Saturday, 27 February 2016

Maurice Noble Meets John of the Bon Ton

The changing look of animation in the 1950s was something that John Sutherland Productions adapted to very easily. Having big-moneyed corporate clients meant Sutherland could go out and hire the best designers available. The great Tom Oreb and Vic Haboush co-designed my favourite Sutherland short, Destination Earth. And, for a while, Sutherland had the services of Warner Bros.’ most adept layout man, Maurice Noble.

Noble was the art director for It’s Everybody’s Business, which told the story of American free enterprise and freedoms (as big business saw them) in 1954. Noble moved away from the Disney style of settings, just as he had been doing for Chuck Jones at Warners. An uncredited background artist worked up these scenes from Colonial times from Noble’s layouts. Forgive the poor quality; this is from a well-used print posted to

The main character of the first portion of the cartoon, Jonathan, goes into the ladies hat business. “First, he had to advertise,” oozed narrator MacDonald Carey. Writer Bill Scott came up with an inverse of the famous Kent-Croome-Johnson Pepsi jingle of the 1940s that Jonathan (played by Herb Vigran) sings in the street, accompanied by a bell, to lure customers.

Shop at Bon Ton, it’s the spot
Twelve new hat styles, that’s a lot!
Ladies, get that new hat thrill.
30 days to pay your bills!

E.I. DuPont DeNemours and Company really pushed this cartoon. It was featured in a three-page spread, with frame grabs, in Business Screen magazine shortly after it was released. Sutherland had just won an award for its clever and attractive industrial A is For Atom and would do the same with this short. Business Screen reported (Vol. 16, No. 1):

Freedoms Foundation Honor Medal Award to "Everybody's Business"
It's Everybody's Business, an animated cartoon documentary of the American economy in Technicolor, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, has crowned its record first-run year in the field by winning the Freedoms Foundation gold honor medal award at ceremonies in Valley Forge. Pa. on Washington's Birthday.
In the eight-months' period the film has been in circulation, It's Everybody's Business has had more than 9,000 showings by local chambers of commerce, trade associations and business firms in addition to telecasts by 266 stations.
Chamber Vice-President Receives Medal
The Foundation's top motion picture prize was presented to Arch N. Booth, the Chamber's executive vice-president, in traditional Washington's Birthday ceremonies at Valley Forge, Pa.
It's Everybody's Business was sponsored by the U. S. Chamber in cooperation with E. I. duPont de Nemours and Company, Wilmington. Del., and was produced by John Sutherland Productions, Inc. of Hollywood. It's animated technique shows how the free enterprise system, based on a foundation of fundamental liberties and financed by individual savings, has made American business the most productive in the world.
Besides showings to business firms, fraternal and civic organizations, the film has gained audiences in junior and senior high school classes and adult education groups in hundreds of communities.
Running 22 minutes, It's Everybody's Business is available in 16mm or 35mm from state and local chambers of commerce or the Education Dept., Chamber of Commerce of the United States, 1615 H. St., N.W. Washington 6, D. C.

Animation credits went to Abe Levitow, Bill Melendez, Emery Hawkins and Bill Higgins, with music by Les Baxter and Gene Poddany. Ex MGM animator Carl Urbano was the director.

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