Animation History
November 8, 2017 posted by Jerry Beck

“Mr. Winkle Returns” (1954)

With Devon Baxter away all month, I thought I’d fill his spot this week by examining a random, oddball cartoon that no one in my circle had seen before. But what film? Luckily, my old friend Mark Heller happened to drop by last Sunday with a 16mm print he just found and didn’t know much about – a perfect candidate to throw open to the readers of Cartoon Research.

With time running short, I called upon my four musketeers – Mark Kausler, Don Yowp, Mike Kazeleh and Keith Scott – to weigh in with any information or insights they might have to add to the post. (Keith is away performing on an ocean cruise at the moment – but will follow up when he returns). And so, ladies and gentlemen, I give you: “Mr. Winkle Returns”.


Mr. Winkle Returns is a first class commercial/industrial film for General Mills from 1954. Let’s begin with what Don Yowp was able to find by scouring the trades. He found this clipping in the Nov. 1954 edition of Business Screen magazine:

The pertinent paragraphs are….

Rip Van Winkle was re-awakened for the benefit of General Mills, Inc. stockholders recently. The champion hibernator of the Catskills popped up in a busy color cartoon featured during regional stockholder meetings.

General Mill’s use of audio-visuals to stimulate its stockholder meetings was reviewed by Business Screen during the 1954 regional meeting in the Bismarck Hotel. Chicago. Attended by some 450 stockholders and company officials, the meeting was conducted by Harry A. Bullis, chairman of the board.

Vocal financial reports were highlighted by color slides employing fractional and full screen chart symbols and by a 10-minule animated film, Rip Van Winkle Returns, produced by Dudley Pictures Corporation, Beverly Hills, Cal.

When a cordial, jet travelling cartoon “General” Mills aroused cotton-bearded Rip to the fact that the mill from which Rip acquired a stock certificate in 1928 now is considerably more than a mill; the audience of stockholders was awakened to an articulate interest in the means by which the management plans to make use of its frontier.

YOWP adds: “Earlier editions that year mention Dudley’s recent output. Unfortunately, there’s no indication which of the company’s films were animated. One of the Dudley shorts that year was “Fish Tales,” released by MGM. It was a Pete Smith short, so I suppose the company accepted sub-contract work. I know Dudley did a pile of stuff for railroads; Art Gilmore does the voice over for all of them.”


Additional Notes

• Mike Kazaleh recognized the sound of Clarence Wheeler music. YOWP concurred: “That sure sounds like Clarence Wheeler’s music. I also notice Pee Wee Wyman’s name in the credits.”

• Martha Sigall mentioned ‘Pee-Wee’ in her book – “Irene “Pee Wee” Wyman was animation checker. Her job was to check every drawing in every scene to see how the animation and “camera moves” worked.”

• YOWP dug up credited voiceover actor Howard Culver’s obit from Variety, Aug. 20th, 1964.

Howard Culver, 66, veteran actor, died Aug. 5 of pneumococcal meningitis in Hong Kong following a vacation in China.
A native of Colorado, Culver began his acting career in radio drama in Hollywood in 1936. He starred in the “Straight Arrow ” show in the 1950s, and on television portrayed the hotel clerk “Howie” on “Gunsmoke” during the entire length of the western’s run. He also did films, plays, narrations and voice-overs, and was a newscaster for KLAC, KHJ, KFI and KGIL.
He was a charter member of Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters. He is survived by his widow Lois, three daughters, and three granddaughters.


THE ANIMATION BREAKDOWN

I noticed an MGM feel to the animation. The film is directed by Gene Hazelton. Mike Kazaleh recognized scenes by Irv Spence and Ken Muse. Mark Kausler broke it down best he could:

“I’ve just quoted some lines of dialog to ID the shots, if any shots are missing, I couldn’t recognize the animator.”

Rip sleeping – Muse
“1954!” – Spence
“26 Years” – Spence
Rip looks through desk – Spence
“Worth anything now?” – Spence
Mr. Winkle and the “General” at desk – Muse
• Ken Muse animated this whole sequence, one close-up of Rip by Spence
Winkle says “Wheaties” – Muse
Winkle sings Wheaties jingle – Muse
Sugar Jets and Betty Crocker sequence*Muse
Different products and feed division – Muse
• Pigs-? crude animation, this animator also did the shot of the General Mills employees getting their benefits
• Dog on Conveyor-?
O-Cel-O dialog in plane – Spence
“What’s that down there?” – Spence
Dollars and Cents – Spence
Adding Machine and the General – Muse
Rip falls through plane hatch – Spence
“What about the rest of that money?” – Spence
“By Cracky…” – Spence
“Don’t let me sleep…” – Muse
“So long, General” – Muse

*Yowp Notes: “The scene just as the Jets cereal package swoops over Rip and the dog is unmistakably Muse. The dog’s open-mouth, closed-eyed grin is the same one he gave to Tom at MGM (he kind of did it with Jinks but with the limited animation, it doesn’t move the same).”

And now, here’s the film. Enjoy!

(Thanks to Mark Heller, Mark Kausler, Don Yowp, Mike Kazaleh and Keith Scott)

12 Comments

  • Really fascinating to see this! I could see how a film like this could remind stockholders of what they were buying in the company for those many years.

    One correction though, Howard Culver died in 1984, not ’64.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Culver

  • Jerry, one thing that’s perhaps germane is Business Screen‘s directory has a comprehensive listing for Dudley in its 1954 editions but it does not mention the company having animation facilities, nor is there an animation supervisor listed, so I suspect any animation produced by Dudley was sub-contracted.
    The subject of industrial animated films is one that really deserves exploration but I don’t know of anyone who has the time for the research to do it justice.

    • Oh yes, I heartily agree that huge compilations as well as research should be created on industrial animation of the golden age, because some of our favorite talent went into that field just to keep busy, and they’d gotten to do some fascinating work that rivals the major studio cartoons that we more fondly remember. I still have to question why General Mills still owns the original master materials on Jay Ward cartoons, though. I realize that, perhaps, Jay Ward characters still adorn the cereal boxes, but folks have released these classic commercials on home video without conflict from General Mills while some original materials remain under piles of legal red tape! This is travesty! Okay, enough soap box; this was a lot of fun to check out. It sounded to me more like a classic Walter Lantz cartoon, both in scoring and in some sound effects. Wonderful stuff!

  • Wow! Great detective work by some real experts in the field.

  • Love it!

  • Very good! Credits at the end..

  • A time when a large conglomerate paid more than half of net profits in Taxes to the Federal Gov’t? This was fictional, right?

    • No, this was not at all fictional!

      And it was worse for individuals back in those days.

      The top tax rate–if you earned more than two hundred thousand dollars per annum ($200,000) was ninety-one per cent (91%)

      And to think that there are politicians and political parties that yearn to return to those thrilling days of yesteryear!

  • We didn’t have the Paradise Papers back then! I like the feel of this cartoon very much, in 1954 MGM cartoons was still making fully animated theatrical shorts and “Mr. Winkle Returns” almost has the MGM quality in most of the shots. Irv Spence had a little trouble keeping his volumes consistent, so when Mr. Winkle does a “take” before he falls through the plane hatch, he grows quite a bit. At MGM, Irv’s assistant would probably have scaled that down, but no doubt Dudley Prods. didn’t have a big budget for assistant work. In Ken Muse’s first scene after Rip wakes up, he does a scramble run just like Tom or Spike would do in a theatrical cartoon. I can almost see Rip with cat whiskers in that shot!

  • No Ed Barge, I presume?

  • Fascinating, but the title is self “Mr Winkle returns”? it does beg the question is this title a sequel to another industrial cartoon?

  • When I read the title of this entry, I had to chuckle — “Mr. Winkle” is what Knucklehead Smiff always called Paul Winchell on the “Winchell-Mahoney Time’ show!

    (Kristjan – I think the title refers to Rip Van Winkle “returning” from his long sleep)

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