For years Phil Duncan was one of those ubiquitous animators. You’ve seen his work a million times but you may be unfamiliar with his name. He was very stylistically flexible and could do normal Disney-type animation, but left to his devices he seemed to prefer a much looser and cartoonier style of working. In the early forties Duncan was one of the Disney artists that was hired by Frank Tashlin to work at the re-organized Screen Gems studio. It was here that Duncan took advantage of the creative (or possibly lax) attitude, and experimented with stylized posing and animation. Duncan was also an expert at using secondary actions in a way that added humor and life to his scenes.
One of Phil Duncan’s pals from Disney, Ade Woolery, would later bring Phil to Playhouse Pictures. A little while later, Hanna-Barbera would move into the old Charlie Chaplin studio, which happened to be directly across the street from Playhouse. Bill Hanna would often walk across La Brea Avenue and hire animators to work on his shows. As a result Phil Duncan ended up doing a lot of work on Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, and The Flintstones (mainly on the commercials and bumpers.) Duncan also did a lot of work for John Hubley, UPA, and Jay Ward.
Now let’s take a look at some of his commercial work (and also one Sesame Street cartoon…)
Phil Duncan was one of the regulars at Jay Ward Productions, and he animated scenes in an amazing number of their commercials. Here’s one with Bullwinkle that’s Phil all the way through. Bill Scott is the voice of Bullwinkle, and Paul Frees is the Narrator. (Apologies for the crappy logo at the end)
New Improved Quake
Voices by Bill Conrad, June Foray, Daws Butler and Bill Scott. Poor Quake never stood a chance against the Quazy Prince of Planet Q, and The Quaker Oats Company kept trying to revamp him and his cereal. At one point he became second banana to an orange polka-dotted kangaroo (or “quangaroo” if you prefer.) In some markets you can still find Quisp cereal, but you can’t find Quake with a geiger-counter.
King Vitaman – The Blue Baron
Featuring Daws Butler as the Blustery Blue Baron and Joe Flynn as King Vitaman. Bill Scott is the flunkey. Phil Duncan animated this spot with Ben Washam. Their animation styles were very different, and yet they often shared the stage in these Jay Ward spots.
White Magic Soap
Made in 1955 at Playhouse Pictures. I seem to remember seeing a document at the studio that indicated that the Kenyon & Eckhart agency paid less than $900 for this spot. That would’ve been on the low side of cheap even in them days.
From 1953, also from Playhouse Pictures. Marvin Miller is voicing the Incas in this spot. Very low budget stuff but still very nifty.
Flintstones – Winstons
Possibly the most famous thing Phil Duncan ever animated was this Winston spot. Fred and Barney hide out for a smoke while the wives do all the work. The sponsor tag at the end of the video was animated by Ken Muse.
Roman Meal Diet Plan
Live action with animation. It’s entirely possible that the copy writer of this spot was picturing the lion as being an ominous figure, but in Duncan’s hands it became much more comical.
Sesame Street – Cat and Mouse
The Hubley studio did a lot of animation for Sesame Street and The Electric Company. Their segments were often characterized by unusual music and surreal imagery. Working within the meager budgets provided by CTW, the Hubley studio would use it’s own unique approach to limited animation that allowed for more action, mainly exposing the drawings for different numbers of frames (depending on where in the action the drawing fell) similar to a pose reel. Here’s an early segment animated by Phil Duncan that uses that very technique.