The Adventures of F. Heath Cobb

You look like you’d enjoy a good Scrappy story. Here’s one from 1932—the start of one, at least.

More specifically, it’s Chapter 1 of Book One of The Adventures of ‘Scrappy’ and His Dog Yippy—written by F. Heath Cobb and illustrated by our friend Dick Huemer (working under his occasional pen name of Dick Heumor, which he adopted because it hoped it would help people figure out how to pronounce his name—which it didn’t).

While this would seem to be the first Adventures of ‘Scrappy’ booklet, it’s the second I’ve shared (here’s the earlier one). I don’t know much about them other than that they were given away at theaters. How many booklets there were, I can’t say. But in all my years of Scrappy collecting, I haven’t seen that many for sale. Unless I find a copy of Book One, Chapter 2, someday, we may never learn what happened to Scrappy and Yippy at their fishing party, and for that, I apologize in advance.

Oh, and as I wrote back in the early days of Scrappyland—and forgot until I looked it up just now–these booklets were also included in Scrappy paint sets.

But really, the main reason I’m writing this is not to talk about The Adventures of ‘Scrappy.’ My topic today is F. Heath Cobb.  Along with writing these Scrappy booklets, he was the author of How to Draw a Cartoon, an instructional pamphlet—credited to Scrappy himself—distributed through schools. (It’s less interesting than it sounds, which is why I haven’t gotten around to writing about it here yet—I will someday, I promise.)

Cobb wasn’t the only author credited with writing a Scrappy book. Pat Patterson wrote the Scrappy Big Little Book, and Hal Hode was responsible for a BLB-esque book from another publisher. But as the author of several adventures of Scrappy serialized through multiple booklets, Cobb must have been bylined on more Scrappy publications than any other scribe. He also had a wonderfully evocative name. It brings to mind a man of accomplishment—the author of works other than Scrappy booklets, surely. Maybe a bit of a toff.

Still, I couldn’t be positive that “F. Heath Cobb” wasn’t some sort of house pseudonym along the lines of Burt L. Standish, the author of the Frank Merriwell books. So I set out to learn if he was a real person—and if so, what he did with himself other than write Scrappy books.

It turns out that there have been more F. Heath Cobbs than you might expect. Take, for instance, the one who taught at a community college in Tacoma in the 1970s. He seemed like an unlikely candidate to be chronicling Scrappy’s adventures forty years earlier. But with a bit of rummaging on, I found this January 9, 1949 Atlanta Constitution obituary:

F. Cobb Heath obit

A long-time publicity agent for Columbia? This is our Cobb. Scrappy’s Cobb.

Though the obit didn’t mention Cobb writing Scrappy books, it did cover a lot of other ground. Producer of the Cole Porter musical No, No, Nanette. Writer and director of other musicals. Owner of Hollywood’s famous El Capitan Theater. Prominent ad man. Father of two—here he is, on the right, with F. Heath Cobb Jr. (who, it turns out, was the aforementioned Tacoma professor).


When I tried to dig into all this, I usually didn’t get very far. For instance, I couldn’t find any evidence that Cobb owned the El Capitan (which does have a roundabout association with Charles Mintz: It’s now a Disney property). Maybe he came up with Buick’s long-running tagline, but I saw mention of that achievement only in his death notices. I am also suspicious about the claim that he produced anything for Broadway, including No, No, Nanette (which wasn’t actually by Cole Porter).

Still, Cobb did have a Nanette connection: He was married to Nancy Welford, a former Zigfield Girl who’d starred in one of several productions of the wildly popular musical that played simultaneously in 1925. Hers got to San Francisco and Los Angeles, at least. Decades later, stories about her identified her as the original Nanette (no) and said she’d played the role on Broadway (not that I’ve been able to verify).

When Cobb and Welford married in October 1924, it had made headlines—in part because she was already a celebrity but also because her parents claimed to be in disbelief. It was Welford’s first marriage but—according to one family tree—Cobb’s fifth. A 1922 article, which cited his “smart clothes and irresistible manner,” said he’d gotten in trouble for marrying one of his wives before divorcing the prior one. He also narrowly avoided being prosecuted for impersonating an Army Captain; charges weren’t pressed because he’d sold $250,000 of Liberty Bonds.

Do you begin to understand why Mr. and Mrs. Welford weren’t thrilled with the idea of their daughter marrying this guy?

Note that the above story identified Cobb as someone “said to be a screen director,” adding to the general mystery about the man’s actual profession. A 1925 article about him, published in a trade publication he’d joined, provided more details about his background—child of show people, newspaperman, circus, vaudeville publicist, employee of Essanay Studios. But given that it repeats his apparently spurious claim of having been an Army Captain during the Great War, I’m not sure what to believe.

Getting back to the Cobb obit: Its mention of his involvement with a musical called Nancy is one of its few alleged factoids that definitely is accurate, more or less. By now, you’ve guessed that the show starred Nancy Welford, who supposedly inspired it. According to The Los Angeles Times, she played “a little country girl bent upon spreading happiness.” Other articles on the production compared it to Pollyanna and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

Unfortunately for Cobb and Welford, Nancy was “not a pronounced success in any of the cities where it was shown,” reported a Seattle Star story. After tryouts in Long Beach, the show premiered at Los Angeles’s Playhouse Theater on May 24, 1926. On June 14, it opened in San Francisco. A little over two weeks later, newspaper accounts said it was about to begin its final week. Even that was apparently cut short when the chorus walked out in a salary dispute.

As far as I know, Cobb’s career as a theatrical producer did not survive Nancy‘s disappointing reception. But as the 1920s wound down, Welford continued to perform in stage musicals, including Twinkle Twinkle (with Joe E. Brown) and a light opera called Bambina. In 1929, she made her movie debut in Gold Diggers of Broadway—the second all-talking, all-Technicolor picture. (Sadly, only two reels survive.) I’m guessing this publicity shot, depicting her literally digging gold, relates to the film.

Gold Diggers of Broadway was a big hit, but Welford only made four more movies. By 1933, her Hollywood career was over.

Meanwhile, Cobb had already returned to the PR work he’d pursued before marrying her. A 1930 Exhibitors Herald World story noted he was involved with the promotion for a revival of (ugh) D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation. In 1931, the Motion Picture Daily reported that he had joined Columbia’s advertising department. And in 1932 and 1933, newspaper articles—ones possibly planted by him—said he was the First Assistant National Chief Ranger of the Buck Jones Rangers Club, a fan group for the studio’s cowboy star.

This was also the same timeframe when Cobb wrote Scrappy books. We can assume he got the gig as part of his Columbia publicity duties. But I’d love to know: Was he just being dutiful? Or did he eagerly seize the opportunity to tell Scrappy stories? Maybe he had some measure of interaction with Mintz studio personnel—Dick Huemer, at least, since he illustrated the booklets. We’ll probably never know. But I prefer to believe he enjoyed the project. After all, he did choose to take credit for it.

And hey, in Chapter 8 of “The Adventures of ‘Scrappy,'” Cobb may have told a story with an oddly autobiographical angle. Book One, “Scrappy Meets a Hero,” involved him getting the chance to hear a WWI vet explain “what really happened to the boys in the trenches.” I don’t have this booklet—just some sample pages from an old auction listing. But the vet’s name–”Colonel Fullerton Bull”—hints at the tantalizing possibility that he, like Cobb, wasn’t a war hero after all.

Increasingly, Cobb made the news for reasons no PR man would seek out. In January 1928, The Los Angeles Times said that he and Welford had lost a suit brought by Fred Hartsook, a well-known Hollywood photographer, over a $910 bill they hadn’t paid. In 1934, Variety reported on a scandal Cobb was involved in that does sound pretty scandalous: He admitted to having forged the signatures of Claudette Colbert, Carole Lombard, Myrna Loy, Sylvia Sydney, Mae West, and other stars on contracts to endorse a hosiery firm he represented. (He claimed he did it “to save time,” confident that he could gain their consent later.) Later in the month, Variety noted that Cobb and Welford had been sued again, this time over an unpaid $150 clothing bill at a New York store.

That last item is the final one I’ve found indicating that Cobb and Welford were still married. At some point, possibly around then, they split up. Cobb went on to wed wife #6. He mostly disappeared from newspapers by the mid-1930s, but in 1946, at least a couple of newspapers published an anti-union letter from an F. Heath Cobb of North Augusta, S.C. I think he may be our man, engaging in what we’d now call astroturfing. In any event, I’m curious what brought him to Atlanta, where he died three years later.

As for Welford, she too remarried. She also worked as a sales clerk in San Francisco, did local theater in the Bay Area (including some Gilbert and Sullivan), and enjoyed being remembered for No, No, Nanette, especially after its 1971 Broadway revival. You’ve already seen that she wasn’t mentioned in Cobb’s obituary. And when she died in 1991—more than 40 years after her ex-spouse—he was absent from hers.

I seem to have fallen down a rabbit hole here, as we so often do on Scrappyland. As usual, it’s been a rewarding experience. If there are Scrappy books written by someone named F. Heath Cobb, you know there’s going to be a story behind the intriguing name. And it will probably be even weirder than whatever pops into your head. Or did you naturally assume he was an oft-married fabulist and failed impresario?

The Scrappy Doll in His Natural Setting

We’ve discussed the Scrappy doll manufactured by E.D. & T.M. Co., Inc. for the Great Lakes Novelty Co. of Chicago here before. He was one of at least four Scrappy dolls offered in the 1930s, and I think I can safely declare he was the most popular. All the others are super hard to seemingly impossible to find, while this one shows up all the time. In fact, I see two on eBay right now.

In past Scrappyland posts, we’ve shared promotional photos featuring the little guy being fussed over by other Columbia stars—namely Edith Fellows, Moe, Larry, and Curly. The chances seem high that it’s the same doll in both photos and that the shots were taken around October, 1937 in a shoot that involved both Edith and the Stooges. (Note that the Scrappy doll in these photos is the apparently rarer variant with soft cloth hands.)

Scrappy and the Three Stooges

As familiar with the Scrappy doll as I was, I’d never seen proof that actual kids not employed by Columbia owned and liked it. But now I have, and it’s a delightful experience.

Back in the 1930s, a boy named George Kaupas owned the E.D. & T.M./Great Lakes Scrappy. Actually, he still does, reports his son Jeff, who wrote me about his dad’s plaything. And Jeff shared something amazing: a photo of young George with Scrappy. George, who looks like he could have won a Scrappy lookalike contest, has Scrappy in his lap, accompanied by a stuffed dog and something in the front I can’t quite identify.

I know that’s just the stock Scrappy doll George is holding, with the same head made out of some ceramic-ish substance. But his expression somehow seems to possess more of a glint of life than the one in Columbia’s promo pictures, don’t you think?

Jeff reports that his father still owns his Scrappy—but that the doll lost his original clothing at some point over the past eight decades. That’s no shock, and is also true of a fair number of the Scrappys who show up on eBay. Others, however, have managed to hold onto their outfits, which consist of surprisingly classy velvet brown overalls and a silky shirt. A decent percentage—including one of the two I own—even have their original E.D. & T.M. Co. tags.

As a Scrappy collector, you’d naturally want to find a minty example of the Scrappy doll—one who’d somehow avoided the rough and tumble of being dragged around, played with, and generally cherished. But if you come across a beat-up Scrappy, remember this: It’s evidence he was loved.

The Rest of the Scrappy Comic Strip. Finally!

Among Scrappy rarities, few items are as tantalizingly obscure as the Scrappy newspaper strip. Though perhaps “newspaper strip” is a misnomer: As far as I know, the guys who tried to sell it to papers, Will Eisner and Jerry Iger, didn’t get it into any. But they did manage to sell it overseas, where it appeared in an Australian comic book called Wags around 1938. If you didn’t read it there (or in France’s Bilboquet), chances are that you didn’t read it anywhere—at least until 2016, when I began running the Wags version here. I apologize for taking so long to complete this exercise, but at long last I’m going to share the last Scrappy strips I have with you.

First, in the unlikely event that you’ve somehow forgotten our story thus far, kindly revisit these four previous Scrappyland posts:

Strips 1-6

Strips 7-12

Strips 13-18

Strips 19-22

Second, a little background on the strip…well, actually, more of an admission that I don’t know anything about it. Man, I wish I’d known about it a little earlier when I might have been able to buttonhole Will Eisner at the San Diego Comic-Con and grill him on the topic.

The big question, of course, is: Who drew this thing? When I started running these examples, I tried to answer that question, and failed. The one thing I was pretty confident about is that Eisner himself didn’t do it. But then, after seeing some additional examples of his early work, I changed my mind and decided he might well have been the mystery artist. However, I was thinking about the earliest examples: As the strip continued, the style changed noticeably. I really don’t have an opinion about who did the ones you’re about to read, except that they don’t feel like they were by an otherwise unpublished neophyte. The quality of the cartooning and storytelling is quite good, even if it has virtually nothing to do with the Mintz theatrical cartoons. So there seems a decent chance that we’ll eventually figure this out.

With that out of the way, here are strips 23-26 in the thrilling tale of “Scrappy and the Border Patrol.” Return with us now…

And that’s all the Scrappy comics I have for you. Whether it’s all that was drawn and/or Wags ran, I’m not sure. You’ll note that it seems to end in mid-action. But a few years later, when Eisner and Iger transmogrified Scrappy into a “new” character named Shorty Shortcake for Wonderworld Comics and ran a lightly retouched version of the Border Patrol story, they left off the last panel in the last strip above, giving the tale an abrupt conclusion in Wonderworld #3. And then, in the next issue, “Shorty” and his girlfriend “Suzy” were on to a new adventure set in Guatemala, drawn by a new artist. (The nominal creator, Jerry Williams, was a whole bunch of different guys over the feature’s run.)

Shorty Shortcake continued to run until Wonderworld #20. So if you consider him to be Scrappy operating under an assumed name, as I do, the end of the official Scrappy comic strip didn’t mean the end of Scrappy comics. Maybe I’ll run some of his stories here—it would be sad to think there are no more Scrappy strips out there to rediscover.

Osamu Tezuka’s Scrappy (More or Less)

Almost seven years ago, I wrote about Scrappy’s seeming influence on Japanese animation—and, in particular, on the work of Osamu Tezuka. Among the legendary cartoonist’s early creations were two characters, Little Ma and Pete, who looked quite a bit like our hero. But it was all pretty tentative, since I had no proof that Tezuka was even aware of Scrappy—though it is well-known that he was a great fan of American cartoons and comics.

Well, Friend of Scrappy Noah Stone alerted me to a drawing by Tezuka that settles it. Kind of. Well, actually, there’s a surprise twist.

The drawing in question features Tezuka’s charming, pretty on-model renditions of Oswald the Rabbit, Andy Panda, Woody Woodpecker, Popeye, Olive Oyl, The Little King, Betty Boop, Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Mighty Mouse, Hoppity, Sourpuss, Krazy Kat, Tom and Jerry, Felix, Sylvester, Goofy, The Practical Pig, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Chip ‘n Dale, and (from Cinderella) Gus. And Scrappy.

Here it is:

American animation characters as drawn by Osamu Tezuka

I’m not sure when the drawing dates from, but I believe Tezuka drew it in 1951 at the earliest. That’s because its version of Krazy seems to be the one from Dell Comics’ odd Krazy Kat comic book, which debuted with an issue cover-dated June 1951. It owed little to either Herriman or Charles Mintz’s 1930s cartoons, but might have been the only reference material Tezuka had close at hand.

Curious about what Tezuka’s text said, I fed the image into Google Translate, which spat out a version in English. It did an impressive job, too:

 Tezuka drawing of American animation characters with text translated into English

You may have spotted some quirks in the translated version. The two pigs are bigs, for instance. Sourpuss is Soapas. Goofy is Fee. Gus is Gas. Chip ‘n Dale are Drip and Lip. Whether these relate to the characters’ names in Japanese or reflect glitches with Google’s translation, I’m not sure.

But the weirdest problem is also the one most relevant to this post: Scrappy is identified as a Fleischer character named “Binbo.” Correcting that to Bimbo doesn’t really correct anything. That definitely is not Bimbo, and definitely is Scrappy.

What gives? I’m not sure. Conflating Bimbo and Scrappy seems far-fetched, but … not impossible? It might help if we knew for sure whether Tezuka cribbed his drawing of Scrappy from a particular piece of art, which seems difficult to do if you think you’re drawing Bimbo. However, I don’t recognize it. So I can’t say for sure that Tezuka didn’t get very, very confused at some point between the 1930s and the 1950s.

For now, the bottom line seems to be: Osamu Tezuka knew Scrappy. But maybe not very well. If you have additional information and/or theories, I’d appreciate hearing them. And thank you, Noah.

Say Kids, What Time is It?

As you already know if you’ve spent any time at all on this website, Scrappy appeared on an incredible array of merchandise in the 1930s. Which makes it all the more surprising that they never bothered to put out a Scrappy watch. (Or at least I’m pretty confident they didn’t—if I’m wrong, it would be a delightful surprise.)

It’s never too late to right a wrong, and I’m happy to say that I figured out how to turn my new Apple Watch into a Scrappy Watch. Here it is—I’m a southpaw, so this is also the first left-handed Scrappy Watch:

Scrappy Apple Watch

Now, the Apple Watch is rather notorious for the fact that Apple doesn’t really trust anyone to design watch faces except itself. So I wasn’t positive that I could create a Scrappy Watch deserving of the name. But I figured it out using an iPhone app called Clockology, which lets you hack Apple’s “Portraits” watch face to layer a drawing (such as Scrappy) on top of the current time. That’s what I did with it, anyhow. Getting it all working properly required a fair amount of experimentation, but the results are more than worth it.

From the very start, Apple did offer an excellent Mickey Mouse watch face, with classic moving hands, available in color or black and white. It later gave us Minnie and, with the new WatchOS 10, has added an extremely ambitious Snoopy face. So the company isn’t opposed to faces based on some of the Truly Great Cartoon Characters of All Time. Realistically, though, Scrappy is probably relatively low on its priority list. I’m guessing they’d get around to it by 2062 or thereabouts, and I just couldn’t wait that long.

If you’d like to be the first person to put Margy, Oopy, or Yippy on a watch face, there’s still time. But act fast: I probably won’t be able to resist the temptation to continue Mintzing out my timepiece.

Scrappy Pushes the Envelope

I’m not sure how I’ve gone this long without writing anything for Scrappyland. It’s true that I’ve been busy with other journalistic efforts—I wrote Fast Company‘s new cover story about Satya Nadella and Microsoft—but that’s hardly an excuse. In any rational assessment of their relative contribution to society, Scrappy ranks well above Microsoft and should be prioritized.

The good news is that I’m nowhere near running out of stuff to post on this site. In fact, I have an impressive backlog to work my way through, and I promise to chip away at it. And as I do, I’m pretty confident that more Scrappy-related matters will surface. It would be a shame if I ever felt like my work here was done.

For now, here’s the newest addition to the archive: an envelope that someone at Charles Mintz’s studio sent to C.A. Loescher, the postmaster of Menasha, Wisconsin, in November 1932. It’s postmarked on the evening of the day before Thanksgiving.

I show it here, of course, mostly because of that wonderful return address art, which is worth looking at more closely. I think it might be by Dick Huemer, and the inkwell theme is so prominent that I feel like Max Fleischer might have reasonably demanded a royalty.

In 2017, I wrote about 1154 North Western Ave., which was Mintz’s first Hollywood studio. As best I can tell, he relocated to 7000 Santa Monica Blvd. sometime in 1933. He continued to use the artwork from this envelope, with the address updated, for years. It was on the letter of recommendation given to Mintz employee (and eventual Cartoonist Profiles editor) Jud Hurd when he left in October 1936—even though neither Krazy nor Scrappy’s on-screen versions much resembled these designs by that time. Then again, if I had this art, I wouldn’t want to give it up either.

The Charles Mintz Studio gradually changed its name to Screen Gems; I imagine it eventually had stationery and envelopes reflecting that fact. I haven’t seen them, but if this envelope turned up on eBay—and it did—there’s no reason later ones couldn’t someday.

By now, you are wondering why the Mintz people were contacting a Wisconsin postmaster. I’m not sure. The envelope is sealed, but that seems to be an artifact of its age—there’s nothing in it; I’d love to think that C.A. Loescher was a Scrappy fan, but I’m afraid I have no evidence to support that theory. It’s possible that he was one of many postmasters who received envelopes from Mintz, perhaps as part of some marketing campaign.

In any event, we do know what Loescher looked like, thanks to the Menasha Historical Society. In the photo below, he’s fourth from the left in the middle row. (“Backes” is the fellow in the front row at whom the arrow is pointing—maybe a snappy mail carrier?)It’s also clear that Loescher was a pillar of Menasha society—the secretary/treasurer of the Wisconsin Postmasters’ Association, post commander of the American Legion, a speaker at local events, and more. He sounds entirely admirable, and loving Scrappy—which we have no evidence he didn’t do—would only make him more laudable. I’m sorry to say he died in 1941, the same year the final Scrappy cartoon reached theaters.

See you soon, I hope.

When Scrappy Brought Good Things to Life

For years, I’ve known about the Scrappy lamp—a fine little plastic table lamp with color decals of Scrappy, Yippy, Margy, and Oopy on its shade. There are two of them in the Scrappyland archive, and at least one of them still works, though I wouldn’t recommend leaving a 1930s electrical device plugged in except under constant supervision. What I didn’t know was the backstory behind the lamp—including the fact that it was a product of what might have been the largest company ever to hitch its merchandising wagon to Scrappy

Then Scrappy merchant extraordinaire David Welch alerted me to something he was selling on eBay: ads from a 1930s magazine for the premium industry. They were from General Electric, and touted lamps made of a Bakelite-like GE plastic called Textolite. And they spotlighted … the Scrappy lamp.

Did that mean that the lamp was designed to be given away? Well, it was. Or at least I found a 1940 article about a bowling tournament in Meriden, Connecticut where Scrappy lamps seem to have been doled out as last-place prizes. I hope the recipients were pleased nonetheless.

That’s not to say that the Scrappy lamp was manufactured purely for giveaway purposes. Here it is being sold for a buck, which was real money back then—about $20 in 2021 dollars.

And here it is marked down to the irresistible price of fifty cents.

Whatever the price or lack thereof, the Scrappy lamp remains pleasing. GE’s ad copy about Textolite’s durable nature may help explain why quite a few of the lamps have survived in nice shape; at any given time, you can probably find one or more on eBay, should this post leave you coveting one.

If you haven’t seen the lamp in person, here’s a closer look courtesy of photos from a 2017 auction.

That particular Scrappy lamp came with a bonus I’d never seen until I put together this post: the original box, with elaborate artwork depicting Scrappy (praying, with a picture of Margy on his wall) and Margy (reading, with a picture of Oopy on the wall). Yippy somehow made it into both scenes. And so did the Scrappy lamp.

I don’t remember ever having heard of Textolite before, and indeed had forgotten that GE was ever in the plastics business. Then I remembered that Jack Welch, who eventually became the company’s fabulously successful (though in recent years reputationally damaged) CEO, got his start in the plastics division in Pittsfield, Mass, the address mentioned in the Scrappy lamp ad. In his memoir Jack: Straight From the Gut he even mentions his difficulty selling Textolite in the 1960s, though by that time GE was applying the brand to its lackluster answer to Formica.

Like J.C. Penney—which also embraced Scrappy in the 1930s—GE is still with us, but a shadow of its once-mighty self. The company (which sold its plastics business in 2007) recently announced plans to split itself into three parts, ending its long run as as one of the U.S.’s most iconic industrial giants. It just goes to show: Ending a relationship with Scrappy is always bad luck, even if it takes seventy or eighty years to catch up with you.

Scrappy Filmography, Now With Scrappy Cartoons

I don’t mean to brag, but Scrappyland—which will celebrate its 17th birthday later this month—has been around so long that YouTube didn’t quite exist yet when it launched. Back then, Scrappy’s cartoons were surprisingly hard to come by: In an introductory article, I even compared him to the famously missing Judge Crater. For years, all I had myself were a couple of gazillionth-generation VHS tapes given to me by Friend of Scrappy Kip Williams.

Now YouTube has become the most comprehensive archive of old cartoons we have. Nearly every Scrappy cartoon has made its way there. That being the case, it felt like it made sense to embed them here on Scrappyland.

Animania coverRather than creating a new section of the site, I decided to stick the cartoons into an existing one: Our online version of the Scrappy filmography that originally appeared in Animania #20 and #21 in 1981. Written by Paul Etcheverry and Will Friedwald, it was a pioneering work of Scrapology at the time. More than 40 years later, it’s still the most comprehensive look at Scrappy’s cinematic oeuvre. In 1981, the idea that you could read it and watch Scrappy cartoons right inside the article would have blown my mind. Maybe it still does.

A few notes on the filmography: Paul and Will didn’t manage to screen every Scrappy cartoon as part of their 1981 research, and so some still don’t have descriptions/critiques. Cartoon #64 in their listing, The Scary Crows, features a blond kid whom the 1981 description says is Scrappy; he appears in a few other cartoons and was dubbed “Sparky” by Jerry Beck in this century. Until someone else creates a Sparkyland site, I’m leaving The Scary Crows in the filmography as it originally appeared.

While adding in the YouTube cartoons, I discovered that Paul and Will’s roster was missing one short that’s unquestionably a Scrappy, though not exactly a career highlight: 1940’s Fish Follies. With Paul’s permission, I’ve added it to the filmography.

Another Scrappy film has come to light since 1981: The promo for his puppet theater, which includes some bizarre animation along with live action of Edith Fellows—and which was preserved by UCLA through Jerry’s generosity. Since it’s not quite a Scrappy cartoon, I will present it to you here rather than trying to backfill it into the filmography.

As rich in Scrappy as YouTube has become, two cartoons are unavailable there: The Chinatown Mystery and Stepping Stones (both 1932). Neither was included in the 1950s Scrappy TV package, which gave us most of the prints on YouTube. They aren’t lost films, thank heavens—just not in readily-available circulation. No complaining, please: The fact that there are only a couple of Scrappy cartoons you can’t watch instantly for free is pretty astounding.

Now, on with the show.

Scrappy and Krazy to the Rescue

Are you excited by the image above? You would have been, if you ran a TV station in 1955. And maybe even if you were just a kid at home glued to the tube.

As we discussed back in 2013, the state of animation of TV in the early 1950s was pretty darn abysmal. Not counting made-for-TV rarities such as Jay Ward and Alex Anderson’s Crusader Rabbit, it consisted entirely of 800 old theatrical shorts, 90% of which were so long in the tooth that they were silent cartoons. So when a company called Hygo acquired rights to Screen Gems’ Scrappy and Krazy Kat series—which had ended in 1941 and 1940, respectively—TV viewers didn’t regard them as a throwback. Instead, they felt downright fresh.

The fact that Hygo’s ad specifies that the cartoons in question have sound is evidence of just how ancient the competition was. For a moment, I wondered if anyone had a problem with them being in black and white, until I remembered that color TV didn’t exist yet.

After Scrappy ended his theatrical run, there wasn’t much reason for anyone to create new artwork of him, so his depiction in this ad is a rare reappearance. (Here’s another.) Whoever drew him seems to have had fun with the assignment, though I can’t quite tell whether Scrappy is turning on the TV he’s already appearing on. Or changing the channel. Or maybe controlling the horizontal or the vertical. (I won’t dwell on the fact that he has four fingers on one hand but only three on the other.)

Scrappy’s reign as a TV kingpin did not last long—newer cartoons starring more popular characters arrived soon after he did. In 1956 and 1957, for instance, a company called AAP acquired TV rights to Warner Bros.’ pre-1950 cartoons and all the Popeye cartoons. By the late 1950s, lots of new animation was being produced specifically for broadcast.

Scrappy stuck around for awhile: The “Mr. Cartoon” and “Happy Hal” ads shown here are from 1961. But the onslaught of new cartoons—in color, even!—eventually left him seeming as out of date as the silent shorts he had displaced. I don’t remember him still being around by the time I started my TV cartoon-watching days in the late 1960s, and a quick search of TV listings does not indicate that he was.

Anyhow, Scrappy has been so obscure for so long that it’s invigorating to remember a moment when he was hailed as a hero. It probably won’t happen again. But it would be nice if he at least got the chance.

Meanwhile, here’s an only vaguely related oddity I came across when researching this article. It’s from an Algona, Iowa newspaper, and reports the winners of a Scrappy cartoon contest at a local theater…

If this was from a 1930s newspaper, I would not have been that intrigued: Holding a Scrappy cartoon contest would have been a totally normal thing to do. But this was from a 1964 paper. Scrappy was still the subject of drawing competitions held at theaters then?

Well, no. More careful inspection revealed that the item was in a section of the paper devoted to republishing old news stories—in this case from 1934. That made sense.

And here’s the kicker: The paper was recapping the Scrappy contest in its edition for April 2, 1964, the day I was born. Scrappy, bless him, managed to welcome me by being in the news, at least sort of, if only in Algona. It might not have been an omen, but I for one find it to be an entertaining coincidence,

Charles Mintz’s Staff Sends Off Phil Davis

Samuel and Rose Davidavitch of Yonkers, New York had four sons who went into the animation business–all after changing the family name to Davis. There was Art, who–at least here at Scrappyland–is best remembered as part of the Mintz brain trust that gave us Scrappy. (His later work as a director and animator at Warner Bros. has its fans, too.) There was Mannie, who stayed in New York and was a key Terrytoons employee for decades. There was Sid, who was also known as Butch and worked alongside Art at Mintz after it became Screen Gems. And there was Phil, who also worked with Art at Mintz/Screen Gems.

Except that in March 1933, Phil left the studio and returned to New York. A few years later, he’d come back and head the Screen Gems in-between department. But his coworkers didn’t know that Phil would be back when they filled a scrapbook with drawings wishing him well as he departed. (Many of them were also New Yorkers who’d headed west–and in some cases would themselves go back and continue their animation careers on the east coast.)

Over at Patreon, Devon Baxter–whose presence there is a must for cartoon fans–has posted dozens of these drawings, courtesy of Art Davis’s granddaughter Sharon Davis and her husband, Steve Marshall. They’re a remarkable collection of work by people who were major figures in the animation industry long after Scrappy left the stage.

Like all good behind-the-scenes gag sketches, these ones are full of in jokes, some of which we probably don’t get. (I do believe that the references to pool in several of them involve the fact that there was a pool hall on the ground floor of the studio’s building.) They feature studio characters diverging from their on-screen behavior, are occasionally racy, and sure look like the people who drew them were having fun. (A few of them even contributed more than one piece.)

You should head to Patreon to see all the drawings–but Devon generously allowed me to share a few here. Naturally, I picked those most closely related to Scrappy.

First of all, here’s Dick Huemer himself, with a fine drawing (given that Scrappy isn’t in it, at least). That’s a self-caricature of Dick–himself a New York transplant–in the foreground. I imagine the whip references his supervisory capacity at the Mintz studio. Within a few weeks, he was at Disney, having left Scrappy and Mintz behind for the studio that would occupy most of this time for the rest of his career.

Dick Huemer farewell drawing for Phil Davis

This one does show Scrappy and Oopy bidding Phil farewell. It’s by Carl Urbano, whom I didn’t realize worked at the Mintz studio. He later directed industrial cartoons for John Sutherland and eventually ended up at Hanna-Barbera before dying in 2003–relatively recently for a Scrappy artist.

Here’s another Scrappy drawing by Marshall Dunning, who worked at Columbia and Disney–but spent most of his career as a political cartoonist. This sketch references WWI, which Dunning served in–and maybe Phil Davis, too, since he would have been old enough.

Reuben Timmins had a long career in animation spanning both coasts and lots of studios, from Fleischer to Filmation. He crammed a lot into his farewell drawing for Phil Davis, starting with a hula girl causing an earthquake–surely the Long Beach one which had occurred the previous week and caused about 115 fatalities. Also in the drawing is Scrappy with a random message for Fleischer animator Dave Tendlar, whom I’m guessing had fallen out of touch with his former colleague Timmins; and Krazy Kat seemingly encouraging Phil to look up Reuben’s relatives in NYC (“Dewey 5888” would have been their phone number).

Lastly from Phil’s Scrappy-book, here’s an amazing drawing with Bimbo, Koko, Betty Boop, Scrappy, Oopy, Mutt, Jeff, Krazy Kat, Mickey Mouse, and a dame whom apparently enjoyed Phil’s company during his time in California. Devon and I am not sure who did this. It’s tempting to wonder if it’s someone who worked on all these characters, but I’m not sure if anyone had in 1933. (Dick Huemer had worked on Mutt and Jeff cartoons and spent time at Fleischer–and left Mintz later in 1933 for Disney–but was gone from Fleischer before Betty Boop arrived.) Perhaps one of you knows who might have done this–Don Yowp’s list of Mintz staffers from 1933 could provide a clue.

[Update: Devon now says: “I’ve talked it over with some trusted experts, and we believe it’s the work of Rudy Zamora. To borrow an observation from Mark Newgarden: ‘The handwriting is a reasonable match with his signature here [on this Fleischer Christmas card]. The way he handles hands & feet & line strokes all check.'”

Bonus material: This Mintz studio gag drawing isn’t from Phil Davis’s scrapbook–it was recently auctioned off by Howard Lowery. It’s by Preston Blair and features caricatures of himself and a “Joe” whom the Lowery listing says is Mintz composer Joe De Nat. I have no reason to doubt that identication, but will note that it’s not readily identifiable as De Nat based on the photos I’ve seen of him. I’m not sure about the precise meaning of the “The March of Time” caption, but it’s presumably a reference to either the radio show (which started in 1931) or the more famous newsreels (which debuted in 1935), both of which were spinoffs from TIME magazine.