Animation History
September 25, 2017 posted by Jerry Beck

Cartoons Considered For An Academy Award 1969

My, what difference ten years makes. In 1959 it was Hubley’s Moonbird versus Speedy Gonzales, Walt Disney and Ernie Pintoff. After a decade that saw the traditional Hollywood studios sink and an emergence of independent and international animation thrive – who would have thought Disney would win two years in a row. But this would be the last of Disney in the shorts race at the Oscars. It would be decades before they’d earn another nomination (let alone another win).

Ward Kimball’s It’s Tough To Be A Bird is certainly an unusual film – but very much of its time. The Academy’s short branch wasn’t necessarily playing favorites here – but you can see by the fellow nominees that progressive, abstract, and indie work was clearly in favor. And why shouldn’t it, if member studios continue to submit stuff like Shamrock and Roll and Tijuana Toads – this is not a knock against them, I’m just saying… times had changed.

This week: 1969

The actual nominees were:

OF MEN AND DEMONS (Paramount) John & Faith Hubley [View]
WALKING (NFB/Columbia Pictures) Ryan Larkin [View]

And the Oscar went to:

IT’S TOUGH TO BE A BIRD (Disney) Ward Kimball, director. [View]

On April 7th, 1970 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillon presenters Myrna Loy and Cliff Robertson presented the Oscar to director Ward Kimball. Here’s a video of that presentation:

And so we continue our weekly research into what other cartoons were submitted to the Academy for Oscar consideration but failed to make the cut. Submitted, screened, but NOT nominated were:

Academy_Award_trophy175ANANSI THE SPIDER (Walter Reade Org.) Gerald McDermott
THE CATERPILLAR AND THE WILD ANIMALS (Joseph Brenner Assiociates) Gerard Baldwin
THE GIANTS (Schoenfield Films) Gene Deitch
THE GOOD FRIEND (Murakami-Wolf) Jimmy Murakami
INJUN TROUBLE (Warner Bros.) Robert McKimson
THE MACHINE (aka MASCHINE) (Janus Films) Wolfgang Urchs
MY SON THE KING (Walter Reade Org.) Bob Kurtz
OPERA CORDIS (Zagreb) Dusan Vukotic
PERMUTATIONS (Grove Press) John Whitney
SCRATCH A TIGER (UA – DePatie-Freleng)
SHAMROCK AND ROLL (Warner Bros.) Robert McKimson
THE TIJUANA TOADS (UA – DePatie-Freleng) Hawley Pratt

Here’s the documentation:

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 the Academy screened which didn’t make the cut (unfortunately not all of them are online – and with so many entered, my comments this week will be brief). Enjoy the show!

ANANSI THE SPIDER (Walter Reade Org.) Gerald McDermott

Illustrator, independent animator and graphic designer Gerald McDermott directed this film – which won numerous awards on the non-theatrical library circuit. Former Terrytoon animator Vinnie Bell is the sole animator – and yes, that’s the Joseph Campbell credited as a consultant.

This animated African folk tale features the trickster character Anansi, a spider with human qualities. When Anansi goes on a voyage and falls into trouble, his six sons come to his rescue. Later, Anansi finds a beautiful light in the forest and decides to give it to the son who saved him, but which son of six deserves the prize?

THE CATERPILLAR AND THE WILD ANIMALS (Joseph Brenner Assiociates) Gerard Baldwin

The Caterpillar and The Wild Animals was an independent film, designed, animated, produced and directed by Hollywood veteran, Gerard Baldwin (formerly of UPA, Jay Ward, Ed Graham, Playhouse Pictures and John Sutherland Studios).

It’s a cute original fable about a Caterpillar who hides out from the world by taking over the home of a rabbit, pretending to be a fierce deity. Well done little film. That’s Greg Morris (of TV’s Mission Impossible fame) as the narrator and all the other voices.

THE GIANTS (Schoenfield Films) Gene Deitch

There is a whole story behind this film – and you can read it here. Attention Gene Deitch! Your film, The Giants, was indeed screened for the Academy shorts committee!

Long story short, Kratky Film (aka the Czech Ministry of Culture) and Weston Woods financed this personal anti-war film of Gene’s – produced during the period of Soviet occupation of Prague. Gene hired his wildest designer Vratislav Hlavat to give the film the bizarre look it has. And of course, Allen Swift does the voices.

At first glance The Giants may seem ugly and confusing, but – after numerous viewings – I’d argue that its a classic. It reflects much of the late 60s mind-twisting, jump-cutting, pop-art, anti-war message sensibility better than most in this genre. I don’t take mind-altering drugs – but I have a feeling that might enhance the experience. Oh, how I wish this were released as a Terrytoon!

THE GOOD FRIEND (Murakami-Wolf) Jimmy Murakami

This one was released on DVD in a Jimmy Murakami collection of shorts. Unfortunately I don’t have it; however, Murakami gave this quote about the film to AWN:

“Good Friends is more cynical, about how ‘friends’ abuse and use people, eventually destroying them. [Bendazzi describes the film as ‘a man literally giving himself to another man — eyes, mouth and so on — until the latter leaves with the donor’s woman.’] That came out of my life, my anger.”

THE GREAT WALLED CITY OF XAN (USC – Universal) Hal Barwood

There is no trace of this one. UPDATE: Charles Brubaker has found this tiny (literally short and of small size) clip here.

Obviously it’s a USC Student film by Hal Barwood who went on to do great things as a writer, director and producer. He attended the USC’s School of Cinema-Television, where he first met both George Lucas and frequent collaborator Matthew Robbins. Barwood and Robbins wrote the screenplays for Steven Spielberg’s debut theatrical feature The Sugarland Express, and later his Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Barwood both co-wrote and produced two films that Robbins directed: the Mark Hammil hot rod pic Corvette Summer and the fantasy cult favorite Dragonslayer. He’s been a writer, director, game designer at LucasArts since – on such projects as 1992’s “Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.”

INJUN TROUBLE (Warner Bros.) Robert McKimson

If you only watch one Cool Cat in your lifetime, I suppose this is the one to watch. It’s not saying much, but next to Norman Normal this is my second favorite Bill Hendricks Warner Bros. Seven Arts cartoon.

It’s an old fashioned spot-gag cartoon – with Cool Cat traveling out west in his dune buggy, encountering many native Americans (referred to politically incorrect as “Injuns” – which kept this cartoon off television for years). Every stereotypical Indian reference is spoofed – I love the “topless bar” gag – and the ending is sort of poignant, this being the final Warner Bros. cartoon of the 1960s, with Cool Cat literally “cutting” himself out of the picture, then doing a modern-day update of “That’s All, Folks!” – translated as: “So Cool It Now, ya hear!”

THE KIDNAPPING OF THE SUN AND THE MOON (Pannonia) Sandor Reisenbuchler

The Sun and the Moon are stolen by a vicious creature. Can the humans get it back? This is a beautiful little film by Hungarian animator Sandor Reisenbuchler, based on a poem by Ferenc Juhasz and set to music by Bach and Vivaldi. I love the designs, each shot a little work of art. Take ten to watch to this one.

THE MACHINE (aka MASCHINE) (Janus Films) Wolfgang Urchs

Unable to find this one online… it was actually made in 1966. An animated film that is critical of society. After being kissed by a celestial muse, an inventor succeeds in building a machine that will clothe the naked of the world. But after a devilish inspiration, the inventor expands heedlessly into new markets, leading to ever-increasing growth of the machine until it finally enslaves its inventor, who has become a war profiteer.

MY SON THE KING (Walter Reade Org.) Bob Kurtz

I still need Bob Kurtz to upload his shorts to You Tube. In thew meantime, I asked him about it via email:

Well, Jerry… Yes…….I made that film.
And yes……you can see it (I have a bad VHS print).

MY SON THE KING received the 2nd AIF Animation Grant. At the Academy screening it was shown out of focus and at the wrong ratio. The bottom third was missing. the Academy asked me how they could make it up to me. I said, “What are you going to do? Have another screening for nomination and screen all the other films out of focus except mine?”

The film is about King Solomon (Howie Morris) and his Jewish mother.
and there is a lot more…….

I guess we will have to wait. I look forward to it.


A cute children’s picture, of the type that were beginning to emerge around this time, made strictly for the children’s classroom/library market. Stephen Bosustow (former head of UPA) founded Stephen Bosustow Productions in 1968 with his son Nick. This film helps children understand what those scary noises they hear in the night might be. June Foray narrates.

OPERA CORDIS (Zagreb) Dusan Vukotic

From the director of Ersatz, another film I’d like to see. A jealous man wants to uncover the secret of a woman’s playful heart. While the woman is sleeping, the man takes her heart out and opens it. In it he finds another man, and the rivals begin to fight for their place in her heart.

PERMUTATIONS (Grove Press) John Whitney

An early experimental computer generated short by John Whitney Sr. which combines animated shapes and colors. I think it still holds up quite well as a piece of art. I can’t resist re-posting the comments by IMDB User Reviewer “Felonious-Punk”:

This is a movie by the same guy who gave us the analog computer credits to Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

But this time, he makes a whole movie around Indian drummer Balachander’s amazing seven minute solo. The images move and sparkle in ways that never get boring. There may be a few points where contemporary viewers will wonder whether this is as pointless as watching a screensaver. What kept me watching was the early date (predates screensavers), the killer soundtrack, and the fact that it was all human-generated (in other words, Whitney decidedly orchestrated the images). Seems to go well with the early abstract movies like Ruttmann’s “Opus” as well as the credit sequence of Gaspar Noe’s “Enter the Void”. Must be seen on as big a screen as possible, in as dark a room as possible, and with the sound cranked high. Goes well with the “Pink Elephants” sequence in “Dumbo”.

SCRATCH A TIGER (UA – DePatie-Freleng) Hawley Pratt

Irv Spector wrote this one – or should I say he adapted it from some Warner/Jones’ Wolf/Sheepdog scenarios. Here the Ant (John Byner) calls upon his friend the Tiger (Marvin Miller) to protect his ant colony from the Ardvark (Byner, again). Some funny drawings of the Aardvark and the Tiger – and the jazzy score by Doug Goodwin and his band – make this a tolerable sit.

SHAMROCK AND ROLL (Warner Bros.) Robert McKimson

Merlin the Magic Mouse and his assistant Second Banana travel to Ireland and immediately encounter – and piss off – a leprechaun named O’Reilly. The two have a battle of magic, with Merlin losing his watch to the leprechaun – who then tricks Merlin into crashing into Big Ben in London. A load of… laughs? Not quite. One saving grace: good ‘ol Larry Storch doing the voices.

THE TIJUANA TOADS (UA – DePatie-Freleng)

Not a big fan of these shorts. This first entry in the Tijuana Toads series is simply two-parts Spike and Chester (Tree For Two) and one-part Two Crows From Tacos. It all adds up to tired short by a studio that has run out of ideas – but has a large contract to fulfill. Usually the first entries of the DePatie-Freleng shorts have a little more pep than this one. Holy Frejoles! No Oscar nomination for you!

The earlier posts in this series: 1948, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967 and 1968.

(Thanks Libby Wertin and Chris Sobieniak)


  • Yeah… EXTINCT PINK would be a better choice than either THE TIJUANA TOADS and SCRATCH A TIGER, although TECHNOLOGY PHOOEY isn’t a bad alternative to the latter. On the plus side, two Warner-7Arts shorts got included as a tribute to that animation outfit going bust. Obviously Terrytoons wasn’t given the same respect the previous year.

    • EXTINCT PINK was the second/last caveman Pink Panther after PREHISTORIC PINK.

      With EXTINCT, you’d get SCRATCH A TIGER (and other Ant/Aardvark) music scores unusually, since Doug Goodwin does the music, and even gets credit.

      Not only it’s being time, but ahead of it, IT’S TOUGH TO BE A BIRD, I’d still pick it. Better than the badly drawn Nickelodeon and other cable garbage of the last 30 years.:-)

    • Extinct Pink used the same incidental music that was used by Doug Goodwin and his ‘A List’ of jazz musicians – including Shelly Manne – that was used in the Ant and the Aardvark animated series.

  • No offense to Disney and Kimball, but I would have preferred WALKING. If for nothing else, Ryan Larkin’s later career was a sad decline into despair and the win would have given him more attention today. Intriguingly WALKING was among the first flood of late sixties cartoons with full frontal nudity, being released in Canada in late 1968 when mainstream cinema on both sides of the border was starting to embracing the new freedoms from censorship. Later a mural he painted for the National Film Board would get him into more trouble in regards to that. (Check out his wikipedia article.)

    The Hubleys were probably busier than anybody else in animation in 1969, now supplying for a new show on PBS called SESAME STREET. Not sure when this one was broadcast, but my guess is that it dates from that first season: SESAME STREET really was a savior for high quality animation on TV through the 1990s at least and probably deserves almost as much (I won’t say AS much) attention in the animation history books as Disney, UPA and the National Film Board.

  • I wonder if this was the same It’s Tough to be a Bird that had scene of the NBC Peacock mascot Sneezing and blowing its tail feathers off and walking away, or was that scene added when It’s Tough to be a Bird was broadcasted on television?

  • I actually saw THE GREAT WALLED CITY OF XAN years ago. It was done in cut-out animation, although the characters all had thick-lines and the designs were not unlike the Paul Coker-designed Rankin-Bass special. It was a series of spot-gags, but there was a recurring gag where a guy says “The Christians are coming!”, which causes people who hear it to run away into hiding. Sure enough, the film ends with the Christians in question invading Xan. The film ends there.

    I wish I can see it again. It’s a delightful student film.

  • The sneezing peacock was shown on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.

  • Surprisingly, there were no shorts submitted by Walter Lantz/Universal.

    • Probably for the best. I don’t want to imagine a Beary Family cartoon managed to get this far.

  • Ironically, the Warner Seven-Arts plant was still open for a full year after “Injun Trouble”… mostly doing preproduction on projects that never materialized…

    Byner’s John Wayne is spookily close to the real thing.

    • Yeah… there was also that “Pat Paulsen’s Half A Comedy Hour” segment with Daffy Duck. Warner still released five more live-action short subjects between the November of ’69 and July of ’70, so it is still odd that they didn’t make at least a few more cartoons to go with them. Then again, the mother company was so deep in the red that year that the accountants were counting every penny.

    • Something had to give I guess. Not that 1970 could’ve been an intesting year for yet another attempt at McKimson giving us another Cool Cat or some other one-shot attempt at characters as before.

  • Other than the title character, McKimson went back to his early 1960s WB designs for the final barroom scene in “Injun Trouble”. That was a bit of a fitting finish for the studio, as opposed to ending with a bunch of Hanna-Barbera styled characters on screen for the swan song.

  • Interesting batch of films this year. I especially enjoyed The Caterpillar and the Wild Animals, with its clever animation of the semi-abstract designs. And The Kidnapping of the Sun and the Moon is like a gorgeously designed fever dream, incredibly graphic in every sense of the word.

    As for Injun Trouble… hoo boy, what a way for WB, once the top cartoon producer, to go out, not with a bang but with a whimper. Although some of the gags were funny, if inappropriate, there’s no build up overall; the gags just happen with no set up or continuity. It’s the kind of thing Tex Avery would have done better thirty years earlier.

  • Am I the only person who found Injun Trouble to be funny? Not the best that McKimson (or for that matter, Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Bob Clampett, and Frank Tashlin) have done, but still got a couple of laughs out of me. (Trust me, I have seen worse.)

    • No, you aren’t the only one! But, then again, I saw it when it was first shown in a local theater when it was new. So, I might be the right demographic. I like a number of McKimson Cartoons from that era.

    • All the best material happens after Cool Cat arrives in Hotfoot. I wish the whole cartoon took place there instead of Cool Cat driving through the desert.

    • I like “Injun Trouble,” too. Bob McIntosh’s color style pleases the eye throughout and there are some good gags in Hotfoot, topped by the Topless Saloon. As J. Lee points out, that barroom seems to look back on earlier, better years; Gower Gulch is reminiscent of the robber in “Daffy’s Inn Trouble.”

  • “But this would be the last of Disney in the shorts race at the Oscars. It would be decades before they’d earn another nomination (let alone another win).”

    While you are right about the later, the former is not really correct. Didn’t they get nominated for “Winnie the Pooh & Tigger Too” (1974) five years later?

  • When Merlin and Second Banana crashed into Big Ben and destroyed it, it reminded me of the 1983 Inspector Gadget episode “The Coo-Coo Clock Caper” when a clock tower got similarly destroyed, except it had MUCH better music and animation.

    Hanna-Barbera also had their own equivalent of “So cool it now, ya hear?” for closing out 1994’s “Arabian Nights,” the final cartoon H-B did with Yogi Bear, Scooby-Doo and Magilla Gorilla, and the line was… “Scooby-dooby-doooooo!

  • I think ‘It’s Tough To Be A Bird’ deserved to win Best Animated Short. It was certainly a different short from the Disney studio at the time. The animation used at the end reminded me a lot of Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python ‘animations.’ Ward Kimball would do similar techniques in his follow-up short ‘Dad,Can I Borrow The Car?’.

  • Could it be possible that John Whitney’s early works at UCLA and on the silver screen during the 60’s served to inspire Ed Catmull and Fred Pierce to commence their studies at the University of Utah into developing CGI programming in the early ’70’s?

  • Cool Cat and Merlin the Magic Mouse Cartoons on the Academy Awards list of submissions and screened! Fantastic! These are my favorite Looney Tunes Cartoons ever! Would love to see these released on DVD and BluRay some day. 😉

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