April 7, 2016 posted by

“Minitoons” from Cartoon Films LTD/ Animated Cartoons Inc.


Another busy week here, but things are looking up. Likely next week we’ll have a little photo essay about the Cubby Bear project, now well into cleanup. It’s a sordid tale of Vinegar Syndrome gone amuck, visits to indian grocery stores, gloves and caustic film cleaners, Old English Lemon Oil, and a cautionary tale to never store 2 reels containing 16 of the series in a single can together! Our little team is doing a great job on the set, though as usual progress is slower than I wish it was. Collector and animation aficionado Scott Christy came by today, doing an excellent job working on the final cleanup on Opening Night. Perhaps the hardest thing about finishing a new set is being satisfied that you’ve done the best service you can to the films.

cop-dropHere are a few animated theatrical commercials dating from 1939 and 1940. I’m especially fond of the beautiful background work in these little shorts. I first saw these prints while visiting a collector-friend in New York in the late 80s, and borrowed the prints to use on ‘Cultoons, Volume 1’ in 2005.

oil-motorBy mid-1939, The former Ub Iwerks Studio had changed its name and had started to produce theatrical commercials alongside producing films for Columbia. Iwerks officially left his former company sometime in 1940. Through the late 30s, director Paul Fennell took a major role in the little company, directing much of the studio’s output.

Iwerks renamed his company Cartoon Films, Ltd, in 1936 after the split with Pat Powers. Powers maintained ownership of the Comi-Color cartoons, while MGM held onto theatrical rights to the Flip and Willie Whopper shorts, eventually turning them over to Powers (likely contractual). The company was renamed Animated Cartoons Incorporated sometime in 1941. The continued their output of well-produced shorts and commercials, including the Oscar-Nominated How War Came (1941). Interestingly, the early 40s Columbia shorts don’t list the name of the production company at all – instead, it lists the films only as ‘A Lawson Haris Production’, with Paul Fennell listed as director.

This post by Jerry from a few years ago gives an excellent background on this period, with several of the notable shorts they produced.


Included here below are five of their theatrical commercials. A Date With Kate (1939) for Brookfleld, Mini-Toons presents Pebble Punch (1940) for Coca Cola, and three shorts for Shell Oil.

Here is a great photo shot during the production of the Shell Oil spots. We can at least get an idea of some of the people involved in the production here- Rudy Zamora, Bucky Bug artist Carl Buettner, Tom McKimson, Paul Fennell and Charles Byrne. (Special thanks to Jeff Missinne)


Have a good week everyone!


  • That first Shell ad reminded me of “Breakfast Pals” for Rice Krispies!

    • It’s the same studio!

  • I wonder if the Brookfield Belles from Swift’s Brookfield Butter were a prototype for Borden’s Elsie the Cow? And the judge from The Brookfield Belles A Date with Kate look similar to Elise’s husband Elmer the Bull from Elmer’s Glue products .

  • I discovered that there was a series of ads for Swift’s Brookfield products that featured Brooksie and her Pals that predated The Brookfield Belles. I wonder if they decided to change Brooksie’s design prior to the animated theatrical ads being shown in theaters?

  • Wow, this is nice stuff! I know that you’re probably way ahead of me on this, but since this is Ub Iwerks related, maybe it should be there as a special feature on either the forthcoming FLIP THE FROG (highly anticipated) set or the COMICOLOR (highly anticipated) set. Oh, and I’m sorry to hear of all the decay difficulties regarding the CUBBY BEAR titles, but I’ll be anticipating the new set. Regarding theatrical commercials in general aimed at the general public and regularly shown in movie theaters around the country, I’m very interested in how many of the major cartoon studios took part in this practice. I’ve yet to hear about anything done by those at Termite Terrace or those at MGM’s in-house studio during their golden ages.

  • Great animated commercials. Thanks, Steve!

    Is that Jack Mercer/Popeye’s voice as one of the cylinders?

    • That’s Candy Candido, not Jack Mercer. Frankly, it’s not the Popeye voice. Just another raspy frog voice that was done by other actors. Smiley Burnett did this as well.

  • I don’t think Mercer was involved at all in any of these west coast films… a few of the voices in the Shell commercials some familiar from the Columbia cartoons, especially ‘The Frog Pond’ (39). Mel Blanc did some for the studio around that time, though I think on any of these ones..

  • It’s interesting that the drawing styles in these commercials vary somewhat, within the confines of that time. The Brookfield ad is very Disneylike, while the Golden Shell series is more in a Fleischer or Charles Mintz vein (did you notice the license plate in “A Squirt In Time?” UB 1938), while the characters in the Coca-Cola commercial, including the pretty senorita, look like refugees from a circa-1940 Walter Lantz cartoon.

  • I always saw the Bucky Bug artist’s name spelled as Carl Buettner. “Buttoner” would be close to how it was pronounced, though.

    • That *is* the right spelling – spell correct musta changed it!! Jerry- please fix!

    • Done!

  • Thanks for the shout out, Steve! That was such a fun day at Thunderbean, I can’t wait to come back again. The Cubby Bear set is going to be phenomenal, I’m happy to have had a small part in helping it come to light!

  • There was also a small animation studio in NYC called Minitoons in existence around 1945-1947. I wonder if they were affiliated with Cartoon Films at all?

  • I must disagree about the raspy voice…Candy Candido did one, true, but it sounded more guttural, and can be heard in Lantz’s CHARLIE CUCKOO. Most of these Shell voices are performed by Iwerks & Mintz regular Danny Webb, including a straight voice, the Winchell and the froggy character. Sid Marcus once said that Smiley Burnette was hired for a Columbia cartoon but it has yet to be determined which one.

  • You got to wonder how many of these theatrical Minitoons commercials were made, and Business Screen Magazine list some of them here: but please not they don’t list or mention Date with Kate or Pebble Punch in the article. So I suspect they were still in the production at the publication of this article.
    the link was originally posted by Jonathan Boschen over at the old GAC forums back in the day.

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