November 22, 2014 posted by

Even Cartoon Characters Have To Pay The Bills


If your favorite cartoon character told you to buy something, you’d buy it, wouldn’t you? Of course you would. That’s why cartoon characters make such wonderful pitchmen. I mean, if it came down to taking the advice of Popeye, or some semi real-life celebrity like, say, Durward Kirby, you’d go for the sailor man every time. I know I would.

Woody Woodpecker

This unusual spot featuring Woody Woodpecker dates from 1953. Interestingly, Walter Lantz had the animation done at the Grantray studio, home of Grant Simmons and Ray Patterson. This was probably because ’53 was a very busy year for the Lantz studio. Ray was the younger brother of Lantz director Don Patterson, and perhaps it was Don who recommended Grantray to Walter Lantz. I’m guessing that it was this spot that led Lantz to subsequently job out two shorts to Grant and Ray. Grace Stafford was Woody’s voice by this time, and provides it for this commercial.

Mr. Magoo

Cantankerous Mr.Magoo didn’t fit the profile of typical cartoon spokesman. He may not have been kind or cuddly, but he sure sold a lot of beer and lightbulbs. This spot from 1959 was likely directed by Rudy Larriva. Gil Turner does most of the animation. Jovial Jim Backus is Magoo as always.

Bugs Bunny

One of the many Kool-Aid commercials directed by Tex Avery featuring Bugs Bunny. Herman Cohen animates the spot, except for the final shot which is by Ben Washam. Hal Smith and Mel Blanc speak as usual. Made at Cascade in 1964.


Even the bad ol’ puddytat was sometimes brought out to be a pitchman, usually for cat food. Here Sylvester is selling Purina Cat Chow. Animated by Ted Bonnicksen. Based on the box, I’m guessing this is from the early seventies.

Mighty Mouse

Without a doubt, Mighty Mouse was the product pushin’ powerhouse of Terrytoons. Even feisty Farmer Al Falfa was no match for the mouse of tomorrow. Here we see Mighty Mouse hawking… chewable vitamins? This looks like a pretty late spot, but it still sounds like Tom Morrison is doing the voice. There’s re-use a plenty here.


Popeye, Olive Oyl and Brutus (Nee: Bluto) sell bath soap in this action-packed spot. Several scenes were animated by Martin B. Taras, who may have also directed it. I don’t know who the other guy is. Jack Mercer, Mae Questel, and Jackson Beck return for vocal duties.


  • Grantray-Lawrence wasn’t formed until 1954. See Variety, July 21, 1954. Both Grant Simmons and Ray Patterson were hired by Lantz around June 1, 1953. See Variety, June 16, 1953. It would appear they acted as their own autonomous unit within Lantz in 1953.

  • And now here’s Clint Clobber for Drano: “All dem crazy tenants, puttin’ stuff down the drains…think I don’t have nothin’ better to do than clean out clogs all day…” (fade out)

  • Now THIS post, today, is wonderful personified. TY!!!

  • Sounded like El Kabong’s musical ‘kabonging’ note in that Mighty Mouse ad. Kind of surprising, given how unique the Terrytoons sound library was, but I guess by the mid-1960s the SFX tracks being freely swapped between studios was no big deal anymore.

  • Nice Monty Python reference in today’s drawing, Mike!

    Another fantastic post as always.

  • I love those Magoo Stag Beer spots!

  • I wish Magoo getting wasted in a library was a whole cartoon.

    • I doubt the censors would allow that, Thad.

  • “Wanna see me eat one myself? OK, I’ll eat one myself!”

    Yep, that’s exactly how it you get ’em on your side!

  • I remember they later used Sylvester for 9-lives in the eighties.. “Nine Lives.. Worth rithkin’ your lith thor!”

  • I love these posts by you Mike! Makes my Saturday a treat like the old days. I think the Sylvester Purina cartoons are more likely early to mid-sixties, because of the McKimson quality of animation. Sylvester was not drawn quite as well when he pitched “9 Lives” in the late 70’s.

  • Herman Cohen to Ben Washam: night and day comparison.

  • Woody Woodpecker for Carnation Corn Flakes (which I must assume went well with Carnation Milk!) also pre-dates Walter Lantz’s long business relationship with Kellogg’s, which lasted about 15 years from the late 50’s to early 70’s.

  • I recall lots of commercials for various brands of children’s vitamins. Then the FTC or FDA cracked down on them for pitching directly to children and encouraging them to gobble up “just like candy” pills.

    The initial response was to pretend to aim the ads at adults, running them heavily in game shows and such that kids watched in the afternoons. Fred Flintstone was shown behind a desk nominally speaking to parents but still making the kid pitch. An ad for Pals abandoned the animated mascots but focused on a send-away playhouse offer like a toy commercial. Other brands continued to do colorful animated spots, but like Flintstone made a token show of appealing to Mom.

    Sometime thereafter the commercials were banned entirely.

    • Of course there were the Flintstones Vitamins ads in the 80’s or 90’s with their “Ten Million Strong and Growing!” tune I still hear in my head.

  • It’s interesting that in those Kool-Aid commercials Elmer Fudd reverted back to his Egghead-esque wardrobe from the late 30s/early 40s with the derby and high collar. I wonder if that’s because that’s what Avery remembered from his days at Schlesinger’s.

  • Did Paramount/Famous make many commercials?

    • I believe they did – though identifying which ones they did has remained elusive. They were open to that business, but the theatricals were their primary focus. They did one industrial in the 1940s we know of. More research is needed in this area.

  • The Flintstones vitamins spots make me think of a Rodney Dangerfield bit.
    “Kid’s are having sex young these days. You know they’ve got a birth
    control pill shaped like Fred Flintstone?”

  • I still cringe whenever I hear Hal (Otis Campbell) Smith doing Elmer Fudd. He did a lot of good cartoon voices, but Elmer wasn’t one of them.

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