February 15, 2024 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Drive in Magic: The strangely wonderful Dr. Pepper spots by Keitz & Herndon.

Keitz & Herndon is a studio that probably only the most diehard animation fans would know about. Larry Herndon and Roddy Keitz ran a small ad agency & film and television production company from 1952 into the 70s, although I can’t seem to find when the studio actually shut down. Like Jam Handy, they produced industrial and advertising films as well as some animation. The most familiar animated work is the series JOT, produced for the Southern Baptist Radio and Television Commission in 1965. As a kid, I remember the series running on UHF in Detroit (and out of Windsor, Canada too). Since the Kennedy administration had required a certain amount of hours of education programming on TV each week, my guess is that the show was produced and bought by stations sometimes and shown, but it was also part of other religious programming over the years.

The other somewhat well-known thing the studio did was a series of Drive-in spots for Dr. Pepper that were given away to theaters in 1956, 57 and 58 in their first versions, then updated into the mid-60s. I’m not sure what one was first. The first prints of these were in Technicolor, with later prints in Eastmancolor that has since faded. They’re famous for their fun themes and graphically interestingly bizarre mid-century modern graphics.

There are prints of these particular spots around, but a majority of them are pretty beat up, having been run hundreds of times, perhaps even thousands, as part of drive in intermission reels. Once in a great while someone is lucky enough to find a print that wasn’t run or in good shape.

As I’ve been finishing up the Mid Century Modern 3 Blu-ray set, one of the things I really wanted was to have at least decent prints of these three. I was lucky enough to have the company Film-Tech allow use of one of them, and I managed to buy a print of another, and the third was kindly offered from a brand new print scanned by Helge Bernhardt. Even though I don’t have scans of all of them in full frame, I’ll take the variance since they were clearly made to be shown both ways. These are all the second or third versions of these spots, with extra animation replacing a short live action sequence.

I wish there was more information available about this small studio, but they’ve left us with a few bizarrely classic spots. The ‘Witch Doctor’ spot features an obvious stereotype despite its clever posing and timing. That particular print has been color corrected from a faded copy, so I’ve done the best we could to retain some of the color.

We’re looking forward to finishing Mid Century Modern 3 in the next week, and are hoping to have the set out in late February.

Have a good week everyone!


  • Was the Keitz & Herndon studio based in Texas? The fact that the Jot cartoons always showed a Fort Worth mailing address at the end, and the Dr. Pepper headquarters are in Dallas, suggests that it must have been located somewhere in the Metroplex.

    What’s certain is that these spots have some seriously hot jazz soundtracks. Dallas had a thriving jazz scene in the 1950s and ’60s, and North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas) in nearby Denton was the first school in the country to offer degree programs in jazz studies. So there’d have been a considerable local talent pool for an ad agency to draw upon.

    • Yes, the studio was in Dallas. A 1963 article about the Southwest Advertising Art Awards mentions Roddy Keitz and Bert Rodriguez won an award that year for their work on Jot.
      A story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram of May 24, 1969 reports on the sale of the company.
      “Chilton Corp. has agreed to acquire Keitz & Herndon, Inc., of Dallas, a 20-year-old producer of live and animated motion picture films.
      “The acquisition will be made for an undisclosed amount of Chilton stock. For the fiscal year ending May 31, Keitz & Herndon sales are estimated at about $900,000. The company has complete facilities to produce television commercials, business and educational films, and film strips. The company also does still photography, graphics, and sound for major clients and advertisers throughout the country. One of the company’s more recent productions has been the back-up animation for the entire series of Apollo moon voyage programs telecast by the ABC network.
      “Other major clients include Buick, Dr Pepper, Continental Oil, Coca Cola, Braniff and Humble Oil.
      Chilton Corporation provides credit reporting, computer services, promotional assistance, collection services and related services through more than 50 offices in nine states. It is the parent company of Credit Bureau Services, Chilton Computer and Welcome Newcomer Service.”

      Larry Hearden went to work for Braniff in Nov. 1973.

  • Won’t lie, when I first saw this article, my first thought was on a later ad that’s even more bizarre than these three. ( Either way, these make me hungry for food that I really should not be having right now.

    • Thanks for that! Equally bizarre is how they were able to jazz up the song: Glow Little Glow-Worm (Glimmer, Glimmer)!

  • I always enjoyed these Doctor Pepper Drive-In Snack bar ads and was curious who did them. Now I know! I recall seeing an alternative version of the first one where it switches to live action and animation. On your print the alternative sequence would have been around 1:14. The alternative sequence features a live action young lady singing the Doctor Pepper song with the cartoon character drinking Dr. Pepper.

    • The second version was no doubt created to keep pace with Dr. Pepper’s new ‘oval’ logo at the time.

  • “Let’s all go to the lobby…”

    I’m diggin’ Jill. Right out of the Freddie Moore school of cute girls. All of the visuals and music hit the spot for me, and I’m not the biggest fan of mid-century.

    Thanks Steve! I’d bever seen any of these before, and I am of that era.

    That’s why I come here, to learn stuff.

  • “Frosty, man, frosty!” I like the Witch Doctor one the best, even if it’s very un-PC. Unusual how it’s also the only one to have their old St. Bernard mascot.

    • The song “The Witch Doctor” by David Seville was a hit in 1958. I wonder if it was the inspiration.

  • Love the designs and soundtracks on these!

  • Who says Texans can’t be cool?

    Funny how the best theatrical animation of the time was for ads. But of course that’s where the money was.

  • These are great!

    Who did the voices? Especially in the first one, as the voices sound familiar.

    • “Frosty, Man, Frosty” is Thurl Ravenscroft.

  • Wonder if John Kricfalusi ever saw these in his youth.

  • Dr Pepper’s “Frosty Dog” looks almost identical to the St. Bernard in the very first Chilly Willy cartoon.

  • These are amazingly beautiful and wonderfully jazzy! very exciting to hear about Mid-Century Modern, Volume 3!

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