As you may well know if you’re reading this website–and you are–Columbia’s Scrappy cartoon series lasted from 1931-1941. He wasn’t drawn in a consistent fashion during that time: In fact, he sometimes looked like he was different people in different scenes in the same cartoon.
But when the Scrappy cartoons ended in 1941, the character was frozen in time. He has remained a creature of the 1930s, unaffected by later trends in animation design.
Here’s a box from home-movie purveyor Official Films. It contains a Krazy Kat cartoon, Railroad Rhythm. But the box, which I’m guessing dates from the 1950s or 1960s, features a number of characters–and two of them are Scrappy and Oopy drawn in a distinctly more modern style.
Here’s a close-up:
Basically, if UPA had decided to produce a Scrappy cartoon, it might have looked something like this. And given that its cartoons were released though Columbia, it probably could have done so, although I’ll bet the idea never, ever crossed anyone’s mind.
Why Scrappy and his brother got streamlined for this packaging, we’ll never know. Perhaps Official wanted to bring the characters up to date. Or maybe the artist simply drew them in his or her own style rather than mimicking the Mintz look. The box also depicts Krazy Kat using a stock image from the 1930s, so the whole approach is mysterious.
Bonus: Dailey’s Studio in Delano, California–the store which originally sold this home movie, and affixed its sticker to the box, covering Scrappy’s cowlick in the process–is apparently still in business. Judging from how it looks in Google Maps Street View, it may not have changed much since it was selling old Mintz cartoons on 8mm:
When the Scrappy series began in 1931, it had a premise. It really was about a little boy doing little-boy things, and cartoons such as Yelp Wanted and The Little Pest, despite their extreme lack of structure, had at least rudimentary plots.
By the time Columbia released The World’s Affair in 1933, however, all that had changed. This cartoon shows multiple telltale signs that a studio has tired of a series: It has a topical hook (it’s set at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair), it’s a spot-gag cartoon, and it’s rife with celebrity caricatures.
The cartoon begins with an elaborate production number featuring Fred Fisher’s song “Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town)”–which was apparently already a standard even though it was a mere eleven years old at the time. Then a bunch of spot gags involving inventions, technical progress being the theme of this World’s Fair even more than usual.
And then in rush the celebrities: an especially loose-limbed FDR, Mussolini with a bucket of spaghetti, Von Hindenburg with a mug of beer for Scrappy, George V, Chevalier (who gets beer down the trousers), Gandhi and Durante in their diapers, Einstein, and others. They’re all swell folks.
Between this short, Scrappy’s Party, Movie Struck, and Hollywood Babies, an awful lot of the Scrappy cartoons of 1933 were celebfests. (I sort of like old cartoons which are overly dependent on caricatures, such as Mother Goose Goes Hollywood and Hollywood Steps Out, but I feel sheepish admitting it.)
Scrappy and Oopy don’t have all that much to do in The World’s Affair except grin, wear top hats, and tap dance, but they do it well. (Oh, and Oopy gets to smoke a cigar.) The animation of them is pretty darn charming–which is good, since the “story” and gags are so lazy.
Here’s a bit of good news: The Scrappy series eventually got a second wind. Some of the best shorts appeared long after thing one, including The Puppet Murder Case and Let’s Ring Doorbells, both of which were released in 1936. Neither of those ones are on YouTube at the moment, but I hope to be able to share them here someday.
Bonus non-Scrappy footage: Here’s some live-action newsreel footage of the 1933 World’s Fair.
Back in the 1930s, a company on Fifth Ave. in New York called Peterson Manufacturing licensed the rights to issue Scrappy art supplies. The packaging it created for these products has some of the nicest art I’ve seen in the whole world of Scrappyana.
I’ve shared these two images before:
And here’s another one, courtesy of Friend of Scrappy Jerry Beck–who recently spotted it in Leonard Maltin’s collection. It shows Scrappy sculpting a life-sized statue of his brother Oopy.
These three boxes were clearly illustrated by the same person. I’ve never seen any other Scrappy art that was clearly by that artist.
Did Peterson get this art from the Mintz Studio, or did it company whip it up on its own, as manufacturers of Scrappy products often seemed to do? I don’t know. Either way, these drawings of Scrappy, Margy, and Oopy have considerable verve and charm.
I’d never seen Peterson’s Scrappy Modeling Clay box until Jerry brought it to my attention–and I’d like to think there’s more Scrappy art out there by this artist waiting to be discovered.
After watching The Beer Parade, Dr. Richard Huemer–the son of Scrappy’s creator–shared this New Years’ card which was sent to his father by Joe De Nat, the Mintz studio’s musical director:
The card depicts Scrappy and his Mintz stablemate Krazy Kat pumping beer into a mug inhabited by a piano player and a mermaid (presumably representing Mr. and Mrs. De Nat). Assuming that the references to 1933 and the new year mean that the De Nats distributed this card around January 1, 1933, prohibition was still in effect, but the recent election of FDR meant that its days were clearly numbered.
Betcha a lot of folks sent out cards with similar themes that year…
Kindly ignore the fact that the cartoon above was obviously shot off a screen during a public performance, and therefore features cameos by the people sitting in front of the videographer. It’s The Beer Parade, by the original Scrappy team of Dick Huemer, Sid Marcus, and Art Davis. This is one of the most amazingly Scrappy-esque of all Scrappy cartoons, and you need to see it. (I learned it was on YouTube when Devon Baxter linked to it in the pre-UPA Columbia cartoon group on Facebook.)
Plot summary: Scrappy and Oopy joyfully serve beer by the barrelful to dozens of drunken elves until Old Man Prohibition shows up. The boys and the little men assault him from the ground and the air–even using explosives–until he chooses to bury himself. Whereupon the good times roll once more.
(I particularly like the moment when Oopy, having rigged up a rope to trip Old Man Prohibition, tugs at it to verify that it’s tight enough to do the job.)
The cartoon is an obvious allegory concerning prohibition and its repeal. But it was released on March 4, 1933, when the federal ban on alcoholic beverages was still in force, so its celebration of unrestrained imbibing was anticipatory.
FDR, who famously made repeal part of his campaign, had taken office in January; a couple of weeks after the cartoon debuted, he signed the Cullen-Harrison act, which permitted the sale of wine and 3.2 percent beer starting the following month. In December, prohibition on the federal level was fully repealed.
Prohibition was never enforced all that rigorously in cartoon land. The 1929 Silly Symphony The Merry Dwarfs presaged The Beer Parade by showing its title characters quaffing beer; 1931’s Lady Play Your Mandolin, the first Merrie Melody, takes place in a saloon and is full of tippling animals, although it’s possible that it’s set in Mexico. But the sheer quantity of beer in The Beer Parade–served by two small boys without any adult supervision–remains startling. It’s unimaginable that anyone would have made a cartoon with this theme a few years later. Or today.
(Scrappy and Oopy aren’t shown drinking in the cartoon, but they are depicted brandishing foamy mugs themselves, and do seem to be in an awfully exuberant good mood.)
Bonus: Here’s the excellent original poster for The Beer Parade, which is preserved at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library. (Thanks to Nick Richie for alerting me to it.)
If you’ve spent any time at all on this site, you know that there’s no end to ways in which Columbia promoted Scrappy in the 1930s. I’m happy to say that I don’t know about all of them yet.
For instance, I just learned that the British territory of Bermuda used the little guy as an ambassador of goodwill at an apparently elaborate exhibit in New York City in 1936.
The March 15, 1936 issue of a publication named The Motion Picture and the Family has the scoop.
There’s a lot to ruminate over here:
- The whole affair seems to have been–like other Columbia marketing blitzes–wrapped up in the theory that cartoons were a form of education. Especially Scrappy cartoons. (I especially like the title of the presentation “The Value of Cartoons, Pedagogically.”)
- It’s nice to see that Lester Gaba, the man who sculpted Scrappy out of soap, participated in the festivities.
- The story says that cartoons of Scrappy traveling to Bermuda and spending time “in the Island Paradise” were part of the program. Were these created especially for this event?
Earlier, The Film Daily ran two brief items on the Bermuda exhibit, both emphasizing the serious, uplifting nature of it all.
Googling around the Web, I haven’t found any other references to this exhibit.
Like many things about Scrappy, the details in these articles sound dreamy, apocryphal, and generally made-up rather than factual. But boy, do I ever hope that animation or other materials relating to “Scrappy’s Going to Bermuda” are out there somewhere waiting to be uncovered…
Back in the early 1930s, Columbia Pictures published tomes consisting entirely of amazingly splashy ads for its upcoming movies. These Columbia yearbooks don’t show up for sale often, and when they do, they don’t come cheap.
But the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s Margaret Herrick Library has done us all a favor by scanning in the 1933-1934 edition of the book. You can view it–or even download it in PDF form–here.
Naturally, our primary concern here at Scrappyland is the yearbook’s Scrappy-related pages. I wrote about them years ago–pilfering images from an eBay auction–but they’re well worth re-celebrating.
Here’s a dazzling spread about Scrappy and his Mintz stablemate Krazy Kat–which, as with the other images here, you can view in larger form by clicking.
Here’s another rather amazing ad which has Scrappy heading up a parade of characters, with Mickey Mouse–maybe the biggest movie star of the era, period–back in the crowd.
And here, just to make Mickey seem even less important, is a mere half-page promo illustrated by someone who didn’t know what Mickey Mouse looked like. He may have been “always good,” but he was no Scrappy.
I’m confused as to why Mickey (and the Silly Symphonies) appear in this 1933-1934 volume at all. In 1930, Disney decided to move distribution from Columbia to United Artists; by mid-1932, after completing its obligations to Columbia, it did so.
Perhaps this book–despite the 1933-1934 date–came out at in the first half of 1932, when Columbia was still distributing Disney shorts but knew that the jig was about to be up. That might explain why it promoted them so half-heartedly.
The rest of the Columbia yearbook is devoted to upcoming live-action movies. I’ve never heard of some of them, and some titles don’t appear in IMDB, suggesting that their names changed before release, or maybe that they weren’t made at all.
The splendiferous artwork oozes with pre-code excitement. (It’s even better in color, as you’ll see if you peruse it at the Academy’s site.) I wish I knew who painted it all. And even though it has nothing to do with Scrappy or animation, I can’t resist sharing a few of the spreads here.
I’ve come across reproductions of several Scrappy posters over the years and own a few original ones which I haven’t yet posted on this site. But Scrappyland reader Vince Bellassai recently acquired the niftiest one I’ve ever seen–and he was nice enough to share it with us.
It’s for Scrappy’s Party (1933), which was one of the last Scrappy cartoons that Dick Huemer worked on. And the poster looks very much like his work. I like everything about it–especially the expressions on Scrappy, Oopy and Yippy.
Vince had the poster restored and is selling it on eBay. The price is a bit outside Scrappyland’s budget, but the piece is a gem and an extreme rarity. He says that he knows of no other recorded sales of any Scrappy poster for a specific short–and neither do I.
How much is there to say about Scrappy neckties like the ones shown above, all of which are preserved in the formalwear wing of the Scrappyland archives? Quite a bit, actually.
For instance, here’s a brief story from the invaluable Scrappyana chronicler The Film Daily noting the deal which made the ties possible.
(The reference to Scrappy mufflers — I assume we’re talking about scarfs — is intriguing. I’ve never seen one myself.)
Here’s a Columbia publicity photo showing one of the ties being worn by Dickie Walters, who was — rather briefly — one of the studio’s kid stars. We also get to see what the display looked like, and to marvel at the tagline “for ‘He’ Boys.”
Between the three examples from the Scrappyland collection and the six shown in the Columbia photo, we know of at least six different Scrappy tie designs — though two feature the same art, with and without a “Howdy folks!” (I have a theory that the one at the right in the picture of our collection, showing Scrappy swinging a baseball bat, might be a later style — it shows a slicked-up version of the character who is, in this depiction, a blonde.)
The back of the Columbia picture is also worth a peek.
It shows that the photo was prepared for distribution in January of 1935 and was taken by William A. Fraker — father of the distinguished cinematographer of the same name — and had been approved by the Hays office, whose infamous moral code apparently applied to publicity materials as well as movies. (Let’s hope that it had no trouble passing.)
And here’s a vintage photo of a kid wearing a Scrappy tie — the same style shown at the left in the selection at the top of this post.
I don’t know who this lad is, but he must have liked his Scrappy tie — after all, he chose to wear it in a formal portrait. Which means that he was a man of good taste and a kindred soul of anyone who’s interested enough in Scrappy to have read this entire post.
If you’ve ever read about Scrappy’s Own Magazine before, I have a hunch it was in this piece, which I wrote back in August of 2005. I said I might eventually post the magazine in its entirety. And here you are — only eight years later.
I only know a little bit more about this publication than I did in 2007. It was produced by Evanco Products Corp. of Madison Avenue in New York, which was apparently associated with the Engel-Van Wiseman Book Corporation, which published Big Little Book-like movie adaptations in the mid-1930s and at least signed a deal to do fairy-tale tomes based on Ub Iwerks’ ComicColor cartoons.
The Scrappy magazine apparently came out in late 1935. Judging from the quantity of references to Runkel Brothers chocolate, that company had a hand in instigating it, and it was given out at movie theaters. Here’s an evocative, star-filled ad from the December 6 Woodbridge Independent of New Jersey which mentions it.
Scrappy’s Own Magazine is in a comic book-like format, and is almost–but not quite–a comic book. It does have four pages of comics, but it’s dominated by brief features of other sorts — puzzles, a fudge recipe, a short story which may or may not be about Yippy, a Pledge of Allegiance-like motto for kids, drawing lessons, a creepy poem involving the possibility of Scrappy and Yippy dying in their sleep and much, much more. It’s Scrappy, so it goes without saying that a lot of it is a tad peculiar. (I like the fact that Scrappy and Oopy’s “mum” appears to be a wizened senior citizen.)
This issue makes repeated reference to a second issue being in the works, but I’ve seen no evidence that one was ever released. Then again, almost the only evidence I have that the first issue was published is the fact that I own a copy — even by Scrappy standards, it seems to be a rare artifact.
Anyhow, here are all thirty-two pages of it. Click on the cover, then keep clicking to see everything at a legible size.