March 12, 2014 posted by

Cartoon Research Round-Up: Broadcasts and Book Reviews

Today at 7pm Eastern/4pm Pacific I’ll be appearing once again on Stu’s Show, the weekly internet radio show that discusses all sorts of pop culture – but mainly classic television and animated cartoons.

stu-show-logoWe will be discussing the upcoming classic animation collections scheduled for DVD and blu-ray (such as Mr. Magoo Theatricals and the Platinum Looney Tunes), new books (like The Art of Jay Ward and others), animated features (Mr. Peabody, The Lego Movie), the new Bugs Bunny “Wabbit” show, Cartoon Network, upcoming features and if we get around to it Scrappy and Krazy Kat … all this and much more, live (and free) at Stu’s The whole program will be available for download (for a mere 99 cents) in the archive after the broadcast today.

Though the show is live, we no longer take questions via phone. The “new rules” are that you must submit questions for me directly through Stu via email So, tune in today for two hours of toon-talk (say THAT five times, fast)!

Book Reviews

whimsy-works150INSIDE THE WHIMSEY WORKS: My Life With Walt Disney Productions by Jimmy Johnson Edited, by Greg Ehrbar and Didir Ghez

I never heard of Jimmy Johnson before receiving this book – but now I feel like his best friend. And I wish I had met him. But alas, Johnson passed away in 1976 after a career at the Walt Disney Studio in various roles. He started there in 1938 and retired in 1975 – spending his final year writing this book.

The manuscript landed at the Walt Disney Archive and remained there for decades – until Disney historians Ehrbar and Ghez were allowed to edit, annotate and publish it at last (via University Press of Mississippi). Johnson tells his whole story here, in a breezy conversational style and took me behind-the-scenes to some of other Disney departments I always wanted to know more about – the merchandising, publishing and music divisions he was a part of and, in some cases, he ran.

It’s Disney history from another point of view. From someone far from the limelight. Who made important contributions and worked with top talent, clashed with executives and collaborated Walt and Roy personally. Sometimes I’m concerned with the avalanche of books about Walt and the studio – its a bit overwhelming. But Johnson’s memoir is heartfelt and human. Not a rehash of old facts, but an important reminder that – once upon a time – real people ran the studio. Their choices, right or wrong, affected our childhoods by creating indelible memories.

Johnson was one of the good-guys. This book was a pleasure to read.

disney-grand-tourDISNEY’S GRAND TOUR: Walt and Roy’s European Summer Vacation, Summer 1935 by Didier Ghez.

How would you like to take a vacation to Europe in 1935 and tour all the great cities with Walt Disney, his brother Roy and their wives? Didier Ghez, who co-edited the book reviewed above and compiles the annual Walt’s People volumes, is your tour guide – as he has taken Disney’s personal journals, rare letters, newspaper reports, rare drawings and photographs (and a ton of further research) to document the entire trip.

And what a trip it is! Lunch with H.G. Wells in London, a Mickey Mouse ballet in Paris, a book buying binge in Munich. Ghez also definitively answers the elusive question: Did Disney meet Mussolini and the Pope in Italy? Spoiler Alert: No, he didn’t – but here is the whole documented story of how this rumor came to be – and what really happened.

Beyond the incidents of the trip itself, Ghez explains through his text how this European tour influenced important things to come in the Disney canon. The late Diane Disney Miller writes of her gratitude for Didier’s research in a Foreword and Michael Barrier introduces the work with his endorsement in the Preface. Highly recommended, says I.

Speaking of books, those of you in the L.A. area who missed the recent Moosylvania Art Show at Van Eaton Galleries, can make up for it this weekend in Santa Monica, California. Darrell VanCitters and I will be signing our respective books (his, The Art of Jay Way Ward Productions – mine, The Art Of Dreamworks Mr. Peabody and Sherman) at the Aero Theatre where the American Cinematheque will present a big screen showing of classic Jay Ward cartoons, Rocky, Bullwinkle, Mr. Peabody, Sherman, etc. Darrell will do an on stage panel and interview with guests Ward voice goddess June Foray, Ward designer Sam Clayberger and Ward writer Allen Burns. Join us – it’ll be funny! Details here!


Speaking of the Van Eaton Galleries… here are some odds and ends I snapped while I was there last week. First up, a file folder filled with the original art for the titles to the TV series The Life Of Riley (1953-1958) designed by T. Hee (click thumbnails below to enlarge). The video of the complete title sequence is below that. (And yes, they are for sale).



Also in the folder was this odd piece (below) by Thornton Hee – I couldn’t figure out who these people in the caricature were. I posted this on the Stu’s Show Facebook page and within minutes we had the answer (thank you, Michael Schlesinger). It’s a promotional piece for a short lived CBS comedy Angel (1960), with Annie Farge and Marshall Thompson. I’ve embed the animated titles below (they start at :34) – but check out the Glade spot excerpt (at 1:10) designed by Pintoff. Mike Kazaleh says the animation looks Vinnie Bell.


And finally, Van Eaton picked up this Kiddie Cartoon Machine. It works and he has it on display at the Gallery for a short time. Apparently its for sale for a few hundred bucks. Contact Mike Van Eaton if you are interested.



  • What cartoon(s) is/are lncluded in the Kiddie Cartoon Machine?

    • There are some 8mm Walter Lantz cartoons included… I’ll try to get the list of titles next week.

    • The Lantz ones would typically have a Woody Woodpecker, Maw & Paw, Hickory Dickory & Doc, and a Chilly Willy on one cartridge. When the prints would wear out, we’d order a new print of that reel. Lantz would have them setup at the lab to only print the four particular cartoons on that reel. Plus we’d have to have Lantz send a copyright clearance letter to the lab before the lab would print it.

  • Oh, so you’d never heard of Jimmy Johnson before, eh? I guess you’ve never read the comprehensive Walt Disney Records history Greg and I did, MOUSE TRACKS. Oh well, none of us is perfect!

    • My apologizes, Tim. Of course I read your (and Greg’s) magnificent book on the history of Walt Disney Records (Highly recommended to all). Mouse Tracks: The Story Of Walt Disney Records is a vital book for anyone interested in the company’s history. But I must confess, this new book written by Johnson himself, really makes his presence stronger, in a way that allowed me to really know the man himself. Both books are great in different ways, but first-person histories like Inside The Whimsy Works are truly special – and I think even you would admit that!

  • I used to work on the “Kartoon Korner” brand kiddie cartoon machines. Several manufactures made ‘cartoon machines’ over the years. Many of them used the MPO Videotronics and the Fairchild 70-07 series endless loop super 8 cartridge projectors. Usually they had four edited cartoons on one cartridge. Cartoons were edited down to 4 minutes running time to fit the constraints of the cartridges. Typically all the cartoons on one cartridge were all from the same distributor. For instance, one cartridge would have all Terrytoon stuff: a Deputy Dawg, a Dinky Duck, a Mighty Mouse, and a Gandy Goose all on one ‘reel’ so to speak.

    • KEN:

      OY! I had a side-line repairing those film cartridges back in the 80s. The film would jam and plastic cartidge pieces would snap off. I got $5 per cassette, but, o h, the aggravation!

  • The most popular cartoon machine manufacturer was Kiddierama. Here is a webpage about them:

    • I remember finding one of these once in the 80’s and wanted to check it out so bad but it was “out of order”.

  • So T. Hee drew the cartoon titles for “The Life Of Riley”. Who knew?

    I used to watch this show in the afternoons after I came home from school–we’re talking fifty years ago, folks! That was back when KNXT (Channel 2 in Los Angeles) would run various permutations of “The Life Of Riley”, “Amos ‘n’ Andy” and “My Little Margie” in the hour between 3L30 and 4:30 in the afternoons.

    I suspect your clip was from the 1954-55 season. The earlier seasons did not use drawn titles, but photographs. The 1955-56 season did not have Tom D’Andrea, as he’d gone off to do a flip show called “The Soldiers”. (Instead, George O’Hanlon played a new neighbor, Dudley.)
    And the music for the last two seasons, while using the same drawings, was zippier.

    • “So T. Hee drew the cartoon titles for “The Life Of Riley”. Who knew?”

      You learn something new each day, though watching the opening on YouTube, I do see T. Hee’s name on the first card for William Bendix anyway, so nice if he got to include his name there.

      “I used to watch this show in the afternoons after I came home from school–we’re talking fifty years ago, folks! That was back when KNXT (Channel 2 in Los Angeles) would run various permutations of “The Life Of Riley”, “Amos ‘n’ Andy” and “My Little Margie” in the hour between 3L30 and 4:30 in the afternoons.”

      What TV use to be. Nowadays is just news and talk show garbage (not to knock CBS’s “Let’s Make A Deal!”, at least it’s something).

  • When Jerry appeared on “Stu’s Show” back in December, he mentioned the Tom and Jerry shorts produced by Gene Deitch were coming to DVD. Any news as to a release date?

  • Do you still have the Kiddie Cartoon Machine? If so what are you asking for it. Thank You.

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