In search of Scrappy cels

Want to see some Scrappy cels? You can. Just go to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library in LA and look up the “Donald Gledhill Animation Project Collection.” Gledhill was the first husband of Margaret Herrick, who earned the honor of having a library named after her by being the Academy’s first executive director (and, at least possibly, the person who named the Oscar “Oscar”). He tried to put together a how-to book on animation, and while it never reached publication, he assembled a pretty remarkable-sounding collection of 1930s cartoon artwork for it. It includes a total of nine cels from two Scrappy cartoons, Scrappy’s Rodeo and Scrappy’s Side Show.

Here’s one from the latter short, with a late-model Scrappy:

I haven’t checked out the Gledhill collection myself, but I should—and so should you, especially if you live closer to it than I do. Those two cels are the only surviving ones from Scrappy cartoons that I know about.

Over the years, I have managed to assemble a small collection of original Scrappy art. Here’s some of it, and here’s some more. And here’s the original art for the Scrappy pull toy. A little more has escaped my grasp. But I’ve never seen a Scrappy cel for sale.

If I’d been around in the late 1930s, however, I might have been able to pick up a Scrappy cel at a reasonable price. Original cels from Hollywood cartoons were widely sold as a fun and affordable form of art, with the most famous and influential example being the Disney pieces offered by San Francisco’s Courvoisier Galleries. Leon Schlesinger also made cels from his cartoons available, and was nice enough to sign them.

And Charles Mintz seized the opportunity as well. Here’s a December 1937 article from a New Jersey paper:

The Mintz cels may have been intended to dress up children’s rooms, but 80 years later, there are a bunch of examples on eBay at prices up to $1200. Here are three of them, all in nice shape:

And here’s the label from one of these cel’s backsides explaining its provenance:

These cels also have stickers on their backs from Cleveland’s Guenther Galleries; presumably it and Bamberger’s, the department store mentioned in the newspaper article participated in an art sale program that may well have involved other merchants around the country.

All of these Mintz cels on eBay are from Happy Tots. Which—you probably already know this—was not a Scrappy cartoon. The Gledhill collection at the Margaret Herrick Library also has some Happy Tots cels, suggesting that it was a cartoon whose cels Mintz dispensed with particularly freely.

So which Scrappy cartoons was that newspaper article referring to? That is a toughie. The newspaper piece specifies that the cels were from Color Rhapsodies, and that some featured Scrappy, Margy, Oopy, and Yippy. But Scrappy only appeared in four Color Rhapsodies. The last of them, Merry Mutineers, was released in August 1936, well before the newspaper announcement. All his other cartoons were in black and white.

It’s certainly possible that the newspaper story’s wording was sloppy and that the Scrappy cels you could buy were in black and white. Many of the surviving cels from the Schlesinger studio’s sales program are from black and white cartoons, so there’s no reason to assume that Mintz would have rejected the idea of selling b&w cels out of hand. Especially since Scrappy, his most recognizable property, was mostly monochromatic.

Still, the fact that it’s cels from Happy Tots that are available in relative abundance makes me uncertain just how many pieces of Mintz art made it to the public. I’m not assuming that any Scrappy cels were sold, let alone that they survived until the present day. But it’s nice to think they may be out there somewhere, perhaps in the possession of some late-1930s child who once had one up in his or her bedroom—and was smart enough to hold onto it.

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