More About Scrappy and Wanton Violations of Prohibition

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:

Joe De Nat Card

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…

Scrappy Mintz, Master Brewer

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 In December, prohibition on the federal level was fully repealed.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.)

The Beer Parade

Scrappy’s Going to Bermuda

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.

Scrappy in Bermuda

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.

February 3:

Scrappy in Bermuda

February 21:

Scrappy in Bermuda

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…

A Columbia Art Extravaganza

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.

Scrappy and Krazy Kat

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.

Scrappy Parade

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.

Mickey

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.

Columbia ad

Columbia ad

Columbia ad

Columbia ad

Columbia ad

Columbia ad

Columbia ad

Behold a Beautiful Scrappy Poster

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.

Scrappy's Party

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.

The Fabulous World of Scrappy Neckwear

Scrappy neckties

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.

Scrappy necktie story

(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.”

Scrappy tie photo with Dickie Walters

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.

Back of Scrappy photo

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.

Kid in Scrappy tie

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.

At Last, Scrappy’s Own Magazine

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 ad

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.

Scrappy's Own Magazine

Scrappy's Own Magazine

Scrappy's Own Magazine

Scrappy's Own Magazine

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Scrappy's Own Magazine

Scrappy's Own Magazine

Scrappy's Own Magazine

Scrappy's Own Magazine

Scrappy's Own Magazine

Scrappy's Own Magazine

Scrappy's Own Magazine

Scrappy's Own Magazine

Scrappy's Own Magazine

Scrappy's Own Magazine

Scrappy's Own Magazine

Scrappy's Own Magazine

The Art of the Charles Mintz Pinback Button

Back in the 1930s, a company called Western Theater issued pins of cartoon characters, which I presume were intended as movie-theater giveaways. It did an impressive job of lining up licenses, producing pins featuring everybody from Harold Teen to Betty Boop to Oswald the Rabbit. And — as you’ve already surmised — the Mintz characters.

Here are Scrappy, two slight Yippy variants, Vontzy and, for good measure, Krazy Kat.

Mintz buttons

These being Mintz characters, it’s not surprising that the approach to naming is…well, surprising. We all know that Scrappy’s dog is Yippy, but he’s usually a pint-sized, terrier-like pooch. Except when he’s a big old hound dog, as he is here. (This pet was also known to go by the name of Woofus.)

Scrappy’s brother Vontzy, meanwhile, was generally known as Oopy — in fact, this is the only piece of merchandise I know about which calls him Vontzy. Eighty years later, this is still a point of confusion: The Big Cartoon Database thinks that the Scrappy series involved bullies named Vonsey and Oopie.

Unlike a lot of Scrappy merchandising art, these pieces were done with care, apparently by a Mintz artist. Here’s the original art for the only Mintz-related Western Theater pin back I know of that’s not shown above:

Kitty Kat

That’s Krazy Kat’s girlfriend, Kitty Kat, who seems to be a dog. I hope that George Herriman didn’t know about this — or, if he did, that he was amused rather than outraged.

Your Scrappy Franchise Department at Work

Scrappy letter
Behold the Scrappyland National Gallery’s latest acquisition, and one of its most fascinating possessions. It’s a letter from Marvin S. Springer of the Scrappy Franchise Department — which we already knew existed — written on Christmas Eve, 1935, to the proprietor of the Dent Hardware Company, a one-time major producer of cast-iron toys. (It’s still around, though no longer in the toy business.)

Springer is following up on an earlier inquiry involving Dent licensing Scrappy, and he sounds eager — maybe even pushy — about closing the deal. If he and his Scrappy Franchise colleagues were always this aggressive, it helps explain why Scrappy was so remarkably well-merchandised, especially for a character who was never a top-tier cartoon star.

The sticker at the bottom of the letter is worth examining at a larger size:

Scrappy sticker

That’s a wonderful advertising slogan, but not a very good likeness of Scrappy — it seems to be a badly-redrawn version of a classic Dick Huemer image, and note that it looks nothing like the version on the letterhead. And neither of these Scrappies looked like the on-screen Scrappy did in late 1935. If Columbia wasn’t very good at depicting him, it’s no surprise that its licensees were often lackadaisical about the job.

So did Dent Hardware end up making Scrappy stuff? I’m not sure. I can’t find any reference to it doing so in the Film Daily, which seems to have done a good job of reporting on Scrappy merchandise deals. Maybe the metal Scrappy bank I wrote about in a previous post is a Dent. Or perhaps there are other cast-iron Scrappy toys out there somewhere, still waiting to be discovered.

Mutual Endorsement

As you know if you’re a Scrappyland regular, the Hollywood newspaper Film Daily covered Scrappy merchandise with admirable thoroughness. But here’s a discovery, recently made by Friend of Scrappy Andrew Leal: Scrappy endorsed the paper, in the following comic strip published on November 15, 1934. (Click it for a larger version.)

Scrappy in the Film Daily

As is often the case with Scrappy art, this seems to have been drawn by a non-Mintz artist — I use the word loosely — relying on swipes from stock poses.

On the same page — this may or may not be a weird coincidence — the Daily ran a short news item on the debut of Scrappy briefcases and schoolbags, predicting their success. (I take it that the “Columbia Pictures” byline may mean that the story was submitted by the studio.)

Film Daily

Come to think of it, it’s no surprise that Scrappy liked to read this publication: Who wouldn’t want to read a publication in which one’s name popped up so regularly?