December 14, 2023 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Famous Studios “Winter Draws On” (1948)

Tomorrow is the last class day for the semester at the College for Creative Studies where I teach, so we’re reviewing student work for most of the day. The work I reviewed today was in Senior Studio and Animation 2 (Sophomores) and its lovely working with students and having their work improve so greatly.

Since the Van Beuren Tom and Jerry set is off to replication now. I’m working on finishing our annual Christmas ‘special’ set tomorrow night and working on finishing a Fleischer project film in the coming days. I may be taking a trip out west during the break to help move several other things forward too— and I’m really excited about that!

We’ve been purposely waiting to share the Rainbow Parades 2 set as well as an unannounced project or two until we’re closer to having them closer. The Lou Bunin set is gaining momentum, with frequent Thunderbean restoration artist Ciara Waggoner jumping into co-producer position in the coming weeks to help it along a lot faster. It’s one of the longest in production here right now and, hopefully, moves forward a lot at the beginning of the year.

And… onto The Cartoon!!

The Screen Songs from the 40s are a series we’ve scanned a lot of, but there’s never been an ‘official’ set. Looking back at the materials we’ve already scanned and the additional films we now have or have access to, we could do a pretty good set, but I’ll save that idea for another time. They’re an odd series, sometimes featuring a character you know from one of Paramount’s other series.

Cartoon collector extraordinaire Collin Kellogg told me many years back (when I was a teenager) that the cool cartoon people really like Famous Studios and Terrytoons, nearly above all others; more than 35 years later I’m still hoping to get in that cool cartoon person club, or any of the others for that matter. Maybe I need to be better dressed for the occasion or make sure I don’t have a color perception problem. Then, someday, I’ll be crowned like the Sliphorn King of Polaroo and break my current interloper status. I wonder what I need to do exactly? Does doing all these Thunderbean projects, curating shows, being on TCM or teaching an Animation History Class for 24 years count? Maybe I need to write a book. To me, helping others, and helping make sure there’s good copies of cartoons (if I have that ability) are the things that really matter. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned from Jerry Beck, Mark Kausler and others.

Moreover, enjoying the great work of the past should be the most important thing, not whether you know something about a contract from the 30s or 40s. I enjoy those kinds of things, but sharing that information is the reason to know anything. In my book, we’re all in the cool person cartoon club, or we wouldn’t be looking at a site called Cartoon Research!

Winter Draws On (1948) is a pretty typical entry in the series; well-produced with some very nice animation. The story features a bunch of birds heading south for the winter (with the gags you’d expect from Famous). The running ‘gag’ features two parent ducks waiting for their offspring to be born— and in typical Famous Studio-style, there’s a gag where the father gives the yet-to-be-hatched egg a ‘hot foot’— causing the newborn to sing out of the egg in pain from the hot foot (in fact, he continues to have the ‘hot foot’, already in a scarf and ear muffs, jumping up and down all the way through his mother breaking the 4th wall and asking if we remember the song we’re about to sing along with. Through the second half of the sing-along, the little hot footed bird guides us through. There’s some pretty typical stereotypes (including a guest appearance of Buzzy the Crow early in the picture) all voiced by Jackson Beck. One of my favorite interviews with Beck centered around him not remembering that he voiced the character at all until Jerry Beck and Will Friedwald showed him one of the films! When he did the interview with my friend Lenny Kohl later, he misremembered the name of Buzzy as ‘Ricky Raven’.

Here’s Winter Draws On with the Paramount titles (although missing the mountain). It’s from a pretty decent 16mm print that Paul Mular was nice enough to let me scan some years back.

Have a good week all and enjoy singing along!


  • A “cool person cartoon club” wouldn’t live up to its name if you weren’t in it, Steve.

    These Polacolor 16 mm prints of the Screen Songs are fantastic! The faded red NTA prints that used to fill cheap public domain video collections are barely watchable.

    “There’ll be no heebie-jeebies hangin’ ’round….” “Heebie-jeebies” was a new slang expression in the 1920s that took the flapper era by storm. It first appeared in print in a Barney Google comic strip of 1923, a year before “Alabamy Bound” came out. No one seems to know exactly where it comes from.

    I can’t wait to hear about these unannounced projects you keep tantalising us with. Gives me the heebie-jeebies just thinking about them.

  • So now, the “cool” studios are famous, and Paul Terry? Well, I must’ve been real cool as a kid, because we got so many of those on television to watch over and over and over again. I did like most of them! I still like most of the characters! it seems the “cool“ studio of the moment is the studio that is least easy to find on home video. I guess those two would be the ones to choose. I’m still waiting for the ultimate collection on Terry tunes. Those were interesting cartoons, and they still continue to be among my favorites. When I was a kid, you couldn’t get away from them! at that time, to me, MGM was the real collecting item, because you couldn’t find it anywhere in New York. Little did I realize that, in other parts of the country, these were still being run regularly for kids to enjoy. Most or all of the theatrical studios are worth collecting, because they are history lessons. They are also bizarre viewpoints into how the world looked at life back in the days in which they are created. As always, thank you for what you do to keep these alive! I look forward to the future and thanks for this great cartoon.

  • Should we start a “Go Fund Me” to buy you a tuxedo, Steve? (All the cool kids are doing it!)

  • I had the same experience with Beck not remembering Buzzy when I interviewed him by phone in 1996 or 1997.
    Larz Bourne, who cowrote the episode, was from the South and entered the animation business via the Fleischers during their stint in Florida. Years later, he created the southern character Deputy Dawg for Terrytoons.

  • I won’t lie, I’m always heartened by any mention of the Bunin project. Thanks.

    My biggest concern is that a hard drive will crash and my pre-order record will be lost.

  • It’s fun the see these cartoons, especially in glorious Polacolor and with the original Paramount titles! While the Famous Popeyes were run to death on local TV in the 1960s and 1970s, I recall almost never seeing Screen Songs (Fleischer or Famous), Little Lulus or 1940’s Noveltoons. Was Al Eugster the director/supervising animator of the Famous Studios Screen Songs?

  • Coolness is not a self-conferrable status, although one of its primary tenets is a sense of confident individuality. (Coolness isn’t a club you join.) Contrary to popular belief, James Dean was not cool; too neurotic, and too representative of a teenager’s rather limited idea of coolness. Mr. Rogers was cool.

    Accordingly, Famous Studios falls short of coolness because of how hard it tried, presumably at the insistence of parent Paramount, to emulate the content of other animation houses, or to adhere to formulas that had worked in the past. There’s very little spark of originality or inspiration in the Famous cartoons. The Famous Screen Songs were merely a revival of the Fleischer series. Fleischer was cool until he started copying Disney. (Disney was cool until he started overliteralizing his artwork, repeating himself, and pandering to public tastes.)

    Terrytoons, going its own quirky way (or even when it went UPA in the fifties did so credibly), was relatively cool. But not as cool as Warner Bros. No cartoon studio was as cool as Warner Bros.

    • In other words, cool is whatever you personally like.

    • I disagree about that comment on Disney (especially since my favorite animated feature film finally made it to The Library of Congress’ National Film Registry).

  • It sure looks like Twinkletoes flying in the crowd scene with all the other birds, doesn’t it? Or at least his cousin.

  • It must be a bit true about cool kids liking Famous as I still find some folks my age and younger praising them online. Although, I also think the beloved comics from Harvey might also played on that factor too.

  • Christopher: On behalf of the Offical Popeye Fanclub (one word), I used to call Jackson Beck to ask him if he’d record a greeting over the phone to our fan club. Then I realized what a wealth of information he had about working in radio, TV and the movies for all those years and started to interview him – when time permitted – for over four years. Beck told me that a TV crew (maybe for his local public TV station?) was interviewing him about his career, but i have never seen any broadcast or any infomation about such a show. Do you know if it was ever completed?

    I don’t think Beck was ashamed of the black southern dialect he did for “Buzzy the Crow” and tried to wipe it from his memories. It was – no doubt – Famous Studio staff writers who wanted a character to emulate Eddie “Rochester” Anderson’s character from THE JACK BENNY SHOW – wildly popular for decades. Over the years, Anderson’s character moved from a comic stereotype to an itelligent – if comic – human being, and became essential to the show’s success. By the ’50s, no doubt Famous wanted to “cash in” on that character’s success, but the quality of the writing just wasn’t there. I don’t think Jackson Beck made all that many cartoons with the “Buzzy the Crow” character anyway!

    I’m hoping that after several delays, the first of my two books of interviews will be out soon from BearManor Media books. I used just about all the transcribed interviews with Jackson Beck over the years and hope that you will enjoy them. I’m “Senior Citizen” age now and my health isn’t what it used to be, maybe if you’ve got enough interview material with Jackson Beck, you – or somebody – will attempt a biography of this very interesting entertainer and announcer.

  • Nice toon. I think one of the problems with seeing Famous as ‘cool’ is the unfamiliarity with a lot of their work. I had never seen this cartoon. I only remember the earliest Famous Popeyes, which have had their reputation greatly enhanced by recent DVD releases. The Golden Age of Famous was relatively short before they fell into hackery. As for Terrytoons, if there are cool Terrytoons, again, they weren’t shown much on TV. A couple Golden Age Mighty Mouse, and that’s about it. One of their best series, Gandy Goose, I never saw on TV.

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