Animation History
June 12, 2017 posted by

Cartoons Considered For An Academy Award – 1956

Creatively, the heyday of UPA was in 1951-52 – but ‘commercially’ the studio was never more successful than in 1956. With a thriving commercial satellite studio in New York, The Boing Boing Show on CBS, Mr. Magoo the biggest cartoon star of the decade, a feature film in pre-production – and to top it off, all three nominees for the Academy’s Best Cartoon Short were UPA films. Not even Walt Disney ever had a year in which his studio dominated a single category. That’s what kind of success UPA was having at this point.

And so we continue our research into what other cartoons were submitted to the Academy for Oscar consideration but failed to make the cut. This week: 1956

The actual nominees were:


And the Oscar went to…

MR. MAGOO’S PUDDLE JUMPER (UPA) Pete Burness, director.

You can watch Pete Burness pick up his Oscar from Jerry Lewis and Patty McCormack, here:

However – submitted, screened, but NOT nominated were:

Academy_Award_trophy175A COWBOY NEEDS A HORSE (Disney) Bill Justice
DOWN BEAT BEAR (MGM) William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
PEDRO AND LORENZO (Paramount/Famous Studios) David Tendlar
HOOKED BEAR (Disney) Jack Hannah
DUTCH TREAT (Paramount/Famous Studios) I. Sparber
THREE LITTLE BOPS (Warner Bros.) Friz Freleng
HILL BILLING AND COOING (Paramount/Famous Studios) Seymour Kneitel
MOUSETRO HERMAN (Paramount/Famous Studios) I. Sparber
THE TALKING DOG (Universal/Walter Lantz) Alex Lovy
HOW TO HAVE AN ACCIDENT AT HOME (Disney) Charles Nichols
CALLING ALL CUCKOOS (Universal/Walter Lantz) Paul Smith
A SHORT VISION (George K. Arthur) Peter Foldes, Joan Foldes

Here’s the documentation:

The Academy was single-mindedly determined to give the award to UPA this year. But by doing so, they overlooked the bigger picture of other fine work being done in the field. And some of these other films were clearly Oscar worthy: Disney’s Cowboy Needs A Horse, a pleasingly modern Disney cartoon; MGM’s Down Beat Bear and Warner’s The Three Little Bops, which both use modern jazz to refresh classic characters.

With these posts we ask that you put yourself in their place – which films would you have nominated? Which cartoon should have won? For your edification and viewing pleasure, here are the cartoons that didn’t make the cut. Enjoy the show!

A COWBOY NEEDS A HORSE (Disney) Bill Justice

A Cowboy Needs A Horse is one of those Bill Justice / X. Atencio special projects initiated in light of the visual inroads popularized by UPA and TV-stylized animation. Justice had directed the opening titles for The Mickey Mouse Club and Walt set him up to experimentally explore adding new techniques to Disney animation’s arsenal. Not unlike a segment for a never-concieved 1950s package feature, the short takes a country tune (later covered by Roy Rogers) and re-imagines it as a modern little boy’s western fantasy playground – with all the cliffhanging thrills and native American stereotypes you’d expect. It’s not really a great story, with all the cliche cowboy tropes you’d expect – used to better effect in earlier Disney cartoons like Two Gun Mickey and Pecos Bill – it’s the modern visuals that carry the gentle narrative. Strong Ward Kimball influence in character design, and the chases predate that alien invasion spoof in Kimball’s Mars and Beyond. Cute, fun stuff.

DOWN BEAT BEAR (MGM) William Hanna & Joseph Barbera

Sometimes ya gotta wonder why a certain cartoon was selected by the studio for submission to the Academy. In 1956, Hanna and Barbera were running the whole show (Fred Quimby retired the previous year) so they would have been the ones to select the cartoon from the 1956 releases. Was this their favorite of the bunch? Was Blue Cat Blues too depressing? The Flying Sorceress too zany?

No matter, Down Beat Bear is a fine choice. The animation of the dancing bear, especially when he’s dancing, is superb. Mark Kausler notes: “The first shot of the bear dancing down the sidewalk is Irv Spence’s. Irv also did the first dance shot with the bear dragging Tom all over the floor. The “Door Tango” dance was Ken Muse’s; Ken also did the waltz and charleston scenes just before the bear goes down the furnace vent.”

The musical score is a Bradley tour-de-force. And you can’t deny that Hanna and Barbera must have loved that bruin – two years later they’d design another one with a similar pork-pie hat, trading in the vest for a collar and tie. The handwriting was on the wall.

PEDRO AND LORENZO (Paramount/Famous Studios) David Tendlar

Only Famous would make a “Good Neighbor Policy” film fifteen years after the policy was initiated. It’s also the only “Noveltoon” to actually take place within the pages of a ‘novel’ – or at least a ‘picture book’. It’s the sweet side of Dave Tendlar (on break from all those violent Herman and Katnip pictures), a variation on Ferdinand the Bull, with a few echoes from other Disney influences ranging from The Flying Gauchito to The Reluctant Dragon. Some nice touches distinguish this film from the rest of the Paramount output this year: The music this time is essentially a lone (electric?) guitar, and the film is framed in a storybook (the pull out shots are live action). Perhaps too sweet, too little, too late.

EXTRA NOTE: The original titles and framing of the story for Pedro and Lorenzo were unique and ambitious for Famous at this late date – and today remain hard to see. They created a faux book to present the film in ‘storybook’ style. Here are the original end titles off an old Tech 16mm print I have (which was missing the opening titles, darn it!):

HOOKED BEAR (Disney) Jack Hannah

A Humphrey Bear cartoon! Love the backgrounds in this one — but I suppose if I’m admiring the backgrounds that’s not a good sign. Humphrey is a very frustrated character in this film – his hunger for fish makes me hungry every time I see it. A perfectly fine cartoon, but the crime here is that studio picked this one to submit, skipping over the best Humphrey Bear cartoon ever made: In The Bag. Sorry guys, you lose!

DUTCH TREAT (Paramount/Famous Studios) I. Sparber

Dutch Treat is a generic Casper cartoon of the mid-1950s. It is exactly the same plot we’ve seen before – only the location and the “guise” of Little Billy (this time as “Hans”) has changed. Casper travels to Holland for a friend and, upon arrival, immediately laughs at their customary wooden shoes – then steals a pair to dance in. How rude! But that’s not the only thing he robs – Soon he’s appropriating the sub-plot from Hans Brinker, about the Dutch boy who saves his country by putting his finger in a leaking dike. Ultimately it’s Casper who saves the town (and establishes an aquarium). “You izt a ‘Schmart’ one, you izt!”

THREE LITTLE BOPS (Warner Bros.) Friz Freleng

“The Three Little Pigs are still around, but they’re playing music with a modern sound…”

This was clearly a special cartoon – and it was wise of Warners to submit the film for consideration. It should have been nominated and you could argue a case for it being the best cartoon of the year. It’s the Three Little Pigs set to 50s hipster cool jazz. Trumpet maestro Shorty Rogers (not Carl Stalling or Milt Franklyn) does the musical soundtrack; Stan Freberg (credited!) does all the voices and rhythmic narration. Freleng’s timing is masterful, Pratt’s layouts, Chiniquy’s animation and especially’s Warren Fosters poetic script are exceptional. Extra points for the Liberace gag.

HILL BILLING AND COOING (Paramount/Famous Studios) Seymour Kneitel

Well, this is one of the better of the later color Paramount Popeye’s. It introduces a new character – who would have her own solo cartoon the following year, Possum Pearl – a man-crazy hillbilly woman with super strength. It’s Popeye’s version of Misery with Pearl versus Olive Oyl – and the twist of Olive eating the spinach in the end and knocking Pearl into orbit. We don’t know who’s doing the voice of Pearl, but it was rumored years ago to be an uncredited Judy Canova – or at least someone doing Canova, with a touch of radio’s man-hungry spinster “Cobina” (“A Man!”).

MOUSETRO HERMAN (Paramount/Famous Studios) I. Sparber

It probably wasn’t fair to follow Down Beat Bear and Three Little Bops with Famous Studio’s Mousetro Herman – another musical cartoon, this time placing Herman (and his nephews) in a Jazz Music Shop. Among the injustices done to Katnip (intent on ruining their jam session): first he’s tossed down an elevator shaft, then gets his bottom boffed by a bevy of bass bows. My favorite bit has him getting flattened into a shellac disc, scraped by a phonograph needle, then flung out a window and finally shattering upon impact with the wall. Al Eugster is the head animator here, so its a little less violent than a Tendlar – but just a little less violent. The be-bop lingo might have been dated by 1956, but the music is quite cool, as are John Zago’s modernistic background settings which brighten up the proceedings.

THE TALKING DOG (Universal/Walter Lantz) Alex Lovy

Admittedly, Tex Avery’s Crazy Mixed-Up Pup was a tough act to follow, but that didn’t stop Walter Lantz from bringing back Maggie and Sam (and the dog) for several “sequels”. It’s actually less a sequel and more of three characters in search of a premise for a series. It’s like a little three-character repertory company looking for the right material. Unfortunately, the first cartoon by Avery was it. In this one, Maggie (Grace Lantz) sends Sam (Daws Butler) out with a fat wad of cash to pay the mortgage, but he comes home with a talking dog (Butler) instead. The next few minutes have us going down the One Froggy Evening route – but soon the dog IS discovered – and then loses his voice. I doubt Avery had anything to do with this re-boot (Doesn’t that Maestro look like an Avery caricature?), but Ray Abrams and LaVerne Harding try hard with their funny, exaggerated animation. Extra half-point for the now-dated “Davy Crockett cap” gag. Academy verdict? No bite.


An attempt to do a Goofy cartoon with Donald Duck in the role of the “average man”. This is one of those latter films that doubles as an “educational” – but its fairly entertaining above and beyond its didactic intentions. Love the references to gun accidents, overloaded electrical sockets and the cigarette butts. Kids, don’t try this at home! Note: the “in-joke” of using animator names on the city buildings, as Donald runs amuck at the beginning.

CALLING ALL CUCKOOS (Universal/Walter Lantz) Paul Smith

Cuckoo Clockmaker (think Wally Walrus by way of a German Elmer Fudd) goes hunting for a cuckoo bird – and finds it with Woody Woodpecker. Why do I get a Herr Meets Hare vibe from this cartoon – with a little Rock-a-bye Bear thrown in. Pure ‘drive-in’ fodder – but knowing what’s to come in the 1960s and 70s its a tolerable sit for six minutes. Even Dutch Treat (above) has this beat in the charm and craft departments. Oh, Walter Lantz, we love you – but its all downhill from here.

A SHORT VISION (George K. Arthur) Peter Foldes, Joan Foldes

A Short Vision is an art film that illustrates the horror of atomic war. It’s also the first animated film to debut on television before any US theatrical release. The Ed Sullivan Show gave the film its American debut on May 27th, 1956 (it premiered in London at the National Film Theatre a few months earlier). The surprising public reaction to this short, which was broadcast twice (the second broadcast was on June 10th – by popular demand), gained it a huge profile among cineasts and Academy members – it’s notoriety demanded it be entered for Academy Award consideration.

However, it still wasn’t time for Hollywood to recognize outsiders. Hungarian born Peter Foldes was a painter and experimental animator whose later work won prizes at the Cannes and Venice Film Festivals. Foldes went on to create several pioneering computer animated films, including NFB’s Hunger (the first CG short nominated for an Academy Award, in 1974). He passed away in 1977.

There is an incredible post with more about the history of this short on the Conelrad blog.

The earlier posts in this series: 1948, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954 and 1955.

(Thanks to Mark Kausler and Devon Baxter for their contributions to this post)


  • I can’t believe that both Pedro and Lorenzo, Hillbilling and Cooing and The Three Little Bops were snubbed for the Oscar for Best Animated Short of 1956!

    Pedro And Lorenzo was a beautiful animated film with a beautiful musical arrangement by Winston Sharples using a guitar playing Los Mañanitas (a popular Mexican folk song which is sung traditionally in Mexico during birthday celebrations) in the first part of the film about a young Mexican boy and a young bull who was his favorite pet and how they got reunited late in life in the unfortunate of circumstances (SPOILER ALERT) which ends happily.

    Hillbilling and Cooing was one of the most unusual Popeye cartoons where instead of Olive Oyl being a “Damsel in Distress” it was Popeye as a “Dude in Distress” being chase and captured by a man hungry Mountain Maiden named Possum Pearl and Scrawny Olive trying to save him.

    And the Three Little Bops with the Late Stan Freberg doing all the voices and a jazzy score by Shorty Rogers in a jazzy retelling of the Three Little Pigs.

  • The Talking Dog is just strange. It’s always odd seeing somebody trying to recreate Avery’s work, but it’s even more perplexing that they went with the talking dog gag again (apparently, lighting didn’t strike twice)..

  • I’ve always thought the lady who played Possum Pearl sounds like the same one (also uncredited) who appeared on Peter Pan Records’ new Popeye song around the same time, singing “Pop-PIE the Sailor Man / Eats his spinach by the can.” Since the record label was based in New York, I suppose “mmm, it’s a possibility….”

  • Guess THE THREE LITTLE BOPS suffered the same fate of SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN, by following SPEEDY GONZALES as the other did AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. “We already gave that department a win last year…”

  • Was Chuck Jones/WB’s ‘One Froggy Evening’ ever nominated for Best Animated Short ?

  • “The Three Little Bops” definitely should have been nominated. It’s one of Friz Freleng’s and Stan Freberg’s masterpieces.

  • Voice over actress Judy Cánova who’s family originated from Spain (either the Pyrenees Mountains or the Island of Manoca) was indeed the voice of Possum Pearl in Hillbilling and Cooing (loved here when she sung her take off on Here Comes the Bride ((Here Comes the Groom)) with a bit of a country yodel which was popular around that time).

    Judy Canova was well known in the “country vaudeville” circuit with a family act called The Three Georgia Crackers with her sister Annie and Brother Zeke and was also known as either “The Ozark Nightingale” and “The Jenny Lind of the Ozarks” She hosted her own radio show The Judy Canova Show which ran for twelve years on CBS and later on NBC which included voice over actors Mel Blanc,Gerald Mohr,Han Conried, actress Ruby Dandrige (Coal Black and the Sebben Dwarfs) and actors Sheldon Leonard and Gale Gordon, and starred in several movies including Joan of Ozark,Louisiana Hayride and Cannonball.

    And I believe that it was Judy Canova who inspired April Winchell for her voice of Clarabelle Cow in the Disney Junior series Mickey Mouse Playhouse and Mickey and the Roadster Racers.

    • Voice over actress Judy Cánova . . . was indeed the voice of Possum Pearl

      Is there a source for that other than the Internet Movie Database? For one thing, I’m not sure why Canova, who was still headlining feature films as late as the mid-1950s, would be doing a voice — uncredited — for a couple of animated cartoons. For another, I don’t think Pearl sounds enough like Canova to actually be her.

    • Are you POSITIVE that Judy Canova was the voice for Possum Pearl?

      Famous Studios budgets were low–not down in Terrytoons’ territory, mind you, but still low. I don’t know if Famous Studios could AFFORD a star of Canova’s caliber for these six-minute time-fillers.

      But Canova would have been one influence.
      Another one would have been Dorothy Shaw, the “Park Avenue Hillbilly”, who was still touring the nightclub, hoping that lightning would strike again after his enormous success with “Feudin’ an Fightin’ ” (1947). (Shay also did the definitive version of “Say That We’re Sweethearts Again”–a song that Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin) sang n a “Batman” episode (“Harlequinade”), when asked about her relationship with the Joker.

    • Famous must be one of those studios where there’s still much not known about the voice work. Or sometimes mis-known. For example, I’ve usually heard Mae Questel cited as the voice of Casper’s little friend Billy (or Hans, in Dutch Treat), but recently I was listening to some episodes of Let’s Pretend, a popular children’s radio show of the era, and heard “Billy’s” voice more than once, provided by actress Gwen Davies, not Mae Questel. It was unmistakably the same voice. So, poking around online, I did find Gwen Davies’ name listed in connection with the Casper cartoons, but as the voice of Casper, not as Billy. And only women as Casper, which is interesting because at least some of Casper’s “voices” are, without a doubt, coming from boys. (I have a clipping in my files of a 1995 interview with an Alan Schreiber, who, under the name Alan Shay, said he provided Casper’s voice in about a dozen cartoons in the 1950s, for the grand sum of $30 per cartoon.)

  • CALLING ALL CUCKOOS is the funniest one of the batch.

  • I’m pleased to learn that the priceless THE THREE LITTLE BOPS was at least submitted.

  • A spot of recycling in “A Cowboy Needs a Horse”: When the kid’s empty guns just click, the Indians popping up with hands behind their ears matches a Goofy western cartoon.

    • That would be “Californy ‘er Bust” from 1945.

  • Yeah, this was a Columbia ballot box-stuffing year. Unless you were paid off or legally blind/deaf, no one would not nominate “Three Little Bops”.

    • Well, I admit that compared to 1938 where Disney nearly had the whole category to themselves (save for one Fleisher short), this isn’t such a strong line-up. At least all the 1938 Disney shorts there were memorable. I like the Magoo short but I didn’t find it as good as “When Magoo Flew”. To be honest, I kind of like “The Jaywalker” more, which was UPA’s final one-shot.

  • Actually, “Crazy Mixed-Up Pup” WAS nominated for an Oscar. It failed to win one, though. I can see why “Talking Dog” and “Calling All Cuckoos” didn’t pick up a nomination, although I HAVE wondered if Lantz submitted anymore cartoons of theirs after 1955. They picked two of their weakest cartoons, though; I would have chosen “Get Lost”, “Room and Wrath”, “Niagara Fools”, or “Arts and Flowers” at least over those two. For Lantz cartoons of the era, those four, I feel, were strong enough for Oscar consideration.

    • “Niagara Fools” was pretty funny for a later Lantz. Maybe not Oscar-level funny, but would have stood a better chance for a nom.

  • Of the nominees, I think Gerald McBoing-Boing in the Planet Moo was the weakest of the bunch. Cute and graphically clever, but the story kinda lies there. I would have preferred Three Little Bops take its place.
    As for the Famous shorts, despite some modernist touches on Pedro and Lorenzo and Moustro Herman, they already feel old-fashioned in their storytelling. And A Short Vision, for all its prescience and considerable artistry, was probably too grim for the Academy. Wonder how the TV audience reacted when they tuned in to Ed Sullivan and saw people’s faces melting off.
    This I believe is the last year Disney released stand alone cartoons. From 1957 on, they mostly did one or two featurettes a year to accompany their major releases, along with live-action shorts and work for the TV show. The Humphrey Bear cartoons were among the best (and funniest) Disney shorts of the 50s, although why they chose Hooked Bear instead of In the Bag is beyond me. And while How to Have an Accident at Home is good, the sequel next year is even better.

  • I took a peek ahead. Apparently, the Academy got its fill of UPA this year, because MAGOO’S PUDDLE JUMPER was the last Academy Award they’d take home with them.

    Ed Sullivan deserves a lot of credit for showing A SHORT VISION once, much less rerunning it a month later. He ran it at the very end of his show and gave parents a warning to take the kids out of the room.

    I remember seeing those HOW TO HAVE AN ACCIDENT cartoons at school.

    Re: Casper’s voice — Casper always sounds like a pre-teen boy to me in the theatricals. They may have slipped a woman in now and then but for the most part Casper sounds like a boy. I believe Norma McMillan did his voice in the early ’60s TV cartoons, though. Mae Questel claimed to have been Casper’s voice but I’ve never heard a Casper that sounded like her. Mae’s voices are generally pretty distinctively Mae. I don’t think she was always the best source of information about her career, though. In one 1970s interview i’ve read with her, for example, she insisted that she was the only person to ever do the voices of Betty Boop and Olive Oyl, and she claimed that the reason Max Fleischer stopped making Betty Boop cartoons was that she refused to move to Florida with the studio.

  • Geez, did you have to end the post with that shocking and depressing Canada short? The last time you talked about it, that short keep me up at night after I watched it. Anyway, on to the shorts on the list.

    I thought Paramount’s “Pedro and Lorenzo” was one of the best Famous/ Paramount shorts and felt like they deserved to be nominated for once. Besides, wasn’t there a similar feature film which Trumbo screenwrote under a pseudonym that won an Academy Award a year later?

    Both “Down Beat Bear” and “Three Little Bops”, MGM and Warner’s sole entries respectively were also very good and should’ve been nominated.

    For Lantz’ questionable entries, I found “Calling All Cuckoos” to be the short where Smith’s direction skills started to slowly deteriorate and wished he retired early before his eyesight got more worse and gave the studio a black eye (which he did anyway). At least Lovy’s “The Talking Dog” gave me a few chuckles despite not being original (although, it felt more like Disney’s canceled “Plight of the Bumblebee” which was made a few years before “One Froggy Evening”). I wish the two other “Maggie and Sam” short Lovy did had the same energy as this one.

    Which leaves me to Disney’s line-up. Either of these three shorts could’ve been nominated. After reading Jim Fanning’s article about “A Cowboy Needs a Horse” (recommended) that was published late last year on the D23 site, I have a much better appreciation for this simple short.

    While I enjoyed “Hooked Bear” I kind of felt bad for Humphrey at the end when Woodlore left the poor bear to defend for himself when hunting season opened. And yes, I wish “In the Bag” was nominated. At least the later is referenced in Pixar’s newest film that comes out on Friday (and yes, I’m going to see it).

    “How to Have an Accident in the Home” was also good, but I agree the sequel, “How to Have an Accident at Work”, was a lot funnier (“Don’t throw a monkey wrench in the machine!”).

  • @ J.T. & JAMES E. PARTEN,

    I been doing research on Judy Canova besides checking on IMDb I’ve also checked on vintage audio and video recording on YouTube including listening to her singing Wabash Cannonball and listening to archive recordings on iTunes including a rare radio skit of her on the Abbot and Costello radio program wanting to marry Lou Costello!

    Judy Casnova’s performance of Wabash Cannonball was the closest that I can find that matched her Possum Pearl character on Hillbilling and Cooing. Surprisingly I also checked her biography on Wikipedia and on her filmography she wasn’t credited as Possum Pearl in Hillbilling and Cooing and the sequel Possum Pearl.

    But as JON said Famous Studios didn’t kept records on thier voice over cast members so if it WASN’T Judy Canova who did Possum Pearl’s voice someone really did a great impression of Judy Canova country bumpkin character. And if it was Mae Questel doing a impersonation of Judy Casoova then I’ll be impressed on how she did a awesome job on doing Judy Canova’s character.

  • A Terrytoons cartoon that should have been submitted for the Oscar in 1956 is The Clockmakers’s Dog about a Swiss clockmaker’s dog who wanted to join the St Bernard rescue team.

  • Famous Studios would try the “One Froggy Evening” theme two years later, with “Finnegan’s Flea.”

  • Noticed that in “How to Have an Accident In The Home” the original story is by Jack Kinney – I suspect it must have originated as a Goofy cartoon!

  • From the Internet Archive I give you Hooked Bear:

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