Sutherland has three notable new enterprises well under way. Ready for release this winter will be a film about the men who are building the new national expressways. Under exploration are two new sponsored films about physical chemistry, in cooperation with the California Institute of Technology, for use in college classrooms. And in preparation for possible production next year is a feature-length explanation of the discovery and meaning of “The Dead Sea Scrolls.” This is a project which will test to the full John Sutherland’s 65-man organization and his experience in presenting abstract ideas on the screen.


Sutherland’s studio carried on all the way into the early 1990s. Perhaps his studio’s best-known work in the later years was “The Most Important Person” vignettes that ran on the Captain Kangaroo show.

While the political leanings in his cartoons may not be to everyone’s taste, the shorts do deserve to be preserved. Their designs are fine examples of mid-‘50s art, and there’s enough humour to make them enjoyable to watch.

You can find an excellent article on the Sutherland studio, with quotes from former co-workers, and more biographical material by going to this web page.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Sutherland Main Street

Will Mrs. Consumer of 1954 choose the Quickchill or the Permafreeze refrigerator? Look at the Permafreeze. New style! Better quality!



Yes, it’s a John Sutherland propaganda cartoon. America! Free enterprise equals freedom! Down with government controls!

The scene is from It’s Everybody’s Business, a 1954 short funded by DuPont for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The designs in this cartoon are great, though it seems the restored version of the short is a little dark in places. The man behind them was Maurice Noble; he left Warners a week before the Chuck Jones unit was laid off at Warner Bros. for the last six months of 1953. Ex-Warners artists Abe Levitow, Emery Hawkins and Bill Melendez are among the credited animators, and part of the score was provided by Gene Poddany, who had been Carl Stalling’s copyist.

Here’s a little more of Main Street, USA from a darker print.



And here’s Mrs. Consumer and her family at one of the USA’s national parks—funded by taxes, thanks to business competition driving the American economy.



The obligatory flag scene. No background artist is credited but I wonder if it’s Joe Montell. The art direction is by the great Maurice Noble.



Both NBC and CBS were experimenting with colour broadcasts during daytime hours in 1954, with NBC showing a number of industrial films. It’s Everybody’s Business was one of them, airing on Thursday, July 1st at 3 p.m. Business Screen Magazine of August 1954 pointed out:
It is always more difficult to judge color quality of animated films, like It’s Everybody’s Business, because the animator’s tints have always been at his own whim and not subject to comparison with “natural.” In telecasting them, the electronic color trimmer does not feel obliged to constantly “correct” as much. As a result, the film seemed “steadier” in its color than live action films. It demonstrated that animation will probably be a favorite device for colorcasters for some time.
We’ve got a little more on the cartoon in this post. We’ll have more on the Sutherland studio tomorrow.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Tired Tom

More great expressions on Tom from Old Rockin’ Chair Tom (1948). The maid’s mouse-fearing screams wakes up the cat.



Three consecutive frames as Tom realises the maid is screaming for help, followed by the vibrating tail take.



Multiple cats as he dashes out of the scene.



Ed Barge, Ken Muse, Ray Patterson and Irv Spence are the animators in this short.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Don't Miss It!...Unless You Want To

Henry Morgan hated hyperbole.

Morgan infuriated ad agencies or/and sponsors by making his commercials anything but hyper sales pitches. If he praised a product, it was lukewarm or backhanded praise at best. It was his hit back at the outrageous and eye-rolling claims made in the advertising world, especially in broadcasting.

He took this concept even further. In 1948, Morgan starred with Arnold Stang and Bill Goodwin in a movie called “So This is New York.” Movies have trailers. So Morgan decided to satirise trailers with the one that was supposed to be plugging his own film. A really great concept.

Here’s a wire story about it from April 6, 1948.
Henry Morgan's 'Trailer' Violates All the Rules
By ALINE MOSBY

United Press Correspondent
HOLLYWOOD
Well, sir, Henry Morgan's gone and made a two minute movie.
For you guys who have time just for a quick one, you can see this miniature masterpiece standing in the theater aisle. You won't have to even sit down.
Some people might get technical and call this movie a "trailer." That is, it's actually the thing which will show up in the theaters a couple of days before Morgan's full-length movie, So This Is New York.
But when the rules for making trailers were passed around, Morgan definitely was out having a beer. Any resemblance his two-minute movie has to a trailer certainly wasn't his fault.
Morgan's midget movie does not advertise his big picture as (1) supercolossal (2) the greatest since, etc. etc., and those other superlatives that make you wonder why the "coming attraction" always sounds better than the movie you paid cash to look at.
This "trailer" doesn't even say you have to see So This is New York. Most trailers scream "don't miss it. . . ." Morgan philosophically remarks that if you want to see the movie, okay, and if you don't well, drop around and we'll recommend one you'll like.
Morgan's in New York now. He left a couple of guys behind to finish up the "trailer." They did. Now they're sitting around congratulating themselves. The way they act you'd think they care more about that trailer than the full-length movie it advertises.
The big picture? Sure, that's great, but come on over to see the trailer, they said.
Usually a trailer is patched together from scenes the director didn't use. Then a narration is scribbled out in a couple of days. It promises you're gonna see the hottest love, the gorgiest [sic] murders, the loveliest toenails, etc.
Morgan and Screenplays, Inc., which made the movie for Enterprise Studio, went about their trailer in a slightly different way.
"Morgan pokes fun at movie trailers in a slightly different way.
"Morgan pokes fun at movie trailers on his radio show, so we did the same," explained the producer, Stanley Kramer.
This turned out to be a full-sized project. Kramer & Co. spent almost as much time making the trailer as the full-length picture.
The writers who wrote So This Is New York wrote a script for the trailer, too. Quite unorthodox. It has a sort of plot, which they polished to perfection. From last October until last week the studio slaved on Morgan's two-minute movie.
The studio big-wigs paraded to a projection room where they gravely okayed the shortie. Next week it'll be shown in a suburban theater—the first "sneak" preview of a trailer. If the audience likes it, the mighty two-minuter will be unleashed on the nation.
Mr. Morgan's movie-before-the-movie is narrated by Henry himself. He tells about the big picture and at the end he says:
"So if you're not doing anything when my movie comes around, and you want to see a movie, come on in. . .You might like it.
"And if you don't see what you like, ask for it. We might be able to recommend some other picture."
The trailer isn’t on-line but the movie is HERE (unless this is a dead link by the time you read this). The poster doesn’t want it embedded. One can guess what Morgan might say about that.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

He Let Him Have It

“Let me have it, pal,” says Spike to Drippy (who has been told not to let strangers in). So he does.



Mike Lah, Walt Clinton and Grant Simmons are the credited animators in Droopy’s Double Trouble (released in 1951), with gags by Rich Hogan and voices by Bill Thompson and Daws Butler. This is one of the weaker Droopys.