Saturday, 29 July 2017

Fighting the Commies and Selling Socks

So what if they weren’t as polished as Disney’s cartoons or as clever as Warner Bros’. People still watched Terrytoons. And people liked them.

Well, they liked them well enough for 64-year-old Paul Terry to cash in on some pretty weak-sister characters in the form of merchandise, though he had one big bread-winner. And, in 1951, Mighty Mouse was popular enough to not only have a throughbred named after him (the horse was a two-year-old that ran at Hialeah and Golden State) but the US Navy nicknamed a rocket manufactured in Chicago in his honour. Mighty Mouse, streaking through the sky to fight those Commies!!

Okay, he had three bread-winners if you include Heckle and Jeckle.

On top of that, the work of Terry’s staff was displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York City, though one can’t exact accuse the Terrytoons of being on the cutting edge stylistically.

Oh, there was another good stroke of fortune for Terry. Something called television. It needed inexpensive programming for kids. Terry had piles of old black-and-white cartoons dating from 1930 sitting around that theatres wouldn’t run. But television would. Earlier, it had gobbled up the ancient silents that Terry made in the 1920s in partnership with Amadee Van Beuren. Eventually, Terry struck a $140,000 deal to put 112 sound Terrytoons on the tube (c.f. Variety, Nov. 11, 1953). And, as you likely know, he later sold his studio to CBS and retired to a life of comfort.

Terry’s publicity people got the old producer before the media a fair bit in 1951. We’ve already reprinted one interview where he insisted “Anybody who goes for dollars alone is crazy.” There’s one from the New York Herald Tribune we’ll try to get around to transcribing. For now, let’s give you a wire story from the Associated Press. The last few paragraphs are the interesting ones to me. Experimenting with sound effects? Terrytoons were notorious for having the same brake squeal, the same splash, the same cymbal crash, over and over again, cartoon after cartoon after cartoon, for years. It’s as if Paul Terry had a library of 15 effects. I suspect what Terry means in the story is because of advances in electronic tape recording, his sound engineers were able to speed up voices, which is what happened to Dinky Duck and others around this time. Unfortunately, they’re difficult to understand and have little expression. And it seems odd that Terry would have problems finding someone who sounded like a dog. Network radio in New York had a number of specialists like Brad Barker, who could imitate all breeds of dogs and even do human voices. It wouldn’t be hard locating them.
‘Mighty Mouse’ Moves Movie Mountain

NEW YORK, June 9—(AP)—Although many recent movies have been filmed in and around New York City, the major film production studio in this area stars a pen and ink figure known as “Mighty Mouse.”
As you may know, “Mighty Mouse” is the cartoon creation of film animator Paul Terry. He has long maintained his full film production units in extensive studios in New Rochelle, N.Y., within commuting distance of Manhattan.
In this suburban studio Terry has scores of artists, musicians and technicians turning out such film shorts as “Heckle and Jeckle,” “The Talking Magpies,” “Sourpuss and Gandy Goose,” “Oil Can Harry and Pearl Pureheart.” Also his “Little Roquefort,” “Dingbat and Sylvester the Fox” and “Terry Bears.”
At the moment “Mighty Mouse” has been more or less drafted by the US Navy. The Navy named a rocket after “Mighty Mouse.”
As far as Terry is concerned the weapon is a secret because the only thing he knows about it is that it was named after his cartoon film character.
“I was with the Navy the other day in a formal ceremony,” Terry said. “I didn’t pay much attention to every person I met because you note certain little human characteristics which can be used in the animals of our cartoon films.
“Captain Ben Scott Custer, commander of the naval air station at Floyd Bennett Field, said they named the new weapons ‘Mighty Mouse’ and other film characters because it seemed to help the new recruits to get over their awe of the weapons they had to operate.
“Calling a rifle an M-31 always seemed to make soldiers a bit shy of the weapon, but calling it a familiar name made it seem a friend. That is how ‘Mighty Mouse’ was chosen as the name for the rocket gun.”
Terry, with a large staff of artists and sound experts, is producing 26 films a year. He also is setting up a television producing unit. “I discovered that many cartoon films, which I had produced and discarded, suddenly had new value for television,” Terry said. “Now we are producing new cartoon films strictly for video shows.”
Terry film pictures—the original drawings—are having an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York. An exhibition of his art is being held in Geneva next week.
Along with his drawings, Terry has spent a great deal of time and money experimenting with sound effects for his pictures.
“I had to make a long search for a man who could sound like a dog in the films and still do it so the audience would get an idea of what the dog was trying to say,” Terry said. “Finally I found such a man. His only job is to bark like a dog and make himself understood.
“I have other sound men who talk like a duck, meow like a cat and one man flaps his hands to make a seal or fish getting out of water.
“You laugh at this, but something I think they sound better than humans talking.”
Oh, if you’re curious what types of merchandise Terry had put on the market, Women’s Wear Daily of October 9, 1951 goes into some specifics. Yes, you could own your very own Dimwit handkerchief!
15 Licensed On Terrytoon
Manufacturers of Various Types of Merchandise Will Use Cartoon Characters

Fifteen manufacturers have been granted licenses for the use of Terrytoon cartoon characters in various types of merchandise, it is made known by Paul Terry, head of Terrytoons Studios. Negotiations are under way with other manufacturers for additional licenses, he added.
Promotion of the cartoon characters in the merchandise field is being carried on in conjunction with the Hal Horne organization, which is handling the licensing of all merchandise manufacturers as well as the promotion program being wages in its support. Mr. Horne, who has been associated with the movie industry for many years, also has been active in merchandising operations in connection with cartoon characters.
Among the Terrytoon characters exploited through merchandise tieups are Mighty Mouse, Heckle and Jeckle, the Terry Bears, Dinky and Dimwit.
Terrytoon licensees thus far are Leon F. Swears, Inc., Johnstown, N.Y., gloves and mittens; Linbro Manufacturing Co., New York, scarfs; Bernard Scherel, Inc., New York, handkerchiefs; Russell Hosiery Mills, Inc., Star, N.C., socks; Federal Glass Co., Columbus, O., glass tumblers; Fortier Olsen Manufacturing Co., La Junta, Col., toys; E.E. Fairchild Co., Rochester, N.Y., picture puzzles; National Mask and Puppet Co., Brooklyn, puppets and marionettes; Samuel Lowe, Inc., Kenosha, Wis., Terrytoon books; Synthetic Plastic Co., New York, phonograph records; Pioneer Rubber Co., Willard, O., balloons; Ed-U-Cards, Inc., New York, children’s card games; Plastic Innovations, Inc., New York, plastic inflatable toys; J. Halpern Co., Pittsburgh, masquerade costumes and masks; Rustcraft Publishers, Boston, greeting cards.
This, by the way, doesn’t include comic books or Castle Film home movies, just knick-knacks and games.

And there was another Terry high-point in 1951—a 50-foot-tall Mighty Mouse floated down Central Park West to Broadway and 34th street on Thanksgiving. For the first time, the Woolworth’s of animation met Macy’s.

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