THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
November 9, 2017 posted by Steve Stanchfield

The “Chiquita Banana” Theatrical Commercials

I’m Chiquita Banana and I’m Here To Say…

The theatrical Chiquita Banana commercials, produced by John Sutherland Productions from 1947 through 1949, are among the most charming theatrical animated commercials made in the 40s. Sutherland was incredible lucky to have many great animators working at the studio in the late 40s. Both Irv Spence and Pete Burness were at Sutherland at the time these were made (after leaving MGM), and it’s a safe bet that much of the animation in the shorts are by them.

I find these little films to be pretty fun- but even after multiple viewings I can never remember what the recipes are, and I wonder if ANYONE seeing these theatrically would either- but perhaps the idea behind these ads is to show possible uses to the housewife who they are clearly appealing to- and remind her to pick up the free Chiquita Banana Recipe Book next to the Bananas.

I can’t help but compare the other phallic-ish character by Shamus Culhane produced for Murial Cigars. They seem to share some kinship in some typically cartoony design elements as well as singing.

They are also very careful to always tell us to keep the bananas out of the refrigerator. When I first saw a bunch of these about 25 years back, my cynical side assumed that they didn’t want you to put bananas in the refrigerator because they would perhaps keep longer, but the truth is that bananas do suffer a chill injury in cold that causes them to stop ripening if they are not ripened fully.

As you can see from some of the youtube links to the commercials below, Hollywood actress Monica Lewis did the voice of Chiquita Banana on these theatrical cartoons as well as appearances on Television in both live action and commercials. She passed in 2015, but her website still features great information about her career as well as a new documentary about her.

These copies most likely mostly come from the beautiful 16mm Blu-track Technicolor prints from the essential Mark Kausler’s archive. Many years back, a big reel of the commercials showed up on Ebay back in the days of crazy bidding wars. The collector who won them (and beat me with an even crazier bid than I put in) wouldn’t lend them, fearing they could be lost somehow. There were several others included in those since some of the stills were images I had never seen- perhaps someday they’ll show up.

This appears to be the first in the series:


Chiquita Banana’s Magic is another early entry in the series


Chiquita Banana goes North features really cute dog designs especially


Chiquita Bannana’s Star Attraction seems to have only shown up in black and white so far…


Chiquita Banana and the Cannibals. We did a better transfer of this for the Thunderbean ‘Cannibals’ dvd years back.


Chiquita Banana Helps the Pieman:


Chiquita Banana and the “Bobby Soxer” is only a little harder to see in that it wasn’t on the same reel as many that were transferred years back. It looks to me that many of the same animators on the earlier shorts are now absent:


In the 90s, a live action commercial was made with the same famous old song. The outfit is pretty accurate to the small icon on millions of bananas over the years.

Have a great week everyone!

8 Comments

  • So…..no Thunderbean new animation releases in time for Christmas? I got relatives and they’re going to want my X-mas list.

  • These were a lot of fun! Hopefully, some of these will show up in reasonably good quality on your second ALL COMMERCIALS disk, something I really look forward to as I enjoyed the last one, thinking that there wasn’t enough Jay Ward. I never realized that the Chikita Banana ads and caricature went back so many years, but I liked the “BOBBY SOCKSER” ad and hope you can find a much, much better copy. So sorry that you didn’t acquire the reel on Ebay, but hey, I’m sure you’ll keep seeking out further representations of this. I don’t quite recall the “CANNIBALS” segment showing up on that disk, but there is a Chikita Banana ad that closes that disk. I’ll recheck it. Another terrific posting, Steve, and good luck on further interesting research.

  • Hi Steve,

    I assume you are again hosting the cartoon festival at the Redford Theatre this year. Just wondering if you had a list of films that will be presented.

  • Design-wise, while a coupe of the characters have an Avery-MGM unit vibe, like the salesman in the “Goes North” ad, lots of the designs and movement gives off a Famous Studios vibe, even though the Chiquita shorts were done on the West Coast.

  • Nice…interesting today’s post…but, what about Thunderbean several pre-orders Steve, no more updates?…

    • Sorry to not have Thunderbean updates. We’re cranking away on a bunch of projects here, with a few making it out the door each week….

    • Thanks for another interesting and entertaining post, Steve. That said, I really hope you post some updates on the many upcoming sets in the works.

    • Steve, while you say a few projects are making it out the door each week, I still have yet to see any hit my door step and I’ve ordered pretty much everything. Can you check on that for me?

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