Saturday, 20 November 2021

Man Alive!

UPA started out as an industrial filmmaker during World War Two and veered off into entertainment cartoons in the late 1940s because company head Steve Bosustow wanted to explore all avenues of income. Its stylishness and dependence on human characters and human foibles won all kinds of fans weary of cartoons awash in frolicking young creatures and smart-ass talking animals.

But UPA never lost sight of its roots. Its industrial films continued to win praise and its TV commercials were influential in the way they looked and sold products. Saturday Review Cecile Starr writer looked at one of its institutional shorts—Man Alive!, made for the American Cancer Society in 1952.

The look of UPA cartoons always seemed pretentious in most of its theatrical shorts, but I really like it here. The animation is by Cecil Surry, Phil Monroe and Rudy Larriva, all ex Warners people. So is Art Heinemann, who co-designed this with Sterling Sturtevant. Backgrounds are credited to Bob McIntosh, Boris Gorelick, Jules Engel and Michi Kataoka. It’s directed by Bill Hurtz. Bill Scott and Bill Roberts toss an inside joke into their story; the main character is named after UPA director Ted Parmelee.

M A N  A L I V E . Produced by United Productions of America for the American Cancer Society, 47 Beaver St., New York 4, N. Y. Available for free loan and for purchase. (10 min., color animation)
Leave it to UPA to make a cancer film that adds up to good health, good sense, and good fun. This cartoon makes the most of animation's multiform possibilities, artistic as well as educational, and it doesn't waste a precious moment of its brief running time.
The point is that when something goes wrong, it's better to consult an expert than a quack. Ed Parmelee is a man who believes in short-cuts. When his automobile develops a peculiar knocking sound, he tries to pretend nothing is wrong. When it finally stops running, he tries a few "guaranteed" remedies first, then takes the car to a back-alley mechanic. When finally he goes to a reputable service station, the engine is so banged up it has to be replaced entirely.
This same Ed Parmelee has stomach-aches more often than he likes to admit. Ed knows he should see a doctor for a real check-up, but he's afraid to because something might be wrong. He might have cancer. After he reviews his experience with the auto, and after his wife makes an appointment for him with a reputable M. D., he catches on to the idea that it is wise to do the best thing first instead of last. He learns the real symptoms of cancer, and he learns that when something seems wrong the only person to get proper treatment from is an expert.
Local and state cancer groups have been doing remarkably well in having their films brought to the public eye, and with this film they stand a better than ever chance of winning audience applause. "Man Alive" makes a lively and sensible addition to any kind of adult film program.

The U.S National Library of Medicine posted this information about Man Alive! on its website in 2014:

When in 1952 the American Cancer Society (ACS) released the movie Man Alive!, it was trying something new. For the first time an educational short about cancer combined cartoons and comedy. Earlier cancer films had had their comedic moments, and cartoon animation had been used before 1952. But Man Alive!. . . was the first to mix them both throughout. Clowning and cartoons had come to be a way of controlling cancer.
Part of the reason for this innovation was the audience the ACS hoped to reach. The movie was one of a growing number of educational films that targeted men, supplementing the traditional focus of the organization on women. The problem was that the ACS was not convinced that the sorts of motion pictures that worked for women would also work for men, and it began to experiment with new approaches that it hoped would better appeal to its new male audience. Man Alive! was one of these experiments, and its success (it was nominated for an Oscar) helped the ACS come to believe that the antic-humor of cartoon animation was crucial to its efforts to persuade men to accept and adopt its approach to cancer. Movies aimed at women occasionally used animation and humor, but throughout the 1950s only films aimed at men made consistent use of both together.

Fortunately, the much-missed Michael Sporn posted a Life magazine article and a link to set-up drawings.

Even better, Thunderbean Animation obtained a 16mm print of Man Alive!, cleaned it up, and posted a version on line. Thunderbird’s Steve Stanchfield wrote about it here and linked to the video. Bravo, Steve and crew. Thunderbean has two sets of 1950s industrial cartoons you should consider owning.

1 comment:

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