Animation History
May 11, 2017 posted by

Cartoons Considered For An Academy Award – 1952

EDITOR’S NOTE: By popular demand – and Steve calling me at the last moment to say he needs to skip this week here in order to work on student finals at his school – I hereby continue my intermittent series on the animated shorts submitted to the Academy for Oscar consideration but DIDN’T make the cut. To view the first post (1949) in this series, click here. The second post (1951) click here. – Jerry Beck

1952

The nominees were…

LITTLE JOHNNY JET (MGM) Tex Avery
MADELINE (UPA) Robert Cannon
PINK AND BLUE BLUES (UPA) Pete Burness (Magoo)
ROMANCE OF TRANSPORTATION (National Film Board of Canada) Colin Low

And the Oscar went to…

JOHANN MOUSE (MGM), Fred Quimby Producer – Bill Hanna & Joseph Barbera, directors.


It’s now 1952 and UPA is king. But that hasn’t stopped Lantz and Famous Studios from submitting what they believe are their finest of the year. Amongst the films shown at the preliminary screenings on January 28-30, 1953 that didn’t make it were Chuck Jones’ Duck Amuck, Disney’s The Little House, Famous Studios ultra-violent Mice Capades and uber-racist Popeye’s Pappy.

Likewise international super-stars Norman McLaren, John Halas and Joop Geesink were dissed. It was not their time. Donald Duck, Little Audrey, Woody Woodpecker, Casper, Gerald McBoing Boing and Sylvester were also rejected.

Submitted, screened, but NOT nominated were:

Academy_Award_trophy175JOHN GILPIN (Halas & Batchelor) John Halas
AROUND IS AROUND (Thalia Productions) Norman McLaren, Evelyn Lambart
GERALD McBOING BOING’S SYMPHONY (Columbia/UPA) Robert Cannon
KERMESSE FANTASTIQUE (Lopert Films) Jozet Misik
POPEYE’S PAPPY (Paramount/Famous Studios) I. Sparber
GHOST OF THE TOWN (Paramount/Famous Studios) I. Sparber
GAG AND BAGGAGE (Paramount/Famous Studios) I. Sparber
CASE OF THE COCK-EYED CANARY (Paramount/Famous Studios) Seymour Kneitel
MICE CAPADES (Paramount/Famous Studios) Seymour Kneitel
THE LITTLE HOUSE (RKO/Disney) Wilfred Jackson
TRICK OR TREAT (RKO/Disney) Jack Hannah
TERMITES FROM MARS (Universal/Walter Lantz) Don Patterson
DUCK AMUCK (Warner Bros.) Chuck Jones
A MOUSE DIVIDED (Warner Bros.) I. Freleng

Here’s the documentation:


What did it feel like during those screenings that last week of January? Imagine you are Chuck Jones or Ward Kimball attending the show – what must they have thought of Herman and Katnip, or Joop Geesink’s Dollywood? With this post we ask that you put yourself in their place – here are some the films (unfortunately not all of them are online – we will update this post when complete intact copies appear). Enjoy the show!


JOHN GILPIN (Halas & Batchelor) This was a John Halas’ adaptation – for a series of British “Painter and Poet” shorts – of a famed 1782 William Cowper poem about John Gilpin and his wild ride on an out-of-control horse. Using Ronald Searle art as its basis, the film is still MIA. But a book of Searle’s art from the film exists online – and it whets the appetite.


AROUND IS AROUND by Norman McLaren and Evelyn Lambart was commissioned by the British Film Institute for the Festival of Britain. It photographs moving oscilloscope patterns in 3-D. This now-rarely screened stereoscopic film is included in Bob Furmanek’s must-have blu-ray set 3-D Rarities. Buy it!


GERALD McBOING BOING’S SYMPHONY UPA’s follow-up to its Oscar winning 1950 game-changer is a bit of a disappointment. Graphically it’s beautiful, but to paraphrase Walt Disney on his Three Little Pigs sequels: “You can’t top Boing-Boing with Boing-Boing.”


KERMESSE FANTASTIQUE, directed by Jozet Misik, is one of the wonderful Joop Geesink “Dollywood” shorts from Holland. Foreign film distributor Lopert Films released these to US theaters – usually the art houses. The only reason I can think of for this film to be nixed for Oscar nomination is that it comes off like a promotion for television (even though that home entertainment device seen here is, I think, a radio).


POPEYE’S PAPPY (Paramount/Famous Studios) I. Sparber

Hoo-boy! Poopdeck Pappy is King on a South Pacific island who isn’t tempted to come home – until Popeye goes in drag, then gets cooked by cannibals. Needless to say, Popeye and Pappy beat the crap out of the natives for a happy ending.


GHOST OF THE TOWN (Paramount/Famous Studios) I. Sparber

Casper visits New York City and saves a baby – this leads him to being featured on The Ed Sullivan Show where he teaches the audience to sing his theme song. There should be an award for this sort of film – but the Oscar isn’t it.


GAG AND BAGGAGE (Paramount/Famous Studios) I. Sparber

Lame railroad gags in a fairly generic cartoon: A mouse redcap carrying a ‘trunk’ for an elephant passenger (get it?); A Mail Car followed by a “Female” Car – and other ‘knee-slappers’ like that. Sing along with “I’ve Been Workin’ On The Railroad”, the 1894 public domain folk tune. They submitted this? Really?


CASE OF THE COCK-EYED CANARY (Paramount/Famous Studios) Seymour Kneitel

Okay – this one is fairly good. Private Detective Audrey dreams herself into the old ‘Who Killed Cock Robin’ chestnut – with several movie star caricatures. The Oscar voters must have loved that gag with the turtle watching television (and Audrey’s confused “why would anyone do that?” reaction).


MICE CAPADES (Paramount/Famous Studios) Seymour Kneitel

This is one of the best Herman and Katnip cartoons – so I can understand why they’d submit it. Herman and his cousins “gaslight” Katnip into thinking he’s dead and in Heaven. Tons of behavior you wouldn’t want ‘junior’ to imitate – Sid Raymond and Arnold Stang at their best. In the end Katnip actually dies and the threat of “the fiery furnace” becomes real! Love it!


THE LITTLE HOUSE (RKO/Disney) Wilfred Jackson

A cute little short – with narration by Sterling Holloway – and art-direction by Mary Blair (who doesn’t receive any credit). There were several specials from this period that feel like left-overs from the package film days… A film like this would probably have been nominated a few years earlier – but in the new UPA era, I’ll bet the shorts committee thought this was a little old hat. A shame. It’s a latter day classic.


TRICK OR TREAT (RKO/Disney) Jack Hannah

Another classic – one of Jack Hannah’s best. June Foray as Witch Hazel, Donald at his most demonic, and an infectious original song. Again, the committee must have considered this too old fashioned – but its certainly stood the test of time.


TERMITES FROM MARS (Universal/Walter Lantz) Don Patterson’s “War Of The Worlds” spoof – perfectly timed to help promote Lantz’ good-buddy George Pal and his live action feature version. Patterson’s direction is a plus. This 3-minute clip on You Tube is all you need to see to get the idea (though I recommend you pick up the Woody Woodpecker and Friends DVD (Vol. 2) to see the whole thing).


DUCK AMUCK is a Chuck Jones classic. It should have been nominated.


A MOUSE DIVIDED (Warner Bros.) A Freleng “stork” cartoon with a very funny premise. Sylvester is married and henpecked about having children. When a pixilated stork brings a mouse instead of a kitten, it becomes a war between Sylvester’s appetite versus his wife’s motherly instincts. It expands to papa Sylvester versus the neighborhood alley cats and the stork himself – and a twist conclusion. Good stuff!

26 Comments

  • The only reason I can think of for this film to be nixed is that it looks like a promotion for television (even though that home entertainment device seen here is, I think, a radio).

    It is. Although not shown in this clip, it’s meant to be an advertisement for Philips’ radios, the film ends with the Philips logo you can see here…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXqsA_GUfIU

    This is one of the best Herman and Katnip cartoons – so I can understand why they’d submit it. Herman and his cousins “gaslight” Katnip into thinking he’s dead and in Heaven. Tons of behavior you wouldn’t want ‘junior’ to copy – Sid Raymond and Arnold Stang at their best. In the end Katnip actually dies and the threat of “the fiery furnace” becomes real! Love it!

    You just wonder if they had to ask Katnip to throw his corpse away in the incinerator, he won’t need it anymore!

  • I agree that “Gerald McBoing Boing’s Symphony” isn’t that good. “Duck Amuck” and “Trick or Treat” definitely should have been nominated. I had no idea that those two and “The Little House,” “A Mouse Divided” and “Termites from Mars” were considered.

  • It’s a shame most of these cartoons were pass for a nomination, especially “Duck Amuck”. Fortunately, that cartoon has since got the highest honor of being in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. And I thought “The Little House” had a bit of a UPA style in it’s layout. As for “Johann Mouse”, I enjoyed it. I love Hans Conrad’s narration, but I still can’t help wonder if it would still win had “Duck Amuck” been in the final nomination line-up. Very stiff competition there.

    By the way, for “Ghost of the Town”, which I considered as one of the better Casper shorts(and one that should’ve end it cliché of people running away from Casper), was that really Ed Sullivan voicing himself?

  • At least Duck Amuck was even submitted and considered for a nomination.

  • This has probably been mentioned before, but how could the Academy have ignored “FEED THE KITTY”? It would certainly have been at the top of my list for contenders! Just listen to the commentary on this cartoon found on LOONEY TUNES PLATINUM COLLECTION to know all the reasons why this short is worth an award!

  • Some great stuff here. Obviously DUCK AMUCK is the masterpiece that fell through the cracks, but Disney’s THE LITTLE HOUSE deserves more attention than it receives. Leonard Maltin once considered TERMITES FROM MARS as the “greatest” of the Woody Woodpeckers. I don’t agree necessarily, but it is still a good cartoon. I like Hans Conried’s narration for JOHANN MOUSE and the production values are quite opulent, but it seems like the Academy members were feeling nostalgic for CAT CONCERTO after the recent onslaught of UPA “modernism”. A MOUSE DIVIDED, like BEANSTALK BUNNY and CATCH AS CATS CAN, are among the many classic WB shorts that have sadly not made the DVD cut. Mind you, a lot of great Tex Avery material for MGM hasn’t either (not to mention MOUSE CLEANING), so we have to take all of this in perspective.

  • While people talk about the Academy’s odd choices for the Oscar winners over the years, they don’t as often mention the odd choices for Oscar nominations. The list here’s pretty much a poster child for that (“Johann Mouse” was a nice change-of-pace Tom & Jerry effort, and just about anything with Hans Conreid in it is worth watching. But when you look at the overall list of what finally made it to the voters versus what was discarded, it seems that style was more important in several cases than actually entertaining the audience).

  • DUCK AMUCK is among a handful of the greatest cartoons of all time. It was certainly better than Johann Mouse. The lack of even a nomination is a great mystery.

  • Can’t believe that Termites from Mars, Trick or Treat, Ghost of the Town and Duck Amuck were snubbed for the Oscar for Best Animated Short of 1952!

    Love the part in Termites from Mars where the frantic announcer kept interrupting every single program that Woody was trying to watch tv from a Hawaiian theme show with Hula dancers to a wrestling match.

    Trick or Treat featured June Foray as a witch named Hazel who spoke in Olde England reciting several lines from Shakespeare. And this was before Chuck Jones and Warner Brothers had their own version of Witch Hazel with June Foray doing her voice as well!

    Ghost of the Town was the first cartoon that Casper finally made contact with the living (other than “Little Billy”) and became a hero twice, first saving a toddler from a raging inferno at a brownstone apartment building, and later successfully preventing a Army of ghosts from trying to terrorize a TV studio audience.

    And Duck Amuck where Daffy was being harassed by a unknown animator including the part where he has major stress attack near the end and his antagonist is revealed (spoiler alert) as none other than Bugs Bunny (who would later get his comeuppance via Elmer Fudd in Rabbit Rampage (1955)).

  • Duck Amuck should have been submitted.

    I would have submitted Case of the Cock-Eyed Canary and Mice Capades because I love Famous Studios cartoons.

  • Famous had chutzpah to submit five cartoons for the Oscars in the same year!

  • I’m glad Duck Amuck didn’t get the nomination. Overrated tripe, I have no idea why people think Jones was at all a good director for Looney Tunes. His other stuff aside from it is really terrible.

    • It’s because of his timing and his unique sense of style. His stuff is like a melody to me.

    • Always loved Chuck Jones cartoons, but I can understand why some consider him “over rated”. I also think there is a fascinating backstory involving WHAT’S OPERA, DOC? that is dying to be revealed… if we make it to 1957, the year Friz Freleng’s BIRDS ANONYMOUS won and Robert McKimson’s TABASCO ROAD got nominated. Apparently Eddie Selzer (or somebody higher up) may have favored both directors over Jones. I mean… we have this curious gap between Jones’ FOR SCENTIMENTAL REASONS and FROM A TO ZZZZ, then you start wondering what is going on during the years following. Only after Eddie Selzer retires, do all of these later Jones films start getting nominated again as if he has just been removed from the Hollywood Blacklist. Ha ha! Was it because Friz and Robert were the more obedient work-horses and Jones was getting too pretentious a.k.a. WHAT’S OPERA, DOC? in trying to duplicate what the Arthur Freed unit had been doing at MGM in live-action? Jones always was super critical of Eddie and I am thinking the feelings were mutual.

    • There’s “Rabbit Rampage” from 1955 where Bugs gets redrawn constantly by…..(mystery guest!).:)

  • That “Duck Amuck” was eventually selected to be preserved by the Film Preservation folks is something of a seminal victory.

  • I didn’t realize ‘A Mouse Divided’ was in the running for nomination. For sheer entertainment value, that one delivers the goods. So many laugh-out-loud moments, in my opinion it’s better than Freleng’s winner ‘Tweetie Pie’.

    As for Famous, they must have been employing the spaghetti method; throw everything against the wall and hope something sticks. Looking at the end of ‘Gag and Baggage’ leads me to paraphrase Bugs Bunny: Eh, I think Tex Avery did it much better, don’t you folks?

  • I forgot to mentioned that I noticed Paul Terry decided not to participate again. I guess he felt his cartoons were really Woolworth material and not Oscar material. I wouldn’t really say that. Polished or not, I found something like “Happy Valley” much more interesting that Famous’ “Gag and Baggage”. At least, the former didn’t have awful puns.

    • Yes, Paul Terry should have put up several of his animated shorts for Oscar consideration in 1952 – including….

      The Mechanical Bird a animated operetta based on the classic story The Emperor and the Nightingale,

      Happy Valley a “Æsop Fable” animated operetta on a sinister man who duped the farmers by planting gold in Happy Valley nearly destroying their farmland with their greed.

      Time Gallops On about a blacksmith seeing the evolution of the automobile and getting involved in a race with a mechanical horse that he created with one of those new fangled automobiles

      The Happy Cobblers a animated operetta based on The Shoemaker and the Elves where elves help a cobbler and his dog created shoes for sale so the cobbler won’t go out of business and became
      Cobbler to the King

      Off to the Opera where Heckle and Jeckle reeks havoc while sneaking into the Opera featuring the song Largo al factotum (Fígaro) from The Barber of Seville

      Hansel and Gretel – starring Mighty Mouse as he tries to save Hansel and Gretel from a evil witch

      Mysterious Cowboy a parody of “Masked Avenger Cowboy” movies and radio shows – including The Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy and Red Ryder

      And…

      Seaside Adventures, about a young rabbit going on a adventure by the sea to help his impoverished mom and help rescue the King of Frogs from a marauding flamingo.

  • We seem to be almost unanimous on the subject of “Duck Amuck”, so I won’t labor it.

    “A Mouse Divided”, “Trick or Treat”, and “Termites From Mars” were also worthy, but it’s the unseen Halas and Batchelor flicker that interests me because I like a lot of what I’ve seen of their work. “The Hoffnung Symphony” and “Hamilton” cartoons were good fun with good design choices(plus it’s just about the only Hamilton you can see without paying a fortune for Broadway theater seats.). It’s a shame much of their early work is hard to find. I’ve seen only seen two of the “Foo Foo” shorts on Youtube and one was quickly yanked for some copyright crap reason. Oh well.

  • Re: Gag and Baggage

    gag (verb): choke or retch.
    baggage (noun): past experiences or long-held ideas regarded as burdens and impediments.

    Quite the fitting title, no?

  • Thanks JB, for this terrific post! The only cartoon I hadn’t seen before was Kermesse Fantastique. The design of the characters reminds me a little of George Pal, but Geesink’s armature animation couldn’t compete with Pal’s replacement technique. George Pal approached the flexibility of drawn animation in his Puppetoons by using sequential puppets for each frame of film in an action, such as a walk cycle, or dialog. Geesink did compose crowd scenes well, and his use of color was opulent, He used a bit of replacement for the little grey-suited guy’s head. This allowed the character to get into some really exaggerated facial expressions when he’s on the coaster ride. I really liked the people on mechanical horses with the red and white striped awning behind them. The carnival ride to hell was fantastic! Parts of it look like the Disneyland “Dark Rides” just a few years before the park opened. The green skull that snaps it’s jaws shut as the coaster car enters it, was creepy. The Academy may not have liked the fact that this was a sponsored film, but it was an attractive and entertaining picture.

  • One last note to add. I watched the always highly entertaining A MOUSE DIVIDED so many times on TV in my youth and it only dawned on me, after watching it again, how ridiculous the whole premise is. There is one baby mouse and so many cats hungry for it. A mouse “divided” would have to be divided into such itty bitty portions.

    • The situation would be reversed in “Mouse-Placed Kitten,” with the stork delivering a kitten to the Fibber McGee & Molly-ish mouse couple.
      Sylvester’s greedy alley-cat pals would return in “Heir-Conditioned” (part of the “Sloan Trilogy”).

  • The version of “Gerald McBoing Boing’s Symphony” linked to in the post has an edit at 5:53 that ruins the whole story. I just re-watched the cartoon on the TCM set: The radio station gets a stack of letters praising Gerald’s performance.

  • Loving these series of posts, I can’t help but ponder an bizzaro alternate universe where the Academy gave in and nominated a lousy Screen Song/Kartune with all these snubbed Famous Studios submissions.

    The John Gilpin film exists at the BFI along with the vast majority of the Halas and Batchelor collection, though it’s certainly not available anywhere publicly as far as I am aware:
    http://collections-search.bfi.org.uk/web/Details/ChoiceFilmWorks/150001313

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