Saturday, 9 October 2021

MGM Odds and Ends, Part 1

MGM made cartoons for 20 years before shutting down, telling Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera at the end that “cartoons for TV will never work.”

In the beginning, the studio managed to overcome several incredibly inept management decisions with two other moves that turned out to be brilliant—giving Bill Hanna another chance at directing and pairing him with Joe Barbera, and hiring Tex Avery when he walked out on Leon Schlesinger.

Trying to trace the specifics of the studio history is a challenge. Some time ago, we posted blurbs and reviews from The Film Daily and then Variety. At the time, cartoon author and history digger Jerry Beck reminded me and readers there were other trade papers around in that era that weren’t on-line, such as The Hollywood Reporter.

I was able to access the Reporter in the years of the MGM cartoon studio (1937-57). I intended to do a two-part post but more and more and more information kept turning up. I’ve divided what was to be the first half in half and there’s really still too much information. I know I haven’t found all of it.

As Mike Barrier outlined in his book Hollywood Cartoons, Metro had sub-contracted to Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising from 1934 to 1937. Neither side seemed happy. Money was the issue. MGM then decided to make its own cartoons and built a studio on the lot. Jack Chertok or Fred Quimby (Chertok got out of the picture early) started hiring cartoonists. Harry Herschfield was brought in to run the studio. Herschfield didn’t work out. Milt Gross was hired. The West Coast cartoonists didn’t get along with the East Coast ones (Hanna and Barbera were notable exceptions). Gross was let go. In what must have been an extremely awkward situation, Quimby was forced to re-hire Harman and Ising, but as staff producers; the Harman-Ising business went into bankruptcy after Metro pulled the plug.

Anyway, we’ll post what little tidbits I’ve found about the studio up until 1942. Much of it is trite, such as release dates. Hugh Harman’s name is constantly misspelled. I’ve found nothing about Rudy Ising leaving for military service; the MGM Studio Club News of October 1942 revealed he had been commissioned as a major as of that month. One story the Reporter doesn’t tell is exactly how Hanna and Barbera convinced Quimby to allow them to develop a cat and mouse cartoon. The Metro cartoon studio was rife with politics (Friz Freleng bolted and returned to the comparative calm of the Scheslinger studio in April 1939). Portions not relating to the animation studio have been edited from some posts.

Spring Cleaning was re-named Cleaning House when it was released. Bob Allen was the director. A Hen That Was was renamed One Mother's Family. Gray's Elegy never got made.

April 27, 1937
Harman-Ising and MGM have come to a parting of the ways through inability to reach agreement on the terms of a new distribution contract and all negotiations are off.
Meyer H. Lavenstein, New York attorney and associate of Herbert Yates, represented the cartoon makers in the negotiations. The split-up, which breaks a distribution agreement in effect for close to three years, takes on delivery of the two remaining subjects on the current Harman-Ising, MGM contract.

June 11, 1937
MGM Distributing Corporation has filed suit against Harman-Ising Pictures for declaratory relief in furtherance of the company’s plans to make its own animated cartoons.

June 18, 1937
MGM has purchased the film rights to the cartoon strip by R. Duks [Dirks], titled “Captain and the Kids,” and will use the characters as basis for a series of 13 animated cartoons. The shorts will be made on the lot, replacing the Harman-Ising cartoon series.
C.G. Maxwell, formerly with Harman-Ising, has been made general supervisor of the new unit and is engaging gag men an animators. Already set for the staff are William Hanna, Robert Allen, Fred McAlbin [McAlpin], H. Allen, Harold Phorson [Charlie Thorson?] and Victor Schipak [Schipek].

July 16, 1937
Writers at MGM have been promised their new building on the lot will be ready for occupancy on July 28. The structure will house 40 scribes comfortably. The cartoon building and five sound stages, now in construction, are to be completed by November 10.

August 4, 1937
Perry Charles, of MGM’s shorts department, has been moved to the new cartoon department as writer and gag man.

August 12, 1937
MGM intends to go into a new phase of animated cartooning, with the bulwarking of that department by additional artists and gag men. The plan is to draw away gradually from the established animal characterizations and put in its stead human characters.
Following the pattern of the newspaper comic section, the cartoon department will attempt to create human characters which can be used serially. Another plan of the studio is to place more emphasis on plot in the cartoon.
Stepped-up activity in the cartoon department begins with the dedication of the new building. August 20 Harry Herschfield, who arrived Sunday from New York, will work with Jack Chertok and Fred Quimby in overseeing the cartoon unit.

August 17, 1937
MGM’s new cartoon building, with separate entrance on Overland avenue, will be opened for occupancy next week.

September 14, 1937
MGM will construct a cafeteria on the Overland avenue side of the lot to serve members of the cartoon department and other workers quartered at that end of the studio.

September 15, 1937
MGM has signed the voices of the characters of the new cartoon series, “The Captain and the Kids,” to term contracts. Martha Wentworth will do Mama. Billy Bletcher will voice the Captain, and two girls, Shirley Reid [sic] and Jeanne Dunne will talk for the kids.

September 24, 1937
MGM will further develop and familiarize audiences with its tint and tone photography by using the process for its new cartoon series, “The Captain and the Kids.” Different shades are to be used on the various shorts in keeping with the story. Four of the 13 one-reelers in the series are already completed by the Jack Chertok shorts unit.

September 30, 1937
C.G. Maxwell has been engaged by Fred Quimby as production supervisor of MGM animated cartoon activities and will have charge of the personnel of 135 making the “Captain and the Kids” series for a December screen bow. Maxwell has been associated with the Walt Disney organization the past three years.
Three cartoon directors have been signed to handle the individual one-reel comics under Maxwell. They are Robert Allen and William Hanna, previously with Harman-Ising, and Isadore Freleng, for the past year with Disney, but before that an H-I director.
Annual recruit to the MGM cartooning force is George Gordon, to be an associate on layout and animation. He comes from the Terrytoon organization. MGM is preparing its cartoons in sepia platinum tone under the process developed by John Nickolaus. Two of the cartoons are now receiving the finishing touches in the new cartoon building.

October 1, 1937
Pinto Colvig, last with the Walt Disney studios, has joined MGM’s cartoon department as a story and gag man, and for voice and sound effects.

October 2, 1937
MGM’s cartoon department has engaged two animators to work on “The Captain and the Kids.” They are Bill Nolan and Carl Myer [sic].

October 4, 1937
Three gag writers added to MGM’s animated cartoon staff are Ray Kelly, Kin Platt, and Henry Allen. Their previous services were respectively with Van Beuren, Audio and Harman-Ising.

October 5, 1937
Three more workers were added yesterday to MGM’s growing cartoon staff. They are Bert Lewis, music scorer, and Allen Freleng and Joe Barbera, gag men and artists.

October 8, 1937
MGM virtually completed personnel of its cartoon unit with the signing of Edmund Schultz, formerly with Mintz and Universal. December has been set as the release date for the first of 13 cartoons on “Captain and the Kids,” which will be in the new sepia platinum tone.

October 12, 1937
Billy Bletcher has been contracted by MGM to be the captain’s voice in the cartoon series, “The Captain and the Kids.” Bletcher has spoken for cartoon characters for the past 15 years.

October 18, 1937
“Spring Fever” and “The Lion Hunt” will be the first two MGM cartoon shorts in “The Captain and the Kids” series. First will be released December 1, with the rest of series to follow at three-week intervals.

October 20, 1937
MGM has engaged Ray Abrams, Leonard Sebring, and Emery Hawkins as animators, raising the total to 135 persons employed in the recently formed cartoon unit.

December 3, 1937
Release date on MGM’s “Captain and the Kids,” animated cartoon series, has been set for December 18. “Spring Cleaning” is the title of the first. Twenty more inkers and in-between artists have been added to the staff, now numbering more than 100.

December 6, 1937
MGM’s shorts department has scheduled release dates for 10 briefs and a reissue of a Laurel and Hardy comedy for the new 1938 release schedule. ...
“Little Buck Cheeser,” Harman-Ising cartoon, December 18. ... “Cleaning House,” the first of the “Captain and the Kids,” cartoons, December 25.

December 8, 1937
Henry Allen has been made assistant in charge of stories and writers for the “Captain and the Kids” cartoons at MGM. He will double as a director.

December 9, 1937
With completion of retakes, consisting of 25,000 additional drawings, “Spring Cleaning,” first of MGM’s “Captain and the Kids” cartoons, will be released Christmas Day. Picture will have the new sepia platinum tone.

December 20, 1937
Dave Snell has been assigned as musical advisor on MGM’s “Captain and the Kids” cartoon shorts, with Bert Lewis as chief scorer and Paul Kerby to write additional music.

December 23, 1937
With “Spring Cleaning,” first of MGM’s “Captain and Kids” cartoon series, ready for holiday release, eight more, “Blue Monday,” “Lion Hunters,” “The Captain’s Pup,” “The Captain’s Garden,” “Old Smokey,” “Jungle Jitters,” “Cat Naps” and “Momma’s Driving Lesson” are in work.
MGM will release 13 pictures in the series on the 1937-38 schedule.

January 28, 1938
Forty-five shorts have been entered in the Academy awards competition. These are in four different classifications, and will be previews by special nominating committees on the evenings of Jan. 26 and 27 at RKO studios. This committee will choose three pictures from each classification for showing for the final awards, which will be made by a special committee at a showing at the Filmarte theatre.
Classification “A,” which is cartoons and other animation photography of inanimate objects, either in color, or black and white: “Ali Babi,” Paramount; “Zula Hula,” Paramount; “Educated Fish” (color classic), Paramount; “The Wayward Pups,” Harman-Ising; “September in the Rain,” Warner Brothers; “The Dog and the Bone,” Educational; “The Little Match Girl,” Charles Mintz; “The Old Mill,” Silly Symphony, Walt Disney; “Hawaiian Holiday,” Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney; “Pluto’s Quintuplets,” Pluto the Pup, Walt Disney; “Donald’s Ostrich,” Donald Duck, Walt Disney.

February 1, 1938
MGM’s first cartoon, “Blue Monday,” has been set for release February 5.

March 28, 1938
A program of 196 short subjects, in addition to the list of features detailed at the Kansas City meeting, was announced at the MGM sales convention at the Hotel Astor yesterday. Included in this schedule are two new series, the cartoons and “The Passing Parade.”
There will be 15 “Captain and the Kids” cartoons, produced from the famous Dirks idea, and probably ten of the “Passing Parade” shorts, featuring John Nesbitt, the noted commentator, who has been doing this series over the air.

April 8, 1938
“Poultry Pirates,” third of MGM’s Captain Kid cartoons, has been completed and set for release April 16.

May 26, 1938
Burton F. Gillett, who for five years has been a director of Walt Disney cartoons, has moved to MGM as director of the cartoon department.

June 14, 1938
Dave Weber has been signed by Milt Gross to do voices in MGM’s “Captain and the Kids” series.

July 9, 1938
MGM has scheduled “Anaesthesia,” Pete Smith Specialty, for release July 9, and “What A Lion!” cartoon short, for July 16.

September 22, 1938
MGM puts two shorts into national release Oct. 1. Miniatures going out are “The Winning Ticket,” Captain and the Kids cartoon; and a James Fitzpatrick Travelogue, “Madeira, Isle of Romance,” first of the series to include an original music score.

October 5, 1938
Hugh Harmon and Rudolph Ising were signed yesterday by MGM to an exclusive employment contract to make all the cartoons for the Culver City plant. Harmon and Ising previously produced this type of short for the company from the outside but, since the contract was ended more than a year ago the cartoons have been made by MGM direct.
Under the new deal, made by Harry Wurtzel agency, Harmon and Ising will take over cartoon production under the supervision of Fred Quimby who remains as head of the department as well as liaison with the home office on all short subjects.
Since operating its own cartoon plant, MGM has made ten of the scheduled 13 for this year’s program. Two others are also near completion.
With H & I taking over, the annual output will be stepped up to 18 immediately and it is expected the group will be increased to 26 before the year is up. In addition to these one-reelers the studio also is contemplating two feature length cartoons in Technicolor.

October 10, 1938
Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising take over at MGM today under a seven year contract to produce the studio’s cartoon short subjects. They will make 18 subjects in their first year’s program.

November 19, 1938
Fred Quimby, head of the MGM cartoon shorts department, yesterday commissioned Jack Chertok to prepare a one-reel Technicolor Christmas short, “The Captain’s Christmas,” for immediate production. Picture will be released the week before Christmas.

November 21, 1938
MGM’s short subjects department hits a new high for the year with 19 shorts going into production at the Culver City plant this month. ... “Wanted No Master”...will be completed next week.

December 17, 1938
MGM short subject production is in the most advanced position in its history and will be past the 1938-39 half-way mark with the beginning of 1939. The entire program, being produced by Jack Chertok, is expected to be available for release by May 15, more than three months ahead of schedule. ... Cartoon activity under Fred Quimby will include “Art Gallery,” “Little Goldfish,” “Sleepy Bear,” “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” and “The Bookworm.” These will be done by Harmon-Ising in Technicolor and employ the improved rotograph.

December 20, 1938
MGM’s cartoon, “Petunia Natural Park,” goes out Dec. 31.

February 2, 1939
MGM has set “Ice Antics,” short subject, and “Mamma’s New Hat,” cartoon short, for national release on Feb. 11.

April 13, 1939
MGM believes it has ironed the kinks out of its cartoon production, and that with Rudolf Ising and Hugh Harmon at the helm, the one-reel cartoons will roll out at the rate of one release every three weeks during the new season. First of the new Harmon-Ising Technicolor product, “The Little Goldfish,” will get its release the coming weekend.
Two others are being completed and seven additionally are in various stages of preparation. Ising and Harmon, producing individually as they did before their production tie with MGM, will make a total of 18 Technicolor subjects for 1939-40.
The schedule is expected to keep the MGM unit humming, with employes numbering 150 turning out the intricate subjects. “The Little Goldfish” is an Ising cartoon. The next release, “Art Gallery,” is Harmon’s initial effort for MGM, and will be followed in release by Ising’s second, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”

May 9, 1939
Hugh Harman will produce for his MGM cartoon program Thomas Grey’s “Elegy in a Country Church Yard,” which will be a narrated fantasy.

May 17, 1939
Hugh Harmon and Rudolph Ising will make their MGM “Three Bears” cartoons in a series, with Harmon now scripting “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” and Ising preparing “The Sleeping Bear.”

May 29, 1939
Scott Bradley has been set to score two MGM shorts, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” and “The Bear that Couldn’t Sleep,” which Harmon and Ising produce.

June 13, 1939
With an average of one release every three weeks, MGM’s cartoon department goes into a vacation session June 17 to July 5, with the exception of the Harman and Ising story units. First run releases in the past two months included “The Little Goldfish,” “Art Gallery” and “The Bear that Couldn’t Sleep.” Harman’s “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” first of the extra-length series, and a Christmas story also on the coming schedule. Ising will feature his Bimbo the Bear character [sic] in a fishing yarn, and also put in immediate production “A Hen That Was.”

August 2, 1939
MGM will stage a press preview of several of its current shorts product Friday afternoon, at the same time formally christening the department’s new lion cub mascot, Leo. Jr. Previewed will be...a cartoon “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”.

August 10, 1939
“Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” new MGM Hugh Harmon cartoon, hit 268 day and date bookings on its national release date last week, setting a new record for MGM cartoon bookings.

August 12, 1939
MGM is elaborating its cartoon subjects department, adding a third unit and upping its current season’s product from 15 to 18 featurettes. Cartoon head Fred C. Quimby has placed William Hanna and Joseph Barbera in charge of the unit supplementing the Hugh Harmon and Rudolf Ising divisions.
The new unit will make only musical cartoons. The studio is also planning a Bear Family series of cartoons to follow in sequence on “The Bear that Couldn’t Sleep” and “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”

September 2, 1939
Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising, who were contracted last year by MGM to take over cartoon subject production, have been inked to new pacts. Producers will continue to work individually as heretofore.

September 5, 1939
Start of the new shorts season at MGM will see 11 subjects in production this month. ...
Two color cartoons getting the gun are Rudolf Ising’s “Mother Hen” and Hugh Harmon’s “Blue Danube.”

September 22, 1939
MGM’s cartoon department will on 6 a.m. till noon shift beginning today in an attempt to maintain production under excessive heat.

October 2, 1939
Two MGM shorts, Pete Smith’s “Football Thrills of 1938” and the Technicolor cartoon, “Bookworm,” are booked into the Four-Star theatre to open Wednesday with the premiere of 20th-Fox’s “Hollywood Cavalcade.”

October 9, 1939
MGM hit a record peak for cartoon production this week with 12 in work on the lot, an all-time high.
Under the supervision of Fred Quimby, Hugh Harmon [sic] has six of the pen and inkers working. They are “Peace on Earth,” “Mad Maestro,” “The Bear Family,” “On a Rainy Day,” “Grey’s Elegy” and “Tom Turkey.”
In word under Rudolph Ising are “The Fishing Bear,” “Handle With Care,” “Home on the Range,” “Swing Social,” “The Milky Way” and “Romeo and Juliet.”
First for release on the 1939-40 schedule will be “Peace on Earth.”

November 11, 1939
With twenty-two short subjects in work or ready to start, the MGM shorts department under Jack Chertok has reached its peak in seasonal production. ...
There are five Harmon-Ising color cartoons soon to go into work to complete this branch of the release for the 1939-40 season. Titles are “Peace on Earth,” “The Mad Maestro,” “The Fishing Bear,” “Gray’s Elegy” and “The Milky Way.”

November 18, 1939
Jeanne Fuller, for two years a painter and inker in the MGM cartoon department, was upped yesterday to the writing staff of the Hugh Harman cartoon unit. Promotion followed the acceptance of her idea, “Tom Turkey,” Technicolor offering now in production.

December 7, 1939
“Peace on Earth,” MGM Technicolor short, has been announced as the winner of the first annual medal award for film shorts presented by Parents’ Magazine. The short was produced by Hugh Harman.

December 14, 1939
A print of MGM’s “Peace on Earth” cartoon, depicting the horrors of war and championing peace, has been sent to the Academy of Sciences at Stockholm, Sweden, as a contestant for the Nobel Peace Prize. This is the first time that a screen offering has been considered as a probably Nobel Peace Prize winner.

February 3, 1940
More awards of merit were handed out the past week to Hugh Harmon, cartoon producer, and MGM for the one-reel Technicolor cartoon, “Peace on Earth.”
The cartoon was given the Parents Magazine award of merit as the finest film for parents and children made during 1939. Other awards received were from the California Congress of Parent-Teachers Association, Cue Magazine and Good Housekeeping.

February 10, 1940
MGM’s latest Technicolor cartoon, “Puss Gets the Boot,” is set for national release today.

February 22, 1940
Hugh Harmon, MGM cartoon producer, yesterday started production on a one reel cartoon for Thanksgiving release. Title of the short is “Tom Turkey.”

February 24, 1940
Rudolf Ising’s “The Milky Way,” one-reel MGM Technicolor cartoon, was placed in production yesterday. Subject deals satirically with astronomers.

March 21, 1940
William Hanna and Joseph Barbera have been upped to head their own unit in the MGM cartoon department. They are scheduled to turn out six of 18 cartoons on the program for next year. Their first will be “Swing Social.”

July 2, 1940
Nat Finston, MGM music head, yesterday assigned Scott Bradley as musical director on “The Bookworm Turned,” Harmon-Ising cartoon, and David Snell for a similar chore on “The Golden Fleecing.” [a live action feature]

July 25, 1940
Scott Bradley will conduct a full symphony orchestra for “Dance of the Weeds,” a cartoon based on ballet dancing to be produced by Rudolph Ising for MGM. Subject will have a modernistic score.
Ising is completing work at present on “Lady Bug” and Hugh Harman, other half of MGM cartoon producing team, is ending up “Abdul the Bulbul.”

August 5, 1940
MGM has finished work on a color cartoon, “Romeo in Rhythm,” with two black crows as the principal players. Songs from “Broadway Melody” are used as background for dialogue from “Romeo and Juliet.”

MGM’s “Boom Town” opens as a single bill, first since “The Wizard of Oz” last year, at the Chinese and Loew’s State Thursday. The Harmon-Ising cartoon, “The Milky Way,” has been booked to head the short subject program.

August 16, 1940
Rudolph Ising yesterday was handed a renewal of his contract with MGM as a cartoon producer.

August 27, 1940
MGM has handed Hugh Harmon a renewal of his contract as a cartoon producer under Fred Quimby, the head of the department.

September 5, 1940
Following complete renovation, directed by Fred C. Quimby, department head, MGM cartoon quarters reopened yesterday.
All equipment, as well as building itself, underwent rejuvenation process, while department employees had a two week vacation.

September 9, 1940
Work is winding up on two subjects in the MGM cartoon department under Fred Quimby. Animated drawings are Rudolf Ising’s “The Homeless Flea” and Hugh Harmon’s “Lonesome Stranger.”

September 17, 1940
Production starts next week at MGM on a new color cartoon, “Dance of the Weed.”

September 24, 1940
Deal was concluded yesterday between Fred Quimby and the Whitman Publishers for the featuring of MGM cartoon characters in the book firm’s Big-Little series.

October 11, 1940
MGM’s shorts department, headed by Jack Chertok and Richard Goldstone, is well advanced on its scheduled program for 1940-41, with approximately one-third of the slate already completed and a large portion of the remainder either in work or lined up.
Three of the Technicolor cartoons, “Lady Bug,” “Man’s Best Friend” and “Midnight Snack,” are completed.

January 28, 1941
A total of 45 short subjects has been entered in the competition for the Academy Awards this year. ... The two reelers will be looked at Friday night, the cartoons Monday night. ...
Cartoons nominated include “Snubbed by a Snob,” “Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy,” “Wimmin is a Myskery” and “Western Daze,” from Paramount; “You Ought to Be in Pictures,” “A Wild Hare,” “Early Worm Gets the Bird” and “Cross Country Detours,” Warners; “Puss gets Boots” and “Milky Way,” MGM; “Billy Mouse’s Akwakade,” 20th-Fox; “Knock Knock” and “Recruiting Daze,” Universal, and “The Mad Hatter,” Columbia.

February 28, 1941
Academy Award winners: Best Cartoon: “Milky Way,” MGM.

April 11, 1941
Members of the MGM cartoon department recently inducted into the United States army included Robert Gentle, background artist, now stationed at Fort Ord, Calif.; Paul Fanning, assistant animator, in the War College, Washington, D.C., training for a commission in the Marine Corps; Tom Ray, assistant animator, at Fort Monmouth, N.J., animating for the Signal Corps; Sam Dawson, assistant animator, also at Fort Monmouth animating for the Signal Corps.

May 8, 1941
Rudolf Ising plans to make a regular MGM cartoon hero of his “Rookie Bear,” which was sneaked last week. Character will land in the air corps next.

July 1, 1941
David Lang, assistant animator in the MGM cartoon department, has been moved over to the studio’s writing staff to specialize in dialogue.

August 7, 1941
After an association of 12 years with MGM, Hugh Harmon has resigned to produce a feature length cartoon with his own company. He has formed Hugh Harmon Productions, Inc., with himself as president. Robert Edmunds, a writer, is vice president, and W. Earl Shafer, downtown attorney, is secretary-treasurer.
Harmon has long wanted to produce a cartoon feature for MGM but could not win approval of the studio. His independent feature will be in Technicolor. The screenplay has been completed by Edmunds, from an idea by Harmon, and artists will begin work soon on the sketches.
Two companies are negotiating to release the cartoon, according to Harmon, who is also planning to erect a new plant for his activities. Walt Disney and Max Fleischer are the only feature cartoon makers now. Rudolph Ising, with whom Harmon has been affiliated since 1925, is remaining at MGM.

August 22, 1941
Rudolph Ising, of Metro’s cartoon division, has been signed to a new term contract by the studio.

September 2, 1941
Fred (Tex) Avery, creator of the animated cartoon character, “Bugs Bunny,” has been signed to a five-year MGM contract. Avery will start a new unit for Metro, directing a new Technicolor series, thereby increasing the studio’s cartoon releases during the coming season.
As a supervisor for Merrie Melodie series for Leon Schlesinger during past six years, Avery has made 69 cartoons. He inaugurated off-stage narration for cartoons and also introduced oil backgrounds, which have been instrumental in giving greater depth to panoramas.

November 4, 1941
MGM’s “The Flying Bear,” Technicolor cartoon, had its world premiere Saturday night at Sherwood Field, Paso Robles, for members of the 115th Observation Squadron, U.S. Air Corps. Barney Bear, animated character featured in cartoon series, was selected by the Squadron as its official insignia.

November 12, 1941
In order to service as many theatres as possible in the U.S., England, South America and elsewhere, MGM is making 112 extra prints of its cartoon, “The Night Before Christmas.” This is first holiday cartoon made by MGM since “Peace on Earth” in 1939. Joe Barbera and William Hanna supervised the new short.

November 17, 1941
MGM has reserved space on all Clipper airlines to make sure that master prints of the Christmas cartoon, “The Night Before Christmas,” reach foreign nations in time for pre-holiday release throughout the world Dec. 6.

December 10, 1941
MGM’s Technicolor cartoon, “The Night Before Christmas,” opens Thursday at Loew’s State and Grauman’s Chinese locally and elsewhere as master prints have been Clippered to all unoccupied countries.

December 18, 1941
MGM’s one-reel Technicolor cartoon, “The Field Mouse,” will be released Dec. 27 and the Fitzpatrick Traveltalk, “West Point on the Hudson,” goes out Jan. 10.

MGM’s cartoon department has been put on an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. basis along with the rest of the studio. Cartoonists had been working from 8:30 to 6 p.m.

December 24, 1941
MGM’s newest Technicolor cartoon, “The Field Mouse,” opens at the Four Star theatre Christmas day with “H.M. Pulham, Esq.”

January 27, 1942
Twenty-two cartoons and short subjects will vie for Academy Oscars in the three shorts classifications...Final judging will be conducted tonight and next Wednesday night at the Filmarte theatre by the Awards Committee, voting by secret ballot. Nominated shorts are:
Cartoons—“Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B,” Walter Lantz-Universal’ “Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt,” Leon Schlesinger-Warners; “How War Came,” Raymond Gram Swing series, Columbia; “The Night Before Christmas,” MGM; “Rhapsody in Rivets,” Schlesinger-Warners; “The Rookie Bear,” MGM; “Rhythm in the Ranks,” George Pal Puppetoon-Paramount; Superman No. 1, Max Fleischer-Paramount; two Walt Disney cartoons.

February 3, 1942
Final judging of the shorts entered for Academy Awards will be concluded tomorrow night when the second half of the nominated briefs will be shown at the Filmarte. Pictures still to be judged include six cartoons—“Superman No. 1” and “Rhythm in the Ranks” (Puppetoon), Paramount; “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” Universal; “Lend a Paw,” Disney; “The Rookie Bear,” MGM and “Rhapsody in Rivets,” MGM [sic].

February 10, 1942
MGM’s “The First Swallow,” Technicolor cartoon, will be released March 11. Originally set to go out this week, the date was changed to coincide with the traditional return of the swallows to San Juan Capistrano mission.

April 1, 1942
MGM has handed three cartoonists, Fred Avery, Joseph Barbera and William Hanna, new term contracts.

April 9, 1942
MGM Technicolor cartoon, “Dog Trouble,” directed by William Hanna and Joe Barbera, goes into release April 18.

May 7, 1942
As a direct result of the tremendous increase in the demand for short subjects throughout the country as well as provide more ammunition against double bills, MGM will release a record total of 11 shorts in four weeks, starting May 23. The featurettes to go are the following: [only cartoons listed]
May 23—“Puss ‘n’ Toots,” Technicolor cartoon. May 30—“Bats in the Belfry,” Technicolor cartoon.

May 11, 1942
MGM has set “Little Gravel Voice,” technicolor cartoon, for a May 16 release date. Rudolf Ising directed.

May 26, 1942
Fred Quimby, executive cartoon producer at MGM, has taken a tip from audience reaction and will feature the cartoon characters Barney Bear, Tom Cat and Jerry Mouse in individual series for 1942-43 season.

June 2, 1942
Final seven cartoons on MGM’s 1941-42 schedule are now in last stages of work, and the studio has started preparing 10 productions for the new year’s program. The seven are two “Tom and Jerry” subjects, a “Barney Bear,” “Bats in the Belfry,” “Blitz Wolf,” “Early Bird” and “Chips Off the Old Block.”

Fred Quimby, shorts department executive in charge of cartoons, has been signed to a new contract by MGM.

July 9, 1942
A national exploitation tie-up has been set with Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co., manufacturers of bowling equipment, in connection with MGM’s technicolor cartoon, “The Bowling Alley Cat.” Special displays have been arranged for bowling establishments throughout the country in connection with release date July 18.

Webb Smith and Otto Englander, story idea men formerly with Walt Disney Studios, have joined MGM’s cartoon department. Smith and Englander will function with a new animating unit, the director of which will be announced in the next days.

July 16, 1942
George Gordon, animator in MGM’s cartoon department, has been appointed director of a new cartoon unit now being organized. Gordon has been a member of the department since 1937.

August 13, 1942
MGM has picked up its option on Fred Avery, cartoon director.

August 19, 1942
MGM will conclude its 1941-42 cartoon release schedule with the completion of five animations now winding up production, Fred Quimby, executive cartoon head, announced yesterday. Films are “Blitz Wolf” and “The Early Bird Dood It,” both directed Tex Avery; “Chips Off the Old Block,” directed by Rudolf Ising; “Fine Feathered Friends,” William Hanna and Joseph Barbera directed short, and “The Bear and the Bees,” directed by Rudolf Ising.
The cartoon department will close Friday for its annual two week vacation.

August 20, 1942
Under the sponsorship of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, another showing of short subjects was unreeled for press preview last night at the Filmarte. ...
Five cartoons were included in the two and a half hour show, led by a Disney starring Goofy in “The Olympic Champ,” one of his sports satire series and very funny, and an especially ingenious release from MGM called “The Blitz Wolf.” In this the fable of the three little pigs is brought up to date by allowing the third pig to fortify his house of stone in anticipation of a visit from a wolf “mit a Cherman accent.” Fred Quimby produced. Far less imaginative is “The Ducktators” (Schlesinger-Warners) in which a duck in named Adolph and a fat goose Benito. “Woodman, Spare That Tree” (Columbia) is quite ordinary, and “Terror of the Midway” (Paramount) merely number 9 in the Superman series, its animation most difficult to watch.

August 21, 1942
MGM currently has its entire program of 16 cartoons for the 1942-42 release season in production, Fred Quimby, executive cartoons head, announced yesterday. Included in the new schedule are “Red Hot Riding Hood,” being directed by Tex Avery; “Bear’s Victory Garden,” directed by Rudolf Ising, and “Sufferin’ Cats,” being directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera.

August 24, 1942
MGM’s cartoon department will give eight of its personnel to various branches of the armed forces this week, Fred Quimby, executive head, announced.
Gene Moore, first cameraman, has received a second lieutenant’s commission in the Army; William Schipek [sic], assistant animator, goes into the Navy; William Tracy, department artist, goes into the Navy as a submarine radio operator, the same post he held in World War I; Jack Zander, animator, joined the Army as a master sergeant in the Animation Division of the Signal Corps; Julius Engel, assistant animator, also to the Army, and Dan Karpan, assistant animator, into the Navy. Robert Anderson and Kirl Kahmann, messengers, with the Coast Guard.

September 15, 1942
Draft and enlistments took another wholesale chunk out of the picture business yesterday when more than a dozen men either joined up or had notices of induction. ...
MGM is losing four to the armed forces: Richard Hogan, story man; Peter Alvarado, animation, Marine Corps; William Tracey, artist, radio operator, called to Washington; and Julian Harmon, writer, recalled to active service in the Signal Corps.

September 21, 1942
MGM’s cartoon department has been commissioned to make a series of aeronautical films for the Army Air Force at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio. Executive producer Fred Quimby has assigned a special unit of animators to start production immediately. This program will be in addition to the 16 cartoons now being released on the regular shorts schedule.

September 22, 1942
Victor O. Schipek, assistant animator at the MGM cartoon studio, leaves immediately to become a Sergeant in the Photographic Division of the U.S. Marine Corps at San Diego. Animator Arthur J. Zander enters the Signal Corps Reserve at Ft. MacArthur, and will later be transferred to Texas.

October 1, 1942
With the release of 16 subjects during the month of October, the MGM shorts department establishes a record hitherto unattained by that unit. Pictures include: ... MGM cartoon “Fine Feathered Friend,” Oct. 10, and “Wild Honey,” Oct. 31.

October 16, 1942
Ralph Tiller, MGM assistant animator in cartoon studio, probably makes the shortest jaunt on record in joining service. Tiller treks to former Hal Roach lot and becomes associated with First Motion Picture Unit of Army Air Force producing instructional films.

October 30, 1942
Another Hollywood expose! MGM cartoon department admits that the slow drawl of Barney Bear belongs to Rudolph Ising, director of this animated series. Only other drawn figure known to have “it’s [sic] master’s voice” is Mickey Mouse, for which Walt Disney supplies the sound.

November 3, 1942
Captain James J. Gibson, U.S. Army Air Force, is on detached service assignment working at MGM with executive cartoon producer, Fred Quimby, assisting on production of films devoted to psychological tests for Flying Training Command at Ft. Worth, Texas.

November 12, 1942
Six more MGM’ers have left the studio for the armed forces...Joe Smith, layout man, and Bernie Wolf, both of Cartoon studio join Motion Picture unit of Army Air Corps.

November 24, 1942
Five more MGM’ers have signed up with Uncle Sam for the duration...William Higgins, cartoon studio animator, joins the First Photographic Division of the U.S. Army Air Force, Monday.

December 4, 1942
Two more MGM-ites are also donning uniforms. Gene Moore, cameraman in the cartoon department, reports immediately to Fort Monmouth, N.J., where he is to be commissioned a lieutenant in the Photographic Division of the Signal Corps. Armin Schaffer, assistant animator in the cartoon department, will be inducted into the Army today at Fort MacArthur.

December 22, 1942
The cartoon program at MGM for 1942-43 will total 22 one-reelers. First of the group, “Barney Bear’s Victory Garden,” goes into release Saturday. Cartoons include eight Tom and Jerrys, co-directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera; six Barney Bears, directed by George Gordon; and eight subjects directed by Tex Avery, first of which is “Red Hot Riding Hood.”


  1. Thanks so much for all your sweat in assembling these MGM Cartoon news items, Yowp! The most astounding for me was the entry from 5-26-38 stating that Burt Gillett was boss of the whole works for a little while. I wonder where this fits in Burt's chronology with his stint at Walter Lantz? Probably he directed "Lonesome Ghosts" for Walt Disney, then was ejected from the studio, then landed at MGM and then Lantz. Does that sound right?

    1. That sounds right. His first Lantz release was February 1939.
      Variety's headline of May 26th was "Gillett Made Metro Cartoon Director Under Quimby." There's no indication how long he lasted. If Hugh and Rudy were back in October, I can't picture Gillett being around then.

  2. This is all terrific stuff! Love it!

  3. Hans Christian Brando11 October 2021 at 18:21

    What a fantastic timeline. And how shortsighted MGM executives could be. Which is why, once the king of Hollywood studios, MGM now is an office building on what used to be the 20th Century Fox back lot. Warner Bros. owns the great MGM classic films, and Sony (parent company of Columbia Pictures) owns what used to be the MGM studio lot in Culver City, where "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!" are filmed instead of "Grand Hotel," "The Wizard of Oz," "An American in Paris," etc. (to say nothing of Tom and Jerry and the best of Tex Avery).

  4. This is terrific stuff, although I so wish that someone would write some kind of book, similar to the Beck/Freidwald book on LOONEY TUNES and MERRIE MELODIES, outlining changes in production around this time, with critique on all of MGM's cartoons. Some cartoons are not mentioned at all, like one of the two Milt Gross entries, "WANTED: NO MASTER" or "CIRCUS DAZE" or even the last hoorah for Bosko, the famed (or imfamous) "trilogy", but I guess this piece chronicles the formation of the in house MGM animation studio. I await further posts on this subject, and what is the correct release date for "THE ALLEY CAT", which I always thought was created around the same time as "DANCE OF THE WEED" or "ABDUL THE BULBUL AMEER"? This period could boast some of the most visually stunning cartoons ever made anywhere. If enough art existed from each of these cartoons, an art book would be in order, similar to the French Avery publication.

  5. According to Exhibitor, the trade paper, The Alley Cat was released July 5, 1941.
    The Reporter made no mention of Gross being hired or anything about his cartoons. I can only guess MGM didn't send out a news release, or the paper had other priorities tor report on.