Part 3

Animated Films
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Tex Avery:

After working to help create the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons for the Walter Lantz studio in the early 30s, and then co-creating some of the most notable cartoon characters of all time at Warners in the late 30s and early 40s (for Leon Schlesinger), Tex Avery moved to MGM Studios in 1942, where from 1942 to 1957, he accelerated the pace and scope of animations and adopted new characters. At the end of his time at MGM, Avery continued his work with the Walter Lantz Studio (see further below).

Avery's first cartoon for MGM, the anti-German propagandist short Blitz Wolf (1942), brought him his sole Oscar nomination for Best Short Subject. It was a wartime semi-parody of Disney's earlier Three Little Pigs (1933) with Adolf Wolf (a thinly-disguised Hitler, portrayed as "one big stinker") threatening to invade the state of Pigmania and the house of Sergeant Pork (US).

Besides Tom & Jerry (see below), the other most popular MGM cartoon characters, Tex Avery's most famous and long-lasting at the studio, was the meek, slow-moving, sad, droopy-eyed, and slow-talking basset hound known as Droopy Dog. The emotionless, deadpan-voiced, yet stoic Droopy (known as "Happy Hound") made his nameless debut in MGM's Dumb-Hounded (1943). His first line of dialogue was: "Hello all you happy know what? I'm the hero." He finally received his proper name in his fifth cartoon, Senor Droopy (1949). Drag-Along Droopy (1954) was one of the classic Droopy cartoons, a spoof on range wars between sheepherders (Droopy) and ranchers (the Wolf's "Bear Butte Ranch"), as was Dixieland Droopy (1954) - the first Droopy cartoon in Cinemascope. One Droopy Knight (1957) was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Subject - the character's sole nomination (after Avery left the studio).

Avery also developed the character of wacky Screwy Squirrel, an angry anthropomorphic furry squirrel for Screwball Squirrel (1944) who appeared in only five cartoons from 1944 to 1946. Screwy's basic enemy was Meathead Dog. In addition, another short-lived animation series consisted of only five cartoons from 1946 to 1948. They starred a pair of mismatched bears named George and Junior (derived from the characters in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men novel, George and Lennie). The first George and Junior cartoon was Henpecked Hoboes (1946), while the last was Lucky Ducky (1948).

Tex Avery's MGM Cartoons (1942-1957) - New Characters

Blitz Wolf (1942)

Red Hot Riding Hood (1943)

Dumb-Hounded (1943)

Screwball Squirrel (1944)

Adolf Wolf


Droopy Dog
(first known as "Happy Hound")

Screwy Squirrel

Henpecked Hoboes (1946)

Lucky Ducky (1948)

(l to r): Junior and George

(l to r): Junior and George

Tex Avery's work was considered quite controversial when he created a sexy version of the well-known fairy tale Red Hot Riding Hood (1943) with a character known as Red, a sexy red-headed beauty.

[Red Hot Riding Hood - 1943Note: It heavily influenced director Chuck Russell's The Mask (1994) featuring Jim Carrey as mild-mannered bank clerk Stanley Ipkiss, who was obsessed with cartoons. When Stanley donned a magical mask, he turned into an alter ego composed of Tex Avery-like cartoon characters - the Wolf (including a famous double-take with his eyes popping out of his head and a wolf whistle), the Tasmanian Devil (whirling like a tornado), and others. He even re-enacted portions of a classic Avery cartoon that he earlier watched on his VCR, Red Hot Riding Hood (1943), in the nightclub scene. All special effects were compliments of George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic.]

Walter Lantz Studios: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Woody Woodpecker, and Chilly Willy

Nutty Notes - 1929Walter Lantz, an early animator, and Charles Mintz (representing Universal and boss Carl Laemmle), took over the character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit from Walt Disney in 1928 - it was the first animated character for Universal Pictures. Mickey Rooney was the first to do the character's voice. The resemblance of Oswald to its biggest competitor, Disney's Mickey Mouse, was striking.

Lantz made a series of black-and-white cartoons from 1929 to 1935, featuring the rubber-limbed, long-eared rabbit, including these early titles:

Ozzie of the Circus (1929), Stage Stunt (1929), Stripes and Stars (1929), Wicked West (1929), Nuts and Bolts (1929), Ice Man's Luck (1929), Junegle Jingles (1929), Weary Willies (1929), Saucy Sausages (1929), Race Riot (1929), Oil's Well (1929), Permanent Wave (1929), Cold Turkey (1929), Amature Nite (1929), Snow Use (1929), Hurdy Gurdy (1929), and Nutty Notes (1929)

Lantz was noted for also making the first-ever Technicolor cartoon - the opening animated sequence to the live-action The King of Jazz (1930).

Woody WoodpeckerAnother of Lantz' legendary creations was a new character - the red-headed, blue-bodied, long yellow-beaked, trouble-making Woody Woodpecker, with his distinctive trademarked laugh ("Ha-Ha-Ha-HA-Ha" by Mel Blanc) and voice (by Mel Blanc for the first four cartoons, and then by Ben "Bugs" Hardaway until 1948, and thereafter by Lantz' own wife Grace Stafford). Woody (looking slightly deranged and not like his later persona) first appeared in Lantz' Andy Panda cartoon Knock, Knock (1940) distributed by Universal Studios, in which he bedeviled the panda. The next year, the popular Woody became a starring character as "Woody Woodpecker" in The Cracked Nut (1941), and began to replace the waning Oswald the Rabbit.

Over the next three decades, Lantz made about 200 six-minute Woody cartoons. Woody's appearance and demeanor was somewhat softened in The Barber of Seville (1944), but he still maintained his usually aggressive and slightly sadistic, manic personality. A long-time adversary of Woody's, Wally Walrus, was introduced in The Beach Nut (1944), the same year. Two Woody shorts were Oscar-nominees:

  • The Dizzy Acrobat (1943) - defeated by MGM's Tom & Jerry cartoon The Yankee Doodle Mouse
  • Musical Moments From Chopin (1946) - defeated by MGM's Tom & Jerry cartoon The Cat Concerto

In 1948, the novelty tune, The Woody Woodpecker Song (written by George Tibble, Ramey Idriess and Danny Kaye) was released on record and became the #1 hit song (sung by Kay Kyser). The song was put into the latest cartoon, Wet Blanket Policy (1948) (with another new co-star arch-nemesis Buzz Buzzard) and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Song (it lost to Buttons and Bows in The Paleface (1948)). Young boys copied Woody's haircut, and fan clubs developed across the country. In the late 50s, The Woody Woodpecker Show first appeared on ABC-TV in 1957 , and led to further shows and syndication.

A less popular but distinctive Lantz cartoon character was Chilly Willy - a penguin, who first appeared in 1953 in a cartoon titled appropriately, Chilly Willy (1953). Chilly's popularity soared when animator Tex Avery joined the Lantz Studio the following year and directed Chilly's second and third cartoons: I'm Cold (1954) and Academy Award-nominated The Legend of Rock-a-bye Point (1955) for Best Short Subject Cartoon (it lost to Speedy Gonzales (1935), a Warner Bros.' Merrie Melodies cartoon). As with Woody, Chilly Willy cartoons appeared all the way until 1972 - the last year of production.

Hanna-Barbera's Tom & Jerry:

Tom and JerryIn their first full teaming together after first meeting at MGM and serving as co-directors in the studio's animation unit, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera created the cat and mouse Tom & Jerry series (clearly influenced by the frenetic action in Tex Avery's work at Warners). It was composed of comic adventures about Tom - a gray mangy cat, and Jerry - a wisely innocent mouse.

When the cartoon series highlighting the love-hate relationship between the two animals was first introduced in 1940 with the 9-minute Technicolored pilot Puss Gets the Boot (1940), Hanna and Barbera received their first Oscar nomination. In this first appearance of the characters, both Tom and Jerry were unidentified as such: Tom was called 'Jasper' and the mouse had no name.

Hanna-Barbera's Tom & Jerry (1940-1957)
Introduced in a Pilot Episode

MGM Cartoon Title Screen

The Only Screen Credit -- Produced by Rudolf Ising, (directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera)

Puss Gets the Boot (1940)

Over 100 cartoons from 1940 to 1957 featured the two cartoon characters, and Hanna and Barbera were able to break Disney's Oscar monopoly for award-winning cartoons. They won more Academy Awards than any other cartoon series in history, except for Disney's Silly Symphonies that also won the same number. They won seven Oscars for Best Short Subject: Cartoon for the following animated cartoons, all in the Tom & Jerry series:

  1. Yankee Doodle Mouse (1943) - the 11th Tom & Jerry short, and the first cartoon to use their Tom & Jerry red and yellow sunburst opening and closing title cards
  2. Mouse Trouble (1944) - the 17th Tom & Jerry short
  3. Quiet, Please! (1945) - the 22nd Tom & Jerry short; also one of the few cartoons in which Tom spoke
  4. The Cat Concerto (1947) - the 29th Tom & Jerry short, and the fourth consecutive Oscar win in the category; the two studios in competition for the award, MGM and Warners (with Friz Freleng's Rhapsody Rabbit (1946) starring Bugs Bunny), accused each other of plagiarism for similar plot lines
  5. The Little Orphan (1949)
  6. The Two Mouseketeers (1952)
  7. Johann Mouse (1953) - the last and 7th film to win an Oscar; Jerry - the mouse, couldn't resist waltzing when he heard music from the master of the house, Viennese composer Johann Strauss. Tom, also a resident in the household of the Maestro, took piano lessons to keep Jerry dancing and entranced - so that he could snatch him.

Mouse in Manhattan - 1945 One of their most famous cartoons was the 19th short, Mouse in Manhattan (1945) that featured a score by Scott Bradley (made up mostly of Louis Alter's Manhattan Serenade later used in The Godfather (1972) and Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown's "Broadway Rhythm") - it told about Jerry's adventures in the big city. It was one of only a few episodes where only one of the characters played a major role.

Later, in a few famous sequences, Jerry the mouse danced with Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh (1945) - the first instance of the combination of live action and animation in a feature film. Tom and Jerry also performed an underwater fantasy dance with Esther Williams in Dangerous When Wet (1953). Famed animator Chuck Jones was assigned to produce new episodes for Tom and Jerry cartoons in the 70s at MGM - but they had lost their spunk and spirit by that time - and were ultimately unsuccessful.

The First Full-Length Animated Film:

Walt Disney Animation Studio Feature Films (1937-present)
Decade of the 1930s
No. Title Screen Title (Year) Notables
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
  • based on the German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm
  • the first, full-length cel-animated, hand-drawn featured film
  • the earliest Disney Animated Feature Film
  • derided by Disney's critics as "Disney's Folly"
  • Academy Award nominated for Best Musical Score
  • at the time of its release, it briefly held the record for highest-grossing (domestic) sound film
  • its unofficial sequel was Filmation's Happily Ever After (1990)

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - 1937The Golden Age of Hollywood cartoon comedy was in the late 1930s and 1940s. The earliest animated films that most people remember seeing are the later, more sophisticated Disney feature films that contain exquisite detail, flowing movements, gorgeous and rich color, enchanting characters, lovely musical songs and tunes, and stories drawn with magical or mythological plots. The first, full-length animated film was Disney's classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) released on December 21, 1937 (wide release on February 4, 1938), which took four years to make and cost $1.5 million dollars. It was 1938's top moneymaker at $8 million.

It was financed due in part to the success of Disney's earlier animated short, The Three Little Pigs (1933). Although dubbed "Disney's Folly" during the three-four year production of the musical animation, Disney realized that he had to expand and alter the format of cartoons. He used a multi-plane camera, first utilized in his animated, Oscar-winning Silly Symphonies short, The Old Mill (1937) to create an illusion of depth and movement. His version of the Grimm Brothers' fairy tale was the second of its kind - the first was a five-minute Snow White (1933) starring Betty Boop (with an appearance by Cab Calloway). Disney's risk-taking paid off when the film became a financial and critical success.

[Note: It must be stated that another little-known but pioneering, oldest-surviving feature-length animated film that can be verified (with silhouette animation techniques and color tinting) was released more than a decade earlier by German film-maker and avante-garde artist Lotte Reiniger, The Adventures of Prince Achmed (aka Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed) (1926, Germ.), based on the stories from the Arabian Nights.]

Disney's Golden Age of Hollywood Animations in the 40s:

Pinocchio - 1940The critically-praised Pinocchio (1940) released on February 7, 1940 and based on Carlo Collodi's 1883 fable made a record $2.6 million and became the highest-earning film of the year. This second Disney animated feature also won two Oscars, for Best Musical Score and Best Original Song (When You Wish Upon a Star). It was the rites of passage story of a wooden puppet (with Tyrolean britches) that came alive. The good-intentioned but naughty boy was accompanied by an ingenuous narrator/carpetbagger named Jiminy Cricket who served as the boy's conscience (and sounded like Benjamin Franklin). The ingenious animation used the multi-plane camera technique to create an amazingly life-like animation.

Disney experimented with other milestone, ground-breaking techniques that combined classical music and animation in seven separate episodes in the film Fantasia (1940), released on November 13, 1940, and January 29, 1941 (roadshow). The film, with a production cost of more than $2 million (about four times more than an average live-action picture), featured Mickey Mouse as the star of the picture in Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice, the mouse's only appearance in a feature cartoon. It was the first film to be released in a multichannel stereo sound format called Fantasound - decades ahead of its time - requiring a special system devised for playback, although it was rarely shown that way due to the expense (and the fact that only 6 theaters were equipped to play Fantasound).

Fantasia was the fullest expression of Disney's earlier work on Silly Symphonies. [Note A sequel of sorts was released 60 years later, originally in the IMAX format, Fantasia/2000 (1999), with new interpretations of classical music (including Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance, Stravinsky's Firebird, Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2 - and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue), plus a replay of The Sorcerer's Apprentice.]

Other great classic Disney tales, animated features, and storybooks in the 40s included (see also below):

  • Dumbo (1941) - the story of the baby elephant with big flying ears, released on October 23, 1941
  • Bambi (1942) - the masterfully poetic tale of woodland creatures and a young fawn, with the shattering scene of the killing of Bambi's mother; released on April 16, 1942 [Note: although the second Disney animated film to go into production, it ended up being the fifth release, due to extensive time-consuming research conducted on animals to make it appear exceedingly realistic]
  • Saludos Amigos (1942), released on August 24, 1942 (premiere in Mexico City); advertised as "Walt Disney Goes South American" with the introduction of Joe Carioca, the Brazilian Jitterbird
  • The Three Caballeros (1944), released on December 21, 1944 (premiere in Mexico City) and February 3, 1945; in this animated and live-action combined film, Donald Duck danced with "Brazilian Girl" Aurora Miranda
  • Make Mine Music (1946), released on April 20, 1946; a more modernized version of Fantasia (1940) with popular music by Benny Goodman, the Andrews Sisters, and Dinah Shore; the anthology included 10 film segments including the classic tales Casey at the Bat, The Martins and the Coys, and Peter and the Wolf; also Blue Bayou, All the Cats Join In, Without You, Two Silhouettes, After You've Gone, Johnny Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet, and The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met
  • The Song of the South (1946), released on November 12, 1946, was Disney's first live-action feature film, but also contained three major segments of animation; it was based upon Joel Chandler Harris' Uncle Remus folk tales regarding Br'er Rabbit; due to extensive protests (mostly by the NAACP) over the stereotypical representations of blacks in the film and the romanticizing of slavery, the controversial film was never released on home video for US audiences; the film's hit song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" won the Academy Awards Oscar for Best Song
  • Fun and Fancy Free (1947), released on September 27, 1947; a combination of live-action and animation; with two storylines, including Bongo (hosted by Jiminy Cricket and narrated by Dinah Shore) about a circus bear, and Mickey and the Beanstalk
  • Melody Time (1948), released on May 27, 1948; included seven animated shorts including two American folk heroes: Johnny Appleseed and Pecos Bill; the 5th of Disney's large collections of animated shorts
  • So Dear to My Heart (1949), released on January 19, 1949; a live-action film with some animation, starring Burl Ives; an Academy Award nominee for Best Song (Lavender Blue)
  • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949), released on October 5, 1949; the 6th and last of Disney's 'package' films in the 1940s; included two segments: The Wind in the Willows (based upon Scottish author Kenneth Grahame's 1908 novel) and Ichabod Crane (based on Washington Irving's 1820 short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)
Walt Disney Animation Studio Feature Films (1937-present)
Decade of the 1940s
No. Title Screen Title (Year) Notables
Pinocchio (1940)
  • based on the Italian children's novel The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
  • about a woodworker named Geppetto who created a puppet that came alive after a wish was granted by the Blue Fairy
  • the highest-grossing (domestic) film of 1940
  • it was the first animated feature to win a competitive Academy Award -- two Oscars in fact, for Best Music Score and Best Original Song (When You Wish Upon a Star), the future theme song for Disney's parks
Fantasia (1940)
  • composed of eight animated segments coordinated and blended together with classical music conducted by Leopold Stokowski
  • the classical selections included Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite, Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony (# 6), Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours, and Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain, concluding with Schubert's Ave Maria
  • it was a feature-length version of Disney's earlier Silly Symphonies
  • later Disney films, Make Mine Music (1946) and Melody Time (1948), also combined music and animation
  • a sequel followed almost 60 years later, Fantasia 2000 (1999)
  • the first film to be released in a pioneering multichannel stereo sound format called Fantasound
Dumbo (1941)
  • one of the shortest animated feature films, hastily created and cheaply made after the failure of Fantasia (1940)
  • adapted from a short children's book about a flying circus elephant
  • a Best Song nominee (Baby Mine) and Academy Award-winner for Best Musical Score
  • the most profitable Disney film of the decade because of its low-budget production
Bambi (1942)
  • based on Austrian writer Felix Salten's 1923 book, Bambi, a Life in the Woods
  • a three-time Academy Award nominee: Best Song (Love is a Song), Best Original Musical Score, Best Sound
Saludos Amigos (1942)
  • the 1st package film
  • translated: "Greetings (or Hello) Friends"
  • composed of four animated shorts, set in Latin America, interwoven with a live-action documentary about the trip of Disney's artists to the area
  • Disney's shortest animated feature to date (42 minutes in length)
  • the first appearance of José Carioca, the Brazilian cigar-smoking parrot
  • three-time Academy Award nominee: Best Sound Recording, Best Musical Score, and Best Original Song (Saludos Amigos)
The Three Caballeros (1944)
  • the 2nd package film
  • a follow-up film to Saludos Amigos (1942), this time concentrating on Mexico
  • the animated anthology film consists of seven segments, each connected by Donald Duck receiving gifts on his birthday
  • two-time Academy Award nominee: Best Sound and Best Score
Make Mine Music (1946)
  • the 3rd package film
  • an anthology film, similar to Fantasia (1940), with 10 separate film segments, including some classics, such as The Martins and the Coys, Blue Bayou (unused for Fantasia), Casey at the Bat, and Peter and the Wolf
Fun & Fancy Free (1947)
  • the 4th package film
  • a compilation of two shorts, Bongo (about an escaped circus bear) and Mickey and the Beanstalk (a version of 'Jack and the Beanstalk' with Disney cartoon characters)
  • the framework for the first story was Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio, and then for the second story, Edgar Bergen and his puppets Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd
Melody Time (1948)
  • the 5th package film
  • included seven film segments, another Fantasia-like production combining animaton and music
  • the last of Disney's large collections of animated shorts
  • the most popular segments included: the jazzy Bumble Boogie (set to Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee), The Legend of Johnny Appleseed, Little Toot (about a tugboat), Blame It On the Samba, and Pecos Bill (about the legendary cowboy, related in a campfire story told by Roy Rogers)
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
  • the 6th package film
  • included the two shorts: The Wind in the Willows (or The Adventures of Mr. Toad) - narrated by Basil Rathbone, and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (or The Story of Ichabod Crane) - narrated by Bing Crosby

The 1950s: Disney's Golden Age of Animation (continued)

In the 50s, Disney released more animated features, including the following full-length classics:

  • Cinderella (1950), released on February 15, 1950 [Note: Cinderella has been widely regarded as the most re-made storyline ever]; its financial success helped to reverse Disney's debt and declining fortunes
  • Alice in Wonderland (1951), released on July 28, 1951; the Disney adaptation of Lewis Carroll classics; its failure at the box-office offset the profits from the previous year's successful Cinderella
  • Peter Pan (1953), released on February 5, 1953; Disney's version of James M. Barrie's play
  • Lady and the Tramp (1955), released on June 16, 1955; Disney's first animated feature in CinemaScope
  • Sleeping Beauty (1959), released on January 29, 1959; also in widescreen format
Walt Disney Animation Studio Feature Films (1937-present)
Decade of the 1950s
No. Title Screen Title (Year) Notables
Cinderella (1950)
  • based on Charles Perrault's fairy tale
  • this animation marked a return to Disney's single-story feature-length films
  • three-time Academy Award nominee: Best Score, Best Sound, Best Original Song ("Bibbidy-Bobbidi-Boo")
  • with two direct-to-video sequels: Cinderella II: Dreams Come True (2002), and Cinderella III: A Twist in Time (2007)
Alice in Wonderland (1951)
  • based on Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass
  • Academy Award nominee for Best Musical Score
  • in 1974, it was re-released to theaters for the first time
  • became popular in the 'psychedelic' drug culture of the 1970s
  • inspired the spinning teacups ride at Disneyland, and Tim Burton's live-action Alice in Wonderland (2010) and its sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)
Peter Pan (1953)
  • based on the 1904 J.M. Barrie stage play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up
  • criticized for its racist portrayal of "Indians" (Native Americans)
  • this was the first Peter Pan film in a franchise that developed in the 2000s, including a direct-to-video sequel Peter Pan II: Return To Never Land (2002)
Lady and the Tramp (1955)
  • the first animated feature-length movie, filmed in the CinemaScope widescreen film process
  • this was the first 'Lady and the Tramp' film in a franchise that was followed by direct-to-video sequel Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure (2001)
Sleeping Beauty (1959)
  • based upon two fairy tales: Charles Perrault's 1697 French tale, and the German Brothers Grimm 1812 story
  • the first animated film to be photographed in the Super Technirama 70 widescreen process
  • Academy Award nominee: Best Musical Score
  • this was the last Disney adaptation of a fairy tale for 30 years (until The Little Mermaid (1989)), due to poor box-office reception

In order, Lady and the Tramp (1955), Peter Pan (1953), and Cinderella (1950) were the top 3 grossing films of the 50s. [Taking into account reissues and re-releases over the years as well as the original releases, the order of these top-grossing animated films of all time has been rearranged, placing Cinderella (1950) first, followed by Lady and the Tramp (1955) and then Peter Pan (1953).]

Walt Disney achieved a milestone in the 1954 awards ceremony - as the individual with the most Oscar wins (4) in a single year. He won the award in four awards categories, including one film which was animated: Best Cartoon Short Subject: Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom (1953).

UPA Productions - Columbia Studios:

Some who left Disney Studios around the time of the studio's 1941 strike later established United Productions of America (UPA), a studio for cartoons distributed by Columbia. It was known for simplified, stylized, more contemporary animated drawings of characters (with limited movement but boldly colored) in the Jolly Frolics cartoon series (38 theatrical cartoons released from 1948 to 1959). The two main characters were:

  • Gerald McBoing-Boing (first seen in the cartoon Gerald McBoing-Boing (1951)), a character developed by Dr. Seuss
  • Mister (J. Quincy) Magoo (with voice by Jim Backus), a near-sighted (myopic), short-statured, elderly gentleman, inspired in part by famous comic W.C. Fields

Mister Magoo's first appearance in a cartoon was The Ragtime Bear (1949) - found in the Jolly Frolics series of cartoons. The second cartoon, at the start of a Mister Magoo series of cartoons, was Spellbound Hound (1950). Over the years from 1949 to 1959, the Mister Magoo cartoons (53 in total) were honored with two Academy Awards (from five nominations) for Best Animated Short Film: When Magoo Flew (1954) (it was the first UPA short filmed in CinemaScope), and Magoo's Puddle Jumper (1956).

UPA also developed a popular animated TV series titled Mister Magoo that aired from 1960-1962 (with 130 episodes).

The First Mister Magoo Theatrical Cartoons
TV Series
The Ragtime Bear (1949)
Spellbound Hound (1950)
Mister Magoo Show

Mister Magoo also starred in UPA's first feature-length cartoon film, the 76-minute 1001 Arabian Nights (1959), an adaptation of the Aladdin folktale with Magoo as Aladdin's uncle. The theatrical animation, released by Columbia Pictures, was the studio's first animated feature. Walt Disney Pictures also released a poorly-rated, live-action version of the character, Mr. Magoo (1997) directed by Stanley Tong (his sole English language film), with Leslie Nielsen as the title character.

Crusader Rabbit - The First US Animated TV Series:

Crusader RabbitAnimator Jay Ward, working with Alexander Anderson, Jr (whose idea was first turned down at Terrytoon Studios), created the immensely-popular animated, serialized NBC-TV show Crusader Rabbit, through their new company Television Arts Productions. It was the first American animated series produced especially for television.

The show originally aired from 1950 -1952 and also had a color version in 1957, with both Lucille Bliss and GeGe Pearson providing the voice of the Don Quixote-like title character. It told about knight-in-armor Crusader Rabbit and his tiger companion Rags, combating nemesis Dudley Nightshade, with episodes ending in a cliffhanger.

[Note: Ward went on to produce more animated cartoon shows, such as The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show - composed of Rocky and His Friends (1959-1961) and The Bullwinkle Show (1961-1964), Hoppity Hooper (1964-1967), George of the Jungle (1967), and The Dudley Do-Right Show (1969-1970) about a Canadian Mountie. The only live-action TV comedy show that he produced was Fractured Flickers (1963).]

Hanna and Barbera:

The Huckleberry Hound ShowIn the late 50s after their success with Tom and Jerry cartoons, Hanna-Barbera formed their own company in 1957 (a division of Warner Bros.' Animation). They were one of the earliest animation studios to become successful producing animated cartoon TV shows for television, but were often criticized for their crude, low-budget animations.

H-B Enterprises (the first name of the company) became responsible for the following cartoon shows, and their related spin-offs:

  • The Ruff 'n' Ready Show (1957-1960) -H-B's first TV show, for three seasons, with 50 episodes, about the adventures of a dog (Reddy) and cat (Ruff)
  • The Huckleberry Hound Show (1958-1962) - H-B's first major hit about a blue anthropomorphic dog, with secondary stars Yogi Bear and Boo Boo (who became the subjects of their own spin-off series in 1961); it was the first animated TV program honored with an Emmy Award (Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Children's Programming), and the first H-B show to become syndicated
  • The Quick Draw McGraw Show (1959-1961) - starring an anthropomorphic western horse, for three seasons, with 45 episodes
  • The Flintstones (1960-1966) - set in the Stone Age, but loosely based upon the live-action sitcom The Honeymooners, also ABC-TV's first series to be televised in color, and the first animated series to be broadcast in prime-time; it ran for six seasons (with 166 episodes) and at the time, it became the longest-running animated prime-time show in US TV history (a record it held for three decades until bypassed by The Simpsons)
  • The Yogi Bear Show (1961-1962) - H-B's first spin-off series (from The Huckleberry Hound Show), with 33 episodes over a two-year period
  • Top Cat (1961-1962) - H-B's series ran simultaneously with The Yogi Bear Show, for two seasons, with 30 episodes
  • The Jetsons (1962-1963) - a Space-Age version of the popular The Flintstones; originally for two seasons, with 24 episodes
  • Jonny Quest (1964-1965) - an action-adventure based series that ran for one season, with 26 episodes
  • The Magilla Gorilla Show (1964-1967) - starring an anthropomorphic gorilla with a bow-tie, shorts and suspenders, that ran for three seasons, with 31 episodes
  • The Peter Potamus Show (1964-1967) - for three seasons, with 27 episodes
  • The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel Show (1965-1967) - with two characters: a superhero ant and a secret agent squirrel, that ran for two seasons, with 52 episodes
  • Wacky Races (1968-1969) - with eleven competing race cars, that aired for one season, with 17 episodes
  • Scooby Doo (1969-1970) - originally for two seasons, with 25 episodes

Based upon some of these cartoon shows, they also produced feature-length films, such as the animated musicals Hey There, It's Yogi Bear! (1964) (H-B's first theatrical film) and The Man Called Flintstone (1966) - a James Bond spoof, the Star Trek-like Jetsons: The Movie (1990), and the live-action Scooby-Doo (2002) (with a sequel in 2004). In the 1980s, one of H-B's most popular animated TV series was The Smurfs (1981-1989), that ran on NBC-TV for 9 seasons, with 256 episodes.

Cold War Era Propagandistic Animations:

Duck and Cover - 1951One of the most notorious propaganda films ever made, Duck and Cover (1951), was aimed at school children. The 9-minute Civil Defense film used an animated turtle named Bert to show children how to survive a nuclear explosion or atomic attack by using a "duck and cover" technique under their desks. Later, Bert became a cultural icon in the documentary The Atomic Cafe (1982), and it was cleverly spoofed in Brad Bird's The Iron Giant (1999) with a cartoon beaver. For its historical and cultural place within film history, it was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2004.

Advanced Animation Techniques in the 50s and 60s:

Ray Harryhausen and Others

In 1949, inspired by the stop-motion work of Willis O'Brien in King Kong (1933), Ray Harryhausen animated the stop-motion gorilla in Mighty Joe Young (1949), although the work was mostly credited to O'Brien. This was Harryhausen's first feature film for which he created stop-motion animation. His own distinctive brand of stop-motion animation was termed DynaMation - a process involving split-screen rear projection to insert the stop-motion characters into background live-action plates.

Ray Harryhausen's films, such as his best known work Jason and the Argonauts (1963) with its skeletal warriors set-piece, perfected stop-motion animation. By the time the 61 year-old Harryhausen had finished Clash of the Titans (1981), he had worked on more than a dozen sci-fi and fantasy films with stop-motion animation. He created the fantastic images in 15 films between 1953 and 1981, including:

Title Screens
Harryhausen's Films
The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953)
  • Warner Bros.' prehistoric fantasy - a pre-Godzilla monster story with a rhedosaurus threatening New York City
It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955)
  • about a giant radioactive squid-octopus (with only six arms instead of eight to save money) threatening San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge
Earth vs. The Flying Saucers (1956)
  • with flying saucers that destroyed the US capital in the spectacular finale
20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)
  • with a threatening reptilian creature threatening Italy
Sinbad Trilogy:

(1) The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

  • featuring Harryhausen's Dynamation process, including the rescue of a miniature princess (Kathryn Grant) by handsome prince Sinbad (Kerwin Mathews) on his seventh voyage
  • a young genie and many stop-motion animated figures (a giant horned Cyclops who spit-roasted a sailor, a dragon, a snake-woman, and a sword-battling skeleton - the first of his skeletal warriors)
(2) The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974)
  • featuring a 6-armed statue, a one-eyed centaur, and a flying Griffin
(3) Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977)
  • with three zomboids, a giant saber-toothed tiger, a horned prehistoric caveman named Troglodyte (Trog for short), three banshees, and Minoton (similar to the legendary Minotaur with a human body and bull's head) - among other creatures
The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960)
  • adapted from Jonathan Swift's novel about an adventurer who encountered the worlds of Lilliput, Brobdignag, and England
Mysterious Island (1961)
  • Jules Verne's oft-filmed tale about the ballooning journey of escaped convicts to an uncharted island inhabited by a giant crab and a mysterious Captain Nemo of the Nautilus
Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
  • Jason and the Argonauts - 1963Harryhausen's best film, with screeching harpies, a giant metal warrior (a cross between the Colossus of Rhodes and a bronzed stone giant Talos man), a 7-headed hydra, and sword-wielding skeletons doing battle against Jason (Todd Armstrong)
First Men in the Moon (1964)
  • the H.G. Wells' adaptation about a space trip to the lunar surface (with an alien civilization) and back
One Million Years BC (1966)
  • Harryhausen's most celebrated film, with Raquel Welch as a fur bikini-clad cavewoman, and a menagerie of prehistoric creatures
The Valley of Gwangi (1969)
  • about the unleashing of a giant, flesh-eating prehistoric monster unearthed by an archaeologist, that burns to death at a church altar in the fiery climax
Trog (1970)
  • a horror-monster film, noted as the last film of Joan Crawford
Clash of the Titans (1981)
  • a mythological fantasy, with a memorable snake-haired Gorgon-Medusa, a Cyclops, and the winged horse Pegasus. this was Ray Harryhausen's swan song - his last film as Special Effects producer

Other Famed Animators in the 50s through 70s:

George Pal, the father of screen science fiction fantasy films, artistically combined live acting cinematography, animation, puppets (e.g., Puppetoons produced for Paramount in the 30s), and other visual effects in films such as Tom Thumb (1958), the Cinerama-configured The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962), and 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1963).

Animator-geniuses of recent years have used pixillation, the frame by frame animation of live subjects or objects and human beings by filming them incrementally in various fixed poses. Mary Poppins (1964) was a more recent, semi-animated kids musical with both live-action and animated characters.

The best-known work of the Halas & Batchelor (husband and wife) animation studios was the adult-themed and serious Animal Farm (1954), the first animated color feature film made in England. All of the character's voices were provided by actor Maurice Denham. The allegorical tale, based on George Orwell's 1945 satirical political novel, told of animals at Manor Farm who were led by fascist pigs Napoleon and Snowball to rebelliously overthrow oppressive Farmer Jones, take over the farm, and form a free, egalitarian socialist utopia. The new society was to be based upon seven principles:

  1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
  2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
  3. No animal shall wear clothes.
  4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
  5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
  6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
  7. All animals are equal. However, the animals would learn that some animals were more equal than others.

[Note After the success of the 'talking-animal' hit Babe (1995), the film was later remade as the live-action TNT-TV production, Animal Farm (1999). It featured creations of Jim Henson's Creature Shop (where director John Stephenson was a veteran supervisor), animatronics and computer animation.]

A classic family animation with similar animal characters, although a-political, was Charlotte's Web (1973), adapted from E.B. White's beloved tale about an intelligent spider (Charlotte, voiced by Debbie Reynolds), a rat (Templeton, voiced by Paul Lynde), and a bashful, ill-fated barnyard pig (Wilbur, voiced by Henry Gibson). It was noted for Charlotte's sacrificial saving of Wilbur with web-spinning creations ("Some Pig"), Wilbur's caring for Charlotte's egg sac and spiderlings upon her death, and memorable songs including "Mother Earth and Father Time."

The magical puppetry of Jim Henson's Muppet characters have also charmed audiences, first with The Muppet Movie (1979), then followed by more adventures with Kermit, Miss Piggy, and other delightful characters. [See section on Children's Films.]

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