Saturday, 23 January 2016

Snickelgrass and the Stars

You’ve seen Smokey Bear, McGruff the Crime Dog and Vince and Larry, the crash dummies. They’re among the stars of TV public service announcements presented by the Ad Council.

For years, the Council has also provided radio stations in the U.S. with 30 and 60-second PSAs. Originally, the Council supplied print ads starting in 1941. You can read the Council’s history in brief HERE.

The Council first got into television in 1949, not long after the networks finally began offering a full prime-time schedule on weeknights. Its initial TV PSA was packed with stars—in caricature form. The cartoon wasn’t fully animated. I haven’t seen it, but I suspect it was the same as contemporary shows such as Tele-Comics, which featured drawings held for a period of time, with only a slight change in the next drawing. However, Broadcasting magazine of August 15, 1949 published the storyline and some of the frames of the cartoon, which we reprint below. The PSA had a message that is far too timely today.
Snickelgrass Saga...
SAD STORY of Sidney S. Snickelgrass Jr., who got his wish that all Americans of foreign descent "be sent right back where they came from," has been made into a one-minute musical cartoon sequence by the Advertising Council and will be distributed to all U. S. TV stations before the end of the month.
The film short, first venture into video by the council, was announced by Lee H. Bristol, president of Bristol-Myers Co. and coordinator of the United America campaign to combat religious and racial discrimination.
The pictures, drawn in crisp black and white against a gray background, are semi-animated by a technique that provides adequate motion without undue expense. A guitar-strumming vocalist sings the story in ballad fashion.
The TV spot opens with Snickelgrass rubbing a magic lamp [top photo] and telling the genie who appears that he'd like all people of foreign heritage sent back home. The genie explains that if that wish is granted "... all exiles may take what they've created."
"I don't care what they take. You just do what I stated," answers Snickelgrass. But his hat flies off and his jaw drops in amazement [second photo] as he watched huge ships loaded with:
"Roads built by Slovaks and farms plowed by Swedes [third photo], mills run by workers of hundreds of creeds.
"Skyscraper cities were loaded and stored [fourth photo] as Protestants, Catholics and Jews climbed aboard."
Frank Sinatra, Marian Anderson, The Marx Brothers, Jimmy Durante and Jack Benny wave goodbye [fifth photo] and poor Snickelgrass finds himself alone on the empty shore [bottom photo].
Even . .
"The genie was doing what Snicklegrass bade.
Like the rest of the foreigners, he'd gone back to Bagdad."
The story material was developed by Lynn Rhodes, copywriter, with Milton Krentz and Leonard Weil of the American Jewish Committee as programming consultants. Fred Arnott provided the art. Oscar Bryant arranged and sang the ballad. Edward Royal of the Advertising Council directed and produced the one-minute sequence.
Arnott semi-animated several other PSAs for the American Jewish Committee within the next few years. “Baseball,” “Sweet ‘n’ Sour” and “Three-Ring Circus” were all part of the AJC’s campaign promoting racial and religious diversity as part of a strong America, and available in 16 millimetre for free. They aired on 77 stations.

Arnott was born in New Jersey in January 1920 and went to Northwestern University where he was the staff newspaper cartoonist in 1942. Within a few years was working as an illustrator in Chicago. He later went to work for Bob Clampett on the Beany and Cecil cartoon series before returning to New Jersey where he taught art in middle and high school. Arnott told a Kiwanis meeting in Bernardsville in 1952 that four minutes of semi-animation cost $1,500. He died on November 20, 1998.

This is post is brought to you as a public service by this station and the Ad Council.

1 comment:

  1. Fred was a great teacher and a good guy. Sorely missed.