Thursday 20 October 2011

Name That Cartoon

If things had stayed the way Tex Avery originally planned, you would have been able to see cartoons of his called ‘Smellbound’ and ‘Bums Away.’ But along the way their names got changed to ‘Little ‘Tinker’ and ‘Henpecked Hoboes.’

Avery’s cartoons weren’t the only ones at MGM with titles that morphed. Some good examples can be found in Boxoffice magazine of October 23, 1943. It contained a story about coming releases by Metro’s cartoon studio and Gordon Hollingshead’s live-action shorts division at Warner’s. I’ve omitted the latter.

Studios Going All-Out On the Popular Shorts
Hollywood—It may have been coincidence, but the trend-seekers could easily pounce on the situation as being indicative that studios are concentrating increasing attention on short subjects—perhaps with a hopeful eye cast toward the return of single-feature programs. In any event, from two film foundries on one and the same day came reports of all-out activities on the shorts front.
With 20 subjects in various stages of production, Metro entered the most intensive schedule in the history of its cartoon studio. Included in the group, under the producer guidance of Fred Quimby, were 16 one-reelers comprising the entire output for 1943-44. The additional four films represent the remaining releases on the current program.
The Tom and Jerry characters, directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, will be starred in “Baby Puss,” “Zoot Cat,” “Million Dollar Cat,” “Bodyguard,” “Puttin’ on the Dog,” “Kitty Foiled,” “Mouse Comes to Dinner” and “Tee for Two.”
In a special slapstick series, directed by Tex Avery, are “Screwball Baseball,” “Nuts in May,” “Little Heel-watha,” “The Shooting of Dan McGoo,” “Screwy Truant,” “House of Tomorrow” and “Screwball Squirrel,” introducing the new pen-and-ink star, Squirrely Squirrel. [sic]
The balance of the product, now in animation or in the process of photographing, are “Strange Innertube,” “Worst Aid,” “Bear Raid Warden,” “Bedtime for Barney” and “Some Skunk.”

The last paragraph lists the cartoons under the direction of George Gordon, who held sway over the now-it’s-here-now-it’s-not third unit at MGM. It was originally the Rudy Ising and Gordon began to take it over in July 1942. It’s quite possible he had left MGM for John Sutherland when this story was written, considering his name isn’t mentioned it it, and someone else oversaw the finishing of his cartoons. These were the last cartoons made by the unit before it shut down. Its animators were Arnold Gillespie, Mike Lah, Ed Barge and Jack Carr.

The cartoons were released almost in the order listed above, and not all of them made it into the 1943-44 season (which, like radio and later television, began in September). And not all of them ended up with a name on the screen that’s mentioned above. Here’s the list in order of release (dates from ‘Of Mice and Magic’ by Leonard Maltin), with what I suspect are their final names:

Hanna-Barbera unit
Baby Puss – December 25, 1943
Zoot Cat – February 26, 1944
Million Dollar Cat – May 6, 1944
Bodyguard – July 22, 1944 (released as ‘The Bodyguard’)
Puttin’ on the Dog – October 28, 1944
Kitty Foiled – (likely ‘Mouse Trouble,’ December 23, 1944)
Mouse Comes to Dinner – May 5, 1945 (released as ‘The Mouse Comes to Dinner’)
Tee for Two – July 21, 1945

Tex Avery unit
Screwball Baseball – April 22, 1944 (released as ‘Batty Baseball’)
Nuts in May – (likely ‘Happy Go Nutty’, June 24, 1944)
Little Heel-watha – October 21, 1944
The Shooting of Dan McGoo – March 3, 1945
Screwy Truant – January 13, 1945
House of Tomorrow – rejected, but revived and released in 1949.
Screwball Squirrel – April 1, 1944

George Gordon unit
Strange Innertube – January 22, 1944 (released as ‘Innertube Antics’)
Worst Aid – (likely ‘The Tree Surgeon’, June 5, 1944)
Bear Raid Warden – September 9, 1944
Bedtime for Barney – (likely ‘Barney Bear’s Polar Pest’, December 30, 1944)
Some Skunk (likely ‘The Unwelcome Guest’, February 17, 1945)

Gordon never received a director’s credit on any of the five cartoons. His unit was disbanded after ‘The Unwelcome Guest’, though Fred Quimby had looked to continue it and eventually revived it after the war with Lah and Preston Blair co-directing.

Only one other cartoon was put into production before the final one on the list—Avery’s ‘Jerky Turkey’, released April 7, 1945. Hanna-Barbera’s ‘Mouse in Manhattan’ was released before ‘Tee for Two’ but put into production later, which explains its absence from the list.

This 1943 story from Boxoffice gives me a chance to mention Gasmask Ted’s ‘Cartoons of 1943’ blog. Ted’s taken on a fabulous, and time-consuming, project. He watched, and commented on, all animated cartoons released in 1939 and has been doing the same thing with 1943, with pictures, commentary and a production summary. He’s also delved into Boxoffice editions from that year to find little nuggets of information about the cartoons and their studios. Give him a read if you haven’t dropped by.


  1. Kitty Foiled wouldn't be released until 1948. According to some "Production list" that used to exist on the Internet it said that Kitty Foiled wasn't in production until 1947. Unless "Kitty Foiled" was the working title for "Mosue Trouble" in 1944, before it was renamed or maybe another T&J cartoon that was abandoned. Or perhaps, Kitty Foiled only went as far as storyboards in 1944.

  2. [First time here - from OTRCAT]

    Cartoon trivia: We saw a selection of Chuck Jones rarities a while back. One of them is a baseball story, where Bugs single-handedly plays against a team of "bad guys". (I forget the title.)

    One of the ads along the field fences is for "Filboid Studge". It's on-screen for 20 or 30 seconds. I remembered the name from the short story "Filboid Studge, the Story of a Mouse That Helped", by Saki (H. H. Munro).

    I don't know how many people of the time would have recognized it. Munro died in 1916. I think it was just a name that Jones (who read a lot and remembered everything he read) and crew liked the sound of. The other ads are also ones the people may have recognized.

    It also shows that Jones & Co weren't writing just for kids.

    Jones has a great story about when they were working on storyboards. They were all laughing over the storyline gags, and his producer (name?) stormed in and said "What does all this laughing have to do with making animated cartoons?". That same producer later accepted the Academy Award for the cartoon that won that year (I forget which one).

  3. Steven, Jerry Beck had the production list from MGM and Thad reprinted it on his site. All of these cartoons went into production and would have been assigned a production number. There's no abandoned or rejected cartoon named 'Kitty Foiled' on the list. So it must have been a name change. Sometimes, original names were later brought back for different cartoons.

    Hi ZZMike. The cartoon is 'Baseball Bugs' with backgrounds by Paul Julian. And, yeah, Jones told that story about Eddie Selzer a lot.