Christopher P. Lehman
April 1, 2019 posted by Christopher Lehman

The Bronze Age 2

Two years ago I wrote about the Bronze Age of animation beginning when DePatie-Freleng Enterprises (DFE) became the last remaining studio to produce theatrical short cartoons in 1972. This month’s entry looks at that year in more specific detail. By looking at 1972 month by month, it becomes clear just how transitional the year was in moving from the Silver Age to the Bronze Age.

1972
When the year starts in January, there are two studios actively producing theatrical series: DFE for United Artists and Walter Lantz for Universal Pictures. A third studio–Terrytoons–remains open but has not produced any new animation for Twentieth Century-Fox since 1968, but it just came under new ownership through Viacom the previous month. On January 3rd, Universal Pictures copyrights the last “Chilly Willy” episode: The Rude Intruder. It is the end of the last surviving series starring a character created by Tex Avery.

On February 1st, Universal copyrights the “Woody Woodpecker” cartoon Indian Corn. Five days later United Artists releases the “Pink Panther” cartoon Pink 8-Ball and then puts the “Pink Panther” series on a two-year hiatus.

On March 6th, Universal copyrights the “Woody Woodpecker” episode Gold Diggin’ Woodpecker and the “Beary Family” cartoon A Fish Story. They are Lantz’s last cartoons copyrighted while his studio is in operation. He closes it just four days later and retires from cartoon production.

In April United Artists releases the final “Tijuana Toads” cartoons Frog Jog and Flight to the Finish. They bring a long era of animated Latino stereotypes to a close.

On May 1, Universal copyrights the “Woody Woodpecker” cartoon Pecking Holes in Poles.
On June 1, Universal copyrights the “Beary Family” cartoon Let Charlie Do It.

In July United Artists debuts the “Blue Racer” series, releasing the first four cartoons that month: Hiss and Hers, Support Your Local Serpent, Nippon Tuck, and Punch and Judo.

On August 1, Universal copyrights the “Woody Woodpecker” cartoons Chili Con Corny, For the Love of Pizza, and Show Biz Beagle. Later that week United Artists releases the “Blue Racer” cartoons Love and Hisses and Camera Bug.

On September 1, Universal copyrights the last “Beary Family” cartoon Unlucky Potluck.

Neither Universal nor United Artists unveil a new cartoon in all of October. For the first time since the silent era, no new theatrical short cartoons from Hollywood are released or copyrighted for an entire month. Meanwhile, the Viacom Corporation permanently closes Terrytoons and puts the old studio building in New Rochelle, New York, which had housed the studio since the 1930s, up for sale.

On November 1, Universal copyrights the “Woody Woodpecker” episode The Genie with the Light Touch.

On December 1st Universal copyrights the last cartoon by Lantz: the “Woody Woodpecker” finale Bye Bye Blackboard. Exactly four weeks later, Viacom sells the abandoned Terrytoons building. Meanwhile, United Artists releases Yokohama Mama and Blue Racer Blues.

As 1972 ends, DFE is the only open and active studio, and “Blue Racer” is its only series. New series from the studio will come and go, but the Bronze Age has definitely begun.

11 Comments

  • Thanks for breaking down the state of animated shorts in the year of my birth. So I am a Bronze Age [not the prehistoric–lol] Baby Boomer. My fave of that era is The Pink Panther. From Henry Mancini’s perfect theme music, to the short-tempered The Little Man, to the cool Pink Panther himself.

  • Avery didn’t “create” Chilly Willy. That character already existed in a eponymously-titled cartoon one year before I’m Cold.

    • Indeed, thank you. So. Chilly was the last surviving theatrical character to have once been directed by Tex Avery.

  • Fascinating to know big studios were still producing theatrical shorts that late in the day; I just assumed everything was made directly for TV by then. (By way of contrast, I’m still amazed that the last NEW Three Stooges short was released in 1959).

    As a kid watching TV in the 60s, I came to draw a line between Good Old Cartoons and Not As Good New Cartoons. That line was somewhere in the early 50s, when budgets shrunk and studios embraced the wrong lessons from UPA; it probably varied from studio to studio but the old-fashioned gloss was visibly vanishing across the board. It was a surprise to discover the stuff I regarded as new was as early as late 40s.

    By the 70s I was in high school and rarely saw cartoons in movie theaters — were they still a regular part of the program anywhere? I loftily dismissed all the new product as made for TV. College meant retrospectives of Good Old Cartoons and festivals of new work; studio product of the years betwixt was barely discussed.

    • Just because animation styles were simplified, doesn’t mean that the quality dropped completely. Look at most of the UPA cartoons, the Jolly Frolics, as they were called, bringing in a new and sophisticated era of animated comedy or experimenting with abstract images to tell the story…and, before they left theaters for good, cartoons were still occasionally shown before major motion pictures. It was an odd choice, but a WOODY WOODPECKER cartoon was shown before Woody Allen’s “ANNIE HALL” when I saw it in theaters; I guess that the studio considered it humorous to show two personalities named Woody on the same program? A better choice would have been a Max Fleischer cartoon, but I don’t think that Woody Allen ever had his films distributed by Paramount.

    • I don’t know if it counts as a “Woody Allen film”, per se, but Play it Again, Sam (1972) was released by Paramount.

  • It is sad to see that classic theatrical cartoons were only religated to television, although I certainly appreciated seeing them daily on TV; I was obsessively interested in these films, and truly, the only real way to experience them is in a theater, where you can see the correct aspect ratio and never miss what might be going on in any of the four corners of the screen…and you could see an honest representation of cinemascope! This does not mean that home video isn’t worthwhile, because it is a viable alternative. I certainly never saw these cartoons looking and sounding as good as they now sometimes exist, and I’m always hoping that such restorations continue.

  • 1972 also marked the release of Ralph Bakshi’s first feature, Fritz the Cat.

  • Would it be correct to say that in the 1970s, Universal and United Artists did not assign their shorts to any particular feature film, but rather they simply made their shorts available for distribution, and those theaters which chose to book shorts with features would get whichever shorts were available from the local Universal or UA distribution facility — and play them with a feature from any studio, including Paramount, Fox, Columbia, etc.?

    By contrast, as far back as I can remember, which would mostly be the 1980s and 1990s, when a short was released with a feature, it would be paired with a specific feature from the same studio. And most of those shorts were promoted in the newspaper ads for the feature. (I remember being surprised see Geri’s Game showing with A Bug’s Life in 1998, because that was the first time I could remember an unadvertised short playing with a feature.)

    • Yes, that is correct about cartoon distribution in the 1970s.

  • About the Terrytoons building on Centre St, I read elsewhere that the studio inhabited it since 1949. From 1934 until then, Paul Terry leased space in some skyscraper in New Rochelle (according to I. Klein in his essay “On Mighty Mouse”).

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