Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol

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

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Rocky & Bullwinkle in Mexico

Frank Hursh, head of background dept at Gamma
If you grew up with Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, it's a good bet you watched Rocky &
Bullwinkle and all the rest of Jay Ward's series.  For the next few weeks, my Jay Ward blog takes you behind the scenes at the Mexican studio, Gamma Productions, that actually produced those series.  This week, meet the ex-pat American head of the background department, Frank Hursh, and in the ensuing posts see some more rare photos and art from that era. Take a gander here.  And if you need a guidebook for your tour, get one here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Bob Inman, 1927-2016

I'm sorry to report that Bob Inman, one of the two main background painters on Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, has passed away.  Bob was one of animation's unsung talents, largely because he spent his career painting for television animation which has never received the kind of recognition theatrical animation has.  He was part of a generation of highly trained artists who were nominally known in the industry as background painters but who might be more properly defined as color stylists, using color boldly and expressively, oftentimes outshining the low quality animation that served as the foreground.

Bob started at Bob Clampett's Snowball Productions, churned out BGs by the dozen for Hank Saperstein's UPA TV productions of Mr. Magoo and Dick Tracy, painted numerous backgrounds in the manner of various French Impressionists for the stylish feature, Gay Purr-ee and served as one of two main color stylists and painters on Christmas Carol

Stylish yet spartan BG from an unknown Magoo TV short
When work at UPA dried up, he followed Christmas Carol producer Lee Orgel over to Cambria for The New Three Stooges and then moved to Chuck Jones' incarnation of the MGM studio, working under Maurice Noble on such productions as Tom & Jerry and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  Bob later styled and painted The Pogo Special Birthday Special and reunited with Christmas Carol director Abe Levitow for We're Off to See the Wizard.
Moody BG likely from a Magoo GE comercial
He had brief stints with Jay Ward on the George of the Jungle series and with Abe Levitow on B.C.: The First Thanksgiving.  Later years were spent on seasonal work at Hanna-Barbera along with stints for Bosustow & Associates and freelance for most of the commercial houses in LA.  Bob returned to UPA in 1970 to once again work for Lee Orgel and Abe Levitow on Uncle Sam Magoo, where he was chief color stylist for the special.

Shortly before retiring, he freelanced for Chuck Jones on his stylish TV special, Mowgli's Brothers, below is one of his color keys for the show.  He finally left animation in 1976, tiring of the on again, off again nature of the industry and spent the rest of his time pursuing his passion for fine arts painting.

Bob's unorthodox approach to color in Christmas Carol
While the Saperstein years at UPA were without a doubt a factory system, the painters were left alone to style and paint as they saw fit.  Being able to paint using various techniques and unusual color schemes were the hallmarks of Bob's time at UPA as evidenced by his work on Christmas Carol and The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo.

Right, one of Bob's more painterly backgrounds from the 4 part Robin Hood episode of The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo. Below, a background from the Cyrano De Bergerac episode from the same series. You can read a little more about Bob and see some more of his work here from a profile I did over 5 years ago here on this blog. 

Bob, like so many of his contemporaries in TV animation (David Weidman, Gloria Wood, Jack Heiter and Sam Clayberger among many others) has remained "in the background" of animation history.  I was fortunate to have met and interviewed Bob Inman and, because he saved so many examples of his work, highlight his legacy for future generations.  Thanks for the memories, Bob.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

What's new on the Jay Ward blog

This has nothing whatsoever to do with Mr. Magoo or Christmas but if you're a fan of Jay Ward you might want to check out the latest post at where I show very rare images from the original Dudley Do-right pilot produced in 1948, 13 years before he first appeared on The Bullwinkle Show.  The above image is NOT from the pilot but drawn by UPA and Ward director, Pete Burness. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The making of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol

Welcome to my 100th post on this blog!  It's been 6 years since I published the first edition of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol: The Making of the First Animated Special, which recounted the virtually lost story of two Broadway songwriters, Styne and Merrill, and the once cutting-edge animation studio, UPA, both of whom had an outsized impact on all future animated Christmas specials.  The book that no publisher would take on went through two sold-out printings and an out-of-print special commemorative 50th anniversary edition because I decided the story was compelling enough to publish it myself.

I'm sorry to say that the limited print runs have ensured that any edition of the book you can find from third party vendors will now likely be both rare and pricey.  However, if you're looking for a special Christmas gift or just want to get the book before it's gone forever, I recently discovered a few treasures in storage so here's your last chance.  This is a list of the final remaining inventory:

First printing of the book, signed by the author and 9 of the original cast and crew, #50 of 50: Marie Matthews, Laura Olsher, Jane Kean, Bob Singer, Gloria Wood, David Weidman, Bob Inman, Marty Murphy and Anne Guenther.  $199

50th Anniversary Collector's Edition, signed by the author,  #204 of 250, #248 of 250.  This edition was revised and expanded from the first edition with 48 new pages and over 200 more images.  Includes a separate Blu-ray/DVD with bonus material, which features the lost Overture and one of the song demos played and sung by Styne and Merrill.  $175 each. 

If you'd like to purchase any of the above items, send me an email at  First come, first served.

To all my readers over the years, have a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Activities on the Art of Jay Ward blog

As you may have noticed, updates on this blog are few and far between.  As new information or artwork comes in, I will post on this blog but in the meantime, check out my sister blog, where I continue to post new info and art on the Jay Ward studio.  Lately, I've been posting regularly on Bill Scott's gag cartoons on life at Ward's and will continue to do so for the next few weeks.  Bill Scott, Jay's partner and head writer, producer and all around voice artist (Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-right, Super Chicken, George of the Jungle, etc) came up through the animation ranks and, as a cartoonist armed with biting wit, made humorous observations on their difficulties with ad agencies, networks, their status in the industry, and even each other.

This week, a series on ad agency shenanigans:

Check out this and previous postings at  And if you haven't bought the book, The Art of Jay Ward Productions, a limited number of copies are available HERE for half off the cover price of $49.95.  For those of you without calculators, that means just $25.  Christmas is coming, I'm just saying...

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Gerard Baldwin, a life in animation

Readers of either of my books, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, The Making of the First Animated Christmas Special or The Art of Jay Ward Productions will instantly recognize the name Gerard Baldwin.  Baldwin was responsible for directing and animating the highly memorable, show-stopping sequence featuring the Despicables in Christmas Carol.   For Jay Ward, he directed and animated many of the best episodes of Fractured Fairy Tales, Aesop & Son and Dudley Do-right at Jay Ward as well as animating several pilots such as Hoppity Hooper, Super Chicken and George of the Jungle.  Baldwin had a flair for turning the limitations of low-budget animation into assets while squeezing out the highest possible entertainment value.

Now, you can learn a little bit more about the master himself in his new book, From Mister Magoo to Papa Smurf, A Memoir by Gerard Baldwin, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Beginning at his beginning, Baldwin recounts growing up in New York, his decision to become an artist and his sideways move into the medium that would define his career, animation.  You'll read about his early days as an inbetweener at UPA, his military service, his return to UPA and his rise as an animator and director in the TV animation industry, culminating in becoming a producer on Hanna-Barbera's The Smurfs.  Between his stories from the animation trenches and his wry observations, there are a number of charming drawings illustrating anecdotes from his life.

During it's baby boomer heyday, television animation was usually looked down upon, especially by those in the industry.  Consequently, very few animators and directors from that era put their experiences and thoughts down on paper; this is rare insight into the art and commerce of 1960s animated cartoons that is of interest to not only those that grew up with the cartoons but for anyone who follows pop culture.  You can buy it here.

Friday, June 5, 2015

D-Day, 71 years later

Victor Haboush at Disney, photo courtesy of Amid Amidi
Since tomorrow is the 71st anniversary of the D-Day invasion in World War II, it seems appropriate to commemorate the event with this post.  During the research process for Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, The Making of the First Animated Christmas Special, I interviewed many artists who had worked at Hank Saperstein's incarnation of UPA in order to get a sense of the studio once it changed hands. One of those was Victor Haboush, an amazing artist and designer who had worked at both Disney and UPA and who could have given fellow Disney designer Walt Peregoy a run for his money as the angriest man in animation (undoubtedly due to the events recounted below). Somehow the conversation turned to his experiences as a sailor on a Landing Craft-Infantry ship on D-Day; even 60 plus years later, the fear was still palpable in his voice as he described his experiences from that day. Below is a transcript of his memories of the D-Day invasion, edited for continuity:

I was just one of these guys that wouldn't tolerate bullshit. I had gone through World War II. I was at Normandy Beach, I landed troops on Normandy Beach. I got out of the service and I didn't want to take any shit from anybody. It just wasn't worth the kind of crap they pulled, they handed out to you.

Soldiers taking cover behind Rommel's hedgehogs
We hit Omaha beach, Easy Red, 30 minutes after H-Hour. Where we were going, there had been a storm and it had washed this real deep gulf, about six feet high, all the soldiers were hiding behind it, and there were iron bars (Rommel's hedgehogs) in the water. They were killing everybody in the water and our guys were trying to get past those things and make it to the other side so they could attack them on the hill. They were just machine gunning the soldiers, it was like a movie. There were bodies in the water. American soldiers floating in the water all over the place because they had machine-gunned them going down (the ramps). It was chaos. I don't think any of them made it on shore. We barely made it off the beach.

Landing Craft-Infantry, Haboush would have been in the rear conning tower
We started hitting it and we took a German 88 right in our steering engine room. Then the shrapnel went down and killed one of the guys who was coming up the steps and the other two were blown to bits, there was nothing left of them. The 4th guy I don't know where he was. My little landing craft, we were 30 people, 10 were injured and 4 were killed. We lost our left ramp. You had these 2 ramps on Landing Craft Infantry; when you hit the beach, these iron arms go out with cable on them and drop 2 ramps on each side. The soldiers go down on both. We had about 200 soldiers on board that we were letting off.  There was a small Landing Craft-Personnel, LCP, up next to us and the guy yelled up for a line so he could get up. He was going in to catch the line and he was shot right off that thing. It was like he was never there, it was a strange thing.

My station was up with the old man. I was on earphones with the skipper and he would give the orders. You know, 3 forward, 4 back, reverse, all that stuff. I would repeat it in the phone. Thank God I didn't have to get off, I wouldn't be here today. I was right on the conning tower with the skipper right next to me. I had this huge helmet on and I had these earphones under it. I had that helmet up right down my forehead and I could just see 2 inches out of it. I had a perfect seat for that whole thing. I could watch the whole thing going on.

We pulled (D-Day photographer) Robert Capa off the beach. He wrote (to me), telling me my picture was in Life magazine. You would never know it because you just see a piece of me, my helmet and little bit of my big nose. There was this one kid (in the picture) who died just a few minutes after I was holding a big compress on him. Anyway it was in Life Magazine.

This appears to be the photo he describes above.

One of Robert Capa's iconic D-Day invasion photographs
After we landed infantry, we finally got off (the beach) after we got hit. Then we went back and dropped Capa off at one of the ships. He said that our ship sunk when we dropped him off, which is not true. He just totally lied about it, he said he got on the ship and the captain was crying. The first mate had been blown up and blood was everywhere. That was all bullshit. He came on board though. I had to laugh. It was bad enough, he didn’t have to exaggerate. That is how he gained his reputation. He was a brave guy, he went in on the first wave. He stood by those iron things (Rommel's hedgehogs) and he took those pictures. There is nothing cowardly about the guy. But why he would make up a story, I will never know. I guess that was his art form.

We lost that one ramp when we got out there. I was just so happy to get off the beach finally, we were there way too long. We got these orders that we were to pick up these 2, a little bigger than an LCP. It was another landing craft. I think it had about 80 guys on there, they were Seabee's [C.B., slang for Construction Battalion] and they were going to put them on the beach so they all came on our ship. My new station was at the front of the ship and we were headed in there again. I got to tell you, this time I was scared shitless. I was up there with my little friend, we called him Murphy, his name was George Weisberg and we were cussing the skipper out and calling him all kinds of names, ‘You glory happy son of a bitch, turn around you are going to get us all killed!' He was steaming in there with only one ramp. Our radio broke down, it was chaos. The only way to communicate with each other, we had these radio boards with all these wires, they would cut us off and so we'd go back. 'Another ship will take it in, we heard you lost your left ramp.' The skipper said 'Yeah.' The skipper was going to go in and boy we were so relieved. So we let the guys off on another ship, a different one. That was like getting a pardon.

Afterwards, when we finally got off the beach, I was the only one on my ship that could clean those guys up. I was picking them up. We put blankets in these wire things you carry people in and I was scraping them up with a scraper and dumping their bones and everything in there. Nobody else could do it. All I did was think about my Dad's meat market and cleaning off the butcher block. It was really quite something, I think it really has affected me for a lot of years after.  

Amid Amidi's Cartoon Brew has more on Victor Haboush's life here.