Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol

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

Friday, September 28, 2012

Mr. Magoo’s birthday

Since tomorrow will mark the 63rd anniversary of Mr. Magoo’s debut in The Ragtime Bear, it seemed like a good time to hear from someone who was there for Magoo’s inception had to say about the character's origins.  Following is an excerpt from either a 1956 internal memo or lecture by UPA production manager, Herb Klynn:

The conception of Mr. Magoo, the near-sighted and lovable, muttering old gentlemen, whose myopic weakness leads him into hilarious adventures born of blurred vision and a belief by him that everyone and everything is well-nigh perfect, came about as an idea that the cartoon screen could benefit from introduction of a character somewhat of the lines of the late loveable W. C. Fields.  Experimentally, such a character was written into a short subject script (“The Ragtime Bear”) as a secondary character around which much of the action evolved.  The resultant acclimation and complete enjoyment of the audiences to this new character succeeded far beyond our fondest expectations, and Mister Magoo became a factual, existent character destined for certain stardom.

Mister Magoo has changed somewhat, physically, form his original character, changes having been made here and there as the cartoons developed into a series of adventures of the near-sighted gentleman.  Today, he is world-famous, and the winner of one of the famed Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Oscar awards, for this film adventures in “When Magoo Flew”…

After a brief discussion of the success of Gerald McBoing Boing, Klynn continues, showing that not everyone at UPA dismissed the idea of recurring characters:

Our next idea?  Our next character-star?  Who can tell? We’ll probably meet up with it or with him-tonight when we’re driving home-or tomorrow, over the luncheon table in a crowded restaurant.  Of for all we know, maybe just as we’re dosing (sic) off to sleep some night next week, which means a night without sleep was we roll and toss the idea around to see how many possibilities it possesses!

At any rate, whatever or whenever the source, it’s fun!  And our only hope is that which is fun to us, proves profitable to the company because only in this way can we continue enjoying our work-and or life-to the hilt!

Sadly for the studio, there were to be no more ‘star’ characters.  Mr. Magoo, however, has lasted far beyond what any of the UPA artists would have ever believed.  Happy Birthday, Mr. Magoo!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Destination Magoo

Last week, I profiled the short, Pink and Blue Blues with layouts by UPA designer and director, Ted Parmelee.  This week, it’s Destination Magoo, an unusual cartoon because it’s the only one to be written by UPA’s two main voice artists, Jim Backus and Jerry Hausner, the voices of Mr. Magoo and Waldo, respectively: 

Once again, Bob McIntosh is featured on backgrounds, this time the layouts are by Sterling Sturtevant: 

Special thanks to Tim Hollis for the photograph of Backus and Hausner.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pink and Blue Blues

In honor of Magoo's upcoming birthday, the next few posts will feature original art from some of his theatrical efforts.  The first is Pink and Blue Blues, written by Bill Scott and directed by Pete Burness, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Subject.

Originally titled, The Baby Sitter, this 1952 cartoon is one of my favorites of the Magoo canon for several reasons-it’s a strong premise, well executed and features some excellent staging and design work as well as expressive background painting.

Magoo has been called in as an emergency baby sitter by his neighbors and not only has to deal with the baby but a masked burglar as well.  I love the images of Magoo wearing a smoking jacket and fez, something that apparently upset Egypt enough to ban the cartoon, “… having found that it offends the dignity of all Oriental countries.”  The film features layouts by Ted Parmelee who later directed UPA’s classic short, TheTell-Tale Heart and moody backgrounds by Bob McIntosh.  Below are some of Parmelee’s original layouts:

The film was loosely adapted for the 1958 Wonder Book, Mister Magoo, which features Magoo as a nearsighted baby sitter sans the burglar story line:

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Art of the Jay Ward Studio

If everything falls into place, it appears that the follow up to the making of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol book will be a book on the art of the Jay Ward studio.  As I mentioned in the previous book, both UPA and Ward shared a number of key artists throughout the early 60s.  One of those artists, Shirley Silvey, kept a lot of material from her days at both studios and as I began sifting through the material, it occurred to me that there was a book in both her life and work as well as a book on the visual aspect of the one studio, who more than any other, tried to keep 'funny' alive in TV animation.  I proposed the book to Classic Media and the Ward estate, who are tied together as Bullwinkle Studios; both were enthusiastically behind it.

This book won't be a history of the Jay Ward studio, Keith Scott's thorough examination of the Jay Ward studio, The Moose That Roared, has already covered that topic and covered it exceptionally well.  This is meant to be a visual encyclopedia of the art created by some of the industry's most talented designers and boarders within the context of TV animation's 'golden age'.  The reason I'm devoting space to on this blog is that although I've collected a lot of images for this book already, I'm asking any and all collectors of Jay Ward art for scans of their art for use in the book in order  to make it as complete as possible.  This call includes original storyboards, model sheets, layouts, cels, backgrounds, pitch art for unsold pilots, promotional art, ad art, the Bullwinkle comic strip and comics, etc.

I realize that much of the early Ward production work was done in Mexico making it extremely difficult to locate, if in fact it still exists.  However, more often than people realize, episodes, titles and bridges were animated in Hollywood and every so often, an artifact from those productions shows up.  If you're a collector of Jay Ward production art or know someone who is, please have them contact me here.  And if you know family members of artists who worked at Jay Ward, please send them my way.

To be clear, I'm not looking for scene cels, art that was manufactured for the retail market.  It's unclear as to whether or not General Mills or Quaker Oats will cooperate with this venture so for the time being, I'm focusing on the entertainment side of Jay Ward productions rather than their commercial productions like Cap'n Crunch or Quisp and Quake.  The book is scheduled to be published late next year. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

50th Anniversary Edition of Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol Book

It’s unclear how much will be done to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol this year but one thing you can count in is the upcoming deluxe collector’s edition of my book.   This new book has been expanded to 176 pages from the original 128 and includes not only the original text but all the pertinent information from my blog over the last two years. LOTS of new artwork, too!  Below is a sneak peek at an advance copy.

More to come when the book is released in early October.  If you'd like to reserve a copy, send me an email here.