THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
October 16, 2014 posted by

Castle Films and Kiko The Kangaroo

I miss CASTLE FILMS

This week I’ve uploaded a neat curio: A Castle Films promotional film from 1943, featuring Eugene Castle himself and radio-and-movie star Lew Lehr. It’s an odd little promotional film, but a pretty cool look behind the scenes of the promotional efforts of Castle. Prominent during this time were the Terrytoons cartoons, licensed by Castle, with Kiko the Kangaroo being the big star.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Cartoons were some of Castle’s most popular Home Movie offerings. Eventually, Castle would license films from Celebrity productions (Iwerks Comi Color series) and Universal (The Lantz cartoons). They offered many of these films in 8mm and 16mm into the 60s and 70s, with the color Lantz shorts being the last of the films still available. By that point, Castle had been bought by Universal, who changed the name of the company to Universal 8 and Universal 16.

Castle’s prints were offered for sale as well as rental. Castle films and Official films prints are the most common of any cartoon prints still around in 16mm and 8mm.

Here’s an ad (at right) from 1938 promoting their Kiko the Kangaroo films.

..and a box from a KIKO offering. This was the popular box design for Kiko from
the last 30s into the 40s…

KIKO-BOX-600

..and a neat little cartoon catalog from Castle, circa early 40s

Clock To Enlarge

Clock To Enlarge


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Click To Enlarge

I always thought Lew Lehr was odd at best, and when I saw the caricature as a child, I knew it was someone, but never knew *who*. Since Lehr died fairly young (at 54 years old in 1950) he didn’t make it into the Television age, where, had he been around, would probably be better known today. They especially loved spoofing Lew Lehr at Warner Brothers… here’s a few caricatures of Lehr from Porky in Egypt, Porky’s Snooze Reel and Russian Rhapsody. He’s in others as well, including She Was An Acrobat’s Daughter.

lehr-2
lehr-1

Here’s a typical entry from Lehr’s Fox Movietone years:

The following is the 1943 Castle Films promotional film, narrated by Mr. Castle with an appearance by Mr. Lehr. This print is courtesy of Chris Buchman, who has a knack of finding these sorts of things. He had me transfer it as it was starting to warp and smell. I don’t think the print is even runable on a projector any more, sadly.

While we are at it – here’s a silent print someone put up on youtube of The Prize Package – originally released theatrically in 1936 by Educational Pictures as Farmer Al Falfa’s Prize Package – complete with all the Castle Films silent title cards:

21 Comments

  • Steve:
    Interesting post! I’ve never actually seen anything with Lew Lehr before,save for the cartoon appearances! A live Lew is kind of annoying,but what do I know? That’s just my humble opinion! Thanks!

  • Mr. Castle looked off camera a lot…. 😉

  • I think Mel Blanc was a bettet Lew Lehr, than Lew Lehr was.

  • Quite fascinating. I, too, had NEVER seen Mr. Lehr in actual film. Plus, I’m sure, that alllllll reading this has seen (or owned) a “Castle Film!” It is good to know its history!! Hysterical that Mr. Castle never knew where the camera was, too!!

    • He was reading from cue cards that could have been held just a teensy bit closer to the camera! Or perhaps Lew Lehr was holding them, in which case they’d have literally been idiot cards.

    • The cue card reading was priceless!

  • It seems that Lew Lehr has only ever really done voiceover work for nature-related shorts. Sorta like Fox’s answer to Pete Smith or James Fitzpatrick. Otherwise he restricted himself solely to radio and stage.

    Explains why I have NEVER seen what he looks like, though I imagine some of the short series physically showed him speaking to the audience.

    As far as WB cartoon caricatures, it seems Bob Clampett got a particular kick in using his caricature in cartoons with a couple other directors trying it out afterwards.

  • Nice! I’ve got an old Castle “Oswald” 8mm reel.

  • Several Woody Woodpecker cartoons were given different titles for Castle: “Ski for Two” became “Woody Plays Santa Claus”; “The Great Who-Dood-It” became “The Great Magician,” etc.
    One Lantz cartoon survives only through Castle prints: “Boy Meets Dog,” featuring characters from the “Reg’lar Fellers” comic strip, made as a theatrical commercial for Ipana toothpaste (“Dental…mental…inconsequent’al!”)

    Eugene Castle later wrote and self-published a book entitled “Billions, Blunders and Baloney,” a screed against Eisenhower’s foreign-aid programs.

  • Wow, best footage of Lew Lehr I’ve ever seen! Too bad it’s so far out of sync on my computer. Mr. Castle’s head and mouth movements are so exaggerated, he looks like an animated cartoon himself! Thanks for this one Steve and Chris!

  • Kiko is packed with hilariously unnecessary titles — were they trying to pad the length?

    Loved the “Fun and Laughter in the Home” blurb on the brochure. Mr. Castle assures us that old Terrytoons will helpfully take our minds off the imminent threat of unspoken horrors at the hands of invading Axis troops.

    Think the only Castle cartoon I had was a 50′ B&W version of “Andy’s Blacksmith Shop’; otherwise Castle was represented by 150′ highlights from W.C. Fields and other live action. My collection included Looney Tunes branded by AAP; some Disney shorts and feature clips (“Peter Pan” looked amazing in 8mm color); and a few Ken Films titles (notable for their horrific box art).

    Oh, and a B&W silent “Star Wars” highlight reel. End of an era.

    • Some years back my brother came across box filled with numerous Castle News Parade films in their individual packages that he gave me once.

  • Nice piece once again, Steve. Lew Lehr was also caricatured in some late 30s Lantz and Columbia cartoons, and the best imitation of his voice was by Dave Weber (later Danny Webb).

  • Official Films also acquired some Paramount/Fleischer cartoons, I believe. I do know Official released “Let’s Sing with Popeye” as part of their cartoon home movie options, but I don’t know about any others because AAP and NTA had most of the rights to the Fleischer’s work.

    • “I do know Official released “Let’s Sing with Popeye” as part of their cartoon home movie options…”

      How do you know? The common video copy of Let’s Sing with Popeye has the Official Films title at the beginning because whoever originally ripped that copy from a public domain DVD caught the Official Films end title from Goofy Goat Antics (1931) at the beginning of the capture.

      All the copies of Let’s Sing with Popeye I’ve seen are poor-quality dupes. I’d love to see a good-quality print of it. UCLA has an original 35mm nitrate print, which would be a treat to see, but I doubt we’ll see a transfer of it any time soon.

    • I don’t think “Let’s Sing With Popeye” was ever copyrighted to begin with. I couldn’t find it looking through bound volumes of Library of Congress copyright records for motion pictures at the University of South Florida library roughly 20 years ago.

  • I think a good chiropractor could have helped Mr. Castle with his neck…but I’m not sure there was a cure for Lew Lehr.

    All seriousness aside, Lew Lehr’s commentaries in his “Dutch-comic” voice (the character was called Dribble Puss) was attached to the end of Fox’s twice-weekly Movietone newsreels, and also as narrator of an occasional reel of his own. Lehr also narrated some stories in his normal voice. Movietone had several commentators; Lowell Thomas was their “star” for years, but they also had Lehr, Ed Thorgersen (mainly sports stories) and Vyvyan (sic) Donner, female narrator of fashion stories. Wasn’t it Henry Morgan who described a newsreel as a series of disasters ending in a fashion show?

  • I always thought Lew Lehr was odd at best, and when I saw the caricature as a child, I knew it was someone, but never knew *who*. Since Lehr died fairly young (at 54 years old in 1950) he didn’t make it into the Television age, where, had he been around, would probably be better known today.

    Shame really. These things do happen all the time.

  • I have almost a series of Ub Iwerks cartoons on 8mm when it was originally under ComiColor, it was later distributed by Castle Films since they licensed 15 of these cartoons made by a longtime Disney animator. By the 1970’s, they sold the ComiColor cartoons to Blackhawk Films and released the whole Ub Iwerks cartoons in their catalogue on 16mm and Super 8 sound only editions.

    I also have three Christmas shorts on 8mm such as “Merry Christmas”, “The Night Before Christmas” and “A Christmas Dream”.

    There were some problems at the time, the ComiColor cartoons were in black & white and they were all silent, and the inter titles are so bad, they don’t make any sense at all due to poor grammar and some misspelling. In “Puss in Boots”, there was a typo where it says “Tick-Tack-To”, but the word “Tic-Tac-Toe” spelled wrong, but it was a mistake. In “Jack and the Beanstalk”, the mother told Jack after selling a cow for magic beans, she said “You bad boy!” According to the inter title, after she threw the beans out the window, she said to him “Get out!” I’ve seen the 8mm version of a 1933 Ub Iwerks cartoon a few times and it was bad. And let’s not forget, the giant told the mother when he came in, instead of “Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum”, he says “I smell hot dogs!” That was stupid and not as funnier as the original. I might as well go back and re-watch the original ComiColor cartoons that Ub Iwerks produced.

    Speaking of that, Thunderbean will plan on releasing more Ub Iwerks cartoons including the ComiColor series to Blu-Ray. The recent releases includes Flip the Frog and Willie Whopper are now available. As I said, Castle did licensed the ComiColor cartoons in the 1940’s, but I hope this Blu-Ray will soon to be good as the other versions do.

  • Found a single Castle Films 16mm “Kiko the Kangaroo Bear Facts” in my father’s collection
    Do you have a list of buyers? Not interested in keeping. Film in very good condition.
    Thanks
    Frank H

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