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 But the onslaught of new cartoons—in color, even!—eventually left him seeming as out of date as the silent shorts he had displaced.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,

1 comment on Scrappy and Krazy to the Rescue

  • Thanks so much for the informative articles. Really miss these days of yore. The world is a much different place than “the good ol days”. I wish we had a new scrappy cartoon contest! I’d participate for sure!

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