The animated GIF file format wasn’t invented until 1987. But if it had existed in the 1930s, boy, would animators have loved it. They were already creating hypnotic little loops of animation and repeating them–mostly, perhaps, for economy’s sake, though it often accentuated comic rhythm. They just had no way to distribute those loops on their own as mini-entertainments.
It’s possible that there’s stuff relating to Scrappy that’s so mundane that it isn’t worthy of attention at Scrappyland. Then again, maybe not.
Jerry Beck alerted me to these two bills which Columbia sent out to an L.A. theater in 1937–both referencing Scrappy–and I’m glad I was able to acquire them and share them with you here.
Here’s a bill which–with a little IMDB research–lets us deduce that Columbia charged $4 rental for a live-action two-reeler, $3 for a color cartoon, and $2 for a black-and-white cartoon. The paperwork was sent to Los Angeles’s Muse Theater on May 26, 1937, and seems to be for the following shorts:
“Caught Act” is Caught in the Act, an Andy Clyde short released on March 5, 1936.
Li’l Ainjil is a rather famous Mintz Krazy Kat, as Mintz Krazy Kats go–the only one done in an approximation of George Herriman’s style. It was released on March 19, 1936.
“Dr. Bluebird” is Doctor Bluebird…a Scrappy cartoon! One of the few color ones, a Color Rhapsody released on February 5, 1936.
“Share Wealth” is Share the Wealth, another Andy Clyde film, released on March 16, 1936.
“Snobbery” is surely Highway Snobbery, a Krazy cartoon released on August 9, 1936.
I’m assuming “Blunders” is “Midnight Blunders, a live-action Columbia short which IMDB describes as “frankly racist.” It was released on April 21, 1936.
Football Bugs is a Color Rhapsody released on April 29, 1936. I haven’t seen it, but I presume it involves bugs who play football.
Half Shot Shooters was another Stooges short, released on April 30.
Unless you can convince me otherwise, I shall work under the assumption that “Go Getters” is Gold Getters, a Scrappy released on March 1, 1935. If you’ve seen it, you will remember the maniacally infectious title song.
Note that all these cartoons were quite old by the time the Muse showed them. Maybe someone more knowledgeable about film distribution in the 1930s than me can explain whether there’s anything interesting about that fact.
Here’s another bill sent to the Muse a day later. This one is demanding 15 cents for a two-column ad for a Scrappy cartoon. (Boy, I’d love to track down the ad itself.)
Bonus ephemera: From the Huntington Library’s collection, here’s a 1950s photo of the Muse Theater (towards the left). It had already closed and was scheduled to be demolished.
I wonder: How many theaters which showed Scrappy cartoons are still extant? Not too many, I assume, though Radio City Music Hall apparently did and is still very much with us.
Thunderbean Animation’s Steve Stanchfield is a friend of fans of vintage animation everywhere. He’s also a friend of Scrappy. For his latest Cartoon Research column, he shared the eighteenth Scrappy cartoon, The Bad Genius (1932). And since he posted it on YouTube, I share it here with you.
This isn’t one of my favorite Scrappys. But I agree with Steve that the animation and posing of Oopy for the film’s vaguely Weekend at Bernie’s-like conceit is pretty nifty. And many thanks to Steve for his kind words about this site.
Edith Fellows, Cora Sue Collins, Jackie Moran, and Dickie Walters. All were Columbia child stars, and all were called into service to help promote Scrappy. We’ve brought you photographs of the kids with Scrappy merch several times over the years–here, here, and here. And at long last, I’ve scared up some more of these stills.
Here’s Edith Fellows with a bunch of Scrappy balloons–a piece of Scrappyana which I’ve never seen before.
And here she is wearing a Scrappy Thrift Club pin and brandishing her Scrappy bank and Scrappy Thrift Club membership card.
This is Scrappyland’s own Scrappy Thrift Club card, whose original owner apparently decided to make an unfortunate joke when filling it out.
Here’s the bank itself (ours is in a darker shade than Edith’s).
And here’s the Scrappy pin she’s wearing.
Here are Edith and Jackie Moran, her costar in a 1936 Columbia feature titled And So They Were Married, wearing snappy Scrappy cloisonne pins.
Lastly, here’s an extreme close-up of the pin itself, from the Scrappyland collection. (It’s nicely done, with a surprisingly posh feel–maybe the closest thing I’ve seen to a Scrappy luxury item.)
That photo of Edith and Jackie was apparently taken in April 1936. I’m not sure when the two of Edith alone were, although the box the Scrappy bank came in carried a 1935 copyright.
At this point, it seems like there’s a pretty decent chance that even more of these photos of child stars and Scrappy are out here. Keep an eye out for them for me, would you?
A bit later, the company moved a couple of miles away to larger quarters at 7000 Santa Monica Blvd. Here, courtesy of Tim Cohea, is a staff photo taken outside its new home (click on it for a larger version).
As you can see, someone scrawled “1932” on the bottom left-hand corner of the photo at some point. In 2009, Mike Barrier published a snapshot taken outside the studio and figured–based on Film Daily Yearbook entries–that Mintz moved into this facility in 1933. Let’s just say that this photo was taken circa 1932-1933.
Back row: unknown, Herb Rothwell, I. Ellis, Frank Fisher, unknown, unknown, I. Klein, unknown, Manny Gould, fourteen unknown women (presumably of the ink and paint department), Clark Watson, unknown, unknown, Don Patterson, Sid Glenar, Rudy Zamora, Jules Engel, unknown, Phil Davis, Ray Patterson, Joe Vough
Middle row: four unknown women, Bud Crabb, unknown, unknown, Al Rose, Al Gould, unknown, Ed Solomon, unknown, Felix Alegre, unknown, unknown, Preston Blair
Front row: Ben Shenkman, unknown, Sid Davis, Ed Moore, John Roth, Emery Hawkins, Lou Lilly, Bill Higgens, Charles Mintz himself, unknown, unknown, Ed Rehberg, Irv Spector, Judge Whitaker
It’s tough to line up every identification with the correct person in the photo, but the names are a good reminder that a bunch of people who were prominent in the animation industry for decades to come worked at Mintz. The photo also includes nearly three times as many people as the more populous of the two earlier group shots, suggesting that the studio had done a lot of growing.
7000 Santa Monica Blvd. wasn’t built for the Mintz operation, but it was a rather new building when the company moved in. An article by James V. Roy at ScottyMoore.net, the official site of Elvis Presley’s guitarist, says that it was erected by the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1929. That was also the year that Victor was acquired by RCA.
In November 1930, The Film Daily Reported that RCA Photophone, the RCA division involved in synchronized movie sound, was headquartered at 7000 Santa Monica.
By February 1932, according to The Film Daily–and for reasons unknown to me–RCA had left the building. Something called Wafilms, headed by Walter Futter, moved in.
As of November 1932, Sol Lesser, who would shortly acquire the movie rights to Tarzan, was running his Principal Pictures studio out of the facility. Here’s a Film Daily ad.
Whether Mintz occupied the building at the same time as Wafilms and/or Principal, I don’t know. But the “The Charles Mintz Studio” emblazoned over the entrance suggests it became the primary tenant. According to Mike Barrier’s post, it would remain at 7000 Santa Monica until 1940, when Columbia moved the operation–then known as Screen Gems–to a building less than a mile away at 861 Seward Street.
In October 1941, Broadcasting reported that something called Miller Radiofilm was moving into Mintz’s old quarters.
What happened to the property after that? I provided a clue six paragraphs ago when I referenced the official Scotty Moore site. What’s it doing discussing the history of 7000 Santa Monica Blvd?
That’s simple. The building became the headquarters of Radio Recorders, a company which became legendary as the finest recording facility in Los Angeles.
Radio Recorders stayed there for years, expanded into an annex around the corner, and played host to recording sessions by Presley as well as Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, The Beach Boys, Pat Boone, The Carpenters, Rosemary Clooney, Ornette Coleman, Nat King Cole, Sam Cooke, Bing Crosby, Bobby Darin, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, Peggy Lee, Johnny Mercer, Charlie Parker, Buddy Rich, Igor Stravinsky, Stevie Wonder, Frank Zappa, and…well, you get the idea. Everything from “Jailhouse Rock” to “Purple People Eater” to Mel Blanc’s Capitol Records Bugs Bunny and the Tortoise album was created there.
Basically, we’ve all spent our lives listening to music recorded at the former Charles Mintz Studio. We just didn’t know it–or at least I didn’t.
When Record Recorders closed at the end of 1977, Billboard called it the end of an era. In recent decades, several different companies operated production facilities at its former studios, including one which reverted to the original name. But when I pulled up the address in Google Maps Street View, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wasn’t even positive the original building was still standing.
Turned out that it was there, but apparently unoccupied. Note the “Available” sign.
There’s a sign commemorating Record Recorders outside the building, above a “No Trucks” symbol. Here’s a closer look, borrowed from Discover Los Angeles.
It says that the building dates to 1928, disagreeing slightly with the Scotty Moore site. But I don’t see any evidence that anyone remembers that the Mintz Studio was once on the premises. If nobody remembers your cartoons, you don’t get a plaque.
Still, the building, though now obscured by gates and a humongous tree, is readily recognizable from that 1932-ish staff photo.
Incidentally, Street View also reveals that the lot across the street at 7001 Santa Monica, where a lumber materials store stood in the 1930s, as indicated in the photos Mark Mayerson posted, is now a Shakey’s.
And that’s the story of 7000 Santa Monica Blvd. Except for one thing.
After Google Street View captured that image with the for-rent sign, the building got rented. As of last month, it’s the home of LAXART, which describes itself as “an independent contemporary art space supporting artistic and curatorial freedom.” That doesn’t sound like it has much in common with Charles Mintz’s goals when he was producing Scrappy and Krazy Kat cartoons there. But it feels good to know that the building is still standing, still occupied, and still a place where creativity happens. And hey, it’s open to the public–so the next time I’m in L.A., I plan to drop in.
Postscript: No piece about the present status of former Mintz Studio buildings is complete without a nod to Joe Campana’s marvelous “Ghosts of the Charles Mintz Studio,” a 2007 visit to Mintz’s earlier Western Ave. neighborhood.
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.)