Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol

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

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Part four of a four part series

     In the years immediately following his departure from the studio, Stephen Bosustow was prohibited from producing in the Los Angeles animation industry due to a non-compete clause in his contract with UPA.  He spent the next few years in Hong Kong, helping a faltering animation studio and trying to drum up work for them from the US.  On his return to the states, he began consulting for an educational film company, Film Associates, and eventually segued into producing educationals for them under his own label, Stephen Bosustow Productions.  Several Christmas Carol alums worked with him in those later years including Sam Weiss and Lee Mishkin, who directed the 1970 Academy Award winning animated short, Is It Always Right to Be Right? produced by Bosustow’s son, Nick.  Mishkin left soon after that and Sam Weiss took his place, directing most of the studio’s later output.  In the mid-70s, Bosustow Entertainment was formed to produce ABC After School Specials, Sesame Street animated inserts and work for other television clients.  Stephen Bosustow died of pneumonia July 4, 1981 at the age of 69.  Four years later, his son Nick closed down the studio.

     UPA continued on for several decades but largely as a distribution and licensing organization.  When animation was needed, usually for television commercials, it was farmed out to ex-UPA staffers and vendors.  In later years, former UPA production coordinator, Paul Carlson, would produce the commercials under the banner of the eponymous Paul Carlson Cartoons.
     Saperstein closed the studio in 1983 and continued to live off the income generated by his diverse portfolio of licensable properties.  He occasionally tried to sell off those assets, either in part or as a whole, but could never come to an agreement with potential suitors.  The John Lautner-designed studio facility was razed when it was sold that same year, ironically enough, to Walt Disney’s nephew, Roy E. Disney, who built the headquarters for his company, Shamrock Holdings, on the property.
     In June of 1998, Henry Saperstein passed away from cancer.  His widow, Irene, sold the UPA assets to Classic Media in 2000, finally ending the story of the controversial and once highly regarded studio.

     As a footnote, it should be mentioned that Stephen Bosustow did not like Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol.  He felt that the concept of Magoo as actor had been tried once before in 1001 Arabian Nights and didn’t work.  While that may be a technically accurate assessment, it’s questionable as to whether any audience saw Magoo as an actor in a role in that film.  Bosustow’s opinion was likely colored by the high profile failure of the feature that he had hoped would save his company.  It's also not inconceivable that any good fortune Saperstein had with UPA would have been a bitter pill for Bosustow to swallow.  Ironically, the Christmas special became one of UPA’s most financially successful properties.


Joel Brinkerhoff said...

Nice wrap up. Sometimes life just isn't fair.

Thanks for the most complete recap of UPA history I've encountered. You've left other animation historians in the dust.

Darrell said...

Thanks for the kind words. For most animation historians, UPA died when it turned to television production, which is why this fairly obscure part of the studio's history has been overlooked. Adam Abraham is writing a book on the UPA studio's history for the University of Mississippi Press, which will hopefully provide the broadest view of the studio's history yet.

C. Louis Wolfe said...

Wondering if you happen to know if 1001 Arabian Nights will ever see the light of day as a DVD release-this film seems to get bashed quite a bit, But I'm a fan of it since childhood-it's got a special place in my heart! THANKS so much for this blog Darrell-I appreciate all the time and work you put into it for ALL the riches you reap! ;^)

Darrell said...

I haven't heard of any plans to release it but I suggest you let Columbia/Sony know of your interest. They have instituted an on-demand division, which releases low volume DVDs. You can find them here:

Since Classic Media owns the character of Mr. Magoo, perhaps there may be some legal issues as well. You can contact them here:

Glad you like the blog! Yes, blogging pays exceptionally well.

Brubaker said...

You said that any new animations UPA produced were farmed out to other places. What studios worked on "Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo"? One name I spotted in the credits was Robert McKimson, so I'm curious to know where he working at on this time.

As I recall, the "What's New Mr. Magoo" series was animated at DePatie-Freleng.

Daniel said...

Loved the series Darrell. So informative and interesting. I'll be following along from here on out. :)

Darrell said...

I'm not aware of any other studios having worked on "Famous Adventures". Animation was freelanced out and ink & paint and camera were usually vended out in order to meet deadlines. According to Don Morgan, layout man on "Famous Adventures", everyone else was in house, including Bob McKimson.

Tom Mazzocco said...

Excellent read, Darrell. Thanks for the info. I've always wondered what happened to UPA. Sadly the studio's demise sounds oddly familiar.