Animation History
June 19, 2017 posted by Jerry Beck

Cartoons Considered For An Academy Award – 1957

Change is in the wind. Among this year’s submissions: an independent film from John Hubley – a former colleague now gone rogue; a bunch of artsy Terrytoons from Gene Deitch that give UPA a run for their money; a few last gasps from UPA… and Chuck Jones’ What’s Opera Doc?. The short cartoon is clearly capable of being more than just Mr. Magoo, Droopy and Bugs Bunny… the Academy is slowly becoming aware of that — and are this close to recognizing those headier films. But not just yet. This year Tweety takes home the prize and things in Hollywood remain status quo.

And so we continue our research into what other cartoons were submitted to the Academy for Oscar consideration but failed to make the cut.

This week: 1957

The actual nominees were:

ONE DROOPY KNIGHT (MGM) Michael Lah
TABASCO ROAD (Warner Bros.) Robert McKimson
TREES AND JAMACIA DADDY (UPA) Lew Keller
THE TRUTH ABOUT MOTHER GOOSE (Disney) Wolfgang Reitherman & Bill Justice

And the Oscar went to:

BIRDS ANONYMOUS (Warner Bros.) Friz Freleng, director.

You can watch Edward Selzer John Burton (who thanks Friz and Warren Foster) pick up the Oscar from Rock Hudson and Jennifer Jones – who have one of those La La Land/Moonlight envelope slip-ups – here:


However – submitted, screened, but NOT nominated were:

Academy_Award_trophy175THE ADVENTURES OF * (Storyboard) John Hubley
THE BONE RANGER (Terrytoons) Connie Rasinski
THE BONGO PUNCH (Walter Lantz/Universal) Alex Lovy
BOXCAR BANDIT (Walter Lantz/Universal) Paul J. Smith
FLEBUS (Terrytoons) Ernest Pintoff
IT’S A LIVING (Terrytoons) Win Hoskins
THE JUGGLER OF OUR LADY (Terrytoons) Al Kouzel
THE JUGGLER OF OUR LADY (Cavalcade Pictures) Les Novoros
MAGOO’S PRIVATE WAR (UPA) Rudy Larriva
SPRINGTIME FOR CLOBBER (Terrytoons) Connie Rasinski
TOM’S PHOTO FINISH (MGM) William Hanna, Joseph Barbera
WHAT’S OPERA DOC? (Warner Bros.) Chuck Jones

Here’s the documentation:


Of course the big crime here is the Oscar “snub” of Jones’ What’s Opera Doc?, a film now considered a classic and one given landmark status as part of the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. I also can (and do, below) make a case for Deitch/Kouzel’s The Juggler Of Out Lady and the Deitch/Pintoff Flebus, two criminally overlooked films, in particular, from a miraculous momentary renaissance at Terrytoons.

With these posts we ask that you put yourself in their place – which films would you have nominated? Which cartoon should have won? For your edification and viewing pleasure, here are the cartoons that didn’t make the cut. Enjoy the show!


THE ADVENTURES OF * (Storyboard) John Hubley

The Adventures of Asterisk is first of a long series of independent short films produced by John and Faith Hubley after establishing Storyboard Inc. on the east coast. With animator Emery Hawkins giving a virtuoso performance, and jazz legend Lionel Hampton providing a cool vibes soundtrack, the film is a celebration of joy – the asterisk a metaphor for a little boy who becomes a man, as the film follows the cycle of his life. It’s a comment on society, on the loss of imagination, and on modern art itself.

The Hubley’s created a new style for this film – one that became personal to them – based on contemporary abstract art. Telling a story with transparent shapes, on impressionistic settings – perhaps a view of the world as a child would see it. Man, I’d love to watch a restored 35mm print of this on a big screen.

Hubley’s Hollywood colleagues weren’t ready to award (or even nominate) such a work, but I have no doubt they were impressed (Jones was probably blown away). They were staring at the future – and maybe they were afraid of it.


THE BONE RANGER (Terrytoons) Connie Rasinski

Now this is more like it – an old fashioned Terrytoon. Well, not quite. It seems to be an early one under Gene Deitch’s command. The stylized backgrounds are essentially the only thing that lift this film into mid-fifties modern. The story itself feels left-over from the old Paul Terry era – a hapless dog (“Sniffer”) chases a bone through a mechanized factory, but ends up giving it to a smaller, hungrier dog. Perhaps there was some comment here on post-war suburban life – but if so, it escaped me.


THE BONGO PUNCH (Walter Lantz/Universal) Alex Lovy

Not sure why Walter Lantz was introducing a “Good Neighbor Policy” knock-off of Disney’s Caballero birds at this late date – but Speedy Gonzales recently won an Oscar, bongo-playing Desi Arnaz was popular and who knows, maybe this was a leftover story idea (by Dick Kinney) from Disney’s South American initiatives. The whole thing feels like a protracted “Fresh-Up Freddie” 7-Up TV commercial – light and frothy, but not very satisfying.


BOXCAR BANDIT (Walter Lantz/Universal) Paul J. Smith

On the other hand, this Lantz cartoon is so corny, I like it. The artwork is so “primitive” (though not deliberately) and real, it almost feels foreign and/or contemporary. Many of these gags were ancient in 1957, but the sincerity of the crew trying to put this over has me rooting for it. And it moves at a fast pace – don’t like this gag, wait five seconds for another. This isn’t great art – but for a seven minute filler it certainly does the job. Made me laugh – and that’s all Smith was trying to do.


FLEBUS (Terrytoons) Ernest Pintoff

Everybody loves Flebus, “lovable Flebus…”, except the Academy. Talk about a film that works on several levels. Kids love this cartoon because its simple and silly. Adults love Flebus because it’s a sly metaphor of post-war era neurosis. It’s graphically brilliant, and was wonderfully audacious of Deitch to let Pintoff develop the idea at Terrytoons (of all places). I show this to my students at Cal Arts and Woodbury – and it literally blows their minds. Everyone reads different things into it – but one thing for sure, it’s a underrated, overlooked classic.


IT’S A LIVING (Terrytoons) Win Hoskins

A bold example of the difference Gene Deitch was bringing to the Terrytoon studio, here utilizing Dinky Duck in a meta way to bridge Terry’s traditional “cartooning” with the world of contemporary UPA stylization. And a spoof of Madison Avenue advertising on top of that! Dinky’s annoying voice (I suspect intentionally so) adds to Deitch’s case of doing away with the old and embracing the new. A fantastic cartoon, especially if screened in large format settings. One of my all time favorites.


THE JUGGLER OF OUR LADY (Terrytoons) Al Kouzel

I love this film. Among other things it introduced the drawings of R.O. Blechman to animation. It uses the CinemaScope screen (and honestly, you haven’t seen it until you see it in a large wide screen presentation) in ways Disney and Kimball hadn’t thought of for Toot Whistle. And Karloff’s performance is just that – a exemplary spoken performance (and to this day, its NOT listed in his filmography on IMDB).

It’s a retelling of the 1892 short story Our Lady’s Juggler (or The Juggler of Notre Dame) by Anatole France, as adapted in book form (today we’d say “graphic novel”) by cartoonist R.O. Blechman in 1953. I love that Gene Deitch even attempted to make this into an animated film, for a company whose oeuvre included the works of Dingbat, Dimwit and Dinky The Duck. Had it been more widely seen, I seriously think it would have been included in my 50 Greatest Cartoons book. I wish it had.

I asked Gene what his motivations were for making this film. Here’s his reply:

“For you, Jerry, I can state my true reasons in the 1950s, for risking the “Juggler Of Our Lady” project at Terrytoons. 1.) The opportunity to make a parody of the senseless CinemaScope format I was forced to work with. Few understood the negative restraints the format imposed on Terrytoons, which actually gave LESS to the audiences!* 2.) To sendup the perceived silliness of many religious rituals. 3.) To cast Boris Karloff in an entirely unexpected way, and 4.) To give Phil Scheib a chance to compose some real music, rather than the mass of lollypoperry he had been impelled by Paul Terry to crank out. Phil was a true musician. I think his “Juggler” score was the best in the entire history of Terrytoons!”

*If this isn’t clear, I have explained why in my How To Succeed in Animation blog, at www.awn.com/genedeitch

This film should have been nominated. As with the Hubley film (and Flebus) it was simply ahead of its time.


THE JUGGLER OF OUR LADY (Cavalcade Pictures) Les Novoros

What are the chances that their were two animated films called The Juggler Of Our Lady presented at the 1957 Shorts Branch screening this year? According to Academy documentation I’ve seen, which included viewing the original entry forms, this appears to be the case. However, this “other” Juggler film is apparently nonexistent! (I spent a day at the Academy library researching this phenomenon) I dug deep into it – I even called Gene Deitch to see if he’d heard of the Novros film (he hadn’t) – and all I found was a reference (in Variety) to Cavalcade Pictures screening the film at a Stratford International Film Festival in 1960. That’s it.

Les Novoros began his career as an inbetweeneer on Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, and was the art director on Night On Bald Mountain. He left in 1941 to start a studio, Graphic Films, which did industrials and educationals.. Novoros became a pioneer of large format films, worked on Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and spent decades as a professor of animation at USC (George Lucas was one of his students).

There is no Juggler Of Our Lady by Novros listed anywhere. There are no films credited to Novros in the 1950s on IMDB (but that doesn’t mean anything). Nothing on You Tube. I’ve researched Cavalcade Pictures – nothing. “Sketchbook series”- wots dat? If there really is such a film, perhaps a collector out there has it? Or was this a massive paperwork mistake by the Academy and they screened some other film; with another title? Inquiring minds want to know.


MAGOO’S PRIVATE WAR (UPA) Rudy Larriva

The second theatrical cartoon ever directed by Rudy Larriva (the man who would bring us The Solid Tin Coyote and Chaser On The Rocks in the 1960s) is actually quite good. The premise has Magoo on neighborhood patrol as a “Defense Warden” who mistakes the ballyhoo for a local movie premiere (of “Inavsion From Space”) as an actual alien attack. Inside the theatre, live action newsreel war footage, and an aggressive usher, give Magoo the feeling he’s on the front lines. There’s one great shot of Magoo screaming at the screen in silhouette (showing live action paratroopers) which gives the cartoon an unintended MST3K feel. It’s Magoo… and he’s done it again (and again, and again…).


SPRINGTIME FOR CLOBBER (Terrytoons) Connie Rasinski

There are many reasons Clint Clobber should be a repulsive character – but somehow the ex-New Yorker in me finds him quite appealing. Is it Alan Swift’s voice? Jim Tyer’s animation? This particular entry seems to be fall under dialog-driven situation comedy – but it’s classic farce: bank robbers LaVerne and Lefty hide out at the Flamboyant Arms, where superintendent Clobber finds himself attracted – and in love – with LaVerne; all while the cops are shooting it out and the tenant in 2B is crying for help with a leaky facet. Clobber is no Magoo… but has a messy charm that reflects his east coast origins.


TOM’S PHOTO FINISH (MGM) William Hanna, Joseph Barbera

A handsome production, with a familiar premise, and a new pair of owners (a married couple voiced by Daws Butler and Marian Richmond). Tom is has been stealing leftover chicken from the fridge. The couple decide that the guilty party must go – and Tom frames Spike as the guilty party. Unfortunately for him, Jerry snaps a photo of the crime and makes hundreds of 8×10 prints – doing everything he can to get the evidence in front of the homeowners. Funny, funny stuff – great takes (love the one at 2:36) – and lots of dialogue, more than usual.

By the time this film was submitted to the Academy and screened, Hanna and Barbera were gone from MGM and deep into production of their first cartoon series for television. There would be one more Hanna-Barbera Tom & Jerry entered for Oscar consideration (next year), but the days of being nominated, and winning, were behind them.


WHAT’S OPERA DOC? (Warner Bros.) Chuck Jones

What can I say? Birds Anonymous wins and this film – a masterpiece – isn’t even nominated? At least it was submitted. The film is a not only a take-off of Wagnarian operas, but of the Bugs Bunny canon itself. Maurice Noble’s superb art direction, Arthur Q. Bryan’s finest performance as Fudd (and one of his last), and maybe Bugs longest cross-dressing sequence – Jones has well documented the making of this film, one close to his heart.

Michael Maltese first wrote the Bugs-as-Brunhilde bit for Freleng’s Herr Meets Hare (1945) and revived it here, elongating it for Jones who loved spoofing genres and classical music. Maltese also wrote lyrics for Bugs and Elmer’s duet – a sequence forever etched into the public’s psyche as a classic.

“Kill da Wabbit?” As it was, it would take more than “a Spear and Magic Helmet” to get the nomination.


The earlier posts in this series: 1948, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956.

(Thanks to Gene Deitch, Libby Wertin and Devon Baxter for their contributions to this post)

40 Comments

  • My main issue with “Birds Anonymous” is how the “realistic” Sylvester doesn’t seem to belong with the more “modern” cats in the film. The rest of the Warner stable, for better or worse, appeared to change to match their new backgrounds and costars. In fact, you see the same process at other studios. And design evolution started long before UPA arrived (Bugs Bunny growing less rabbit-like with skinny arms and legs, for example).

    But Sylvester stubbornly resists; perhaps because his design doesn’t lend itself to tweaking the way others do. Even after Wile E. Coyote devolved into something like a plush toy, Sylvester looked like an attempt to maintain the old model.

  • “The Greatest Gift”, a 1942 live action short from MGM, was an “unofficial” (or at least uncredited) adaptation of “The Juggler of Our Lady”. It turned up on TCM as part of “MGM Parade”, a modest 1950s anthology series that mixed old clips, coming attractions and occasional short subjects. It’s a bit clunky, as dramatic shorts tended to be.

  • Fascinating post, as usual. The Juggler of Our Lady mystery is, I think, the really hidden gem of this entry, and deserves even more research. What on earth could it be?

  • Why do you think Famous Studios didn’t submit anything this year, as opposed to the previous years?

    • The 1957 Paramount cartoon releases are some of my favorites. I can only assume that with the severe cut backs and lay-offs at the studio by the end of the year (and the constant snubs they faced on an annual basis), they simply felt they had nothing new to offer (and perhaps had other things on their mind – the sale of assets to Harvey Comics, for one).

      The cartoons Paramount released in 1957 (and most of 1958) are a pretty handsome bunch artistically. They did submit at least one cartoon per year to the Academy, over the next few years – as you will see in subsequent weeks.

    • Here are several Famous Studios cartoons from 1957 that I think should have been submitted for consideration for nomination…

      Possum Pearl (Noveltoons)
      Cock-a-Doodle Dino (Noveltoons)
      And
      Pest Pupil (Baby Huey)

  • It’s kind of difficult to imagine that both WHAT’S OPERA, DOC? and THE JUGGLER OF OUR LADY failed to receive Oscar nominations.

    The Jones short is one of the most famous and beloved of all animated shorts, but JUGGLER is a remarkable achievement. I fondly recall Jerry screening this charming film at his MoMA CinemaScope cartoons presentation some years ago. It’s one of the finest of all ‘scope cartoons, using the rectangular screen with great imagination. Despite my personal fondness for two mischievous magpies, this is probably the greatest Terrytoon production.

    Boris Karloff’s IMDb page does cite his narration of JUGGLER, though it lists the film as a 1958 release.

  • Two Chuck Jones WB cartoons that I’m suprised were never nominated were ‘One Froggy Evening’ and ‘Punch Trunk’.

  • Slight correction. That’s actually John Burton in the video picking up the Oscar, not Ed Selzer.

    But, great article!

    • Duly noted – and corrected – above!

  • I’ve only been able to find one reference to the Novros film, Jerry. Motion Picture Daily reported on July 7, 1960 that it was playing at the Stratford (Conn.) Festival that month, along with Cavalcade’s “The Tower.” Just a one-line mention.
    Cavalcade was a distributor, not a cartoon studio. In 1953, it had placed the Danish-made short cartoon “The Tinderbox” on the states right market for independent release

    • Thanks Yowp. Yes, I had found that reference of Novros’ Juggler’s Stratford film festival screening…. it’s the only other evidence of this film’s existence!

  • As someone who thought What’s Opera Doc was rather over rated, I’m actually glad (sorry) it didn’t win….

  • 1957 marks a new look for Terrytoons with thier new “Smiling Cube” logo with the squiggly hair that morphs into the Terrytoons name. That was also the year that Gaston Le Crayon and John Doormat made thier first animated appearance for Terrytoons.

    It’s too bad that It’s a Living and The Juggler of Our Lady were snubbed for the 1957 Oscar nomination for best animated short cartoon.

    It’s a Living was the funniest Dinky Duck cartoon ever and Allen Swift did a great job doing all the voices including the impersonation of John Cameron Swayze in the Allwatch parody spoofing the classic Timex commercials that John Cameron Swayze did.

    And The Juggler of Our Lady was the most unique Terrytoon ever animated. With Boris Karloff’s wonderful narration – and despite not being nominated for a Oscar – the film was nominated for best animated short by BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) – along with another animated short that was not submitted in 1955, UPA’s The Invisible Moustache of Raoul Dufy (which is now considered as one of the most rarest UPA animated short ever produced) and BAFTA winner Gerald McBoing Boing On Planet Moo (UPA 1956).

    • I can’t understand why “Terrytoons”, a studio that passed on submitting a cartoon for the Academy for a couple of years, did not get nominated after submitting a nice portfolio on how much they improved the quality of their cartoons. Fortunately, the following year they got a chance.

  • That must have been a tough year for the Academy. So many great cartoons, so many now considered classics. Some of these were indeed ahead of their time, which is probably why the Academy didn’t nominate them. The nominees, while good, were just standard fare; one or two of the more adventurous shorts here could have made a more rounded roster.

    • It does seem like the American theatrical shorts, namely animated cartoons, were experiencing a “New Wave” just before the French live-action feature cinema was. It seems fitting that Tom & Jerry, the Three Stooges and several other long running series ended in 1957-58 so the focus was now on “one shot” experiments. The more different your product, the better. After Hubley’s MOONBIRD and ERSATZ imported from Zagreb, it does seem like an “anything goes” mood takes over. Even the remaining Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies getting nominated looked like they were made by different studios.

  • BOX CAR BANDITS another one of my all-time favorites. Great job done on this. Nice to know it was a nominee.

  • According to “Business Screen Magazine”, vol 19, no. 1, 1958, p. 153, Graphic Films Corporation in Hollywood, company president: Lester Novros, had recently produced a motion picture “Juggler of Our Lady”, apparently on its own account. The source can be found on archive.org.

    • Thanks Freddy – another proof of its existence! So, its true – there were TWO Juggler Of Our Lady animated shorts submitted in 1957. Incredible!

    • I could be imagining things here but I think I shot some animated shorts for a Cavalcade Pictures in the early 1980s. They produced mostly educational films. Their last known location to me was at 10900 Ventura Blvd. in Studio City? FilmFair then took it over from them. Today it’s Illuminate Hollywood. Now could someone correct me?

  • Birds Anonymous is still the best short created that year. What’s Opera Doc is overrated.

  • I’m sure the nomination of a cheap [but very funny] drunk humor McKimson cartoon bruised Chuck’s ego more than the award going to Birds Anonymous, since I maintain Charles M. viewed Friz as serious competition and was a factor in why he stayed so great for as long as he did. Speedy G. as a rival? Not so much.

    B.A. doesn’t deserve the “why!?” reaction, sorry. It’s a shining moment for the Warner cartoons, proving Freleng’s vaudevillian sensibilities could make a dire subject like alcohol withdrawal really, really funny. I have no doubt the Academy vastly preferred this handsome, wry, and unpretentious cartoon to the clutter of Flebus and the highfalutin Juggler of Our Lady.

    • I agree; “Birds Anonymous” is a classic and it deserved to win. It not only played with the Sylvester/Tweety formula in an interesting way, but it had a relatable premise whether you’ve suffered addiction or not, and so many memorable moments. Who could forget Sylvester suffering insomnia, or his mouth shrinking because of Alum? Or the ending, which makes the point that nobody is impervious to the backslide?

      “What’s Opera Doc?” has fantastic art direction and music, but “Rabbit of Seville” seven years earlier is much funnier. In the humor department, all “What’s Opera Doc?” really has going for it is the fat horse.

  • The “Ham and Hattie” cartoons from UPA (of which “Trees and Jamaica Daddy” is one) are difficult to watch and show how far UPA had fallen from the days of “Rooty Toot Toot”. The best part of them is the opening and closing sequences, animated by Rod Scribner.

  • I’ve now seen 20 of the 26 Deitch Terrytoons shorts. Still trying to find Another Day Another Doormat, A Bum Steer, Old Mother Clobber, and three Gaston le Crayon’s.

  • I think the reason “Birds Anonymous” won and “What’s Opera Doc” didn’t make the cut is all about context.

    One who has never seen a Sylvester and Tweety cartoon before can still fully enjoy “Birds Anonymous”. It’s a great cartoon with a story that clearly resonated with people in its time, and still does.

    “What’s Opera Doc” is great, but to “get” its overall joke, one has to be familiar with the Bugs and Elmer “formula”. By 1957, there had been a lot of Bugs cartoons that AVOIDED that formula. The high-brow folks at the Academy might not have been familiar with the character dynamic the cartoon was essentially self-parodying. It was TV airings alongside the other Bugs Bunny cartoons that made “WOD” stand out.

    The others on the list of “Submissions” are really interesting, because of their diversity. The Woody, Magoo and Tom and Jerry cartoons are all funny, but they’re typical. Out of the rest, I think “Flebus” is the best, but its uber-simplicity may have confounded the judges. I suspect the same with the other Terrytoons.

  • Another great thing about “Flebus” is its jazzy musical score, composed without credit by the director Ernie Pintoff.

    • Too bad he didn’t get credit for the music. Phil Scheib had to be credited for contractual reasons.
      Pintoff went on to do “The Critic,” remembered for Mel Brooks’ commentary – how much of it was scripted and how much was ad-libbed, I don’t know. Sadly, Pintoff stopped making cartoons and went on to direct sleazy drive-in fare such as “Lunch Wagon,” and, I kid you not, episodes of “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

  • Ah, so many cartoons here taking that “first step” into what would appear to be a new age of animation, and yes, some of the finest work within Terrytoons ever. I, too, have to praise “THE JUGGLER OF OUR LADY”, and I always enjoyed its appearance on TV. I’m sorry I never experienced that cartoon in cinemascope, and that also goes for “TOM’S PHOTO FINISH”, one of the funniest TOM AND JERRY entries in that format. Perhaps, “BIRDS ANONYMOUS” won because the Academy got the parody of “LOST WEEKEND”, but to me, it pales in comparison to some of the other mroe inventive and surreal entries, here. Thanks again for another intriguing post, Jerry.

  • I’m upset of “What’s Opera Doc?” not being nominated as much as I am of “Bird Anonymous” not being in “The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes” book. In fact, none of the Academy Award winning short made it into the book (some deservingly should’ve). What the heck happened there?

  • “What’s Opera Doc”? clearly deserved the nomination and the Oscar. “Birds Anonymous” wasn’t even the best Freleng that year. Chuck Jones should have gotten more Oscars during the 50’s period. His cartoons still hold up very well and continue not to look old. Most feel like they were made today and are better than almost anything produced during the last 50 years.

    • My opinion: Jones is overrated.

    • Friz definitely had a good year in 1957. Birds Anonymous, Piker’s Peak, Three Little Bops, Bugsy and Mugsy, Show Biz Bugs: All classics. Even the more standard Sylvester & Tweety cartoons (Tweet Zoo, Tweety and the Beanstalk, Greedy For Tweety) were enjoyable.

  • While I do find What’s Opera Doc to be funny, I can also see why one can call it overhyped and overrated. (Jones tapped out a few years after that.) Birds Anonymous, along with Honey’s Money, were a case of “Ten years too late.” (I consider Freleng’s cartoons hit-or-miss.)

  • “Magoo’s Private War” may be the last truly good Magoo cartoon. It seems funnier when they suggest that this myopic old dude can be genuinely dangerous.

    • This one was a keeper!

  • On The Bongo Punch and your reference to “Desi Arnaz” – actually Desi played the conga’s, as well as the guitar. The Bongos were not only popular in Latin Music, but was also getting popular with the Beatniks a year later.

  • It’s worth mentioning that Chairy Tale a pixilated film by Norman McLaren was nominated in the live action category. A few years earlier another pixilated film of his won in the documentary category. He was one of the most original animators in history, but it looks as if the Academy (or the NFBC) had trouble categorizing him.

    This looks like a case of the envelopes getting switched just like this year. At first, the presenters didn’t seem to notice that the winning title wasn’t nominated.

    • Poor Norman, still his prayers would get answered eventually.

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