Saturday 6 April 2024

Have You Seen These Cartoons?

Regular readers of this blog will likely know I’m a real fan of animated industrial films of the 1950s. Some fine artists who worked on theatrical cartoons found employment in the many companies which made them.

Probably my favourite industrial studio is John Sutherland Productions, which employed people like Tom Oreb, Emery Hawkins, George Gordon, Maurice Noble, Carl Urbano, Bill Scott, Eugene Poddany and many other names familiar to fans of Warners or MGM cartoons of the 1940s. Unfortunately, too many of the company’s shorts are, well, I won’t say “lost,” but are not available for fans in general to view.

Business Screen Magazine profiled a number of the Sutherland shorts—Sutherland bought full page ads in the publication—and, periodically, I find references to ones I have not seen. Leafing through several editions starting with February 1954 (Issue 1, Volume 15), I came across references to a number of animated or partly animated shorts, so I thought I’d pass them along. Unfortunately, there aren’t screen grabs for all of them.

First on our list is Take a Look at Tomorrow, copyrighted on Sept. 26, 1952. The Copyright Catalogue summary is, unfortunately, bereft of any credits. Here’s what Business Screen tells us:

Kaiser Aluminum Takes "A Look at Tomorrow"
Sponsor: Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp.
Title: Take A Look At Tomorrow, 20 minutes, color, produced by John Sutherland Productions
♦ Faced with the problem that the other two major aluminum companies had made a number of pictures dealing with aluminum production, the Kaiser Aluminum Company needed to find a new way of presenting the aluminum story on film. That it did find a fresh approach is shown in the film Take A Look At Tomorrow, a combination cartoon and live action 20 minute color movie which pretty well covers the aluminum production story.
The picture opens with a gay color cartoon sequence starring "Al Luminum" as a circus performer and magician. He stretches and twists, he's the light weight champion, and he's glamorous—outdistancing by far his competitors. Iron man McGinty and Chief Copperhead.
The cartoon sequence also shows how aluminum is mined, extracted from the ore, and brought to the Kaiser plants.
Live action then takes over and shows aluminum processing. Some of the plant shots which show the aluminum pigs bring rolled, drawn and extruded are magnificent. There is one shot made from a traveling crane along the length of one of the huge rolling mills that is particularly outstanding from a production and lighting standpoint.
Also shown are the many uses to which aluminum is put, from its use in structural I-bars, through the innumerable cast and molded parts that are made of aluminum, down to the microscopically thin aluminum foil for household use. The film is very well produced throughout, in beautiful color, and will be enjoyed by all kinds of audiences. Distribution is being handled by the Kaiser sales offices and warehouse distributors throughout the country.

This is a re-write of a review in the February 1953 edition.

The issue also mentions a couple of films Sutherland made for Texaco. Animators had something to with one of them, but they didn’t animate anything. We’re referring to some of the staffers of Walt Disney’s studio who were part of a musical aggregation. Says Business Screen:

This year, the Texaco spring meetings are based entirely on films — five motion pictures are used, each designed to do a real job on one particular subject. All in color, the films start out with Sell More in 54, 13 minutes, a wonderfully jazzy preview of Texaco advertising plans (produced by John Sutherland Productions) and featuring the Firehouse Five Plus Two band.
The second film (also by John Sutherland) is called Take a Look, George, 5 minutes, and it points up the importance of "Registered Rest Rooms" in making and keeping steady customers.

Here are a couple of full-page ads from John Sutherland promoting award-winning shorts. A is For Atom (1953) has some great designs from Lew Keller and Gerry Nevius of atom-head characters from the periodic table of elements, while It’s Everybody’s Business (1954) features designs from Maurice Noble and a fine score by Les Baxter and Gene Poddany. It was co-written by Bill Scott, who gritted his teeth at some of the stories he had to come up with for Sutherland’s clients, such as this one which equates capitalism with patriotism. Both films have been on-line for years.

Let’s turn away from the Sutherland studio for a moment and look at two other animated cartoons.

Walter Lantz released his cartoons, with the exception of a brief period at the end of the 1940s, through Universal (later Universal-International). But it seems “U” didn’t deal with him exclusively. An industrial cartoon short called Rip Van Winkle Returns is mentioned in the Business Screen edition we’ve been talking about. The article about it doesn’t mention Universal, or a theatrical release, but a cartoon by that name was copyrighted by Universal Pictures on Oct. 5, 1953. The Motion Picture Herald of that period reveals a ten-minute short by that name was released as part of the “Variety Views” series on Oct. 5, 1953.

Could it be possible there were two short films, the same length, with the same name, made around the same time? It’s dangerous to make assumptions, but I believe they’re one and the same. Here’s a snippet from Business Screen’s edition:

Animated Cartoon Helps General Mills Tell Story of Corporate Corporate Growth to Shareholders
♦ Rip Van Winkle was re-awakened for the benefit of General Mills, Inc. stockholders recently. The champion hibernator of the Catskills popped up in a busy color cartoon featured during regional stockholder meetings....
Vocal financial reports were highlighted by color slides employing fractional and full screen chart symbols, and by ten minute animated film, Rip Van Winkle Returns, produced by Dudley Pictures Corporation, Beverly Hills, Cal. ...
When a cordial, jet travelling cartoon “General” Mills aroused cotton-bearded Rip to the fact that the mill from which Rip acquired a stock certificate in 1928 now is considerably more than a mill the audience of stockholders was awakened to an articulate interest in the means by which the management plans to make use of its frontier.

There is no accompanying frame grab, and no other information about the cartoon. However, see the comment from Evan Schad. Dudley seems to have grabbed some people on a freelance basis, like designer Gene Hazelton (who may have been between gigs at MGM and Grantray-Lawrence) and Lantz's composer Clarence Wheeler. It also looks like MGM's Ken Muse handled some of the animation, judging by the expressions on Rip and his dog at 2:15 (and other places).

Finally comes a cartoon I thought I had profiled on Tralfaz, as I spotted the wonderful frame of the moustached dragon some time ago. It appears not. There is a John Sutherland connection here, as animator Norman Wright moved on to NBC in 1955 to come up with some short films for Howdy Doody, then was hired for Sutherland’s writing department. He is responsible for the story for Your Safety First, a 1956 cartoon about the future that will remind you of The Jetsons, produced by Hanna-Barbera six years later. Wright, a former Disneyite, had his own company by 1961.

The Draggin' of Obsolescence
A New Cincinnati Milling Machine Co. Film Gives Fresh Slant on Industry-Wide Problem
"As far back as anyone can remember, people have wanted progress, and have wanted to get rid of anything that might be a drag on progress.”
WITH that innocent remark for a starting point, The Cincinnati Milling Machine Co. has launched an entirely new approach to an old problem through the medium of a fourteen-and-a-half minute fully animated Technicolor cartoon entitled 'William Johnson and the Draggin'. Produced in Hollywood by Wilding Picture Productions, Inc., written by Samuel Beall; animated by Norman Wright.
A deft combination of fantasy, reality, hilarity, and serious exposition in a timeless setting, the picture once more brings together the knights of old and the ideas of today with what should be a bombshell effect upon the nervously conventional field of industrial advertising.
Points Up Critical Need
The story drives home a nationally serious point so entertainingly that it should certainly have its intended commercial effect, too.
which is to make the buyers of capital goods equipment for industry more acutely aware of the nature and inherent villainy of obsolete equipment.
It is already being aggressively borrowed by top managements of some of our largest corporations to show not just to their buyers, but to everyone in the their respective companies.
Memo to Industrial Users
It’s that universal. The gist of this essentially complex industrial-economic message is presented so simply and clearly that it is easily translatable, by any audience, into a personal message. William Johnson is seeable and enjoyable by anyone with access to a sixteen millimeter sound movie projector. If you have no projector, just get in touch with any of the real-life William Johnsons in Cincinnati Milling’s field offices or agencies, all of whom have or can get you a projector and print.
It’s impossible to say whether the story takes place today, in yesterday's setting, or yesterday, in today's setting, but the presence of Draggin', today or yesterday, is sensed by King Customer The First, who is in a natural position to sense it. As any monarch worth his salt will do, he forthwith offers the hand of his daughter to any fortunate knight or commoner who can get rid of the Draggin'. That's what brings William Johnson into the courtroom, along with his Draggin' Locator — a combination of Geiger counter, television set, and electronic computer that behaves like a dedicated bird dog.
In a ludicrous series of sequences which have a deadly accurate aim, William Johnson exposes the Draggin’, all right, and wins the King's daughter. But an odd twist to this story is that he doesn't get rid of the Draggin’, and for a very good reason.
If you must know why, the only thing you can do is take a look at the picture, surrounded by friends. Don’t wait for it to show up on television; the color is something new in animation techniques and shouldn’t be missed.
Prints are loaned free from any of The Mill's direct or agency outlets or from headquarters: The Cincinnati Milling Machine Co., Cincinnati 9, Ohio.

Perhaps these cartoons will surface some day along with many others that could give us a better look at industrial animation from the 1930s onward.


  1. Roberto Arvelo6 April 2024 at 10:06

    I love the designs on the Draggin.
    Speaking of industrial films, I'm trying to remember the name of one; I remember seeing on YouTube a film from when they were switching from the classic "Crestview 4-0555" phone number system to the modern area code system, but I can't remember the name. The animated parts had like a mid century modern style old guy teaching a LA woman how it worked, IIRC he looked a bit like Mr. Whoopee from Tennessee Tuxedo, I had pics from it on an old phone but I can't access them anymore.

    1. Is that the one with Howard McNear, "Mr. Digit and the Battle of Bubbling Brook"?

    2. Roberto Arvelo6 April 2024 at 10:42

      Yes, I believe that is it! I had forgotten UPA did that themselves; I would have expected some little league outlet. Even if it's post Saperstein, it still has pretty nifty designs, def more appealing than the cluttered late 50s shorts. Even Dick Tracy had nice looking designs. (As for the shorts themselves, your mileage may vary)

  2. There is a great website from Hagley Archives of Delaware that stores digital copies of hundreds of industrial films, Government films (including many animated), and things like TV commercials, Opens/closes of Local shows, and advertising films (what might be called informercials these days), along with photos, production notes and magazines. These films come from a lot of companies, including Cinecraft, Of Cleveland, Ohio which also produced The Ohio Story on TV in the 50s with noted actor Nelson Olmsted as narrator. You could spend hours exploring this site:

  3. Oh yeah, I also love the animated Industrial films. I think most regular readers to this blog enjoy the film’s message, animation style, BUT, love picking out recognizable voices, and of course, those oh so familiar library music cues. I lot of these have probably fallen into private ownership. Like the “ Crown “ educational films, and “ Encyclopedia Britannica films “Someone owns them, or has a print. They show up on YouTube every now and then.

  4. Hans Christian Brando12 April 2024 at 07:48

    Commercials and industrial films of the time often made better use of animation than theatrical cartoons that tried to compensate for their uninspired story formulas with UPA-inspired graphics.

  5. I don’t know why it won’t let me login, but it won’t, my name is Star Foreman if you need to contact me back you can just Google my name

    Anyway I saw your article about George Powell and Hula and I wanted to mention that in January 1942 magazine called mini cam there are photographs of him doing the Layout and I’ll happily sent you copies of the article if you’d like for your archives just email me

  6. The "Rip van Winkle Returns" film actually can be found on the Internet, albeit under the title "Mister Winkle Returns".

    Dudley's sound library actually originated a few familiar sounds later found in the H-B sound library heard in this film. I presume Warner Leighton imported them into the library when he joined the company.

    1. Thanks, Evan. I remember this cartoon now, though I don't think I've watched it past the opening.The music is unmistakably by Clarence Wheeler. The designs scream MGM; Gene Hazelton at work.