When Walter Lantz met with Universal in 1947, to renegotiate his contract, the studio played hard ball. It wanted to completely own all of the Lantz cartoons in perpetuity. But Lantz, heavily in debt but understanding the long term appeal of his stars in merchandising and sensing the potential of future television exposure for his library, refused to give in. Instead he took his animators, as well as Woody Woodpecker and Andy Panda, over to United Artists.
Released between December 1947 and March 1949, the twelve cartoons Lantz made for United Artists are some of his best – and perhaps the last great ones (Tex Avery excepted) his studio produced. It didn’t work out for UA – Lantz patched up his relationship with Universal in 1950 – but at least the studio provided Lantz with a shot of additional publicity it otherwise wouldn’t have received in the late 40s.
Below is a four page UA press book from that era, which touts Lantz and his shorts, his history as an animation pioneer, and ways to use Lantz merchandise (comics books, dolls, etc.) to ballyhoo his films. There are also some great ad “slugs” (on page 4 below) and a special display (page 3) illustrating how a cartoon is made. I’ve never seen this “special display” piece any larger, but I’ve blown it up as far as I can below. See if you can read it. Click thumbnails below to enlarge.
Here is the first UA release, one of the best of the bunch, The Bandmaster (1947) directed by Dick Lundy.