Sunday 18 June 2023

Tralfaz Sunday Theatre: Cheers For Chubby

There are thousands upon thousands of animated films made in the 1950s that have not had a real serious examination or compilation by historians.

That’s because most of them never appeared in theatres.

There were film studios across the U.S. and parts of Canada which made cartoons for corporations and institutions. Commercials, too. Generally, you couldn’t really consider them animation studios because they produced live action films as well.

We’ve spotlighted some of the world of John Sutherland Productions, which worked out a deal with M-G-M to release some of its pro-capitalism/anti-big government cartoons, including A is For Atom. Other fans gravitate to the works of the Jam Handy studio in Detroit, which employed animation talents such as Max Fleischer, Gene Deitch and Jim Tyer, and produced the Nicky Nome series.

One of the many studios rarely touched on is Jerry Fairbanks Productions in Los Angeles. Some will recognise his name from the deal with Jay Ward that put Crusader Rabbit on the air. He produced several filmed series in the dawning days of television syndication. But he mainly was an industrial filmmaker, and put together a cartoon division after the war. In September 1947, he hired Manny Gould from the Warner Bros. studio to supervise all his animation production.

We’re going to focus on one of Fairbanks’ cartoon shorts, a public service message sponsored by Metropolitan Life in 1951 called Cheers For Chubby.

Met Life treated this as a big deal and took out full-page magazine ads promoting it, offering a free copy of a booklet on weight. The secretary of the American Medical Association wrote in the June 1951 edition of California Medicine:
Metropolitan Life Has New Movie on Overweight. I have just seen the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company’s new movie entitled “Cheers for Chubby,” and it is exceptionally well done. It will be presented in commercial theaters throughout the country.
The movie is based on information obtained in interviews with the A.M.A., the Public Health Service, and the Milbank Memorial Fund, as well as various nutrition agencies, hospitals, clinics, medical schools and health departments.
This 8-minute theatrical animated short in color was made because of the growing feeling that overweight is a major health problem and that control of it, particularly after middle age, should result in a substantial increase in health and longevity.
Dr. D. B. Armstrong, a Metropolitan vice-president, said the film would be made available within a short time to state and county medical societies for showing in their areas.
The Library of Congress catalogue describes it this way:
Summary: An animated cartoon. Discusses the dangers and discomforts of excess weight, points out the importance of seeking and following the doctor's advice in reducing, explains some of the fundamentals about reducing diets, and describes the importance of determination and patience in achieving weight control.
The Motion Picture Herald of May 12, 1951 pointed out it was made using a new Du Pont colour process.

This was one of several “don’t pork out at the dinner table” industrials made at that time. Coronet came out with Good Eating Habits (1951) with Jam Handy producing Weight Reduction Through Diet (also 1951) for the National Dairy Council.

As for Cheers For Chubby, the animators aren’t listed, but Gould and Art Scott get direction credits and Lou Lilly is the animation supervisor. Scott was a former Disneyite who made the Mel-O-Toons in the late ‘50s, worked on Beany and Cecil for Bob Clampett then settled in at Hanna-Barbera. Lilly was an ex-Columbia animator who found work at Warner Bros. and opened his own studio in the 1950s.

Bing Crosby’s announcer, Ken Carpenter, narrates this short; he performed the same duties on other Fairbanks shorts as well as Paramount’s “Speaking of Animals” series. Ed Paul was Fairbanks’ in-house composer, though the studio switched to the Capitol Hi-Q library in the ‘60s, probably to save money.

An 11-minute version of this short was produced for television with a live-action prologue and epilogue, and entitled Losing To Win

This dub is a little fuzzy. Perhaps a better version will surface on-line.


  1. Too bad Lilly didn't script as well--We could have had a violent death for the two demon characters at the conclusion (And is that Daws Butler I hear as one of them?).

  2. Ed Love did the Demon characters in this cartoon, Yowp.