August 31, 2016 posted by

Andy Panda in “Playful Pelican” (1948)


This week’s breakdown is a Walter Lantz cartoon starring Andy Panda!

Much like Disney’s contract with distributor United Artists in the early ‘30s, Walter Lantz’s negotiations with UA, after a dispute with Universal around 1947, resulted in a distinct mark of refinement in his films. Dick Lundy was the studio’s sole director during this period; a former Disney animator, he strived for personality and stronger animation by instructing his animators with such methods from his previous studio experience. Andy Panda took a back seat to the popularity of the zany Woody Woodpecker, and appeared in few cartoons after 1944, with only five cartoons during the UA period. Andy plays a more prominent role here, instead of being eclipsed by supporting characters, as he protects a baby pelican after throwing its mother overboard.


Mickey Mouse pose from "The Little Whirlwind" model sheet

Mickey Mouse pose from “The Little Whirlwind” model sheet

As Lundy continued directing his cartoons, Andy’s design fluctuated into a Mickey Mouse-type figure, undoubtedly helped by the arrival of Fred Moore, who shaped Mickey into a rounder, softer character. The new model sheet for Andy, drawn by Moore (above) — dated October 8, 1947, exactly a year before the film’s release — bears similarities to Mickey, in some ways; one of the poses is cribbed from a model sheet from The Little Whirlwind (1941), also drawn by Moore. His extended sequence of Andy hatching the newborn pelican from an egg, and exiting to provide food, has a remarkable fluidity that matches his previous work for Disney.

Ed Love, another former Disney animator, animates the entire opening of Andy struggling to eject the pelican off the boat. (These scenes are comparable to the troublesome pelican in 1940’s Tugboat Mickey, which Love also animated.) Love handles Andy’s poses and lip-sync with a hint of impudence, similar to his scenes with Screwy Squirrel for MGM and Woody Woodpecker. Like Moore’s animation, Love’s drawing is broad with superb posing, particularly when Andy is lifted by the pelican’s beak as he yawns. Another Disney recruit, Ken O’Brien, animates Andy arriving back with a fish and struggling to rescue the baby from the boat spar before they both fall. After Moore’s termination from Disney, O’Brien followed him to Lantz’s studio; O’Brien’s animation is similar, but lacks the flexibility of Moore’s work.

Verne Harding’s animation for Lantz matches the draftsmanship of the ex-Disney artists in Playful Pelican, in its solid drawing and acting. Harding animates Andy finding the mother pelican’s egg in a rope coil; she elicits remorse as Andy calls out for her, and wonderfully handles the nervous Andy finding a suitable nest before sitting on the egg for warmth. Harding also animates the closing scenes of the mother pelican emerging from the sea, and saving both Andy and her son from a shark. Pat Matthews animates the baby pelican following a frog, which hops along inside his beak—boundlessly stretching it— dragging him up to the boat spar.

playful-pelican-titleLes Kline’s work in the film is serviceable, but suffers slightly in comparison to the slick drawing/animation of the other artists credited. Kline animates Andy and the pelican sliding and dangling from a burning rope, as a hungry shark waits underneath them. His timing of Andy praying, letting his hands free of the rope, and grasping back on, freeing them again for an “Amen” is amusing.

Though the animation in Lantz’s cartoons improved, most of their stories hadn’t; the peril near the end of the cartoon seems rushed, with the shark appearing close to the end. If the shark’s presence had been established earlier in the film as a threat, it could have paid off more solidly.

Enjoy the breakdown video!

Playful Pelican Draft-600

(Thanks to Mark Kausler, Thad Komorowski and Frank Young for their help.)


  • I don’t know who did the voice for Andy Panda for Playful Pelican – but that sounds like Mel Blanc doing the voice of the Pelican chick.

    And I also didn’t know that Carnation (the dairy company) marketed their brand of corn flakes and had a card series on how to draw Woody Woodpecker and Company!

    • Andy was voiced by Walter Tetley, who later voiced Mr Peabody’s boy, Sherman.

      Also, Mel did not voice the Pelican chick as he was under his exclusive contract with Warner Bros. by this point.

  • This cartoon is featured in the special “Spook-a-Nanny” episode of “The Woody Woodpecker Show.”

    Andy is a much more fully developed character in this than in many of his others.

  • Mannnn, oh man! This film brings me back a FOND memory. I had had a super 8 color (silent) version of this. I must’ve watched it 8 gadillion times. It was like owning gold!!!

    And, by God, you’re right… that sounds like Mel as the baby. I thought, surely, by this phase he was under exclusivity with WB ????

  • It is nice to see some of these Walter Tetley ANDY PANDA cartoons. Yes, that was Tetley’s distinct voice as Andy. Tetley was doing occasional voices for Hollywood cartoons at this time. You should check him out in a Warner Brothers cartoon called “THE HAUNTED MOUSE”. I thought it odd that Lantz was inconsistent with Andy Panda. There was a cartoon in which Andy suddenly became his Papa. Those titles kind of brand Andy as Lantz’s Barney Bear. You could imagine Rudy Ising giving Barney the same situation in the classic MGM cartoons, but this one is more like the Andy that I remember.

  • For some reason, “Playful Pelican” was included in the trio of cartoons in the Spook-a-Nanny Halloween special of the Woody Woodpecker Show. Its inclusion always confused me.

  • @Nic Kramer
    It sounds like Mel Blanc, because I recognize his voice; Mel was also the original voice of Woody Woodpecker before Grace Stafford took over.

    Mel had a exclusive contract with Warner Bros at the time Playful Pelican came out.

    Just before his exclusive arrangement with WB, Blanc also did VO work MGM (Count Screwloose and J R the Wonder Dog, in Peace on Earth as Grandfather Squirrel, in The Little Mole as Primrose Skunk, in The Field Mouse as Grandpa Fieldmouse and in The Captain and the Kids series as Long John “Johnny” Silver) – and for Columbia Pictures/Screen Gems (in several animated shorts) but of course, uncredited – Columbia’s policy at the time.

  • Sid, not mentioned by name in the article, was Sid Pillet. Any impressions of his style?

    • Pillet was the chief effects animator at Lantz; occasionally, he would animate tiny bits of character animation, but not extended sequences, evident from the Lantz drafts I’ve previously listed.

  • Andy finally completed the Mickey Mouse metamorphosis with the addition of Miranda Panda.

  • Eight minute stories stuffed into seven minute cartoons was an ongoing problem for the Lantz studio in the 1940s. Even when the animation and the earlier gags were good, as was the case here, the Lanrtz efforts (usually with Ben Hardaway helming the story) perpetually seemed to be squeezing in an ending that failed to flow out of the rest of the cartoon, as if they needed another minute or so of action to work things out, but hacked off part of the wrap-up for budgetary reasons.

  • I really like Ed Love’s animation of Andy Panda in the beginning of the short. So appealing 😀

  • For what it’s worth, the minimal noises of the pelican were by Harry Lang. (And a note to contributor “bigg3469” above: Blanc worked for all the West Coast studios before his contract with Schlesinger took effect, from 1937-41….not “just before.” And it’s redundant to add “uncredited…Columbia’s policy at the time”….virtually no specialty voices – animation, narrators, ghost singers – were billed by ANY studio. Blanc only began getting limited credit from the end of 1943 until 1946, at which time he finally got fully regular credit. Any other examples in the 1940s – such as Hans Conried’s two Lantz cartoons – would have been specially agreed by an artist’s manager. Sorry to go off-topic on your fine post Devon, but I have to correct such sweeping statements.)

    • Perfectly fine, Keith. If anything, I thought the noises were Pinto Colvig’s…

    • Interesting connection there…Harry Lang played “Pancho” on the radio version of THE CISCO KID from 1947 until his death in 1953, after which the role was taken over by…Mel Blanc! Blanc was heard as Pancho from then until the series ended in 1956.

  • While Ed Love animated on “Tugboat Mickey”, he only animated Goofy in that short. The scenes of Mickey and the pelican were animated by Kenneth Muse (Mickey) and Volus Jones (pelican).

    However, Ed Love animated Donald’s conflict with a pelican (and a flock of gulls) in “The Whalers”.

  • Dear Mr. Baxter,
    I have just watched an Andy Panda short, Apple Andy, 1946. It is under the Disney imprint. What is up with that? Any help would be greatly appreciated, you look like the go – to guy for such info!

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