Animation History
May 25, 2013 posted by

Harman and Ising at MGM


Super collector Martin Almeyra has shared with me (and by extension, you) his collection of Harman-Ising material. So much material that I will have to dole it out in several posts. It’s also a better way to appreciate this treasure trove. Today, a few rare artifacts relating to the first year of Harman and Ising at MGM in 1934.

With Steamboat Willie, Disney established the cartoon short as a staple of movie going, and every studio had to get into the act – even storied MGM, the Tiffany’s of Hollywood filmmaking. Unable to secure Disney himself, MGM went with the next-best thing, twice. First with Ub Iwerks from 1930 through 1934. Then with Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising from Fall 1934 on…

MGM was determined to compete with Disney in the field of cartoon shorts – and pulled out all the stops to publicize the new “Happy Harmonies”. Here are several publicity photos taken to promote the signing of the duo. Above, Rudolf Ising at left, Hugh Harman at right, with Jack Benny in the center. Below (click thumbnails to enlarge) from left to right: Photo #1, Harman, Ising and business affairs manager Gordon Wilson standing behind MGM child stars Jackie Cooper, Cora Sue Collins and Freddie Bartholomew; Ising and Harman flank famed MGM shorts producer Pete Smith; Harman, Ising and Gordon Wilson go over their deal with studio head Louis B. Mayer; Ising and Harman show a cel, background and a model sheet to an MGM starlet (anyone recognize her?); Bottom Row: a rare flyer distributed to exhibitors touting the first run Los Angeles engagements of the Harman-Ising shorts. These two are for Toyland Broadcast and The Lost Chick (both of which are also embedded below, for your enjoyment):



  • Ah, “Toyland Broadcast”, the short that Boomerang insists is 4 minutes long. It’s good to finally see the whole thing, especially since it’s one of the better early Happy Harmonies.

    Also, I’m happy that I finally get to see what Pete Smith looks like; now I have a face to go with that voice.

    G’bye now.

  • While they couldn’t match the technical virtuosity of Disney or surrealistic, slapstick humor of the Fleischers, Harman and Ising’s M-G-M work remain among my very favorite from that era of the Hollywood cartoon. It’s always nice to see them get some attention.

  • Wow! That IZ quite a Treat. Thank YOO! I am always amazed that tv thinks they have to “cut” films to shreds. They just as soon “alter” history, too, why don’t they!? How inane!!

  • Warner Archives needs to release a DVD set of the Happy Harmonies cartoons, Stat.

  • Rudy certainly knew how to model clothes!

  • Oh, I’m always interested when it comes to the beloved MGM cartoons! The photo might be a little early, but maybe the starlet is the girl who eventually gave voice to rotoscoped(?) Goldilocks in the 1939 cartoon, “GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS”? Just wondering. When I hear that any OUR GANG kids got a tour of Harman/Ising studios, I still wonder why one or more of them weren’t used for voice over work on some cartoons. If that were the case, wow, could you imagine how good the BOSKO cartoons could have been with dialogue from kids like Matthew Beard, lending some of his snappy dialogue to Bosko’s antics? I don’t think they’d be as much of an issue if he lent his voice to the newly designed human caricature. And really, who were the kids whose voices occasionally appeared in MGM cartoons? Examples date back to even the singing little monkeys–in “ART GALLERY”, they do actually sound like kids singing, and then there is the little Book Worm whose cartoons are wonderfully surreal, as much as a Harman/Ising cartoon can be surreal (although, weren’t they both really directed by Friz Freleng?) and, aside from Goldilocks, there were the little animals given child voices in “THE LITTLE MOLE”, “THE FIELD MOUSE” and the little critter in “THE HUNGRY WOLF”. Thanks for these behind-the-scenes photos and, well, I really wish that someone would release the complete MGM cartoons library on DVD so we can enjoy some mint originals in proper historical context!

  • Let me guess, the part the vut from Touland is that the Sambo… Eh, Nambo Jazz Band or Jungle Fever?

  • We are trying to save Rudy Ising’s home in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles.
    A letter in support will be of great help.
    All you have to do is click on the link –
    Our next hearing is on January 16th with the Los Angeles City Council.


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