Animation History
November 27, 2013 posted by Jerry Beck

George Pal’s Original “Puppetoon” Patent

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Those who pre-ordered The Puppetoon Movie blu-ray should have received it by now. I’m already getting many people writing me to tell how much that are enjoying it… let’s hope it’s the first crack at unlocking the vault containing these hard-to-see shorts. Cartoon Researcher John Simpson was so delighted, he shared with me this find: George Pal’s 1940 U.S. patent for Puppetoons.

How cool is this? This is the very document that was the basis for Pal’s Academy Award; It outlines the “novel methods and techniques” of his stop motion process (aka Replacement Animation). In the documents, Pal goes to great pains to verbally describe his system of animating models. Click thumbnail images below to enlarge and read for yourself – Click here to see page 1 and Page 2 (both pictured above).

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Trade advertisements above and below are from an amazing new book Ray Harryhausen Master of Majicks – which I also recommend highly!

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I can’t do a Puppetoon post without including at least one small example of the technique. Here is something not included on the Puppetoon blu-ray – a commercial Pal produced for Mounds candy in the 1950s:

15 Comments

  • Those posters make me think the original name for the Puppetoons , when released in theatres, was “Madcap Models.”

    • That is discussed on the Blu-Ray commentary.

    • They were called “Madcap Models” to specifically give them a unique series brand name that Paramount could copyright. They were already known as “Puppetoons” before the deal was drawn up, hence why their name is still in the title as “George Pal’s Puppetoons.”

      I’m also hoping we get more Puppetoons in a followup blu-ray, those that are still copyrighted by Paramount. Those shorts are an outstanding piece of film and stop-motion animation history.

  • George Pal was a genius. Period.
    What strikes me about this commercial — and about his Paramount features — is not just the ingenuity of the puppetry, but the staging and the amazing ways he used lighting to accentuate the scenes, adding considerably to what he was trying to get across.

  • Got my copy last week. I am enjoying it immensely.

  • I saw Pal’s Puppetoons in black and white as a child, of course, but my first experience with how wonderful they were was at a special screening at the L.A. County Museum of Art in the early 70′s. ASIFA and the museum put on a History of Animation with several programs dedicated to great Hollywood cartoons. The cartoons shown were beautiful prints projected on a big screen at the Leo Bing Theater. One of the programs was titled “Sex and Violence (and general bad taste)”. The program featured such cartoons as Uncle Tom’s Cabana, Birdy and the Beast, The Wise Quacking Duck, and Jasper and the Watermelons. Seeing Jasper that way was a completely different experience and over the years I’ve wished that there was some way to experience these films the way they were meant to be seen. I received by Puppetoon Blu-Ray a couple of days ago and am excited to watch it!

  • Is there a list of all the Puppetoons — the Paramount shorts, at least — available somewhere, with accurate release dates?

  • So what are the benchmarks for more Puppetoons to be released? Is it a sell-out of 3000 Blu-Rays? Who has to be sold on the idea of releasing the vault?

    • Selling out of the 3000 copies (limited edition) would sure help. Paramount, who owns the master film elements, has no interest in releasing these shorts to DVD, blu-ray or in any capacity. Bruce Venesia, the independent producer who laid out the money to create this DVD – fronting tens of thousands to sub-license the material, re-master in hi-def, produce bonus materials, packaging and authoring – may be willing to compile the rest of the shorts if the initial 3000 fly off the shelf. If not, perhaps another entrepreneur may take it on. Perhaps the Pal estate itself? There are many possibilities. But first, interest in the films must be proven.

      I recommend buying an extra set to give as a gift this year. ;)

  • You can search Google Patents for George Julius Pal to find a lot more of his patents.

  • Oh, I’m really enjoying THE PUPPETOON MOVIE bluray, and I, too, hope that fans coming out and supporting this release will prove that there is still a market for these shorts.

    I grew up loving the PUPPETOONS films since they were part of every early morning on New York’s local network TV–our ABC affiliate ran them as part of that ever-evolving EARLY BIRD CARTOON SHOW that I’m always raving about and *STILL* miss to this day. To my memory, PUPPETTOONS were unique in that they even brought a Tex Avery sensibility to stop motion animation, and I’m sure that so many folks reading this could point out in detail just what I’m talking about using some of Pal’s more surrealistic entries in the PUPPETOONS series as examples.

    And I agree that George Pal could use lighting in unique ways, and I’m not just talking about films that took place in, say, houses that were thought to be haunted or anything like that, but you could sometimes tell that Pal must have had a love of silent comedies the way he used lighting to emphasize the mood, whether it be fright or gentle peace or even suspense, like nothing else I’ve ever had the opportunity to experience–and unfortunately, I was rendered sightless before I knew of all the great toon marathons held at small theaters across the New York area and around the country; so I never had the actual opportunity to see these films in full color on the “big screen” at a local movie theater!

    It would be so nice to have THE COMPLETE PUPPETOONS in our bluray library because they really should be experienced on big screens, whether on celluloid or on someone’s home system! There were shows as recent as the 1990′s “ANGEL” that featured whole episodes in which all the strange characters were reimagined as PUPPETOONS, so I know that there must be a major underground following amid top sci-fi/horror/comedy writers and producers in Hollywood of George Pal’s most unique work, folks who still marvel at Pal’s resilliancy at achieving his vision in an industry that probably cannot do this sort of incredible artistry anymore, either because of lack of talent or lack of funding to really do the job right! I hope there is never an age when folks do not ever know what the PUPPETOONS are or who George Pal is.

    Thanks for all the efforts that went into getting this set done, and I’ve found the extra menus, now, Jerry, and I’ve been enjoying the extra cartoons–hey, two programs of great PUPPETOONS; that should boost the amount of buyers for this set. Those who don’t know anything about the legacy of George Pal will be astonished to hear about what it took to make each of these stunning shorts. Please support this! I can’t say it enough!

  • Jasper and the Watermelons??! I guess that’s better than Jasper and the Government Cheese.

  • Got my set on Monday, couldn’t tear off the cellophane fast enough. So glad to have these shorts on blu-ray, especially the two Puppetoons inspired by Dr. Seuss stories, which have been beautifully restored by UCLA. This weekend I’m going to dive in and check out the extras on Disc 2. Hopefully there will be a second release, so we can see Jasper’s encounter with Bugs Bunny.

  • Just got my copy today, and man this stuff is fantastic!! I came into Pal’s work late in life–I was in high school when I first found my copy of Tubby the Tuba.

    I really hope that the 3000 sell out so that Paramount will let someone put the rest on DVD/Blu-Ray.

  • My favorite Puppetoon is “John Henry & The Inky Poo” from 1946. I’ve never seen good prints of that cartoon, though. The prints I’ve seen look like they were made in two-strip Technicolor. Even the print with the Paramount titles.

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