THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
April 30, 2015 posted by

Hugh Harman’s “Easy Does It” (1946)

easy-does-it

Today’s cartoon is an animated extravaganza by Hugh Harman Productions. Easy Does It (1946-released in ’48?) is a half hour film made to show to small grocery store owners. It’s a sales film to show how branding can help move product from their shelves-specifically, Stokely Van Camp’s products. I imagine the film was shown at trade show and other grocery-store events, or perhaps even to small chains traveling with a sales-person. It’s amazingly well-produced for this particular kind of film, beautifully animated, and features a well-produced soundtrack as well (by Clarence Wheeler, who scored the Lantz. cartoons from 1950 into the late 60s. The credits are clearly not complete, but it credits Carl Urbano and Arnold Gillespie with sequence direction. Urbano went on to work for John Sutherland productions for many years.

east200Clearly many animators, background artists and cel painters were involved in the project as well. Walter Tetley is the Voice of ‘Easy’ himself, who is probably most familiar as the voice of Sherman in the Jay Ward Peabody and Sherman cartoons, but did voices in so many other cartoons, including Andy Panda in the late 40s cartoons.

It’s been a favorite of mine since I first saw it in the early 80s at a film show. The print I saw back then was Kodachrome, as they all seem to be on this title. It looks like it was originally shot in 16mm Kodachrome, a reversal film stock- you can see the edits done on the 16mm material. Another Harman short made around the same time, Winky the Watchman (1946) appears to have been shot in 35mm, though I could be wrong. I think Mark Kausler in his commentary on Winky (for Cultoons Volume 2) actually mentioned that ‘Winky’ was shot in 35mm.

squeeze-legsIt seemed like there were a lot of prints of this film around for a little while in the early 80s- perhaps a stock of them were acquired by one film dealer – but of course now it’s harder to get. This transfer is from a 1948 Kodachrome print that had started to shrink a little, but was otherwise in excellent shape. Even though it appears to have been produced in 1946, the first reference I can find to it’s existence (in print) is in 1948, so I’m not sure what year the film made its first appearance. If anyone knows, I’d love to have that information.

We transferred this print for inclusion on Cultoons, Volume 1. It would be nice to do a 2k on this film and make a neg for preservation, as many of the few remaining Kodachrome prints on this film are really starting to shrink.

So, if you haven’t seen it, I hope you like ‘Easy Does It’- but no need to go out and buy a delicious can of corn right now. Have a good weekend everyone!


BONUS MATERIAL: Courtesy of writer/pop-culture historian Warren Dotz, these images below of “Easy” as an advertising print icon (left) and as a ceramic figure (right, probably created to reward Stokley-Van Camp salesmen and vendors). They appeared in Dotz’s books’ What A Character (1996) and Meet Mr. Product (2015), which we highly recommend.

Easy-mascot

21 Comments

  • Walter Tetley was also the longtime voice of Leroy, the nephew of network radio’s THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PF-mKlE6Rjs

  • I’ve seen this cartoon and have it on the DVD called “Weird Cartoons” which is a complication of cartoons that are now rarely seen in public or banned because of its contents.

  • “1946-released in ’48?” Actually, we are in luck! This title boasts a copyright date (if not release date) of April 1, 1947 here (although I agree it was likely completed in ’46): https://archive.org/details/motionpict19401949librrich

    The same reference also states that the Library of Congress received a 16mm copy instead of 35mm.

    It still amazes me how all of us survived the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s as movie geeks, researching this stuff long before the internet and, most importantly, the great Internet Archive… which as scanned so many all-important reference books that we never could find at any local library.

    • Getting closer to a “release” date here. Again, you gotta hand it to the Internet Archive giving us the goods! Ha ha! The September 1947 edition of The Educational Film Guide, dedicated to 16mm films, also includes it as in active circulation. https://archive.org/details/47educationalfilmg00hwwirich

      I will let the others here carry on with the detective work…

    • At least archive.org comes to the rescue for these things. Periodicals and reference materials that could easily have been thrown out at any time are thankfully preserved there.

  • Even though this was “just” a commercial film, it’s one of my favorites from Cultoons, Volume 1; not only do I enjoy the animation, but seeing a grocery store from over 60 years ago and noticing what’s the same and what’s different (look at that tiny shopping cart!) is a hoot.

    (And I expect everyone here has a copy of the above-linked DVD, but if by chance you don’t, get it!)

  • Another wonderful post, Steve!

    So I take it that sales films like these were commonly shot on 16mm?

  • Is this a slam at the private label wholesalers that sold generic private label brand items, saying national brands serve better?

    I did like the entertainment subplot with the love interest— interesting spin on the “damsel in distress” cliche.

    • Is this a slam at the private label wholesalers that sold generic private label brand items, saying national brands serve better?

      Wouldn’t surprise me if that was the point.

      I did like the entertainment subplot with the love interest— interesting spin on the “damsel in distress” cliche.

      It certainly was an interesting approach, and a nice timewaster as well.

    • The key message seemed to be that “Well Known Brands” cost more wholesale, but justified it through higher sales. Then they get very specific about Stokely Van Camp’s marketing and in-store support. I’m guessing the target was any grocer who, successfully or not, stocked lower-priced brands with higher margins per item.

      Another detail to watch for: A two-seater outhouse with one angry occupant.

    • Another detail to watch for: A two-seater outhouse with one angry occupant.

      I noticed that! They certainly wouldn’t be caught dead putting that into a regular cartoon at that time.

  • Got the Culttoons; also had it on a PD disk of “censored” cartoons. It is a crazy piece of work, combining superior production with a melodrama plot and just a touch of leering sleaze. Were they assuming their audience was almost exclusively male, or would women of the day accept this as business as usual?

    • Got the Culttoons; also had it on a PD disk of “censored” cartoons.

      There’s a version I found once where someone attempted to ‘restore’ the cartoon by adding in unnecessary sound effects (I think it was one of those old Winstar DVD’s that went for the home theatre Dolby surround mix on their toons).
      http://www.amazon.com/Cartoon-Crazys-Banned-Censored/dp/B0000541UL

      It is a crazy piece of work, combining superior production with a melodrama plot and just a touch of leering sleaze. Were they assuming their audience was almost exclusively male, or would women of the day accept this as business as usual?

      Mr. Squeeze certainly had a peculiar way of greeting people of the opposite sex! 😉

    • I mentioned earlier about the Winstar DVD. I just had a check on a copy I have and noticed they cut out most of the film involving Easy taking Joe to see “The Stokley Man” and the live-action sequence that followed. I guess they didn’t think that part was important to keep on their release. Not a great release though, very poor, dark transfer if any (what else can you expect from a PD release). I will share this though, the last couple seconds of the end title card otherwise missing from the transfer above. Nothing special besides mentioning Hugh Harman’s studio again.
      http://i.imgur.com/jvd3qA6.png

    • I discovered this on a tape of cartoon commercials I have about 10 years after the fact ( a huge gap between the last commercial and this). I understand a cheeky Tex Avery made for enlisted men or a cheeky Fleischer’s Betty Boop but what was with the naughty humour in this? Was it assumed grocers were a horny bunch?

      And how about the daughter? Looks like Disney’s Cinderella, don’t you think?

    • I discovered this on a tape of cartoon commercials I have about 10 years after the fact ( a huge gap between the last commercial and this).

      At least your tape made better sense than to label it as “Banned & Censored”. This film wasn’t meant to be seen publicly outside the showings to local grocers/wholesalers. It’s like the Busch Beer promo film in the 60’s featuring The Flintstones. These things aren’t meant to be banned or censored simply because they were not meant to be seen that way (at least regularly).

      I understand a cheeky Tex Avery made for enlisted men

      Private SNAFU comes to mind there!

      or a cheeky Fleischer’s Betty Boop but what was with the naughty humour in this? Was it assumed grocers were a horny bunch?

      Or the assumption they had of bankers being that ‘persuasive’, who knows. It was definitely another time.

      And how about the daughter? Looks like Disney’s Cinderella, don’t you think?

      She does, interesting given this predated that by a few years.

  • Sounds like Pinto Colvig as the old man shopkeeper.

  • It looks like it was originally shot in 16mm Kodachrome, a reversal film stock- you can see the edits done on the 16mm material.

    Certainly gives the film that odd “Workprinty” feel, but then I’m sure there were plenty of other films of that type produced for educational/instructional use anyway.

    We transferred this print for inclusion on Cultoons, Volume 1. It would be nice to do a 2k on this film and make a neg for preservation, as many of the few remaining Kodachrome prints on this film are really starting to shrink.

    I noticed this print ‘jitters’ a bit (I suppose that’s due to the shrinkage). If a new transfer gets made, it would be neat to see if it’s possible to minimize the jitter a bit.

  • I love “Easy Does It” but it sure cleared the room when I put it on the projector, back in the day.

    • Wouldn’t surprise me, this film’s not for everyone (though for the few who appreciate it, there’s something to gain from the experience).

  • There are no animators listed on the credits, but I did recognize Ed Love’s work on some scenes. I looked him up on IMDB and there are no credits for him between his last cartoon for Lantz in 1947 and Huckleberry Hound a full decade later. I imagine that in between he mostly worked on industrial fims like this.

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