THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
March 17, 2016 posted by

Paul Terry, the model senior citizen, in “Social Security in America” (1968)

heckle_terry1

I feel like the “Cartoon Research” site has become one of the best ‘books’ and ‘home video stores’ on the subject of classic animated films. This particular site really does offer a lot fo things you never see anywhere else, so this film is right at home here!

First some backstory. In the early 1960s, the FCC, under the Kennedy administration, defined a series of rules that mandated certain types of programming was required for the public airwaves (television and radio) to best serve the public interest. This mandate was the result of a study and report that had been in progress before the Kennedy administration.

Mighty-mouse-Terrytoons-poster47Since both radio and Television broadcasting had very few rules besides non-competitive ownership monopolies and the same basic ‘common decency’ mandates, the market forces and profit motive became the only driving forces. The first of the baby boomers were entering their teens in the late 50s, driving a boom in revenue in entertainment, especially on the broadcast airwaves. With the television boom, the programming on radio had already become primarily song-driven, and the record companies soon realized that the more a song was exposed, the better chances they had of having a ‘hit’.

Record companies began paying the radio stations for favoring their certain records more than the demand of the listeners, and often would even pay some stations for not playing some of the competitive songs. Many of the larger record companies were involved in this ‘payola-esque’ schemes, and after a congressional investigation and hearing, the FCC under the direction of Congress developed a list of the types of programs that should be broadcast that serve the public interest best. These types of programs included news, educational programs, sports broadcasting, and, interestingly, a requirement for local talent and local community self expression, as well as educational programming.

In order for stations to renew their licenses, they needed to show that they served the public interest my having a certain amount of each of these certain types of programming. These particular rules led to many universities producing education programming to meet the need of these hundreds of stations. Even the small local stations began producing shows highlighting what was happening in local communities, as well as many local children’s shows. These hundreds of small stations all across the country were also offered programs for broadcast from the united states government.

This model held well into the late 1980s, until nearly all regulation powers of the FCC were eliminated by the Reagan administration, leading to the consolidation of television and radio station across the country, and the almost immediate elimination of local programming in favor of a handful of companies monopolizing industry ownership. Much of the local flavor over the airwaves was gone, forever.

social-security-mightyThis peculiar film was produced in the late 60s by the government to be shown as part of the required educational and public service programming, distributed in 16mm free to stations. It likely made most of it’s appearances either late at night or early Sunday mornings, where most of the television stations put their educational programming requirements, at the times that were watched the least!

Paul Terry is featured as a shining example of how the Social Security system is working. It’s one in a series of films made along the same lines, likely shown in rotation on the stations. It’s quite a rarity in that I don’t think there are too many surviving prints. We owe this week’s viewing to film hero Mark Kausler, who was kind enough to lend this for transfer some years back on the Thunderbean DVD Making ‘Em Move.

The film is interesting in seeing both Mr. Terry and seeing the old Terrytoons studio in New Rochelle, NY. I don’t think all of Terry’s former employees would have shared the same opinion of him, but here he seems to be portrayed as a hard working retired artist. One of the coolest thing about the film is the footage from the 50s showing pencil tests and people working at the studio, produced and edited together many years before as part of a film showing how animation was done. I hope you enjoy it.

Have a good week everyone!

22 Comments

  • The deregulation of broadcasting is one of the worst things to happen to the USA in my lifetime. What came about because of those Reagan-era rule changes was the consolidation of broadcast ownership, where currently *six companies* own 90% of all media in the USA. It also led to TV stations being able to broadcast as many commercials as they want in an hour. (30 minute infomercial about flipping houses? Botox? Crappy rip off products? No problem!) The changes led to a TV news industry that reports the news in such a way as to please viewers rather than inform them. Because broadcasters were no longer obligated by the FCC to give equal time to opposing views, the changes led to the rise of Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern, and other one sided media outlets, like Fox News. And Fox News led to the rise of Donald Trump’s political career.

    Broadcasting in this country was founded on the idea that the airwaves belonged to the public. We have the opposite now. Broadcasting used to be owned by small locally based companies, who were obligated to provide public service. But like so many other parts of American life, the media and broadcasting now belongs to corporations who don’t give a damn about people, the truth, or for that matter, America itself.

    Sorry to rant, but what politicians do really does matter in every day life. So keep an eye on them. .

  • I have seen this film about Paul Terry, and he comes across as a likeable guy. Whether that’s really the truth – maybe Thad’s book can enlighten us on that question…

    • Also, an interview with I. Klein and Maltin’s Of Mice & Magic can enlighten you about Terry’s “likability.” The Klein interview is in the anthology The American Animated Cartoon.

  • Great post! The guy in the frame in that Heckle and Jeckle still at the top is a caricature of George McAvoy. He had a decades long career as a cameraman, editor and technicolor specialist for Fox, Terry, Van Beuren, and other film studios.

    • Thanks for identifying that caricature. I’m to blame for using that image in this post (not Steve) as we had little to illustrate this with. He does look a bit like Terry though, you have to admit.

  • Wow – pencil tests! Just another reason to love Terrytoons!

  • It seems that Terrytoons may have been the sole animation studio that didn’t use push pins for posting storyboards. Prominent metal clamps are seen mounted on the walls in this archival footage, holding each story sketch firmly in place. Paul Terry may have realized how many seconds were wasted in pulling out and pushing in pins every day, at least two to hold each drawing, which amounted to several hours per year that just plain cost him money. Why do I leap to the conclusion that the metal clamps were likely Paul Terry’s idea? Look at that painting that the 80 year old Terry is pretending to paint – held fast to the easel with one prominent metal clamp. Had Tex Avery spent his career at Terrytoons, he would never have lost an eye.

    • There was quite a bit of horseplay at Terrytoons, actually. One of many notable examples was the firing of Al Stahl for randomly throwing objects out the story room window to amuse his coworkers (Terry’s story department was on a high floor of a New Rochelle Skyscraper in the early 40s). Many employees found ways to avoid Terry and his spies and goof off on the clock. Howard Beckerman told me Connie Rasinski used several carefully angled mirrors around his desk for this purpose.

  • 99.9% of all species that ever existed are now extinct, and our present day natural world is the product of evolution.  Darwinian principles apply to business as much as they apply to biology, and man’s innovation is a parallel to biological adaptation.  Because of industry innovation there isn’t a big demand for cel washers anymore, and the only people complaining are the same sort of minority that fetishes vinyl. Regarding the FCC, the principal source of oligopolies and monopolies is government intervention.  Humans will go to extraordinary lengths of legislation to “preserve nature” in select instances but for some reason people have a reluctance to embrace the free market principles which represent Darwinian theory just as much as a pristine wildlife preserve.  This is because most people are products of the government intervention and monopoly of the education industry which refuses to teach logic and rational thought, combined with a vague secularized altrusim handed down from the major religions – the ethic that teaches to preserve and glorify mediocrity at the cost of society as a whole.  It’s the ethic that passed the Social Security Act of 1935, created the FCC, and is coming after your internet, you wonderful Cartoon Research people.

    • Note that I didn’t take a political side in my post today…. just presented a film and a few reasons for the creation of educational programming on Television. I did like a lot of the local shows however!

    • The internet is now the place for the local show, both for preservation of the old and creation of the new.  The development of technology that provides you that forum is the direct result of free market capitalism, the economic equivalent of the reason why man is no longer a knuckle dragger.  If companies naturally consolidate according to free market principles as a result of the elimination of government strangleholds on growth and investment, then this is no different than man rising to the top of the food chain.

    • Note that I didn’t take a political side in my post today…. just presented a film and a few reasons for the creation of educational programming on Television. I did like a lot of the local shows however!

      We all did. Stations had an excuse for that extra studio space that’s probably doubling as warehouse space today.

  • Wow! Reading the comments here, Terrytoons really are educational!

  • First some backstory. In the early 1960s, the FCC, under the Kennedy administration, defined a series of rules that mandated certain types of programming was required for the public airwaves (television and radio) to best serve the public interest.

    It was in this atmosphere that gave us Davey & Goliath, Romper Room, the “final world” at sign-off, and the National Association of Broadcasters’ Seal of Good Practice.

    This model held well into the late 1980s, until nearly all regulation powers of the FCC were eliminated by the Reagan administration, leading to the consolidation of television and radio station across the country, and the almost immediate elimination of local programming in favor of a handful of companies monopolizing industry ownership. Much of the local flavor over the airwaves was gone, forever.

    Thank you Ronnie. :-/

  • Can we please give these political rants a rest? I came here to read and talk about cartoons, not politics.

  • I remember when the FCC required TV stations to give up a half hour of prime time (7:30-8:00PM on the East Coast) to be used for “local” programming. I don’t know about the rest of the country, but in New York all we got were syndicated game shows and the likes of “Entertainment Tonight”.

    • Same here.

    • In reply to ‘Al:’ That 1/2 hour was really meant for stations to produce truly -local- programs. Many stations did just that. For example…In Boston, WBZ-TV presented “Evening Magazine”(aka: “PM Magazine” in other markets), with contributors Robin Young(now with NPR) and Tom Bergeron(of ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’) while WCVB gave viewers “Chronicle” which presented features from around Boston and New England.

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