Animation History
June 5, 2017 posted by Jerry Beck

Cartoons Considered For An Academy Award – 1955

1955 was an melancholy midpoint for the Academy short cartoon nominees. A last hurrah for the traditional Hollywood short as it had been for the last 22 years. Nothing radical or game-changing nominated this year – just a group of good solid cartoons. The nominees include a token Disney short – a Jack Hannah Donald Duck; Lantz submitted one of the last Tex Avery cartoons (and a strong one at that); MGM put forward a Hanna-Barbera special (its CinemaScope update of Hugh Harman’s 1939s Peace On Earth); and Warner Bros. entered a handsome Freleng ‘re-boot’ (of a homely McKimson character), which launched a new cartoon superstar.

1955

The actual nominees were…

GOOD WILL TO MEN (MGM) Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera
THE LEGEND OF ROCK-A-BYE POINT (Lantz) Tex Avery
NO HUNTING (Disney) Jack Hannah

And the Oscar went to…

SPEEDY GONZALES (Warner Bros.) Friz Freleng

You can watch director Friz Freleng accept the award (on behalf of producer Edward Selzer) here:


And thus we continue our research into what other cartoons were submitted to the Academy for Oscar consideration but failed to make the cut. Also submitted, screened, but NOT nominated were:

DIZZY DISHES (Paramount/Famous Studios) I. Sparber
A JOB FOR A GOB (Paramount/Famous Studios) Seymour Kneitel
MAGOO MAKES NEWS (UPA) Pete Burness
MONSIEUR HERMAN (Paramount/Famous Studios) Dave Tendlar
SPOOKING WITH A BROGUE (Paramount/Famous Studios) Seymour Kneitel

Here’s the documentation:

Well you have to admit, of what was submitted, the best films were nominated. It was a no-brainer to eliminate the Paramount cartoons – What part of NEVER BEING NOMINATED did Famous not understand? You have to admire the studio for their persistence. Strange that UPA’s only submission this year was completely aced out. Even stranger, the studio didn’t submit some of their one-shots (Baby Boogie, The Rise of Duton Lang) – but to be honest they weren’t very good. Terrytoons doesn’t bother any more (and they were installing Gene Deitch this year, and weren’t yet ready for prime time; Sorry, Little Roguefort fans, No Sleep For Percy never really had a chance). No independents or foreign films submitted.

For your edification and viewing pleasure, here are the Famous Studios cartoons that didn’t make the cut (Magoo Makes News is not online – I will update this post with the Magoo if it ever shows up on You Tube). Enjoy the show!


DIZZY DISHES (Paramount/Famous Studios) I. Sparber

For many of us, the sacred title Dizzy Dishes is best known as the 1930 Paramount cartoon which served as the debut of Max Fleischer’s Betty Boop. Fifteen years later the title is revived by Paramount for use on another series featuring Boop’s longtime voice Mae Questel – this time, Little Audrey. I’ve always liked this one because of the use of comic books and the science fiction theme. “Flying saucers” were in the news in the late 40s and early 50s, and science fiction media – from TV’s primitive Captain Video to the lavish, adult-themed The Day The Earth Stood Still – was hard to escape at the time. This cartoon’s premise allowed the Famous staff to recall imagery from the first Fleischer Superman cartoon – scientific laboratories, death rays and the like. Audrey’s inventors prowess reminds one of Grampy’s ability to turn household objects – seltzer bottles, coffee pots, salt shakers – into, here, weapons of mass destruction. The cartoon ends with a gag visualizing literal flying cups and saucers, and Audrey’s annoying forced laugh (“Ahhh-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha…”). All in all, Dizzy Dishes was perhaps a little too juvenile for the shorts branch to seriously consider.


A JOB FOR A GOB (Paramount/Famous Studios) Seymour Kneitel

Out west with Popeye and Bluto, who compete (ala Droopy and Spike at MGM) for a job – this time for cowgirl Olive Oyl. If watching Popeye brand cattle with a pogo stick (“it’s more humane”) or seeing Bluto cruelly wind the neck of a helpless steer is your idea of fun, this film is for you. Bluto’s ass gets quite a work-out here: first his rear-end lands on a cactus, then has the indignity of having Popeye play tic-tac-toe on his butt – and in the end (pun-intended) getting paddle-whacked by a windmill. That’s gotta hurt. Nice skatting by Mercer at the fade out.


MAGOO MAKES NEWS (UPA) Pete Burness

As much as I admire the theatrical Magoo cartoons – and 1955 was perhaps the prime of the series – this particular entry is not the best example. In Magoo Makes News, Mr. Magoo mistakes a sales flyer for a shut-off notice from the electric company. This leads him to go downtown that night to complain, mistaking the local newspaper printing plant for the Power Company headquarters. This leads to Magoo getting caught up in the large press rollers, ultimately getting bundled up with the morning newspapers – and finally delivered back to home on the news truck. The dialogue isn’t particularly funny, Magoo’s banter with nephew Waldo at the start is a yawn. Magoo’s Express, Stage Door Magoo and Magoo’s Check-Up had better premises and funnier Backus ad-libs. Don’t be too sad for Magoo and UPA – Spoiler Alert – they strike back next year with a vengeance!

(MAGOO MAKES NEWS can be seen on Shout Factory’s Mr. Magoo The Theatrical Collection – I highly recommend you purchase that set)


MONSIEUR HERMAN (Paramount/Famous Studios) Dave Tendlar

Never mess with a mouse armed with an air brush! That’s the take-away from Monsieur Herman, a particularly “arty” Herman & Katnip entry. Set in a Parisian artist studio, American Herman Mouse visits his French cousins (all sporting beret’s and French mustaches) who need the cat to model for their paintings. Herman immediately clobbers art critic Katnip (who uses a knife to slash their paintings) using an American artform: Graffiti. “As they say in Brooklyn – I’ll murder da bum”! Death would have been the merciful way for Katnip, who first gets a thumbtack to the palm, then a glass pitcher to the head, before being cremated in a ceramic oven. Personally I love the Dave Tendlar art and animation here – but that’s me. The Academy thought otherwise.


SPOOKING WITH A BROGUE (Paramount/Famous Studios) Seymour Kneitel

It must have been nice for the Academy’s Shorts Subjects Executive Committee to get an annual report on the doings at Famous Studios. Every year, monitoring the progress of the former Max Fleischer Studio, screening what someone at Paramount thought was their best work. Oh, I’d like to think that there was one positive aspect to screening Spooking With A Brogue for the committee… but honestly I can’t imagine what that could be. Oh worra, worra, worra… This time Casper travels to Ireland and after several visual cliches on the way (The “Emerald” Isle, the “rocky road” to Dublin, etc.) meets up with Little Billy …err, some kid with a poor widowed mother being threatened with foreclosure by “Mr. McMiser”. Casper pretends to give hope by posing as a Leprechaun – faking a pot o’gold by using corn, goldfish and unhatched eggs. After scaring the crap out of McMiser, they steal his gold for, I suppose, a happy ending. Though its possible Little Billy may be charged with the crime, spending his life in a Dickens-esque poor house, his mother thrown out on the street… but we won’t go there.


The earlier posts in this series: 1948, 1951, 1952, 1953 and 1954.

16 Comments

  • Great to see Friz Freleng in the archived TV footage accepting the Oscar that technically belongs to his personal unit. Somewhere online you can also find the radio broadcast (audio only, being pre-TV) of the 1950 Oscars with Pepe Le Pew winning but not mention of who is getting the statue. The commentator jokes that the skunk is there.

  • DIZZY DISHES – far and away the best Audrey episode, and one of the very best Famous Studio toons from the fifties. Still.

    • AGreed..and it has that familiar surprise ending..

  • While I like “Magoo Makes News”, I agree that any of the other Magoos you mentioned would have been a stronger nominee. My money would have been on “Magoo’s Express”, an all time favorite of mine.
    By this time UPA was mostly resting on its laurels. Most of the studio’s strongest voices, like John Hubley and Phil Eastman, had left due to the Blacklist, and many of the better animators (Art Babbitt, Bill Melendez) went with them. Columbia was forcing UPA to drop the stand-alone shorts and concentrate on Magoo. What was once the most radical studio in Hollywood was becoming just another factory.

    • I always thought those Magoo cartoons written or co-written by Barbara Hammer during this area were some of the best ones (she didn’t write “Magoo Makes News”, though) . It’s a shame she was also about to leave around this time, too.

  • By 1955, Little Audrey seemed to have a raging case of narcolepsy, based on the number of cartoons she fell asleep in while trying to do some task. But this probably is her best one of that genre since “The Lost Dream” way back in 1949. The other two Famous entries as just six-minute time killers (if they were going to submit a Popeye from 1955, the change-of-pace “Cops Is Tops” probably would have been a better option).

  • A scenario worth pondering is if Avery’s “Legend of Rock-a-Bye Point” or Tashlin’s “Swooner Crooner” claiming the Oscar would’ve made either director reconsider their career moves. The win for “Speedy Gonzales” is less curious when you see the competition…

    • I should figure out a way to look it up, but I do wonder if Tashlin’s nomination for Swooner Crooner was his only Oscar nomination, in spite of the run of success he had in live action in the 50s.

  • Well, I can offer no other viewpoint than to echo those who like “DIZZY DISHES”. Okay, Little Audrey’s laugh (so often the same sample) can be annoying, but I like the premise, and hey, this is one cartoon where you realize that little Audrey has a mother and is not always being left with the housekeeper.

    A premise like this could have made an interesting full length movie, but Famous didn’t see fit to do that, although they always fell back on outer space exploration as a premise for other cartoons like “POPEYE, ACE OF SPACE” and “BOO MOON”. Then again, even Bugs Bunny would end up being the first wabbit in space in cartoons like “HAREWAY TO THE STARS”, but oops, that goes back to “HARE DEVILED HARE”, the first time he meets Marvin Martian.

  • Personally, if I were WB, I would’ve also submitted Hare Brush that year, since it played with the Bugs Bunny/Elmer Fudd formula that audiences had become familiar with since 1940. Still, the first Speedy Gonzales cartoon was an acceptable choice.

  • Token Disney short?! I thought “No Hunting” was another one of Hannah’s best shorts. I mean you got to admit the “Bambi” gag was priceless.

    Besides, as we just went through, Disney submitted two animated shorts for nomination consideration for 1952 and the Academy, unfortunately, passed on both of them. So, it doesn’t seem to matter by this point whether or not Disney was going to be included in the category. Besides, by this point, Walt knew the writing on the wall (and was bit tight on money with financing his pet project that was about to open, among other things) and decided to more or less shut down the shorts department being the first studio to do so.

  • I have to admit that I was wrong last week, thinking that Genie Casper was the last time Little Billy appeared. I didn’t realize that he sort-of appears here in Spooking With a Brogue as a “wee Irish lad” seeking help from Casper.

  • It’s nice to see the term “adult themed” used in a valid, non prurient way. We need films today that are adult in the same sense. The ratings turn everything into stuff that is either just for small children or prurient. The type of extreme ratings we have today has had a very negative effect on the cinema. Ratings should be made by private groups geared to different types of people. Nothing should be on the screen or the DVD.

  • Nobody has mentioned this. Among the great choices overlooked is ONE FROGGY EVENING, often considered one of the “Citizen Kanes” of American animated shorts today. It is not like it was ignored completely at the time. BoxOffice magazine’s short subject reviewer gave glowing commentary at the time.

    • What was the deadline for submitting an Academy Award nomination that year, though? “One Froggy Evening” came out at the very end of 1955. It might have just barely missed the deadline.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *