October 26, 2013 posted by

Commercials Animated by Phil Duncan

For years Phil Duncan was one of those ubiquitous animators. You’ve seen his work a million times but you may be unfamiliar with his name. He was very stylistically flexible and could do normal Disney-type animation, but left to his devices he seemed to prefer a much looser and cartoonier style of working. In the early forties Duncan was one of the Disney artists that was hired by Frank Tashlin to work at the re-organized Screen Gems studio. It was here that Duncan took advantage of the creative (or possibly lax) attitude, and experimented with stylized posing and animation. Duncan was also an expert at using secondary actions in a way that added humor and life to his scenes.

One of Phil Duncan’s pals from Disney, Ade Woolery, would later bring Phil to Playhouse Pictures. A little while later, Hanna-Barbera would move into the old Charlie Chaplin studio, which happened to be directly across the street from Playhouse. Bill Hanna would often walk across La Brea Avenue and hire animators to work on his shows. As a result Phil Duncan ended up doing a lot of work on Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, and The Flintstones (mainly on the commercials and bumpers.) Duncan also did a lot of work for John Hubley, UPA, and Jay Ward.

Now let’s take a look at some of his commercial work (and also one Sesame Street cartoon…)

Bullwinkle Surfing

Phil Duncan was one of the regulars at Jay Ward Productions, and he animated scenes in an amazing number of their commercials. Here’s one with Bullwinkle that’s Phil all the way through. Bill Scott is the voice of Bullwinkle, and Paul Frees is the Narrator. (Apologies for the crappy logo at the end)

New Improved Quake

Voices by Bill Conrad, June Foray, Daws Butler and Bill Scott. Poor Quake never stood a chance against the Quazy Prince of Planet Q, and The Quaker Oats Company kept trying to revamp him and his cereal. At one point he became second banana to an orange polka-dotted kangaroo (or “quangaroo” if you prefer.) In some markets you can still find Quisp cereal, but you can’t find Quake with a geiger-counter.

King Vitaman – The Blue Baron

Featuring Daws Butler as the Blustery Blue Baron and Joe Flynn as King Vitaman. Bill Scott is the flunkey. Phil Duncan animated this spot with Ben Washam. Their animation styles were very different, and yet they often shared the stage in these Jay Ward spots.

White Magic Soap

Made in 1955 at Playhouse Pictures. I seem to remember seeing a document at the studio that indicated that the Kenyon & Eckhart agency paid less than $900 for this spot. That would’ve been on the low side of cheap even in them days.

Inca Ink

From 1953, also from Playhouse Pictures. Marvin Miller is voicing the Incas in this spot. Very low budget stuff but still very nifty.

Flintstones – Winstons

Possibly the most famous thing Phil Duncan ever animated was this Winston spot. Fred and Barney hide out for a smoke while the wives do all the work. The sponsor tag at the end of the video was animated by Ken Muse.

Roman Meal Diet Plan

Live action with animation. It’s entirely possible that the copy writer of this spot was picturing the lion as being an ominous figure, but in Duncan’s hands it became much more comical.

Sesame Street – Cat and Mouse

The Hubley studio did a lot of animation for Sesame Street and The Electric Company. Their segments were often characterized by unusual music and surreal imagery. Working within the meager budgets provided by CTW, the Hubley studio would use it’s own unique approach to limited animation that allowed for more action, mainly exposing the drawings for different numbers of frames (depending on where in the action the drawing fell) similar to a pose reel. Here’s an early segment animated by Phil Duncan that uses that very technique.


  • $1.49 for a ball point pen ?!! yow!

    • You’d be surprised how rather pricey ballpoint pens use to be back then.

    • Bic pens caimed that they were only 19 cents(I think a fair trade price,so no discounts) and could bore through a piece of wood,and looked like a great value.50 years later,a pack of 10 Bics are loss leadered at a buck or so(sometimes”Free” with a mininum purchase).How much stuff is half the price it was 50 years ago?

  • I liked the Inca spot, especially those Incas chanting!

  • Quake and King Vitamin were basically the same cereal-just the shapes were changed slightly.

    King Vitamin is still available in some areas.

    • King Vitamin continues as it is one of the few WIC approved ready to eat cereals in many states,so it never,never goes on sale since,in effect,tax dollars buy most of it.And Quake is made in limited runs,maybe once a year,like General Mills monster themed cereals(Count Chocula,Frankenberry,et al,including the relaunch of Fruity Yummy Mummy).

  • Being a left-handed would-be cartoonist, I could go for that smear-proof ink!

  • I get EETEED’s surprise at a ballpoint costing $1.49 in 1953.
    In half one of 1982, when I was 13 yo, I could buy a basic BIC pen for, I think, about $1. Don’t hold me to that.
    Let’s cut to the chase and let this be known: If the EVERSHARP KIMBERLY INCA INK BALLPOINT PEN were still a viable item, and if its price had with inflation risen, we would now pay THIRTEEN DOLLARS FIVE CENTS ($13.05) for it.

    • that’s a scary thought. some people would have to work 2 hours to be able to purchase a pen. now they’re 8 for a dollar.

      were they really that expensive to make back then? how much did an old fashioned bladder pen cost?

  • Is he still alive?

    • I’m afraid he isn’t. Phil died in 1988 at the age of 78.

  • I remember the Quisp-Quake War. Never underestimate the power of cute and goofball over strong and stalwart; in any form Quake was just a musclebound Tom Slick and both cereals were the exact same crap. I can’t remember if it was a commercial or comic book ad, but one variant of Quake’s big change came about when Quisp physically ATTACKED Quake with his flying saucer, accidentally knocking him into the “New and Improver Machine.”

    Oh, Lord, I just watched Kricfalusi’s Quisp cartoon on the Quaker website, complete with John K’s trademark shrieking and overextended jokes. Quisp has been given a sidekick (“Quunchy”) with a design (but thankfully not a matching voice) of questionable taste.

    • Whoops! I see from the QxQ videos on YouTube that Quunchy wasn’t created for the Kricfalusi cartoon; he was part of Quisp’s shtick in the early days.

  • Forgot that Quisp’s voice was such a close ‘tribute’ to that of the young Jerry Lewis. It’s amazing that Quaker didn’t get sued for that.

  • I sent away for a Quake dart board. It was a roll-up vinyl sheet with the older Quake design in the bullseye. It used suction cup darts, and as I recall, you blew them through a tube. Fun!

  • I remember reading in Keith Scott’s book that the original Quake character “tested” badly because kids found him too menacing towards Quisp; I’d attribute that myself to William Conrad’s heavy (no pun intended) bass voice. They re-designed the character and kept the voice when maybe the other way around might have worked better. Imagine Quake instead with a Bill Scott voice similar to George of the Jungle; you could have had a really likable musclebound klutz. This is one case where Conrad’s great ability as a dramatic radio actor may actually have worked against him!

  • Thank you for this article on Phil! He was one of the best!!

  • Thanks for this wonderful round-up of facts and commercials. Phil was (is) my dad. I looked him up in a moment of internet curiosity and, wow. A bonanza!
    He was a great dad too. The best.. Thanks for this.

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