Thursday 30 June 2022

Con-Skunk or Not

Doctor Primrose Skunk enters the Hugh Harman cartoon The Little Mole (1941) with a little introductory song, which seems based on “The Girl I Left Behind Me”:
I’m Doctor Primrose Skunk
With a line of junk
At a trade, you’ll always find me.
His suitcase pops open to create a carnival-like prize-wheel contraption. The wheel lands on a pair of glasses he gives to the title character, surreptitiously extricating a coin, and wanders away behind an overlay of flowers singing:
I get my pay
And I’m on my way
And a sucker is left behind me.

The glasses allow the little mole to actually see things clearly. So how is it “junk”? And how is the mole a “sucker”? Maybe it’s because, at the end, he can no longer see things properly and he’s happy in his self-created world caused by poor vision. Or maybe it’s because Dr. Skunk is wearing a long coat and a top hat, and carries a cane, and that’s how cartoon con-men are dressed.

Harman and his Disneyphile artists fill the screen with little animals and insects, and fairybook flowers and toadstools. Only Harman is credited.

Dr. Skunk is played by Mel Blanc. The other voice actors are anyone’s guess.

Wednesday 29 June 2022

Butt, Here Comes Popeye

Popeye’s known for using his fists a lot after chowing down on spinach, but in You Got To Be a Football Hero (1935), he uses his butt to help score the winning touchdown.

Here’s a butt swish with action lines.


A good view of it.

Wham again!

The best gag in the cartoon is cheerleader Olive Oyl spelling out Bluto’s name with her body.

Willard Bowsky and George Germanetti get the animation credits.

Tuesday 28 June 2022

The Rooster, I SAY, the Rooster is Crowin'

The ink and paint department at the Warner Bros. studio gets plenty of work to do in this scene in The Foghorn Leghorn (1948).

Foggy pretends the sun has risen in an attempt to fool Henery Hawk. Look at the dry brush and multiples (the drawings are animated on twos).

Manny Gould does some good work in this short, including this scene. John Carey, Phil De Lara, Chuck McKimson and Pete Burness also animated this cartoon for director Bob McKimson.

Monday 27 June 2022

We Interrupt This Blacksmith

The Village Smithy must have been a real unexpected treat for cartoon-lovers of 1936. Instead of the cartoon tootling along on its own, an off-screen narrator interferes with, and reacts to, what’s happening on the screen. It’s something that, to the best of my knowledge, hadn’t been done before.

The narrator recites the familiar Wordsworth poem (with a few of his own touches) focusing on the blacksmith at work. But then he completely changes direction. “Now,” he says, “our hero, Porky Pig.” The camera pans to the left, where we find Porky, shaking his hands as if he was a newly-victorious champ.

The narrator carries on with a non-poetic explanation. “Let’s see. We have the blacksmith.” The camera pans back to the smithy, who gives his opinion of the situation to the audience.

“Now, boys,” he says the two-some on screen, “we need a horse.” They lamely search for one in the scene.

Carl Stalling plays von SuppĂ©’s Light Cavalry Overture. “Listen boys! Here comes one, now!” says the narrator. A camel wanders into view. The narrator apologises for the wrong animal and an off-screen hook yanks him out of the cartoon.

This sort of humour is light-years away from any Buddy or Beans cartoon, let alone the cutesy-ootsy world of Disney and Harman-Ising. Only Tex Avery would try to make something like this.

If I recall, story units hadn’t been set up so the whole story department—Bugs Hardaway, Cal Howard, Tedd Pierce (who plays the blacksmith) and whoever else was around then—pitched in with ideas, though this has Avery written all over it. Cecil Surry and Sid Sutherland receive the animation credits, though it’s fairly certain Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones and Virgil Ross animated on it as well.

Among the approriate tunes Stalling employs are “Horsey Keep Your Tail Up” (Bert Kaplan and Walter Hirsch) and “My Pony Boy” (Bobby Heath and Charley O’Donnell).

Sunday 26 June 2022

Jack Benny Goes to a 7-11

What was it like hanging around Jack Benny?

Let’s find out in this column from the Orlando Sentinel of February 4, 1966. Jack was in town for another one of his concert stops. I wonder if Jack went inside the grocery store or stayed in the car.

My Weekend With Jack Benny

Why do I think Jack Benny is a good guy?
I guess because he's one of us—he's a gentleman and a scholar and a story teller.
He arrived on Sunday at 10 p.m. Beth and George Johnson and Ann and Bob Crane and Bob Doenges and I met him—also more important, Mayor Robert Carr and Helen Ryan.
We took him to the Cherry Plaza, and all of a sudden Jack Benny said, "I need something to eat before I go to bed." He had flown from Los Angeles and we never thought of food. Have you ever tried to find food at 10:30 on a Sunday night? For a celebrity? No food.
We found a 7-11 open and bought a baloney Poor Boy and a regular quart of milk. We went to the Johnsons, doctored up the Poor Boy with cheese and toasted it. He loved it. The milk was wrong—he only drinks skim milk.
FINALLY WE got through all of this and Jack put up his feet and said, "I would like to have a cigar and I'm out of them."
No husband could produce a cigar. He couldn't have been nicer—said he'd smoked his quota on the way out so really shouldn't have one. Who else would have acted like this to save our feelings?
HE MUST use a pen a day, he never turns any one down. After the concert he signed at least 250 autographs. I thought we would never get him to the party.
He called his Mary every day in Palm Springs, where she was with friends playing golf and gin rummy. He doesn't own a Maxwell and never has. He doesn't have a Rochester, but he has Irving.
IRVING IS his manager and although he scared me at first he does a terrific job and I miss him, too. Jack looks much younger than 39 and asks no quarter from any one. He calls his wife every day and finds out her golf score or whether she has won or lost at gin rummy. He even sang "Happy Birthday" to a 20th birthday gal at the Skyline when they brought in her birthday cake. She almost fainted!
HIS STORIES and conversation are terrific. He was in Berlin four days after the armistice of World War II. He was doing a show over there and after the armistice he couldn't find any of our boys to play for, so he followed them into Berlin.
He has an orange grove and a ranch in California. We gave him some lousy weather, but he didn't complain, didn't even make a snide remark about the weather here or California. I would have.
HELEN RYAN started working to get Jack Benny here 21 years ago, and finally we had him and he LIKES us. His audience at the benefit he liked—he liked the party afterwards—it was not the cost plush party, but it didn't cost $5,000 or $10,000—every penny HE made for us went directly to the Symphony deficit and Jack Benny likes that. He doesn't want to donate his time and have a lot spent on the party afterwards.
Jack remarked several times that our conductor, Henry Mazer, was one of the easiest to work with. He liked us and we loved him.
I still think Jack Benny is a great guy!
Signed His Den Mother for Three Days, Harriet (Hocker) Doenges

The paper ran a full page about Jack after his death in 1974. There were a number of wire service stories, one dealing with pancreatic cancer, another with reaction from Jack's many celebrity friends, including future president Ronald Reagan. The Sentinel reporter who covered the concert looked back.

Jack's Quips Remembered By Reporter

Sentinel Star Staff
When Jack Benny visited Orlando just under nine years ago to take part in a benefit concert for the Florida Symphony Orchestra (FSO), he hit some of the coldest weather that winter.
"I just came from six nights in Canada," he joked. "It was almost as cold as Miami."
THE COMEDIAN, who over the years raised more than $5 million for symphony orchestras throughout the country, impressed the Orlandoans he met, including this reporter who met him briefly at a press conference, with his informality, lack of pretense and free and easy manner.
He appeared at a press conference held in what was then called the Cherry Plaza Hotel in a dark gray sports jacket, flannel slacks, black loafers, blue ascot and scarlet handkerchief with a huge cigar.
Asked if the cold weather might affect his violin playing, he joked, "I play exactly the same whether it's hot or cold. In fact, that's how I play, hot and cold."
He said the idea of coming to Orlando to help the Florida symphony reduce its deficit came from conductor Alfred Wallenstein who had been a guest conductor of the local symphony a couple of seasons before Benny's appearance.
"He conducted my first four concerts. The other conductors weren't afraid to have me after that," Benny quipped.
He described the act he put on for orchestra benefits as follows: "I play the world's greatest violinist. Actually, I have no business to be within eight blocks of a concert hall."
His playing and his quips before a capacity audience in Orlando Municipal Auditorium that night Jan. 27, 1966, though, helped raise $23,200 net profit for the Florida Symphony.

Hocker Doenges was right. Jack Benny was a great guy.

Saturday 25 June 2022

Not Bert and Harry

Want to sell beer? In the 1950s and early 1960s, the combination that seemed to work was cartoons and comedy.

Hamm’s featured an animated bear in its TV ads. Mr. Magoo sold two different brands of brew. Perhaps the most famous cartoon beer hawkers were Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding as Bert and Harry Piel. Word is their Piel’s beer spots were so popular, they were included in New York television listings in newspapers.

There was another famous comedy couple employed to sell beer to a regional audience, appealing to the smart set in their own way as much as Bob and Ray. Mike Nichols and Elaine May were seen on Ed Sullivan and other variety shows, breaking up audiences with their nightclub routines. In 1960 they were hired to lend their voices to ads, both radio and TV, for a regional beer.

In the May 1961 edition of Television magazine, an article entitled “Keeping Up With the New Generation” states:
Last year the Jackson Brewing Company, New Orleans, marketing its Jax beer in nine southern and southwestern states, left off live-action film commercials on an “adventure in taste” theme to go with fun, animation and the voices of Nichols & May.
The commercials—full animation, no break for the usual “live” product shot —center on humorous situations: a cowboy who brings his horse into a bar, is saddened when the animal is refused service; a talking dog, also refused service; a woman who uses Jax to wash her hair; a man who breaks his teeth taking off a Jax bottle top.
Jackson, advertising via Doherty, Clifford, Steers & Shenfield, New York, works its key themes into the humor (“real beer taste,” “premium brewed from 100% natural ingredients”), has had its share of success as measured by a sales increase last year, a flood of complimentary viewer mail, and even a request from a TV station for permission to run the commercials in its local programming.
The article adds that a survey of best-liked TV commercials conducted in January 1961 by the American Research Bureau found five beer companies ranked in the top 31, with Jax at number 11 with 2% of mentions (Hamm’s was no. 1 for the eighth year in a row).

Though Jax was based in New Orleans, its New York City ad agency decided to have the TV spots animated in New York City, where there were a number of excellent commercial/industrial studios. According to the May 15, 1961 edition of Television Age, the agency hired Pelican Films, the firm owned by Jack Zander, who started with Romer Grey’s ill-fated studio in 1930, and later animated Tom and Jerry for Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. He formed Pelican in 1954. One Nichols-May spot for Jax involving a kangaroo won honours at a commercial animation festival in New York in 1961; Chris Ishii co-directed with Armin Shaffer designing the characters.

Here are some frames from one 60-second commercial that spoofs The $64,000 Question. Nichols plays the quiz-master, with May as “Miss Mallory,” the contestant in the sound-proof both. Nichols confides in the audience that the contestant’s father, whom she hasn’t seen in 45 years, is next door. Miss Mallory blows the question (about Jax’s slogan, “premium brewed from 100% natural ingredients”) and a stage-hand grabs the father and hauls him away, killing any happy reunion. “Do I still get my freezer?” she asks hopefully as the camera fades out.

Here’s another one, with Nichols as an interviewer and May as “Boo Boo Gorman, popular Hollywood starlet,” who spends much of the interview being an airhead and blowing bubbles. You’ll see a logo for, a site owned by Ira Gallen, who rescued these, and countless other discarded reels of old television film.

The interviewer has trouble pouring the beer into a glass.

Boo Boo reveals her measurements are 76-22-64 1/2. The interviewers eyes make a path equalling the ridiculous measurements.

The spot comes to a halt when Boo Boo blows a bubble and then says she sinks in the ocean. No tag line for the beer, just a fade out.

1961 was the year the networks, encouraged by ratings for The Flintstones, started snapping up cartoon series for prime-time. All kinds of animation outfits tried to jump on board. Variety of September 20th that year reported Pelican and Total Television Productions joined together to concoct “Parrot Playhouse,” which never got on the air. Zander’s company carried on with commercials and, in 1966, debuted the 10-minute short A Nose at New York’s Trans-Lux Theatre.

Pelican remained busy, despite a bit of a downturn in the commercial animation industry in New York. An article in the February 28, 1966 edition of Broadcasting reported the company had 56 animated commercials in various stages of production and gave a prediction of gross income that year of around $3,500,000, up a half-million dollars from 1965. Some clients are below:

When the ‘70s rolled around, Zander put Pelican to rest after roughly a thousand commercials and opened Zander’s Animation Parlour. He retired in the mid-‘80s, and passed away, a respected figure in animation, at the age of 99 in 2007, leaving behind some stylish, enjoyable commercials. If only more of them were in circulation.

Friday 24 June 2022

A Streetcar He Didn't Desire

In the climax scene of Canary Row (1950), Sylvester tries to reach Tweety’s apartment building from his building across the street by walking gingerly across the power line connecting the two.

Uh, oh. Sylvester’s plan is about to be spoiled by the electric trolley running along the road. Note the motorman.

As Carl Stalling plays Shuffle Off To Buffalo, the streetcar catches up with Sylvester and ZAP!!!

Cut to the end. The motorman has been replaced by Tweety and Granny. How? Why? Oh, well. It’s a cartoon. Granny sure is enjoying trying to electrocute Sylvester.

You can see some of Paul Julian’s background work in this short, including some pasted together frames, on this blog.

Tedd Pierce came up with the story for director Friz Freleng. Virgil Ross, Arthur Davis, Emery Hawkins, Gerry Chiniquy and Ken Champin are the animators.