Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol

A blog dedicated to the making of the first animated Christmas special, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Happy 65th birthday, Mr. Magoo!

On this day in animation history, the first Mr. Magoo cartoon, a Jolly Frolic called Ragtime Bear, was released by Columbia Pictures.  Written by Millard Kaufman, laid out by Bill Hurtz and directed by John Hubley, the short changed the fortunes of the nascent UPA studio and later created a merchandising bonanza for Hank Saperstein.  You can see a model sheet from the original production right here on this blog from his birthday a few years ago.  

There were dozens of cartoons produced featuring the nearsighted Mr. Magoo, a feature, 1001 Arabian Nights, the first animated Christmas special, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, and three separate animated television series: The Mr. Magoo Show, The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo and What's New, Mr. Magoo?

Few people below the age of forty even know who Mr. Magoo was and it's safe to say that most anyone younger than that has never even seen a Mr. Magoo cartoon.  Its unfortunate that Mr. Magoo was retired long before he turned 65 but here's hoping that another generation rediscovers him. Happy Birthday, Mr. Magoo!

Mr. Magoo enjoying his retirement

Monday, September 15, 2014

Lee Orgel and Morey Amsterdam

When you start digging into the history of animation, you never know what you'll find.  Lee Orgel's daughter, JoAnn, recently uncovered a few more items from her father's career, including a previously unknown animated pilot produced by Morey Amsterdam's previously unknown animation production company, JKL Productions.  Those of you who have read my book will remember that Morey and Lee were good friends, which is why Morey did the French narrator in Lee's animated feature, Gay Purr-ee and a few lines in Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.  It appears that Lee produced the pilot for Morey using Depatie-Freleng talent on the side.  Mike Kazaleh has more on the short, as well as a transfer of the final film, at Jerry Beck's Cartoon Research.  Be sure to check it out to see a rare artifact from a far corner of animation history.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Where have I been?

Marketing, promoting and selling The Art of Jay Ward Productions, that's where!  Most of the spring and early summer was spent making the rounds of the various LA animation studios with Ward artist Sam Clayberger in tow as well as several book signings with June Foray. 

June Foray at the Larry Edmunds Bookshop in Hollywood

We even had an evening at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica with Sam and Allan Burns, whom you may remember as the co-creator and co-producer on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  For those who haven't read the book, Allan's writing career really got started at Jay Ward before he moved into live action comedy writing.

Sam Clayberger and Allan Burns at the Aero Theater
If you haven't yet purchased a copy of The Art of Jay Ward Productions and would like to, I have a limited number of artist signed copies.  These are signed by the aforementioned Sam Clayberger and Art Diamond, who has declined to make public appearances at signings so his signature on the books is very rare.  You can buy them here.

And for those who've wondered what happened to my Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol posts, I stopped because there didn't seem to be any more to say.  However, a few weeks ago, some very interesting material surfaced, material that I wish I had had for the 50th anniversary of the book, which you can still buy here for a limited time.  Stay tuned for an upcoming post revealing just what was discovered.

Monday, August 18, 2014

David Weidman 1921-2014

By now, most of you will have heard of the passing of David Weidman, who painted backgrounds on Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, did color styling on numerous Fractured Fairy Tales and also painted for Hanna Barbera in the late 60s.  He was even more well-known for his serigraphs from the mid-60s to the 70s, some of which can be seen here.  I profiled David about 3 years ago, which you can see here and if you're interested in reading more about David Weidman, check out his book here.

Unfortunately, he passed away while I was out of town, hence this late posting.  David died peacefully and in the home he built.  His memorial service was yesterday and family members and friends celebrated his life, recounting his sense of humor and unique, iconoclastic approach to life.  He lived a long life, long enough that he was around when his work was rediscovered late in life.  In fact, some of his serigraphs could be seen in episodes of Mad Men, as you can see here

I always found my visits with David to be humorous, stimulating and informative.  My last big visit with him was during research for the Jay Ward book, when we discussed his work for TV Spots, a Ward subcontractor, on Fractured Fairy Tales.  Although that part of his career had been largely overlooked, even by him, he was a font of knowledge about his time there and why he did what he did.  It was as if we had opened up a long forgotten closet and the information just came tumbling out.  Because the shorts he art directed there are so visually arresting, I ended up devoting several pages to his work.  Here's an example below:

It was an honor to have become a friend of David Weidman as well as chronicler of his animation work. Good-bye David, your keen eye for design and your wonderful sense of humor will be missed.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Jane Kean 1923-2013

     By now, I'm sure most have heard of the passing of Jane Kean, best known for playing Trixie against Art Carney's Ed Norton, on the 1960s version of The Honeymooners.  Here at this blog, we know her as the singing voice of Belle, Ebenezer Scrooge's fiance in Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.  She also had a very diverse and accomplished career in live theater and Broadway, which led to her casting in Christmas Carol.
      She published her memoirs about 10 years ago in a slim book titled A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Honeymooners, I Had a Life! in which she recounted her career in show business along with her romantic dalliances with some of the big names of her era.  I had the pleasure of interviewing her for my book as well as sitting with her on panels and signings as we promoted Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, The Making of the First Animated Christmas Special.  The times I spent with her were brief but she was always very classy, engaged and willing to help promote the book.  May she rest in peace.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

IT'S HERE!!!!!

At long last, The Art of Jay Ward Productions is here!  The book is jammed with art and photos, 980 to be exact, and fills 352 pages.  It's also heavy, weighing in at over 4 lbs!  Some images from inside the book can be seen at the visual essay I composed for Cartoon Brew, check it out here.  You can order it at

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pre-order The Art of Jay Ward Productions!

Although the book won't make its official debut until November 15th at the CTN Animation Expo, you can now pre-order the book at  Local purchasers can be the first to get their hands on this long-awaited book by pre-ordering the book and picking it up at Renegade Animation's Glendale office, see the book's website for more info.  If you order it before Oct. 15th and use the code EARLYBIRD, you'll save $10 off the publication price.  More page images and order information can be found here