Scrappy Mystery Graffiti

Hello from Scrappyland, where it’s been far too long since our last post. (I promise to do better in 2021, which won’t be tough.)

At least this overdue return features something unusually special: a Scrappy image shared with us by my friend Peter Huemer, grandson of Dick Huemer and son of Dr. Richard Huemer. As you can see, it depicts Scrappy and graffiti he has seemingly just painted involving other cartoons. They’re all items that Dick Huemer worked on, and they include:

  • Mutt and Jeff, whom Huemer began animating for Raoul Barre circa 1916, at the very start of his long career in animation
  • Koko the Clown, the Out of the Inkwell protagonist animated by Huemer beginning around 1916
  • Disney’s Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Goofy, and Donald Duck
  • Fantasia (“Fanny” and “Tasia,” which Huemer cowrote
  • Also referenced are Walt and Lilly Disney as well as Art Davis and Sid Marcus, Huemer’s Mintz studio collaborators

In short, the art is a playful tribute to Dick Huemer’s career from the beginning through the Fleischer and Mintz periods and well into his Disney days. And that’s all I know about it.

The most obvious mystery: Who drew it? Our candidates must logically begin with Dick Huemer himself, and he seems like a good one. After all, he knew where he’d worked off the top of his head, and he could draw Scrappy. (As shown here, he’s ever so slightly off the early-1930s model as established by Huemer, but that wouldn’t be surprising; by the time he would have drawn this, he would have been rusty.) The style isn’t so obviously Huemer’s that it’s clear it’s his, but at worst, it’s in the same Zip Code.

If it wasn’t Dick who drew it, we can reasonably narrow the field of contenders to people intimately familiar with his career, most likely close friends in the animation industry.

Mystery #2 is when this piece was created. There’s a giant hint in the fact that chronologically, the last Huemer work mentioned is Fantasia. That came out in 1940; in December 1941, Dumbo, which Huemer cowrote with Joe Grant, was released. The fact that Fantasia is there and Dumbo isn’t–not to mention even later Huemer efforts such as the Disneyland TV show–strongly suggests that this art dates from the period when Fantasia had been released or was at least in production but Dumbo remained in the future. Though that’s just a guess; maybe our mystery artist just ran out of space for additional Huemer references..

Also mysterious: The precise events that led to this drawing’s existence. Did Dick do it to amuse himself? Was it for publication? Why does it spotlight Scrappy, who was part of Huemer’s distant past at this point? Dick left Mintz in 1933; the last Scrappy cartoon, The Little Theater, was released in February 1941, ending the series after a long decline. It would seem that the drawing might have been done around the time that Scrappy went away and Screen Gems shed the final vestiges of its Mintz-era origins. Whether that means anything, I can’t say.

It’s possible that answers to some or all of these questions lie in some writing next to Scrappy’s left foot. But it’s far too faint to decipher, even in the version Peter provided, which I lightened for publication here.

Anyhow, it would be fun to know the backstory here, and if you happen to know–or just want to guess–I’d love to hear from you. Even if it remains a mystery, it’s a delightful one–and more evidence that we’re nowhere near done rediscovering our lost Scrappy heritage.

[Update: On Facebook, Friend of Scrappy Mark Newgarden theorizes that Huemer drew this a lot later, for a publication such as Cartoonist Profiles: “The inking matches similar images Huemer created in this era.”]

1 comment on Scrappy Mystery Graffiti

  • It’s definitely a Dick Huemer drawing, Harry. I saw a copy of it at Dick’s house in North Hollywood when I visited him. I don’t know why it was created, but Cartoonist PROfiles may be a good guess, as Dick used to do an article or two for Jud Hurd.

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