December 15, 2022 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Be Happy, Be Healthy (1963)

It’s the last week of school here, so looking at animation from students and grading is owning my life— so it’s simple this week!

On the Thunderbean side of things, it’s been really busy too. I took a *very* quick trip to New York on Saturday (and returned Sunday) to both drop some films off and scan a bunch of things, including getting the Special Holiday Blu-ray set done. On returning we quickly finished authoring it and dubbed it on Tuesday. All the copies of it were sent Wednesday! The Stop Motion Marvels pre-orders are going out with more special discs, and that will continue for the next day or two. Check out the Thunderbean Shop when you get a chance – lots of good last-minute Christmas gifts there.

I’m looking forward to the end of this week since it means being able to work on a lot of Thunderbean stuff. Getting to turn the page on several projects is really exiting to me since it means others can now get more attention. The Tom and Jerry VB cartoons and the Little Kings are being worked on daily as they edge closer to having their sets finished. The second half of the Rainbow Parades continue to be scanned too. I’ll be sharing some of those here soon.

Onto today’s cartoon: Be Happy, Be Healthy (1963)

Many years back, at my first full-time animation job, I met an animator named Loch Campbell. Loch had worked in illustration and animation in Michigan for a few companies. I met him at Media Station, a company producing CD-rom games for Disney, Hasbro, Mattell and other companies. I worked there from 1994 through mid-1996, and Thunderbean was contracted after I was back from LA to work on more games with them into the early 2000s. Loch and I both animated on quite a few games together and I struck up a friendship with him. One of the things he told me he had animated on was Be Happy, Be Healthy at a little company called Portafilm in Ann Arbor. The version he worked on must have been a revision of an earlier film since he worked on it in 1979. The later version was distributed near the end of Educational Films being distributed in 16mm. Before I worked at Media Station, I had worked at the University of Michigan’s educational film library, but I had never seen this particular film- either version!

I’ve lost track of Loch for many years, but somehow I remembered he worked on that film. Many, many years later I saw someone list the film on Ebay and got the print for a song (well, really for 9 bucks or so). This last weekend I finally scanned that print and discovered that this version of the film was made much earlier. I have no idea who worked on this version– but I thought I’d share it here with you. The film has no credits (looks like it was distributed that way) but after finally seeing the film, it sort of reminds me of Fred Crippen’s TV work in some ways and of course other studios. Clearly a small budget on the film. Funny enough, Fred was from Michigan as well.

So, here is Be Happy, Be Healthy from that print. Enjoy and have a good week all!


  • Portafilms produced a film I remember seeing as a kid, “Electric Safety From A To Zap”, My classroom had a VHS tape of it and ran it one day.

    I believe one of the lead animator/designer at Portafilms for many years was Stu Knickerbocker, who also sold gag cartoons to magazines. He died in 2019.

    • I am so happy to have found this!!

      Stuart Knickerbocker was my father. He would be so utterly thrilled to know that people still watch and talk about his cartoons.

      Portafilms was in Drayton Plains the entire time my dad worked there, which was from the early 1950s until the owners, Bill and Gwen Murray, relocated to Arizona in the early 1980s.

      If I remember correctly, Loch Campbell (his brother is Malcolm Campbell, who is or was married to Bill and Gwen Murray’s daughter and has edited all of John Landis’ movies) did some freelance work with my dad after the Murrays moved to AZ.

      Electric Safety From A to Zap was a favorite when my dad brought a projector and films home from work.

      As was “The Atom and the Kilowatt,” an educational film for Consumers Power about the Big Rock Point nuclear power plant near Charlevoix, MI. I was in that film – I knocked over blocks that spelled out “Electricity” and turned on a light switch and looked up at the light. I have no memory of it, but apparently I refused to look at the light, and my dad, who was operating the camera, pointed up to make me look. His finger was in the original print but was edited out. Sadly, Consumers did not convert it to VHS and it now only exists as a listing in the Library of Congress. I do have the original print, but it was damaged and stretched.

      My dad was the best, and I miss him and my mother tremendously.

  • I just love MCM era educational stuff like this! Another charming relic unearthed by my main man Steve! Will this be featured on an upcoming set? MCM 3, perhaps?

  • That was fun. Thank you for sharing Steve! I think I have a cartoon from Portafilms on how to safely cross roads.

    • OMG I was supposed to be in that movie!!! My dad, Stu Knickerbocker, worked at Portafilms and convinced his boss to hire me. I got picked up from elementary school by a Portafilms employee who happened to drive a Corvette, and everyone thought I was the coolest thing in the world. Until my dad’s boss fired me for being a brat and not following directions. Thus ended my movie career.

  • A cute film, and I like the rhyming narration. I don’t remember seeing it in school, but I’d have enjoyed it if I had.

    According to Stu Knickbocker’s obituary, Portafilms was in Drayton Plains, west of Pontiac. Apparently the studio must have relocated at some point.

    There doesn’t seem to be a lot of information about Portafilms online. Worldcat lists around a dozen titles over a 20-year period, mostly dealing with health and safety matters. But they also made a couple of films about Michigan history that I would love to see!

  • Thanks for sharing this, Steve. Charming little film and the narration style blends perfectly with the art style.

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