Saturday, 30 April 2016

Hugh and Rudy, Their Story

Here’s how it worked: you bought a full-page ad in The Film Daily Cavalcade and you got a story printed about you. Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising bought an ad for 1939 edition. What you see below is the story.

Because it’s a puff piece and not a real biography, it glosses over a few things, like Hugh and Rudy being wooed by Charles Mintz to desert Walt Disney and work on the Oswald cartoons for him in 1928. And it doesn’t explain why Harman-Ising Productions discontinued operations in 1938 (they became insolvent after Fred Quimby went behind their backs to grab their staff and set his own cartoon studio the year before).

In the article, Harman waxes on about feature-length cartoons. MGM wouldn’t commit to one and when he finally walked away to form his own company in 1941, he couldn’t get one off the ground for a variety of reasons.

If nothing else, Harman and Ising deserve lasting credit for convincing Leon Schlesinger to bankroll their cartoons for release by Warner Bros. They sparked a multi-jillian-dollar business. Granted, it was with characters Hugh and Rudy never dreamed about made by other directors with a focus on humour instead of music, but it never would have happened without Harman and Ising.

Note: the great Looney Tunes display ad is from another publication from 1930.

A Couple of Failures in Kansas Only Made Them Fight Harder for Success in Cartoons

ALL heroes have their beginnings, Caesar had Rome, Napoleon had France, Washington had the Delaware and Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising had Kansas City.
In 1922, Ising was on his way to fame and fortune by way of $1,000 he had invested in an animated cartoon business with another young and ambitious cartoonist, Walt Disney. It must have been folding money, because, although Ising and Disney had the very best of intentions, the company folded, owing Hugh Harman, its oldest and most trusted employee, two weeks back salary.
The sting of defeat subsided with the smoke of battle; Harman joined Ising, and both wholly oblivious to the trick name combination (Harman-Ising) turned their efforts to the organization of a new cartoon producing company. One cartoon, "Sinbad The Sailor," was produced, which was notable at that date (1924) in that it set a precedent in its art work for the fine design and drawing, which subsequently were to distinguish the better cartoons.
This was the beginning; it was also the end. The celluloid dreams of Harman-Ising were shattered by financial storms. It seems the provincial moneybags of Kansas City didn't appreciate the finer things of life.
Kansas City's loss was Hollywood's gain, as 1928 saw our heroes set out for the Coast for Round Two of their fight to put Harman-Ising in a top spot as a fantasy factory.
They had a new idea. The cinema world had just seen the advent of sound. Why not make cartoons talk? They did; they produced the first talking cartoon ever made, 'Bosko, the Talking Kid," completed in 1929. With Leon Schlesinger supplying an important bank roll, Harman-Ising Productions, Ltd., really began to roll, turning out five series of "Looney Tunes" and "Merrie Melodies," distributed by Warner Bros.

Harman-Ising marches on. They wanted to make bigger and better pictures. In fact, they were not quite satisfied with that. They wanted to make the best. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer wanted the best and were willing to furnish all the poker chips. This gave H-I new dignity and added zeal, so they blossomed forth with a new corporate structure and name, Harman-Ising Pictures, Inc. Such color fantasies as "Chinese Nightingale," "Calico Dragon," "Lost Chick," "Little Cheeser," "Bottles" and "Old Mill Pond" catapulted the boys to fame.
In 1938, Harman-Ising discontinued independent production. The partners joined M-G-M as staff producers. Their present productions include 'The Bear Who Couldn't Sleep," "Little Goldfish," "Art Gallery" and "Goldilocks And The Three Bears."
"In the last decade the animated cartoon has developed from its early grotesque form to its present lofty state and this development is really a miracle in art and an achievement in entertainment," said Harman, in an interview. "The significance of the cartoon can be realized only when we consider its world wide appeal and power of influence.


  1. ....and the sad fact was that, by 1939, Hugh and Rudy were working separately. Indeed, Harman left MGM in 1941.....and Rudy was gone the following year.

  2. We are trying to save Rudy Ising’s home of 1936-1940, here in LA. Write an Email, come to City Hall. see details on the Facebook event page for more info

  3. Click on the link to save Rudy's home. We need to show that Rudy was important to the history of animation, your email can help!