Here’s a good cartoon break for today, and a less-seen one for sure. Back in July we talked a little about See How They Won, and I’ve been meaning to revisit Cartoon Films since. There will be more in the coming weeks, as well…
The Gran’ Pop Monkey cartoons were produced in 1939 by Cartoon Films, LTD. They were based on a series of illustrations (example below) by popular artist Lawson Wood, who had become quite well known for his his Gran’ Pop Monkey character. As you can see in the advertisement, It was announced that a series of 24 cartoons were in production, to be released in Technicolor, but it’s unclear as to why the series was cancelled. The actual films were all released in Cinecolor. All three films were shown theatrically in 1940 (released by Monogram Pictures), and later sold to Official Films and released in both black and white and color versions. It’s been suggested that Iwerks produced these cartoons in the UK; upon viewing them it’s clear they were made in the states with the staff that was also working on the various theatrical commercials and Columbia Color Rhapsodies.
There appears to have been only three cartoons made before they were discontinued: Beauty Shoppe, A Busy Day and Baby Checkers. Prints of the first two have shown up in color, but as of this writing Baby Checkers has not. I wonder if they didn’t test well; it’s likely the war may have been a factor in halting the collaborative production of these films.
Cartoon Films was the ‘new’ title for Animated Pictures, Inc. (Ub Iwerks studio) renamed in 1936 when Iwerks parted ways with producer Pat Powers and his Celebrity Productions. After the dissolution of the contract, Iwerk’s studio
continued by producing some of the Color Rhapsody cartoons for Columbia/ Mintz as well as a series of theatrical advertisements.
Columbia also released a handful of shorts that Cartoons Films Ltd. produced as well, including The Carpenters (1941) and the Oscar Nominated How War Came (1941). Animator Paul Fennell took over role as the main director of the studio by 1939, and despite what it says in the trade ad above likely directed all three of the Gran’ Pops. The studio survived until at least 1942, several years after Iwerks had left to return to Disney.
I’ve always found the three cartoons to be fun, but sort of odd. Some of the character animation is a bit awkward, while other scenes are well timed and drawn. Even with their limited palette, I think the color design is quite nice.
I first bought a print of this cartoon in black-and-white somewhere in the mid 1980s. Years later most of the film showed up in a fairly beat up color print. When putting together the Cultoons, Volume 3 DVD, I transferred this beat up color print and combined it with the Black and White version to make the version that appears on that DVD. I do hope that someday a full-color print shows up.
(Thanks, Mark Newgarden)