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.
Since 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.
This 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.