Animation History
July 31, 2017 posted by

Cartoons Considered For the Academy Award – 1963

No one can argue over the winner of this year’s Academy Award for Best Cartoon Short. In the spirit of animated films dating back way before Tex Avery, the Oscar went to an animated short that made fun of its own medium.

By 1963, European animated films, as well as non-narrative independent shorts had emerged on the scene. Animation festivals had been established. The Academy’s own shorts branch were being overtaken by the new and unusual. In fact, three of the five nominees this year were from foreign countries – the other US film nominated was an avant grade experimental film. The Critic allowed the Oscar committee (as well as other animators, and the public) a chance to laugh at the new normal.

This week: 1963

The actual nominees were:

AUTOMANIA 2000 (Halas and Batchelor) John Halas [View]
THE GAME (IGRA) (Zagreb) Dusan Vukotic [View]
MY FINANCIAL CAREER (NFB) Gerald Potterton [View]
PIANISSIMO (Cinema 16) Carmen D’Vino [View]

And the Oscar went to:

THE CRITIC (Pintoff Productions) Ernest Pintoff, director. [View]

You can watch Shirley MacLaine present the Oscar to Ernest Pintoff, here:


And so we continue our research into what other cartoons were submitted to the Academy for Oscar consideration but failed to make the cut. In 1963, submitted, screened, but NOT nominated were:

Academy_Award_trophy175OPERATION MOONSHOT (ABC) Phil Davis, Dusan Vukotic
HOW TO WIN ON THE THRUWAY (Rembrandt) Gene Deitch
THE RINGADING KID (Paramount) Seymour Kneitel
THE GREAT RIGHTS (Brandon) William Hurtz
THE HANGMAN (Melrose Productions) Paul Julian and Les Goldman
SPOOKI-YAKI (Terrytoons) Bob Kuwahara
MOUSE BLANCHE (Paramount) Seymour Kneitel

Here’s the documentation:

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!


OPERATION MOONSHOT (ABC) Phil Davis, Dusan Vukotic

This I gotta see – a TV pilot (for ABC) co-directed by Phil Davis (Sam Bassett, Hound For Hire – one of the highlights of my “Worst Cartoons Ever” screenings at Comic Con) and Dusan Vukotic (premiere Zagreb animation director, Oscar winner for Ersatz). But alas, this film is among the missing – it’s pretty much disappeared off the face of the Earth.

Don Yowp wrote a post about this pilot in 2014, with more clues about its origin. Said Yowp:

Phil Davis wasn’t a cartoonist, he was a writer-producer. His son was David Davis, who produced a bunch of successful sitcoms for MTM Productions. The two of them worked together on that series beloved by fans of 1928 Porters – My Mother the Car. He evidently saw the success of TV cartoons and jumped in.

From Daily Variety from May 3, 1963:

Animation Of Pilot ABC Films Ordered Being Done In Yugo
Phil Davis leaves next week for Yugoslavia to film the pilot of a half-hour adult cartoon series, “The Astromutts.” Animation will be done at the Zagreb studio with live symphony music and in Eastman color. Voice track will be made in Hollywood with featured actors. Davis previously produced the cartoon series, “Hound For Hire,” in the same studio and it is now in syndication.

Yowp also reported:

Davis wrote the words to the Astromutts theme song (music by Herman Stein and Harry Green) and it was copyrighted on May 7, 1963. It was almost two full years before we hear anything more about the proposed series. Davis copyrighted a 26-minute episode entitled Operation Moonshot (in Eastman Color) on March 23, 1965. Whether it ever appeared on TV or in theatres, I have no clue.

Well now we know – it was submitted to the Academy in 1963 and was not nominated. The hunt for The Astromutts pilot goes on. I’m dying to see it!


HOW TO WIN ON THE THRUWAY (Rembrandt) Gene Deitch

The Academy loved Gene Deitch after his Oscar win for Munro. They nominated three more of his shorts in the next several years – but this is one that wasn’t nominated; its part a series of “Self Help” parodies, each narrated by British actor Arthur Treacher (Allen Swift does incidental voices), spoofs of educational narratives now familiar to most post-war Americans.

Although it precedes Goofy’s Freeway Phobia two-parter, I can only assume this short was snubbed because it goes over some of the familiar spot-gag terrain covered in cartoons like There Auto Be A Law (1953) – or maybe felt like the flip-side to UPA’s The Jaywalker (1956). It’s good for a few chuckles.


THE RINGADING KID (Paramount) Seymour Kneitel

The Ringading Kid is a “lost” Paramount cartoon. For some reason it wasn’t included in the package of Paramount cartoons sold to Nickelodeon 20 years ago, nor does any collector that I know have a print – and I even tried to find it at Paramount when I worked there, and they couldn’t locate it in their vaults. This is among several lost 1960s-era Paramount cartoons – but that’s another story.

So imagine my surprise when I saw this title appear on the Academy’s short list of submissions for 1963. Did Paramount think it was so good it was worthy of an Oscar? Now I had to see it. Long-story-short – thanks to our friends at the Library of Congress I have now seen The Ringading Kid.

Why it is so scare I cannot say – but its an Irv Spector story about a 37-year-old gunslinger (voiced by Eddie Lawrence) who is tired of shooting bad guys and young punks in the old west. “Tired? I’m nauseous!” Every town he travels to has a young punk challenging him to a duel… each town shows a younger and younger punk, until he hits a town where he is challenged by the entire 7th Grade.

The Kid moves to Tombstone and opens at Ice Cream Parlor – happy at last. When he declines to accept a gun duel he is ridiculed by the townsfolk and endures many ass kickings. He’s labeled “A Sissy”, “A Percy” until he cannot stand it anymore. Instead of six-shooters, The Kid straps on a refrigerated holster and fires two ice-cream scoops at the next challenger.

He soon becomes known as the Fastest “Scoop” in the West. One day he is challenged by another punk with refrigerated holster who challenges him with Italian Ices. The Kid fires back with, instead of ice cream, a pair of seltzer bottles – and at the fade-out he’s now labeled the “fastest Spritz in The West”.

Eddie Lawrence is great – and its a fine little spoof of western films (and TV) that were dominant in the early 1960s. Beyond that, its not that special. But I’m glad we finally have a chance to screen it! Here’s a Modern Madcap you’ve never seen:


THE GREAT RIGHTS (Brandon) William Hurtz

This is one of the best-looking “post-UPA” cartoons produced in the 1960s. It’s a bit heavy handed, but look at the talent involved: four top directors, Pete Burness, Ted Parmalee, Gerry Ray and Sam Weiss, a bevy of great animators (Gerald Baldwin, Ben Washam, Bill Littlejohn, etc.), top artists from UPA, Format and Jay Ward combining their efforts – perhaps a bit rushed to commemorate John F. Kennedy (to whom it is dedicated to) – to illustrate the benefits of the Bill of Rights.

Hershel Bernardi, Daws Butler, Bill Scott and the late June Foray provide the voices. At this strange time in American politics – and as a tribute to June – it’s well worth watching again:


THE HANGMAN (Melrose Productions) Paul Julian and Les Goldman

“The coward who lets others die to protect himself will nonetheless be killed in the end”. Based on the powerful poem “Hangman” by Maurice Ogden, narrated by Herschel Bernardi, made in what was touted as the “Filmograph” technique (which we know is just camera pans over static backgrounds) – this film should have been nominated.

The Hangman was primarily shown in school classrooms in the 1960s and 70s – that’s where I first saw it as a child. The paintings by Paul Julian are magnificent and move the story without animation (…perhaps that’s why it was dismissed by the Academy?). Les Goldman self-produced this film which, despite an Oscar snub, has gone on to become a classic.


SPOOKI-YAKI (Terrytoons) Bob Kuwahara

Spooki-Yaki was the last Terrytoon released theatrically in CinemaScope. It’s not particularly special otherwise – though you’ll notice, via the credits at the end, that Ralph Bakshi and Cosmo Anzilotti were its animators.

To explain his calm reactions to an earthquake, Hashimoto relates the tale of a giant samurai cat who once threatened his ancestors and stole their rice crop. ‘Spooki-yaki’ is the spirit of the rice patties, and his presence causes the big cat to run away – crashing into every tree and causing great quakes as he escapes… and thus when it shakes in Japan, it is Spooki-yaki keeping them safe.

Excuse please, this faded, low sound print. Sayonara!


MOUSE BLANCHE (Paramount) Seymour Kneitel

The last of the Paramount Comic King theatrical releases (of King Features TV cartoons), written by Burton Goodman, whom I’m certain was related to Abe Goodman (King Features film producer). This one was also directed by Seymour Kneitel and animated by the Paramount studio in New York (as opposed to Gene Deitch in Prague).

Ignatz Mouse, empowered by his new Mouse Blanche credit card (a spoof of the then-current credit card craze started by Diner’s Club/Carte Blanche), orders a “Kat-a-Scope” and a “Brick-et Launcher” to pound the love-sick Krazy Kat from afar. Ignatz also tries to thwart Officer Pup, who is spouting about, that “a credit card cannot buy friends loyal and true”. The mouse uses his card to order a crowd of “sincere friends” – but soon enough his “friends” show up only to eat his food and smoke his cigars. The cartoon ends with Ignatz in jail for failing to pay his credit card.

I can’t judge if this one is any better than all the others – but I enjoy the faux-Herriman look of these, and the voice work of Paul Frees (as Ignatz and Pup). But there was no way this was going to be nominated for an Academy Award.


The earlier posts in this series: 1948, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961 and 1962.

(Thanks to Libby Wertin, Geo. Willeman and Don Yowp for special contributions to this post)

18 Comments

  • Although you already linked to a video for “Automania 2000”, I will like to recommend people to go and watch this version that’s been restored in HD for a BluRay release in the UK. This is SO PERFECT! It’s blows everything away!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-ymlIN2slQ

    OPERATION MOONSHOT (ABC) Phil Davis, Dusan Vukotic
    But alas, this film is among the missing – it’s pretty much disappeared off the face of the Earth.

    Except somewhere in the vaults of Zagreb Film. Love it if someone manages to get a visit to them someday and ask them about that particular film, in case he or she has a chance to see it that way.

  • One 1963 animated short which should have been nominated was ‘Labyrinth’ by Polish animator Jan Lenica. It was influenced by the ‘collage novels’ of Max Ernst and was obviously a big influence on Terry Gilliam.

  • Wow! So many terrific and interesting entries, here. I also hope that the missing episodes for the “ASTROMUTTS” series show up. I’d be interested to listen to a show that did not even have a chance at network broadcast.

    The KRAZY KAT cartoons are a kind of guilty pleasure of mine. As I’ve said, there was a BEETLE BAILEY set released recently that included all the cartoons on one disk! That’s a tall order, but I’d love to see a set devoted to the entire KRAZY KAT run. Yes, I know about the two disk set that featured at least 39 of the 50 titles, but why not the whole thing. It’s been quite a while since that last set, and I *LOVE* the Gene Deitch title, here, and I’d love to see that European disk on Gene Deitch cartoons released here, perhaps as a companion to the GENE DEITCH “TOM AND JERRY” COLLECTION disk.

    As I might have said here once, it is a shame that the TOM AND JERRY collection disk didn’t include the Gene Deitch cartoons as a special feature or part of the main program to show that the TOM AND JERRY cartoons were but a *VERY* small part of what Deitch was doing at the time, but I guess that would include the KRAZY KAT cartoons that I mentioned above.

  • Loved The Critic with Mel Brooks as the cranky old gent critizing a modern pop art cartoon “Zat’s a “Cockaroach”!”.

    Looked like Spooky-Yaki’s plot-line with a giant Samurrai cat threatening, reminded me of scene from House of Hashimoto where a young invisible mouse in his father’s samurai outfitt face off with a giant Oni cat who was terroring his village. Cosmo Anzilotti later worked with Ralph Bakshi on Fritz the Cat and later he worked on Superman (Ruby Spears 19888), Kenny and the Chimp, Johnny Brovo and Filmation’s He Man and the Masters of the Universe.

    And, in my humble opinion, here’s a list of animated shorts that should have been put in consideration for the 1963 Oscar for Best Animated Short…

    I Was a Teenage Thumb (Warner Bros)
    The Million Hare (Warner Bros)
    The Unmentionables (Warner Bros)
    Transylvania 6-5000 (Warner Bros)
    Robin Hoody Woody (Universal/WLP)
    Hobo’s Holiday (Paramount)
    And
    Doll Festival (Terrytoons)

  • WB favorites of 1963:
    -Now Hear This
    -Woolen Under Where
    -Banty Raids
    -The Unmentionables

    I admire the art direction in Transylvania 6-5000 but it was far from Bugs’s best, and the dreary Bill Lava music didn’t help.

    It was not a good year for Looney Tunes.

  • Mouse Blanche is the better of the two Paramount produced Krazy cartoons. But I think the Gene Deitch style suited the characters better. Howie Morris is heard in Mouse Blanche, too.

    • And Penny Philips was also heard on Mouse Blanche as Krazy Kat.

  • From 1950 or so onward, Paramount’s cartoon rose and fell (mostly the latter after 1960) almost entirely on the quality of the stories, but the Irv Spector-Eddie Lawrence combo usually had enough good ideas and verbal dialogue to offset the very limited animation. This one must of been in the pipeline for a while, since Spector was on the west coast working for Hanna-Barbera and getting credited on “The Flintstones” and “The Jetsons” by the time “Ringading Kid” was released.

    • This would be very true. My dad would be flying back and forth between LA and NY, from about early 1961(?). He was sending work to Paramount while working for others out West. At one point I didn’t see him for six months. We all finally settled in LA in Feb ’62. That’s when he took the gig with H&B. I remember reading the letter of acceptance.

  • RINGADING KID looks great (it’s Irv Spector, after all). I wish there was some way you could actually see it in its’ entirety. It needs to made known!

  • Kneital/Paramount’s Krazy Kat had the best theme and design (ala G.Herriman.)

  • Loved what I’ve seen of “Ringading Kid”! Man, I have to be on the lookout for a print of that, rare as it may be.

  • I remember seeing The Critic as a teenager in a theater and being really annoyed by it. It seemed like a bunch of deliberately lame visuals standing in for Modern Art, and the philistine filmmakers thinking it was so clever to have Mel Brooks take the piss out of it in a funny voice. (This was around the same time I quit reading Mad Magazine.)

    So I rewatch it now, and guess what? I thought it was funny. But nothing as funny as last week’s Pintoff cartoon, where the old man said “I go for a walk and flowers try to pick me up! Go tell people this.”

    • I wonder how much of Mel’s kvetching was scripted and how much was ad-libbed.

      I still think it’s a shame Pintoff gave up making cartoons in favor of crappy drive-in flicks and Dukes of Hazzard episodes.

    • Yeah, that was an odd transition for him there.

  • THE GREAT RIGHTS was a new discovery for me….and one of the very rare times Bill Scott got a voice credit during his Jay Ward years. Thanks for posting this fine series. (Even Calvin Jackson got a pianist credit for 1964’s THE HANGMAN….he didn’t back in 1947 when he did the keyboard for the Tom & Jerry CAT CONCERTO!)

  • Ring A Ding another one up! Just like I imagined it would be… Thanks Jerry!

  • Thanks for posting the complete “Ringading Kid”. The story structure could have been improved (it seemed like part of an incomplete story….. like there was more to the story before the beginning and “fastest spritz in the west” certainly wasn’t the most conclusive ending they could have come up with) but it was still a delight to see. Don’t know if it deserved an Oscar, though….. Irv Spector’s “Chew Chew Baby” and “The Plot Sickens” may have been better Oscar contenders.

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