Animation History
October 9, 2017 posted by Jerry Beck

Cartoons Considered For An Academy Award – 1970

1970’s Oscar winner Nick Bosustow

The Oscars finally go “indie”. At least as far as animated shorts are concerned. Hollywood’s product was substandard compared to the art and innovation coming from foreign shores; or from independent animators working in their garages; or from veteran artists toiling after hours at commercial studios in Hollywood and New York.

That said, all three nominees this year were produced by small shops on the west coast. All three reflected the times with contemporary messages about modern society. It was less about the “art” and more about changing times in our culture. No Tijuana Toads for this crowd.

This week: 1970

The actual nominees were:


THE SHEPHERD Cameron Guess and Associates [View]

And the Oscar went to:

IS IT ALWAYS RIGHT TO BE RIGHT? (Stephen Bousustow Productions) Lee Mishkin, director. [View]

On April 15th, 1971 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, presenters Sally Kellerman and Jim Brown handed the Oscar to producer Nick Bosustow. We do not have video, but we do have a transcription of Nick Bosustow’s acceptance speech:

Oh my God. Lee, we did it. Lee Mishkin, our director, is up there and Warren Schmidt, our writer. The film couldn’t have been done without my fantastic father, Steve Bosustow, our genius at the studio. And Mr. Orson Welles, who did the great narration. My brother Tee Bosustow, who did the editing. And Ken Heller, who did the music. Thank you very much.

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. In 1970, there were 13 entries. Submitted, screened, but NOT nominated were:

Academy_Award_trophy175THE BLACK AND WHITE & TROUBLE IN THE WORKS Gerald Potterton
EGGS John and Faith Hubley
THE FLOWER LOVERS Borivoj Dovnikovic
HOP AND CHOP (DePatie Freleng) Grant Simmons
LANCE David Oliver Pfeil
MATRIX John Whitney
PEACE John G. Marshall
SUSAN Richard J. Finley & Duane Shelby Ament

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 (but note: not all of them are online). Enjoy the show!


These were two segments from a documentary, “Pinter’s People”, based on playwright Harold Pinter’s characters. The film is linked by Pinter talking about his writing and his characters, along with five short animated sequences containing charicatured views of these characters by Gerald Potterton.

Originally broadcast in the US on April 5th, 1969 – on a unique TV series entitled NBC Experiment In Television – the other animated sketches not submitted were The Last to Go, Request Stop and The Applicant. Video of this special is yet to be found.

EGGS John and Faith Hubley

A Hubley animated film with a message about overpopulation. “Life” and “Death” race down the freeway in a giant car, arguing about the implications of population growth and human life extension (“Death” complains “Life” is overdoing it and that he can’t keep up). There are two subplots: the first involving an artistic, middle class couple in the future trying to be approved for getting a birth permit; the second involves a 200+ year old man reflecting on his first transplant. The film ends with a whimsical appearance by “God” telling them both to “knock it off”. Here is an excerpt:

FLOWER LOVERS Borivoj Dovnikovic

Cute Zagreb cartoon (embed below) about an old man who can’t sell his flowers until he mixes a new formula that make them pop. His explosive flowers soon become a new fad and very much in demand – and so is the desire for bigger and bigger explosions – leading to a battle of the century.

Director Borivoj Dovniković Bordo was an animator, cartoonist, illustrator, comic strip and graphic designer as well as one of the pioneers of Yugoslav/Croatian/Zagreb animation.

HOP AND CHOP (DePatie Freleng) Grant Simmons

This is one tired looking DePatie-Freleng cartoon. It’s main claim-to-fame is the introduction of the “Japanese Beetle”, a now-politically incorrect asian stereotype, as a adversary for the Toads (themselves politically-incorrect Mexican stereotypes). The Beetle, who would actually continue on as a foil for the Blue Racer in that later series of cartoons, has a black belt in karate and actually had potential if it weren’t for the old buck-toothed, horn-rim glasses, pidgin english cliches. Not a fan of the blotchy background art in this series – hard on the eye – it almost seems the characters exist in some post apocalyptic landscape with radiation still heavily in the air and liquor polluting the water.

MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH Pavao Stalter, Branco Ranitovic

Another classic from Zagreb. Hand painted cut outs and oil painting backgrounds are used to retell the Edgar Allen Poe tale of famine and plague.

Prince Prospero, determined to keep the plague that is ravaging the countryside away, barricades himself and his court in his castle. Though his subjects are dying, he gives a ball and there he meets a beautiful woman. Following her through the castle, he finally catches up with her and finds her to be the Red Death that he was so anxious to avoid.

MATRIX John Whitney

A beautiful piece of art from computer graphics pioneer John Whitney. There’s no doubt he was ahead of his time – and though this is still early for CGI, Whitney’s films still hold up. The designs don’t date, the images still delight, and set to sonatas by Padre Antonio Soler (performed by famed concert pianist Delores Stevens) the film feels like a gallery exhibition of moving modern art images. That said – it was way too advanced for the Academy to recognize at this point.


The following submitted and qualified films are not available for viewing – and information about them is scarce or nonexistent as of this posting. I welcome further information on these shorts – and if we eventually locate them, I’ll post that information (and hopefully the film itself) into the main body of the article above.

LANCE David Oliver Pfeil

I believe this short was an experimental student film produced at Art Center of Design in California.

PEACE John G. Marshall

As far as I can tell, this film and the one below were both produced by Frank Bresee and animator John Marshall. Marshall has credits with Jay Ward and Murakami-Wolf-Swenson.


Producer Frank Bresee was a veteran radio actor and radio historian – and a producer of B-movies.

SUSAN Richard J. Finley & Duane Shelby Ament

I know nothing of producer Finley, but Duane Shelby Ament was a bit actor in several B-pictures in the 1960s.



The earlier posts in this series: 1948, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969.

(Thanks to Tsvika Oren, Chris Sobienak)






  • Is Flower Lovers the same as “The Flower’s Amateur”, a Zagreb animated short screened at the 1971 Trieste Science Fiction Film Festival? (and slightly OT, is the Trieste sci-fi film festival still going?)

    • Do you have a 1971 program book from Trieste that lists a Zagreb cartoon called “The Flower’s Amateur”? If so, it’s probably the same film. But as far as I know the film never had that name.

      According to Wikipedia, the original Trieste Science Fiction Festival ended in 1982 – but was revived and has continued since 2000.

    • It’s possible they’re the same short. I read about it being screened at Trieste in 1971 in issues of Cinefantastique and Films and Filming from that period. Obviously it was called The Flower’s Amateaur at Trieste.

    • “Amateur” is the French word for “lover,” so I assume this was a case of different translators taking different approaches to the same Croatian word.

  • This would have been an interesting year to see what documentary short films were being considered (but not becoming nominees) since Ward Kimball’s follow-up to IT’S TOUGH TO BE A BIRD had a higher percentage of live-action to animation and, thus, would have been a better candidate in that category. The animation in DAD, MAY I BORROW THE CAR? is still cleverly done with the talking cars and groovy pop art cut-out effects. Later it was expanded for TV broadcast, although I read somewhere that it was initially intended for TV but cut down to be a theatrical.

    Considering how many TV cartoons were making the cut seven to eight years back, I also wonder if any SESAME STREET cartoons were shown theatrically at this time.

    This was a lackluster year for DePatie-Freleng with the Tijuana Toads, Roland & Rattfink and the Ant & Aardvark all losing their mojo. The Academy wanted to nominate SOMETHING from that studio (but ignore the National Film Board of Canada?). Some good Pink Panthers came out in 1971 though, so I am prepared to see one of those get selected next week. In contrast, the Walter Lantz studio was hitting rock bottom about now.

    • Yeah, how come “Dad, May I Borrow the Car?” didn’t get nominated for either categories? It felt like it should.

      As for DFE, I didn’t think the stuff that year was bad. But I agree that the cartoon, while okay, wasn’t good enough for nomination standards. I agree that there were some Pink Panther cartoon the next year including the final two directed by Pratt.

    • Do you think I am too rough on DFE? Ha ha! They did come up with some winners each year. 1968 was a particularly bumper crop year with the PP series at its artistic zenith in both writing and animation and the earliest R&R shorts were fairly impressive. ’69 had that excellent EXTINCT PINK and PINK ON THE COB, with the Ant & Aardvark series going strong. There is something about this year that was just kinda… blah… for me. I don’t know. Then we got THE PINK FLEA and GONG WITH THE PINK and all was right with the world… for a short while at least.

  • When I was a wee one, the PBS show International Animation Festival showed a special “Scary Cartoon ” episode that featured Zagreb’s Masque of the Red Death. That film really creeped me out. Masque of the Red Death was certainly worthy of an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short.

    Another animated film from Zagreb (also featured on that International Animation Festival’s spooky cartoon episode) that should also been considered for the Oscar for Best Animated Short was The Spider (Pauk) – a very creepy animated cartoon about a man facing off with a giant Black Widow type spider that was in the same space with him.

  • The Academy made the right call with “Is It Always Right to Be Right?”. Its message is relevant now more than ever. “The Further Adventures of Uncle Sam” was amusing, but very much of its time, and “The Shepherd” was a cute story with a great punchline.

    As for the also-rans, the stand out here is definitely “The Masque of the Red Death”. Very reminiscent of UPA’s The Tell-Tale Heart” “Hop and Chop’ was amusing at times, but this type of cartoon was already feeling old hat, and doesn’t hold up as well as the Looney Tunes do now. It was all down hill for DFE from here on, at least as far as theatrical shorts are concerned; their best work ahead would be on the small screen.

  • There’s a Richard J. Finlay in the Apr. 22, 1965 edition of Variety directing at the Brysin Playhouse in Venice. Duane Ament was directing there at the time.

    • A clue! I love researching mysteries like this.
      Thanks, Yowp! Perhaps one day we will track this elusive “Susan” down.

  • I do like IS IT ALWAYS RIGHT TO BE RIGHT? — I used it in a few classes — but It’s hard to believe that MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH wasn’t nominated. I’m also surprised that DAD, CAN I BORROW THE CAR? wasn’t submitted, though as JLewis points out, it’s almost a toss-up as to whether it actually qualifies as live-action or animation.

    • Given the theme/premise of the film, “DAD, CAN I BORROW THE CAR?” seems more of a documentary (if not tongue-in-cheek) on America’s love affair with the automobile as told by the life of a young person who grows up in the car culture that was big at the time. I would’ve put it in the documentary category if I thought it had merit there (humor aside).

  • “Flower Lovers” sounds like a hoot. Since animation is more respected as an art form these days, I suspect it will turn up at some point.

  • “Is it always right to be right?” is a title I’ve heard before, but this is the first time I’ve seen the short. It’s hard to call something a work of art when the message is so obvious, but the message is a worthy one, and, of course, it’s still relevant.

  • Regarding John Whitney, did he by any chance do the animated “Sesame Street” segment about the jazzy triangle and the squared square ? It was on the first of the five test pilots that aired in some public television stations during the summer of the previous year :
    It sure looks like his style.

    • That’ll be interesting if he did. Certainly those early SS material seem worth of use assuming enough footage could quality as standalone shorts in their own right.

  • Frankly, I don’t care if the Tijuana Toads or the Japanese beetle are now considered politically incorrect. What matters to me is they represent high quality entertainment.

  • Masque of the Red Death is one of the few scary cartoons that actually did scare the hell outta me when I first saw it years ago on PBS. Certainly never expected that ending! I also loved The Further Adventures Of Uncle Sam, weird soundtrack and all, heh heh….

  • One cartoon that should have considered for the Oscar for Best Animated Short was Marv Newland’s Bambi Meets Godzilla which is now considered as a cult favorite in many Animation Festivals.

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