Animation History
July 3, 2017 posted by

Cartoons Considered For An Academy Award – 1959

The year was 1959 and the nominees were:

MEXICALI SCHMOES (Warner Bros.) Friz Freleng
NOAH’S ARK (Walt Disney) Bill Justice
THE VIOLINIST (Pintoff Productions) Ernest Pintoff

And the Oscar went to:

MOONBIRD (Storyboard Productions) John Hubley & Faith Elliot, directors.

This was a turning point for animation in Oscar history. This was the first year that an independent film won the Oscar for Best Short Subject, Cartoon. The committee nominated a Warner Bros. cartoon (another Speedy – gosh, those were popular), a unique Disney stop-motion two-reeler, and a clever Ernest Pintoff cartoon (also an “indie”). As different as the Disney short was, and as funny as Pintoff film is, Hubley’s Moonbird was the proper winner. It was unique and progressive. It was entertaining and visually different. The award itself rightfully recognized one of the medium’s true innovators.

BELOW: In the video embed, Carl Reiner and Hope Lange present the awards for Short Subject. Note that Reiner was the sole voice in Pintoff’s The Violinist – always the professional, he shows no emotion in reading the nominees and announcing the (for him, disappointing) winner. Also note John Hubley thanking Faith, Bobe Cannon, Ed Smith and all his kids:


However – submitted, screened, but NOT nominated were:

Academy_Award_trophy175TV FUDDLEHEAD (Paramount) Seymour Knietel
MAGOO MEETS BOING BOING (UPA) Abe Levitow
FELINEOUS ASSAULT (Paramount) Seymour Knietel
PICNICS ARE FUN & DINO’S SERENADE (UPA) Lew Keller, Fred Crippen
THE MINUTE AND A 1/2 MAN (Terrytoons) Dave Tendlar
LITTLE BO BOPPED (Columbia) William Hanna, Joseph Barbera
HASHIMOTO-SAN (Terrytoons) Bob Kuwahara, Dave Tendlar
DOWN TO MIRTH (Paramount) Seymour Knietel

Here’s the documentation:

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

Every other cartoon submitted this year was a standard “Hollywood” studio theatrical short subject. No real surprises, nothing particularly innovative. No artsy foreign films, no other independents. But compared to previous years, it’s easy to see the Hollywood standards have dropped; the budgets tightening; the creativity lessening.

Two things to note: The UPA and Hanna Barbera entries. Way below their usual standards; now the new normal. Both films – Mr. Magoo and Loopy DeLoop – released theatrically but are essentially “TV” cartoons. A sign of things to come? The Academy’s shorts branch had no choice but to take the high road, lest the committee itself becomes a joke.

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


TV FUDDLEHEAD (Paramount) Seymour Knietel

Parodies of TV commercials and early TV shows were ripe fodder for the cartoon studios at this late date. This cartoon is almost a spot gag cartoon, but its bridged by the doings of Fuddlehead, who’s entire life revolves around, and is influenced by, whatever is on TV at the time. That’s not the way to run your life (or any public office). This cartoon seems to have been inspired by Terrytoons’ John Doormat cartoons – particularly the first one Topsy TV (1956) – but it does tell a “story” per se – how the poor guy loses his house and wins another, despite the nagging of his frustrated wife. Pardon the “Harveytoon” TV titles below – this was indeed released theatrically as a Paramount “Modern Madcap” short.


MAGOO MEETS BOING BOING (The Noise-Making Boy) (UPA) Abe Levitow

When UPA’s distribution deal with Columbia Pictures expired, Stephen Bosustow was determined to continue Mr. Magoo as a theatrical series which he would distribute himself. He produced three shorts and failed miserably in setting up a distribution process – but the shorts served as three pilots for the eventual TV series (which commenced as soon as Bosustow sold the company to Henry G. Saperstein and Peter DeMet in 1960). The first one, Magoo Meets Boing Boing (The Noise Making Boy) was certainly a perfect idea to start with a ‘Bang-Bang’. I love how in the ‘UPA-niverse’, Magoo is on a short list of babysitters in the McCloy household. Magoo mistakes Gerald for his dog (and vice-versa) and “rescues” Gerald from a fire (actually just Gerald’s sound effects voice). The animation is no worse than the last few Columbia Magoo films – but at less than five minutes, its far from the heights of greatness both characters had previously attained just a few short years earlier.

NOTE: The theatrical title for this film was Magoo Meets Boing Boing (The Noise-Making Boy), the TV version is retitled Magoo Meets McBoing Boing.


FELINEOUS ASSAULT (Paramount) Seymour Knietel

Katnip’s wearing pants now, lost his bangs, and gained a nephew. On its last legs, this Herman and Katnip cartoon borrows its set-up from Professor Tom, a 1949 Tom & Jerry cartoon. Here little “Kitnip” becomes Herman’s ally in doing horrible things to the cat: running him through a player-piano, rolling him into the window shade, and sucking his tail through a vacuum cleaner. Arnold Stang is AWOL – with Sid Raymond doing his best to hold interest on the voice track. I feel sad that this was considered worthy by Paramount to submit the the Academy – and even sadder for the committee for having to screen it.


PICNICS ARE FUN & DINO’S SERENADE (UPA) Lew Keller, Fred Crippen

One of the last Columbia UPA releases, this Ham and Hattie entry is gentle on the eye and easy to consume, but leaves you with nothing inside. Mel Levin sings a cute little song about picnics, which is cleverly visualized as an outing on the roof of a big city apartment building. Ham morphs into an Italian serenader who woos a mannequin – who is later wooed away by another version of Ham… I think… its a bit confusing. But Hal Peery (The Great Gildersleeve) does a great job on the track. It’s actually getting easier to see why it made no difference to Columbia whether they release material like this – or a Hanna Barbera Loopy DeLoop cartoon. By 1959, the Hollywood “theatrical” cartoon had reached a finish line.


THE MINUTE AND A 1/2 MAN (Terrytoons) Dave Tendlar

Ahh, that Bill Weiss. He wanted Gene Deitch gone – and wanted Terrytoons returned to being children’s fare. And he wanted that in the worst way… and in 1959, he got it. That said, his remaining art staff came up with a few good ideas – one of them was this cartoon introducing Hector Heathcote. New hire Dave Tendlar came through as designer and director, Eli Bauer created a funny story board, and honestly if this were just a one-shot I’d be filling this paragraph with even greater praise. But the cartoon had its admirers and Hector returned the following year in a follow up. Further Heathcote cartoons were produced after that, so many that by 1963 there were enough to telecast a The Hector Heathcote Show (Saturday mornings on NBC).

There were few good Terrytoons produced after Gene Deitch left – this was one of them. Pardon the English subtitles on the embed below.


LITTLE BO BOPPED (Columbia) William Hanna, Joseph Barbera

I never understood Loopy DeLoop. This is the one project from “The Golden Age of Hanna Barbera TV cartoons” that doesn’t seem to work. These cartoons were bought by Columbia (it helped that H&B were making their broadcast cartoons for Columbia’s TV subsidiary, Screen Gems) as a theatrical series – and yet there is no attempt to return, even slightly, to the higher style of the late MGM cartoons. Or to even appeal to adults. These Loopy cartoons were produced on the same low budgets as their TV fare – but with little of the appeal of Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw or The Flintstones. And yet, Dan Gordon, Michael Maltese and Warren Foster provided the stories, animators such as Charles Nichols, Ken Muse and Carlo Vinci (among others) did the drawings, Daws Butler, Don Messick, Jean Vander Pyl are among the voices. What could go wrong?

Case in point: Little Bo Bopped. This is essentially a Wolf and Sheepdog premise, with little of the charm of any of the TV cartoons the studio was making in 1959. In fact, there is markedly less charm (if that can be imagined). Hanna and Barbera were hot in ’59 – but were they so hot they could get away with such a pedestrian series of cartoons? Apparently so.


HASHIMOTO-SAN (Terrytoons) Bob Kuwahara, Dave Tendlar

One of the first characters given a green light by Terrytoons producer Bill Weiss – as soon as he showed Gene Deitch the door – was this asian twist on traditional cartoon cat & mouse comedies. Bob Kuwahara’s Japanese take on improving east-west relations, possibly inspired by the recent Academy Award winning Marlon Brando feature, Sayonara (1957), introduces a charming character who is able to dispatch his feline foes with Jujitsu. At this time, when the film was new, it felt fresh – at least as far as the new Terrytoons regime was concerned. But just not fresh enough.


DOWN TO MIRTH (Paramount) Seymour Knietel

Every wonder what a Fleischer Superman cartoon might have looked like if the series never ended – and they were still producing them in 1959? Wonder no further – Down To Mirth is essentially a Superman cartoon, with Casper The Friendly Ghost in superhero role. Jackson Beck and Jack Mercer on the soundtrack further the comparison.

A mad scientist (“Dr. Brainstorm”) invents a magnetic ray (shades of Magnetic Telescope) and attacks the city with it. He causes everything to float into the sky – swimming pools, elephants, sky scrapers. It’s up to Casper to confront the villain and make things right. Strangely enough, I like this cartoon. It’s a handsome production, Robert Owens backgrounds are elegant in a post-UPA way. Cecil Roy (previously Little Lulu) is now the voice of Casper – and would continue that role onto the 1960s TV series.


The earlier posts in this series: 1948, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957 and 1958.

(Thanks to Devon Baxter for special contributions to this post)

37 Comments

  • Loopy DeLoop didn’t get nominated? I call shenanigans..

  • Why wasn’t “Terror-Faced Magoo”, the final UPA Columbia release, submitted? I thought that was one of the better later Maggo shorts thanks to Bill Scott’s writing. Plus, it was nice to see the UPA’s short-lived New York branch work on this.

  • Unlike the stuff Hanna-Barbera was doing for TV, Loopy was a high-concept character that we’d be seeing more and more of on TV as the years went on. He’s a wolf … but the funny twist is he’s a good wolf, who’s simply misunderstood. So basically, Loopy’s Casper, but with people being more aggressive than scared of him, and that’s pretty much the premise for the series. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    (As for Casper himself, Paramount did do a better job in varying the story lines in final few years of the series, just as the Noveltoons/Modern Madcaps for the most part got more creative as the animation budgets declined. It’s one of the reasons why the studio’s so frustrating — if they had combined the early 50s animation with the non-repetative late 50s stories, they actually would have had something, and somewhere along the line probably would have gotten that elusive Oscar nomination.)

    • I agree with J Lee’s assessment of Loopy for it explains the humorous theme of the series. Loopy is not as endearing as Huckleberry Hound, but his humor is of a dry nature. The French accent is an amusing exaggeration. Having 2 former WB writers is a plus. Maltese & Foster are 2 reasons this and other early HB series show clever, funny dialogue. It makes up for the limited animation. Even with HB series starring lesser characters like Loopy, the writing and voice characterizations keep them from being total disappointments.

  • Too bad that both The Minute and a Half Man and Hashimoto San weren’t placed for the nomination for Best Animated Short for the 1959 Oscars. I love the first appearance of Hector Heathcote and the comical historical mishaps he endured. And first Hashimoto Cartoon – in which he was telling his pal, G.I. Joey, a story about a young Mouse who, even though was born invisible, was a hero to his village when a giant Oni (a Japanese ogre like demon) cat terrorized his village – which was very reminiscent to the Japanese folk tales like the legend of Princess Kayuga and Momotaro (and it’s was the first time I heard of the word Kawaii which means “cute” in Japanese). Hasimoto San was also known by many a “labor of love” by Bob Kuwahara, for showing the culture and traditions of Japan.

  • Holy shit, these are awful!

    • You bet, it’s all downhill from here!

  • I agree with Jerry that LOOPY de LOOP was rather “pedestrian.” It’s a wonder that they continued to be produced for six years. I only saw one of them in a theater. It ran before FUNNY GIRL,. Seems like a poor “warm up” for such a major motion picture.

  • I was watching Felineous Assault yesterday. As horrid as the animation was, at least Winston Sharples got some mileage out of the soundtrack, reused in other cartoons – particularly that incessant chase music playing throughout the cartoon’s second half.

  • The Loopy DeLoop cartoons are definitely a mixed bag, but some of them are kinda funny. They’re not worthy of the Oscar, though. I got the Warner Archive set when it came out.

    • I suppose had Columbia not order so many of those cartoons (nearly 50 total produced over those years), H-B probably could’ve concentrated on bringing out a lot more with the series had they tried to follow their MGM roots with these, at least where animation is concerned.

  • Looks like Walter Lantz finally gave up.

    • I doubt it, It took Paul Terry years of getting one of his Terrytoons to get considered for a nomination for the Oscar for Best Animated Short. It wasn’t till 1957 when Terrytoons had five animated shorts that were considered for Best Animated Short and in 1958 finally hitting pay dirt by getting Sidney’s Family Tree nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Short even though losing to Knighty Knight Bugs for the Oscar. Walter Lantz had several good ones that he should have placed for consideration for the Oscar for Best Animated Short in 1959 such as…

      Tomcat Combat & Kiddie League with Woody Woodpecker,

      Robinson Gruesome with Chilly Willy,

      And

      Bee Bopped with Windy and Breezy

    • Kel Crum – Lantz did not give up, as you will see next week.

      BIGG3469 – Terry also had three Oscar nominees in the 1940s: ALL OUT FOR V in 1942, MY BOY, JOHNNY in 1944, and GYPSY LIFE (with Mighty Mouse) in 1945.

    • The 1942-45 period appears to be one in which the Academy simply nominated everything that the various studios submitted for consideration. Apparently, in 1946, they switched over to nominating five cartoons from the list of submissions for consideration, and that’s how it went from then on.

      During that 1942-45 period, there was another category where the ‘Cad nominated everything that the studios submitted: Best Song. (That’s how PRC got the only nominations they ever got in their born days!)
      It makes one wonder what songs were submitted–and not nominated–in the subsequent years.

  • I still think “The Violinist” should have won. Like a lot of Hubley cartoons, “Moonbird” seems too precious for it’s own good.

  • The charms of Hanna-Barbera’s early TV work have always eluded me. Perhaps it’s for that reason that I don’t find Loopy de Loop as unbearably awful as some other people do. Not that much worse, at least, than anything else the studio was grinding out at the time.

  • Unlike the previous year, which had an embarrassment of riches, 1959 was mostly slim pickings. These shorts, for the most part, feel more like TV shorts than proper theatrical fare. I did like the timing and staging on the Hector Heathcoate cartoon, and Hashimoto-san was at least a fair attempt to be true to Japanese culture at the time. The Academy picked the right cartoons this time: Mexicali Schmoes was always one of my favorite Speedy cartoons, and I love the Disney Noah’s Ark short for its inventive use of everyday objects for its characters, but the night clearly belonged to Hubley. After being blacklisted for most of the decade, this was a hard won award for him.

  • I find strange that Paramount did not submit for an Oscar nomination “La Petite Parade”, also released in 1959, one of their most remarkable cartoons from that period and a cult favorite.

    • It definitely wouldn’t have hurt!

  • The factions vying for cartoon supremacy at Terrytoons – the Deitch Diggers vs. the Weiss Guys.

  • What were the other two episodes of the Mr. Magoo show that were Bosustow produced pilots besides “Magoo Meets McBoing Boing”? I understand this is totally useless information, but sometimes we fuddy duddies get all curious.

    It would also be fun to know any inside scoop on this other curious late Bosustow UPA cartoon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqUWQkbSI4U

    • That one’s certainly a curioscity to behold. I guess Bosustow was trying all he can during those final months before calling it quits.

    • I suspect the Magoo “pilots” may have been slightly longer in their original theatrical release. Notice the discrepancy in runtime between the YouTube upload and the Academy documentation. There were “new” Super 8 prints of Magoo Meets Frankenstein offered for sale a few years back (supposedly sourced from a 35mm IB Tech, no less!) and the hard-core collectors that could afford it claim it to be longer than the TV version. Not that those extra minutes would have anything that elevated these shorts to Oscar-worthy status, but fascinating nonetheless. The Snuffy Smith “pilots” Paramount released a few years later were similarly cut down when re-released to television.

    • DBear – the Magoo Bosustow theatricals were indeed longer than their TV versions. And they had different theatrical titles. You’ll see an example of the original theatrical titles for the three UPA releases in next week’s post.

    • JLewis, Variety reported on June 10, 1959 that “Magoo Meets Boing-Boing” and “I Was A Teen-Age Magoo” were the first two cartoons as part of its unlimited booking plan for theatres. UPA had lost its Columbia release a couple of months earlier. On November 10, 1959, Variety mentioned 80 prints of the Magoo/McBoing-Boing cartoon had been struck and the film would open December 14th. Saperstein was working on a deal for TV Magoos in June 1960 with production about to start.
      The credits of Magoo/McBoing-Boing show five animators, far more than any TV Magoo.
      Herb Vigran and Julie Bennett are providing voices, as best as I can tell.

    • “…the Magoo Bosustow theatricals were indeed longer than their TV versions. And they had different theatrical titles. You’ll see an example of the original theatrical titles for the three UPA releases in next week’s post.

      Oh, I can’t wait to see that!

    • Thanks YOWP!

  • J.Lewis: the other two were “Magoo Meets Frankenstein” and “Teenage Magoo”. It is true that they are slightly better -only slightly- than the rest of the 5-minute Henry Saperstein-produced Magoos.

    • Thanks! The Frankenstein title seems like an odd one.

  • Loopy De Loup looks like it should be on my list of Terrible TV Cartoons that ought to be Remade. (I know that it was a series of theatrical shorts, but still worth including.)

  • Aside from the faded copy seen here, there’s another copy of Magoo Meets McBoing Boing on YouTube as well, though re-titled “The Baby Sitter” for who knows why.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LhWRvUvhyI

  • Belated reply, but found a blog post with pics of the original theatrical titles to “Magoo Meets Boing Boing” about halfway down the page: CLICK HERE

    magoo-boingboing-title

    Also interesting to note it seems to use the Rob Scribner ending from the “Ham and Hattie” series.

    • Thanks for finding the MAGOO MEETS BOING BOING title card – I’ve added it to the body of the post above.

      Also, most likely that Rod Scribner “Ham & Hattie” animation was used only on the end title of this particular Magoo theatrical release.

    • Thanks for finding the MAGOO MEETS BOING BOING title card – I’ve added it to the body of the post above. Also, most likely that Rod Scribner Ham and Hattie animation was used only on the end title of this particular Magoo theatrical release.

      The way the film opened with the Ham & Hattie UPA logo then cuts to the Mr. Magoo title card was also used for the “Inside Magoo” short alluded to earlier.

  • Thank you for the explanation of the final 3 UPA theatrical Magoo. I had suspected they had the Rod Scribner opening after seeing Inside Magoo.

    On another note, there was one UPA cartoon that appears to have been screened theatrically and on tv. It is known as the 51st Dragon and is listed on BCDb as a Jolly Frolics. Does anyone know why, or where you can find it as a video on the web?

    • I have a bootleg copy of THE 51st DRAGON on DVD… we’ll do a post about it at some point.

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