Animation History
October 26, 2016 posted by

Cartoons Considered For An Academy Award – 1951

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of a series of posts that look at the animated shorts submitted to the Academy for Oscar consideration but didn’t make the cut. To view the first post in this series, click here. – Jerry Beck

Two_Mouseketeers_poster1951

And the nominees were…

LAMBERT THE SHEEPISH LION (Disney) Jack Hannah
ROOTY TOOT TOOT (UPA) John Hubley

And the Oscar went to…

THE TWO MOUSKETEERS (MGM), Fred Quimby Producer – Bill Hanna & Joseph Barbera, directors.


The nominees themselves this year sum up the favorites among the Academy brass – Disney, UPA and MGM. If it were up to me Rooty Toot Toot would have won. It’s a masterpiece. UPA at its zenith.

After being blown away by the radical visual aesthetics of UPA’s Gerald McBoing Boing last year, I guess the voters were back to rewarding traditions. Hanna-Barbera’s The Two Mouseketeers was a change of pace for Tom & Jerry and must have seemed quite refreshing – and good for a few laughs – at the time.

My ‘rule of thumb’ on how the Academy picks its Best Animated Short is that the winning film is either hilariously funny – or has a lot of ‘heart’. Among the three nominees this year neither Lambert or Rooty have much ‘heart’ or laughs. It’s also possible Hollywood wanted to back away from Hubley and UPA this year, as the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) was investigating the studio during the 1951 awards season.

Also missing from the shortlist this year, though not for a lack of submissions, is Warner Bros. Three Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies were screened. Two great Freleng’s and a Jones’ Pepe were shown to the nominating branch. But no nominations came. Let’s take a look at the rest of the shorts that didn’t make the cut.

Submitted, screened, but NOT nominated were:

Academy_Award_trophy175GIFT WRAPPED (Warner Bros.)
ALPINE FOR YOU (Famous Studios)
BY LEAPS AND HOUNDS (Famous Studios)
SING AGAIN OF MICHIGAN (Famous Studios)
BALLOT BOX BUNNY (Warner Bros.)
SLOPPY JALOPY (UPA)
MAGIC CANVAS (Halas & Batchelor)
LITTLE BEAU PEPE (Warner Bros.)
TOO BOO OR NOT TOO BOO (Famous)
SLING SHOT 6 7/8 (Walter Lantz)
ONE CAB’S FAMILY (MGM) Tex Avery

Here’s the documentation:

Oscar-nom-1951

And here are the films (unfortunately not all of them are online – we will update this post when complete intact copies appear):

GIFT WRAPPED

A rare Christmas themed cartoon from Warners as Tweety and Sylvester chase around the holiday tree – throw in a bull dog and Granny for good measure (“Ya didn’t count on Pocahontas, did ya, Geronimo?“) and you have a classic.


ALPINE FOR YOU

Of course I’d give this one an Oscar just for the end title that puts Popeye in front of the Paramount logo. A re-working of Fleischer’s I-Ski Love-Ski-You-Ski (1936), this time with Bluto – the French accented “world-famous mountain guide” – as Popeye’s rival. Steve Muffatti was the head animator.


BY LEAPS AND HOUNDS

A cute little cartoon taking place at a fox hound training college. Innocent little Herbert the Hound has trouble recognizing an axe-wielding fox (an English cousin of the one from the Baby Huey cartoons), despite the constant reminder of the fox’s “Bushy Tail, long pointed snout and sharp teeth”.

herbert-maodel-sheet


SING AGAIN OF MICHIGAN

It was nice of Famous to screen a Screen Song for the Academy… but what the hey? There was no way this cliche-ridden travelogue spoof was going to be nominated. Native Indians as ticket “scalpers” (get it?); the Detroit Tigers depicted as tigers, spoofs of the state’s automobile industry and furniture manufacturing… Ho-hum. Even Buzzy the funny crow can’t enliven the proceedings, making a cameo (with Jack Mercer doing the voice – badly) to introduce the 1914 Irving Berlin song, “I Want To Go Back To Michigan Down On The Farm”. Pass.


BALLOT BOX BUNNY

One of my personal favorites of the “Bugs vs. Sam” battles – and particularly fun to rewatch during an election year. I’d love to see a certain present-day candidate play “Those Endearing Young Charms” with such skill.


SLOPPY JALOPY

Magoo’s eighth cartoon – and one of the memorable ones from this early period. Magoo plans to buy a jalopy for Waldo, taking a used-car salesman on a nightmare test drive. A Columbia Favorite – but not of the Academy. That’s okay because a pair of better Magoo’s actually get the Oscar in subsequent years.

sloppy-jalopy-movie-poster-1952-1020673061


MAGIC CANVAS

Foreign, abstract/expertimental and independent all rolled into one token such entry. Made in 1948 (but released in the US in 1951), this was Halas and Batchelor (with artist Peter Foldes) “first highly self-conscious personal film”. Sort of a short-form Fantasia. Though not-quite Oscar worthy, it gave the Academy shorts branch a preview of things to come.


LITTLE BEAU PEPE

The one in the Foreign Legion – it’s not one of the better Warner cartoons this year and distinctly lesser Jones in a year that released Feed the Kitty and Cheese Chasers. That said, it is a good Pepe cartoon – and in a refreshingly different locale.

little-beau-pepe


TOO BOO OR NOT TOO BOO

For a Casper cartoon, this one is pretty good. It has a heart-breaking story, a clever twist on the familiar Casper narrative – and a truly happy ending. It’s sweet – and doesn’t contain a baby bear, skunk, pig or Little Billy. For that alone it should be recognized – though perhaps not by the Academy.


SLING SHOT 6 7/8

The best of the “silent” Woody Woodpecker cartoons of the early 50s? Maybe it is, maybe its not… but certainly politically incorrect from today’s point of view. Woody in the old west – versus a native American Buzz Buzzard. Wally Walrus is around as the Sheriff. Some great sight gags – but c’mon, not one of Walter Lantz’ best.

slingshot-7-woody


ONE CAB’S FAMILY

Any Avery is worthy of nomination – and many were worthy of winning – but this one (co-written by Big Moose-keteer Roy Williams) was a little more ‘traditional’ than most. One of the last films Tex produced before taking a year off to rest (after a nervous breakdown), it’s still great by any standard – but the studio might have had better luck if they entered Avery’s other 1951 season masterpieces, Symphony In Slang, Magical Maestro to name but a few…

30 Comments

  • I’ve never seen Slingshot 67/8 on tv, the only version I found was on YouTube in Portuguese and somehow played backwards (As in the images were “flipped over” for some unknown reason). Of course Dal McKinnon and Grace Safford did the VO in the cartoon. And I loved Gift Wrapped with the Hopalong Cassidy-Geronimo-Pocahontas reference even though the scene was censored in future showings on tv.

    • Click on the still image above to see SLINGSHOT 6 7/8 in English from some odd toon website.

    • 1951?? Some of these came out in 1952, but it was in the early months so they did quyalify. BTW Was “One Man’s Family”‘s raido version a MGM thingy or what, given the supposed exclusive use of riffs on the title in “One Cab’s” and “One Hens”..and Harman’s One Hen’s—Walter Lantz, Schlesinger/WB,etc. never released a “One…Family” type title.

      Daws Butler’s first WB voice was in “Gift Wrapped.”

      Lambert NOT haivng heart (esp.with Sterling Holloway?) Baaaad thing to say! I too have a very soft spot for this and the catchy theme song.

    • The studios qualified some cartoons that were “in the can” in 1951 and scheduled for release in 1952. That still happens today with many features – live and animated. For example, THE RED TURTLE, an animated feature scheduled for wide U.S. release in January 2017, is being qualified for the 2016 Oscar race (requirements include a publicized one-week run in a Los Angeles theatre in December).

    • BIGG3469, the reason images are often “flipped over” in YouTube videos is that the uploaders are trying to keep YouTube’s automatic censors from detecting the copyrighted content. I think I’d personally not upload at all rather than flip the image, but it’s understandable that many people do it.

  • Also To Boo or Not To Boo was a Halloween-themed cartoon where Casper wanted to join and make friends with the human kids and to go ‘Trick or Treating’ with them. He befriends a young lady who meets Casper (incognito as a human boy) at the Halloween barn dance. When revealed as a “real” ghost, everyone ran away except for the young lady who, in fact, was a ghost herself!

    • It’s kind of a rethought ending from “A Haunting We Will Go,” where Casper gets his ghost friend at the end by having the hunter kill Ferdie. Much sweeter ending this way, and since we’re still early in the series, not bogged down by the story line repetition that would follow.

  • ONE CAB’S FAMILY must have stayed on their minds since LITTLE JOHNNY JET got nominated next. I read that Fred Quimby was not a fan of Tex Avery and sabotaged his films’ chances often. Fittingly his nominees were either wartime patriotic (BLITZ WOLF) or cute like some of the Tom & Jerry series.

    The Warner Bros. cartoons were consistently excellent, but also… well… consistent. No doubt the Academy would have favored a Special Award for the studio’s entire output. Another factor hurting their chances during this gap period in the early fifties were all of the outstanding live action shorts that Warner put out. They did, in fact, get awarded more than any other studio in the Live Action Shorts and Documentary Shorts categories, outpacing even MGM. Robert Youngson was the Ken Burns of the late forties and fifties with his nostalgic trips to yesteryear in newsreel and vintage comedy footage and something like WORLD OF KIDS must have been the “fresh” pick over the latest Pepe and Tweety ‘toon. THE SEEING EYE was the company’s second documentary on the famous dog school of New Jersey, this time in Technicolor and told from a doggie’s point of view. This would be the “cute” choice that made the voters go “awwww”. At least Warner got its annual award attention, when not going to A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE.

  • Gift Wrapped, One Cab’s Family, Little Beau Pepe, Ballot Box Bunny, and Sloppy Jalopy are all great cartoons.

  • Don’t know why Feed the Kitty wasn’t screened. It would have cinched a nomination for sure. Still, the three WB shorts that were considered are pretty great, especially Ballot Box Bunny.

  • “Lambert” not having much ‘heart’? I thought it was very touching that the one ewe was left out without a lamb until the stork bring out Lambert (a lion cub) by mistake. Plus, there was the close relationship with Lambert and his adopted mother.

    I also found it interesting that Disney only sent one animated short to be inspected by the Academy. Of course, by that time, that also had the True-Life Adventure, “Nature’s Half-Acres” which one the award. I’m guessing that they’re hoping “Alice in Wonderland” would get some sort of nomination, but as Walt later said, the critic didn’t “cared about Alice”.

    • I agree on Lambert having heart. I have a soft spot for this short.

      It might be fun to have readers cast their ballots in the comments (or include an embedded poll on the post somewhere) to see how we might revise history. I’ve always thought Tom & Jerry were overrated Oscar winners.

  • What a relaxing voting session with 14 films to consider. This year there are 70 films eligible for a nomination.

  • Little Beau Pepe is viewable here:
    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4j5ws9

    Sloppy Jalopy (in Portuguese?)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYk_r1m1zcU

    Slingshot-6 7/8 is here with Woody’s TV narration added.
    http://www.b99.tv/video/slingshot-6-78/

    It’s also on the DVD box set Woody Woodpecker & Friends Vol 1, disk 3 without narration. (and on the site Jerry linked to).

    • “Slingshot 6 7/8” was one of the many Woody Woodpecker cartoons that never made into the home movie release by Castle Films. Castle never made it into the Castle/Lantz library. This was the only time that Woody was silent, just like they did with all of the Castle Films’ Woody Woodpecker cartoons that are all silent with the use of intertitles.

    • To Chris: SLINGSHOT 6 7/8 was indeed released by Castle Films; they changed its title to THE HOT SHOT.

    • Castle changed the titles of several of the Woody Woodpecker cartoons: “Ski for Two” became “Woody Plays Santa Claus,” “Under the Counter Spy” became “Secret Agent FOB,” the first Woody cartoon was retitled “The Cracked Nut.”

  • Interesting that Paramount at least put up a front and submitted some cartoons, even though I have to believe they knew none of them had a chance of winning. I note that Fox, though, didn’t even bother pretending. No Terrytoons up for an Academy Award this year.

    • Terrytoons never made the Oscars back in 1951, with the exception of Mighty Mouse cartoon “A Gypsy Life”, the only Terrytoon to received an Oscar from about 1945 or so that I don’t know the year.

  • I sometimes wondered who decided to submit what cartoons to the Oscars. In the case of Warner Bros. was it Leon Schlesinger, and Eddie Selzer?

    • In this case it would have been Seltzer. Schlesinger sold the studio to Warner’s in 1944 and died in ’49.

  • This list, since it is in the form of a ballot, looks like the second screening short list of cartoons. Jerry, do you know for certain that there wasn’t a first elimination screening that year, 1952? The program is dated February 1, 1952 and the first screenings could have been earlier, with a lot more submissions.

    • What you suggest, Mark, is possible. This could be the “shortlist” after a preliminary screening. Personally, I don’t think so.

      We may never know. It took months to dig out the Academy shorts screening memos that I was able to obtain – even with the full cooperation of the Academy. This is what they have. There was no “master file” for these documents, no one source. This data was scattered about in different places, different folders. People there had a hard time understanding what I was looking for… and were even more confused as to “why” I’d want such information.

      One thing to keep in mind – the way the Academy votes in this category today is different than the way it was done back in the 40s and 50s. Rules have been changed and modified over the decades. How many entries they received back in the 40s and 50s were certainly closer to what we see here than the 70+ entries the category receives today.

      All we know for sure is that the final voters saw these films to determine the final nominations. If Sing Again For Michigan beat out many others to make this short list, I can’t imagine how bad those films were.

  • I’m assuming the “Slingshot 6 7/8” title is a play on Winchester ’73 (1950)?

  • I want to see the full cartoon of Sing Again of Michigan.

    • I agree with Chris. Where can a full version of SING AGAIN OF MICHIGAN be found?

  • I hadn’t seen “BY LEAPS AND HOUNDS” in years, but I would consider it an interesting Oscar contender, and not necessarily because of its cuteness, and “TO BOO OR NOT TO BOO” proved that the CASPER series did have something going for it…and the animation in those cartoons alone can be incredibly entertaining. I also have to agree with those who sit in wonder as to why “FEED THE KITTY” was not screened. It is, by far, my favorite cartoon from Warner Brothers of that period and so many emotions fill you all at once when you’re watching it, especially as Mark Antony thinks that Pussyfoot’s end is near, ending up as a kitty cookie. I’d never seen this cartoon with an audience at a theater. I was only introduced to it and the other cartoons on this list from classic TV airings.

  • The Irving Berlin song about Michigan was published in 1914 but had been performed more recently by Judy Garland in the 1948 musical “Easter Parade.”

    The original 78 rpm recording:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLLQk6CGe2w

    • Watching these “Screen Songs”, it’s intresting to note how often certain songs that were used here had copyright information provided (and renewals) in the opening credits, at least they weren’t all PD just yet..

  • “By Leaps and Hounds” seems like the perfect example of everything that went wrong with Famous Studios. From the shopworn plotlines to the cloying cuteness that undermines the comedy to flat timing. Even the characters have peculiar motivations. Why were those dogs chasing that fox in the first place? Just to tie him up?

    At least it was interesting to see the uncut ending of “Alpine for You”.

    There’s an odd charm to those silent Woodys. “Slingshot” was funny enough, but no real competition for “Rooty” or “Two Mouseketeers”. “Termites From Mars” might have been a good choice, but I don’t remember offhand what year it came out.

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