Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol

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

Monday, October 24, 2011

Paul Carlson, production

Paul was not part of the key creative team on Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, although he did work on the film as a production coordinator.  His career was spent largely on the production management side of animation but his story is a fascinating look at the animation business as it made the transition from theatricals to television.

Paul got his start in the animation business at the Walt Disney studio on Lady and the Tramp, filling in the drawings between the animator’s key drawings, a position known in industry parlance as an inbetweener.  He contributed to Frank Thomas’s fondly remembered scene of Lady and Tramp eating spaghetti-Frank’s ace cleanup artist, Dale Oliver, did the key drawings, the future color stylist for 101 Dalmatians, Walt Peregoy, did the breakdown drawings and Paul followed them all up doing the inbetweens.  He also briefly assisted Marc Davis on Sleeping Beauty for a period before moving in other directions at the company.

Some time after Disneyland opened, Carlson had a hand in the  “How to Draw” series of books sold at Art Corner in the park, assisting many well-known animators with their contributions-John Lounsbery on Mickey Mouse, John Sibley on Goofy and Pluto, Bill Justice on Chip and Dale, Bob Carlson (no relation) on Donald Duck and Jerry Hathcock on Jiminy Cricket. 

Fresh-Up Freddie, cousin to Panchito from The Three Caballeros
From there, Carlson moved off the drawing board and into production, working in the Disney Studio’s short-lived TV commercial unit as an assistant director from 1956 to 1959.  He and Walt’s daughter, Sharon, shared an office together in the unit where Walt would often drop by to offer her a ride home.  The unit was responsible for supplying the commercial needs for the three television series in production at the time, the Disneyland Sunday night show, Zorro and The Mickey Mouse Club.  Some of the commercials were designed by famed animation designer, Tom Oreb, and all were helmed by Charles “Nick” Nichols, former director of the Pluto shorts, who later directed for Hanna Barbera.  Characters appearing the commercials included Fresh-up Freddie for 7-Up, Bucky Beaver for Ipana and Jiminy Cricket for Baker’s Chocolate.

After the unit was closed in 1959, Paul briefly worked on 101 Dalmatians before joining UPA under Steven Bosustow, shortly before Hank Saperstein bought the studio.  Carlson served as an assistant to production manager Earl Jonas on The Mr. Magoo Show, The Dick Tracy Show, Gay Purr-ee and Mr. Magoo’s Christmas CarolWhen production wrapped on the Christmas Carol, Carlson joined the well-known TV commercial studio, Quartet Films, run by former animators Michael Lah (MGM), Art Babbitt (Disney), Arnold Gillespie and Stan Walsh.  While there, Paul was asked to design the mascot for the Baltimore Orioles and his cartoon bird was used by the team from 1966 until 1993.

Carlson's original drawing and the final logo
Production manager Earl Jonas left UPA at the conclusion of The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo to join Abe Levitow at Chuck Jones’ new studio, Tower 12 Productions, and brought Paul Carlson in to assist on How the Grinch Stole Christmas and numerous other productions.

When Abe Levitow came back to UPA for the 1970 special, Uncle Sam Magoo, Paul joined him as production managerFor a very brief period in the early 70s, he left the animation business entirely, buying a burger wagon and working the fair circuit.  He rejoined UPA in 1971 and once back, stayed at the studio, assisting Hank Saperstein and handling all the commercial needs for Mr. Magoo under his own shingle of Paul Carlson Cartoons. 

Based on his work with the earlier Disney “How to Draw” books, Paul produced a Mr. Magoo version in 1973.  Carlson’s last commercial with Magoo was the 1995 Nutrasweet spot and when interest was expressed in doing a Magoo animated feature in the 90s, he was called upon to suggest a crew.  The film never materialized although a live action feature was produced and released in 1997 with animated titles, produced by Creative Capers and consulting by Paul Carlson.  Paul is now retired but continues to stay active, indulging his hobby of piloting small planes whenever he gets the chance.

Paul Carlson was the artist responsible for the master drawing used for the Christmas Carol limited edition cels.  You can find a very limited supply of his signed cels here.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for another informative post! I met Mr.Carlson on a trip to 1973 at the old UPA studios. He invited me in and showed a brand new print of a commercial he had just finished with Magoo,gave me some cels from Uncle Sam Magoo and was just generally a very nice gentleman.
I have the "mock-up" of the Magoo model guide he gave me. DJA

Anonymous said...

I went thru high school with Paul, still have some of his art work published in our school paper, "The Roundup" (TRHS), which of course was before Disney. And yes, he was and is a very nice gentleman, and very talented. Thanks for the memories, Paul !

Anonymous said...

I went thru high school with Paul, and still have some of his art work that was published in our school paper "The Roundup" (TRHS). And yes, he is and was a very nice gentleman. Very talented as well, thanks for the memories Paul.