July 4, 2018 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Happy 4th of July 2018 with Nancy and Sluggo!


Actually, maybe not “popular demand”, but it’s a American holiday and a traditional day-off in the United States. I thought it would be a good time to reprint a vintage Cartoon Research post with a classic cartoon and a few addendum. The original post, from back in 2013, has 37 comments – feel free to leave a new batch of comments below. – Jerry Beck

nancy200Since it’s the 4th of July, it seems like it’s a good time to see a patriotic cartoon..and here’s one that’s usually a little harder to see. There were only a few of these NANCY cartoons, produced by Terrytoons in the early 40’s.

The character first appeared in Ernie Bushmiller’s Fritzie Ritz comic strip in 1933 – so Nancy turns 85 this year! She and Cubby Bear should celebrate together!

Instead, she got a new comic strip artist – and that’s turned into quite a controversy.

I wish that the series had continued for at least a few more cartoons – I enjoy the few that were made at least as much as the Little Lulu cartoons from Famous studios. You can see their struggles with animating Nancy in particular, though I have to admit enjoying scenes that are off model or more rubbery. If not Nancy, I wish Terry would have licensed other characters..the refreshing aspect of dealing with an established character seems to work well at the studio. School Daze, in my humble opinion, is even a little more fun than this one.

Here is a rare print with the original titles. Nancy and friends do their bit to help the USO – but I sure wish they would have saved those nifty dime store plates from Japan! I kind of also feel bad for the person who left the $60 in the vase…maybe they were saving it to buy a $1500 car after the war!

Can’t let this post go by without a plug for the recently published How To Read Nancy: The Elements of Comics in Three Easy Panels By Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden (Fantagraphics Books).

Jerry posted a book review here last November, where he said (these are excerpts):

Let’s a get few things out of the way first. This is easily one of the most brilliant books about comics, a comics character, that character’s history – and the aesthetics of comics on the whole – ever written. And that’s saying something because there are many good books about those subjects – including the central subject herself.

…On the one hand, this is an analysis of a single strip, broken down into 44 steps that dissect why Nancy works as pure comics. On the other hand, the book is the history of Ernie Bushmiller, his art, his comic strips and his philosophy (“The gag is the thing”). On the third hand, it’s a collection of some of best of Nancy (over 160 strips are reprinted throughout and especially in its last 40 pages). The book is bursting with rare illustrations and lost photographs – and like Bushmiller’s work itself, each image has a purpose; to illustrate a point, to educate or to tell the story of Bushmiller’s incredible career.

Appendices that further breakdown the gags, feature Nancy memorabilia and celebrate Bushmiller ephemera abound. Ahh, what a treasure trove of material. This is the real deal – not light reading, but a college course on one man, one gag and of the comic strip medium itself. Did I mention it has a Foreword by the late comic genius Jerry Lewis and an introduction by art historian James Elkins?

If you have your own favorite patriotic cartoon – let us know in the comments below.


  • Steve and Jerry, could you PLEASE post a decent copy of the OTHER Terrytoons Nancy cartoon, “School Daze”? The only copy available online has pretty terrible audio quality: I asked about School Daze back when you originally published this post, and have been hoping you could upload it since.

    • …oh, and don’t be fooled by the audio quality in the start of that video. The only reason the opening sounds good is that the audio has been edited in from your upload of “Doin’ Their Bit”. The representative audio quality of the cartoon itself starts at 00:25.

  • Funny… I just contacted Fantagraphics yesterday to see if they had any plans to continue releasing their terrific volumes of Bushmiller’s Nancy strips. (Unfortunately, they don’t.)

    • It’s a shame that the publisher’s interest in continuing the “Nancy” collections seems to have ended when Fantagraphics’ Kim Thompson died.

    • That’s a shame. I really hope that their excellent reprint series of Pogo doesn’t suffer the same fate.

    • Bought a couple of those. Well done, great to have, but the comic seemed to repeat itself. Of course the books covered several years; I can expect a few similar jokes in a daily strip which lasts more than 10 years.

  • It is possible I said this when this article was last published, but I like the NANCY cartoons, too, and I know I’m stating the obvious when I say that we sorely need restorations of so many classic (and sleeper favorite) Terrytoons cartoons, and the NANCY films are among the most charming; many of you know that I enjoy such characters when they actually get children to voice the characters, and this is one of those examples.

    If they had done enough NANCY cartoons, this voicing cast would be almost as famous as Mel Blanc among us obsessive toon collectors–I hope I’m right about the voices being children. If not, wow, did they fool me. I would hazard a guess that a lot of comic strip characters are hard to animate on model, simply because so many characters are not really seen from all angles, so, if you animate them, you have to imagine how they’d walk, dance, bend, skip, or just whirl from one pose to the other. The more limited the drawing, the harder the character will be to imagine as full animation, although abstract can have its benefits, as UPA cartoons possibly have proven.

    Here’s to little NANCY, and wouldn’t it be nice if someone ever came along to produce more animated adventures of this little girl, even though, the more you read the comics, the more you realize that she is of her time. At least, bring out the Terrytoons and let the audiences decide for themselves. If I remember one of the other cartoons, it seems to me that there would have also been a continuing and memorable NANCY theme song that we’d remember as much as we remember LITTLE LULU from Paramount/Famous.

  • (Homer) “Mmmmmmm… Fritzie Ritz… drooooollllllllllll…”

    Meanwhile, back at Nancy…

    Fraud, littering, resisting arrest. What sort of example is this?

    Oh wait, it’s a cartoon.

    And a Terrytoon at that. Wonder what Jim Tyer woulda done to Nancy…

  • Great to see one of these rare Nancy animated cartoons featured. Thanks, Steve! I wish the writing on this USO-themed cartoon had been more clever, and that some of Ernie Bushmiller’s strip surrealism could have been retained. Maybe “School Daze” is better? Most disconcerting for me was to see the individual bristles missing from Nancy’s trademark hair! Yow. I understand streamlining, but that deletion seems sacrilegious. Or might it have been daunting and too time-consuming for animators and in-betweeners in the early ’40s to retain that kind of delicious detail?!?

    Anyway, the Bushmiller Society approves of this column.

  • Nancy’s precise, uncluttered style would seem to be ideally suited to limited animation. Did anybody try animating the strip later (aside from some segments on “Archie’s TV Funnies”)?

    • It was animated as part of Filmation’s Fabulous Funnies.

    • “Fabulous Funnies” (1978) was basically a sequel to “Archie’s TV Funnies” (1971). Both were produced by Filmation and both were built around the same concept: animated adaptations of comic strips owned by the United Feature Syndicate.

  • I find Patriotic Popeye to be a classic 4th of July cartoon 🙂

  • Howzabout a Thunderbean Terrytoons set including all the Nancys?

    • Perhaps the folks at the almighty ‘Bean could consider that sometime down the line–after they’ve completed their Flip the Frog and Rainbow Parade sets, that is.

      Remember, doc… Patience is key.

  • “Doing Their Bit” is pretty fun, and as others have said, whoever performed Sluggo’s voice did a great job. As for my favorite patriotic cartoon, someone no doubt could bring up worthier shorts that have slipped my mind, but right now I’m torn between “Blitz Wolf” and “Der Fuehrer’s Face”.

  • The two Nancy cartoons are probably my favorites to come from TerryToons. They have a real Americana feel to them that isn’t present in the others…

  • Fritzi Rita turns 100 in 2022. I can see Fritzi starring in a comic version of H. Rider Haggard’s She and see Fritzi change from 1922 flapper to 2022 hag in a series of panels would be frightening.

  • I actually like Nancy, without irony or guile. My grandparents gave me a copy of “How Sluggo Survives” when I was young, & I loved it. Gotta admit one thing tho: till a few years ago I thought the title was Sluggo; after all that’s what the book was called.

  • Odd that “Aunt Fritzi” appears on the model sheet, as she never appeared in the two cartoons the Terry studio animated.

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