August 8, 2013 posted by

The Gingerbread Castle

Many years back, I was at a film show hunting through a milk crate full of 16mm prints. Film shows used to work like this – similar to a garage sale at times – where sometimes you would find a treasure mixed in with so much garbage.
I must have been excited because several other collectors came over and were thumbing through the same box as I pulled out prize after prize (to me… but maybe not to the other collectors!).

One of them *did* get a an older print of Buried Treasure out of that box and I managed to find this clip from a Pathe News newsreel. I think this dates from around 1930-1931 and is a fun little story about the Gingerbread Castle, a children’s attraction in Hamburg, NJ built by Joseph Urban, a designer of sets for big musicals. It was commissioned by Fred Henry Bennett, owner of FH Bennett Biscuit Co, creator of Milk Bone Dog Biscuits (its claim to fame).

Here are a couple of good links about this place: The Gingerbread Castle Digital Library and Yahoo Gingerbread Castle Memories. And here a link with pictures of the inside

I always thought that this castle is sort of like a living cartoon…or children’s book from the 20’s. Here’s a picture of me at the castle last year. In a perfect world, this would be Thunderbean’s World Headquarters!


The film also has an odd segment featuring wind-up toys chasing a Red Riding Hood doll! We featured this film on Grotesqueries, a DVD of fun (and sometimes spooky) shorts created by my friends Chris Buchman and Rex Schneider.

Since this post wasn’t really animated, here is a short that is: Keep This Under Your Hood, a short commercial produced by Cartoon Films Ltd in 1941. One of these Thursdays will dive further into the history of the Ub Iwerks Studios transformation into a small commercial-producing outfit. But for now, enjoy this Technicolor fun, courtesy of the National Archives!


  • Well at least the place is still there even if it’s not being used anymore (reminds me of the vacant attractions dotting the road through the Irish Hills of Michigan, too bad someone had to vandalize one of them recently).

  • Very nice footage of the Gingerbread Castle Steve! Reminds me of some of the Fairy Tale Statuary in the Great Smokey Mountains Park in Tennessee. That’s Ken Carpenter narrating the “Keep This Under Your Hood” short, looks like Paul Fennell was involved with this film as well, either in the animation or the design. Paul might have taken over the Cartoon Films Ltd. name from Ub Iwerks when Ub went back to work for Walt Disney in 1940.

  • Great animation on the Ford commercial. Better than a lot of official entertainment shorts of that time.

  • That sounds a heck of a lot like Ken Carpenter, the announcer on (inter alia) The Kraft Music Hall, doing the voice over.

  • Gingerbread Castle must have been the source of Kim Deitch’s graphics story about a commercial bread bakery in town built for and entirely populated by midgets. I Amazon-searched some of his titles to try and remind myself of its name or where it can be found, but it was part of his Waldo the Cat mythos.

  • That IS Ken Carpenter. At the time, he also narrated Jerry Fairbanks’ “Unusual Occupations” shorts for Paramount.

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