March 14, 2024 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Frank Tashlin’s “The Possum that Didn’t” (1972)

One of the coolest things about collecting films is that sometimes you come across a better print of this or that. This one is a cartoon I’ve tired to find a better print of for years, and finally found one a little while back.

But first, Thunderbean and other news!

I’ve been holding back on showing progress on various projects here, following Jerry’s theory to not spread the progress over years for a project, at least sometimes. In the coming weeks as certain things get closer to a finish I’ll be showing what we’re doing. For now I’ll just say the new stuff is looking pretty good, and I’m excited to be working toward finish on several projects, including ones that have been in progress a while. Over the last few days I’ve been sharing stills from some of the special discs that just got finished on, and will continue to do so as the sets get finished.

Over this past weekend, I was lucky enough to attend three of the Fleischer retrospective programs at the Museum of Modern Art. They played to a packed house, and it was wonderful seeing people enjoying really good presentations of the studio’s work – ‘magical’ even. Everyone involved should be proud. I feel lucky I was able to help with the restorations of some of the films shown. I was also able to meet some folks in person that I knew but never had actually met, so that was a bonus. For the record, I was properly dressed for the occasion, so I expect to not hear otherwise, but you never know!

Ciara Wagonner, Steve Stanchfield and Mark Newgarden, all properly dressed for the occasion at the Fleischer MoMA retrospective.

And, onto today’s film — The Possum that Didn’t (1972)

Still from Tashlin’s book, The Possum that Didn’t, 1950

Frank Tashlin’s classic short story book from 1950 was adapted by Pterodactyl productions and released by 16mm educational film distributor Bailey Films in 1972. It appears to be the only film made by Pterodactyl productions . There’s really very little information about this little film available on the internet or otherwise. While it’s clearly a lower budget short, the filmmakers, Robert Konikow and Milton Gray, did a good job in keeping the feeling of Tashlin’s book alive in the short. I like a lot of their color choices as well. It’s a similar approach and has a similar feel to the film adaptions of children’s books produced by Weston Woods in the late 60s and through these last five decades, some more animated than others.

I had first heard of animator and historian Milton Gray in the early 80s while reading old Mindrot (and later, Animania) magazines. These little fanzine-esque publications were magical to me when I was a teenager and dying to learn even more than was in Of Mice and Magic and the there books I’d memorized from the library. Of course, this is before I knew a lot of the animation community. I was thrilled to meet a lot of the people that documented cartoon films back then, and still am thrilled to have met many of them. I hope that maybe my own contributions will reach others in the same way. Milton’s Gray’s book, Cartoon Animation, introduction to a Career, was helpful to me as I was trying to break into animation. You can find a used copy here on Amazon.

Sadly, Tashlin died at 59 years old in 1972, the same year this film was finished. I wonder if he ever had a chance to see it. There’s not a lot of prints of this particular little short, and most of the ones I’ve seen have been pretty splicy, with Eastman color that’s faded red. I was lucky to find this print a handful of years back, printed in Fugi color that tends to retain more of the tones than other stocks from around this time. So, here it is from at least a little better of a print!

Have a good week everyone!


  • It is somewhat difficult for me to see Frank Tashlin as a children’s book writer, but I love this story! So nice that they got to make it into a film. Imagine if this were actually created during his golden age at Warner Brothers. Imagine the images as CL kind of assaulted him, it would’ve been rather poignant actually. Thank you for this. I look forward to your “special” sets and finish products whenever they come. Take your time! Like the possum, I’m smiling!

  • “The world is such a cheerful place when viewed from upside down.
    It makes a rise of every fall, a smile of every frown.” — Michael Flanders

    And vice versa.

    For a 52 year old cartoon that was never released commercially but only distributed to schools, that’s quite a good-looking print. I like to think that the “hit comedy” the people took the possum to see was Tashlin’s “Son of Paleface”. That would explain why the possum liked it so much. (American opossums, as anyone who has ever surprised one with a flashlight knows, have pale faces.)

    But any possum that isn’t happy spending the night next to a trash can in the alley is not a possum worthy of the name.

  • Wow, we were shown this in third grade social studies (1975-76) and I have racked my brain ever since trying to recall the title (although all I could remember about it was “group takes possum to theater”). Another Holy Grail scratched off my list. Hope someday you dig up a certain cartoon that aired on HBO as between-movie filler in the early Eighties that has likewise eluded me all these years.

    • Which one? I may know if you tell me.

      • Sorry about the delay–Got too busy with other things, and neglected to check back.

        I have long forgotten the title, but it had a 1955 copyright date. My hazy memory seems to recall the School of Visual Arts in the credits, so it was likely a student project.
        It was very heavily UPA-influenced, and had limited, minimal animation. The story concerned a young boy who goes through life in a constant state of terror, fearful of all that is around him. His parents eventually help him combat his anxieties, but after nightly Cold War scaremongering on TV, are reduced to his former state. It is then the son’s turn to alleviate their phobias.

        Hope that helps. Sure would like to see it again.

  • Like the tedious, repetitious (but nicely designed) “The Bear That Wasn’t,” “The Possum That Didn’t” would have benefited from more of the pacing that distinguished Tashlin’s earlier cartoons.

  • Steve, I didn’t klnow you owned a suit-jacket! (I won’t even ask about a tie!)

    THE BEAR THAT WASN’T and THE POSSUM THAT DIDN’T are two Frank Tashlin projects that I’ve heard about for years, but I’ve never seen. I’m glad you found a decent copy of POSSUM.

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