Here’s a story for you… a little over a year ago my friends over at the Academy of Motion Pictures Art & Sciences called me up and asked me if I ever heard of a UPA cartoon called “Bric’s Stew”. My answer was “no – never heard of it. Why do you ask?”They said that the Academy’s film archive had been going over abandon negatives acquired by the Academy from the defunct DuArt Laboratory in New York City. They found a cartoon that they had no reference to in any books or data at the Margaret Herrick Library. I was flattered to be the first person they called after exhausting all their resources.
I asked for a chance to see it. At that time it existed only in negative form. They gave me a few frame grabs from the titles… but didn’t have any plans (nor budget) to make a print. They simply wanted to know what it was.
They apparently had an undocumented UPA short – with no plans to make a print?!?! Curiosity was driving me crazy. I had to see this film – further more, I stated that I would commit funds from Asifa-Hollywood’s Preservation Fund to make a print and create a High Definition digital master.
With that commitment – and a check from Asifa-Hollywood – during a three or four month period last fall Bric’s Stew was added to the Academy’s list of projects slated for restoration.
The first thing done was making a work print off the negative – this would be my first chance to see the film. To be honest, considering its pedigree as a “UPA” cartoon, it was a bit of a let down. And a bit of a mystery. I can’t release the whole film online at this time, but I can post a few frame grabs and I’ll take a chance of putting the first minute online (below) to give you an idea of what its like.
My thoughts and theories: This is clearly (by credit) one of the last cartoons Stephen Bosustow produced at UPA before selling to Henry Saperstein The copyright date is 1959. It has full “screen credits” and a credit for “Technicolor” (that credit usually appears on theatrical cartoons main titles – not TV cartoons).
Though it looks like a TV cartoon (or a pilot) they formatted it for a theatrical release. Perhaps it was intended as both a pilot and fourth theatrical in the series UPA was distributing themselves (after the Columbia deal ended, UPA self-distributed I Was A Teenage Magoo, Magoo Meets Frankenstein and Magoo Meets McBoing Boing – these three later acting as pilots for the 1960s Magoo TV series).
The film has a UA-TV logo following the end titles. From this I surmise that UA perhaps had a deal to represent this “pilot” to prospective networks or local channels. UA had tremendous success with the Looney Tunes and Popeye AAP cartoon packages – and were clearly in the market for more cartoons. They also had a similar deal with Bob Clampett and Beany & Cecil. Their hunger for a new package of cartoons led to financing DePatie Freleng’s Pink Panther, Inspector and further theatrical shorts in the 1960s and 70s.
Apparently UA had no success selling Bric ‘n Brac to television. Bosustow never released it to theaters. Saperstein was unaware of this Bosustow short – otherwise he would have included it in the Magoo TV syndication package (as he had included other TV pilots sans Magoo).
It sat forgotten in a New York lab (though produced in LA, it was probably in New York because that’s where UA TV was headquartered) – until the Academy acquired it… and Asifa restored it.
I asked Mike Kazaleh and Mark Kausler to give me their thoughts on Bric’s Stew – here’s what they had to say:
Mike Kazaleh: “We can surmise that: The film was probably made after the Mr. Magoo movie (1001 Arabian Nights) was completed…
…And after Columbia did not renew their contract with UPA…
…And definitely after Herb Klynn sold Steve Bosustow his UPA stock (at Bosustow’s insistence,) left the studio and founded Format Films.
The film seems to have been intended for theatrical release, probably part of Bosustow’s plan to self-distribute shorts. It seems as if it had not been shown anywhere publicly.
Director Harvey Toombs was hired at UPA to animate on the Magoo movie. He directed and animated Bric’s Stew, but he would soon join Herb Klynn at Format films. There are a few scenes, some of the more “animated” scenes, that appear to be Toombs’ animation. Many other scenes are so sparse that his stamp is not so apparent.
It is likely that this film was made close to the time of “Operation Heartthrob”, the Waldo and Presley pilot (Directed by Gil Turner) that was eventually re-titled and put into the “Cartoon Parade” package of UPA shorts. Bric’s Stew did not get put in the package for some reason, even though the onscreen copyright is attributed to UPA. Which brings up a point to make some wild guesses about…
Jack Hannah has a writer credit. At this time he would have been employed at Walter Lantz, working on the Woody Woodpecker TV show. Also close to this time, Lantz had produced two TV pilots, one of them directed by Hannah, and featuring the voicework of Dal McKennon (Sam and Simeon in Jungle Medics.) Dal also did all the voices in Bric’s Stew. Dal normally did not do voices at UPA. Here’s where the wild guessing comes in as to why Bric’s Stew went unseen by the public…
Did Jack record the voices at Lantz? If so, did Lantz reject the story? Did he even know about it? For this reason, or perhaps because Hannah may not have been contractually allowed to take on outside work that the ownership was disputed? Did UPA actually own the characters? Then again, it may not have seen the light of day because the story and characters were old hat, even in 1959. Naw, it couldn’t have been that… in any case, there isn’t a lick of evidence to support any of these theories.
Going into a little more detail about Steve Bosustow’s self distribution, three Magoo cartoons were actually released, and a fourth one well into production before Bosustow decided to make films for television instead. What happened next is a story for another time…”
Mark Kausler: “I noticed that “Jack Hanna” (sic) was one of the story guys, could it be Disney’s Jack Hannah, going under a pseudonym?
The outstanding thing about the cartoon is the color by Bob McIntosh and the character and BG designs by Bob Dranko, who I used to talk to when he worked for Fred Calvert. Bob also did the first page of the storyboard for “Maybelline” which I animated for Ralph B.
Harvey Toombs apparently did all the animation. His limited animation timing is good to average, he typically anticipated the character for a zip-off and then pops the character off, and follows with streak lines that go from exit point to the top of the field. I think he worked on the Jack Kinney Popeye cartoons, you can tell by the zip-offs he did on that series as well.
Harvey Toombs did full animation for Disney and Screen Gems, usually Donald Duck type characters. He just cranked it out for limited – like the sequence with Bric just talking away, popping from pose to pose, sometimes slowing in, but not often. The little Mole character (is that “Brac”?) reminds me of Moley in Wind In The Willows. Bric certainly owes a lot to Crusader Rabbit, especially around the ears.
A rabbit wanting to eat meat, even chicken meat, and not vegetables, seems like a strange idea for a story. The rabbits in my back yard love to eat cactus! I don’t think they’d touch a CHICKEN! The rooster is very nicely designed by Bob Dranko, and has very colorful feathers.
There’s a lot of camera shakes, especially in the fight scenes. Dal McKennon’s voice makes the cartoon sound like a Lantz production!
I wonder if this is the LAST cartoon that Steve Bosustow produced? This may have been intended as a theatrical release – though it certainly couldn’t have cost much. It also has the UA TV credit at the end. I wonder if Bosustow tried to get UA to take the Magoos he made independent of Columbia release?”
At some point in the future the full cartoon will be released to the public. For now, here is a snippet of the film to give you a taste:
If anyone out there has any clues to the story behind Bric ‘n Brac – let us know in the comments below.
(Thanks to Yowp, Mark and Mike, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and Asifa-Hollywood)