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An Appreciation of Marky Maypo

One night as I was Googling around indifferently, I thought to myself, “Gosh! I haven’t seen those marvelous John Hubley-directed Marky Maypo spots in at least 30 years. I wonder if I can find them on the net…” (I always think to myself with three dots at the end…)

About a second-and-a-half later, my search yielded four of them, on a website linked to the company that still makes and sells Maypo after all these years. These spots made a huge impression on me when I first saw them on TV – I was four – and they still do to this day. I know Jerry posted these a couple of years ago, but they’re certainly worth revisiting – and if you’ve never seen them before, enjoy! Here is the original spot:

I’d file them under the sub-heading of “The Pleasures of the Deceptively Simple.” Yes, they’re stylized. Yes, they’re graphic. They’re also masterpieces of communication and entertaining advertising, boasting many innovations and good old-fashioned traditional know-how. First, there’s the soundtrack: the husband-and-wife team of John and Faith Hubley recorded semi-improvised dialogue, charming mistakes and all, with their young son Mark, making the character sound like a real kid. Wow, what a concept! (The Hubleys later used this technique, with their offspring, in their many personal short films, like Moonbird and Cockaboody, and almost-as-talented adults like Dudley Moore and Dizzy Gillespie, in films like The Hole and The Hat.)


Then there’s the design and animation. UPA-style flattened (practically vertical) perspectives, graphic curlicues that somehow behave like oatmeal, and character animation – most of it by master animator Emery Hawkins. Hawkins’ animation has – despite the stylization – form, weight, timing, tons of appeal, and all the other stuff you would expect in a beautifully crafted, traditional production.

Here are links to the other three spots. While the last spot doesn’t quite hold up for me, compared with the other three, they’re all marvelous, and, I think, worthy of some serious scrutiny.

The Hubleys were masters at making the abstract appealing and accessible, and it’s great to see these ads again as the precursors and colleagues of their innovative short films of the late 1950s and early-’60s, especially The Tender Game and The Adventures of *.

  • EHH

    How can he a regular and a guest at the same time? Anyway, I love your new book and I don’t even draw! Thank you for the Maypo post.

  • I enjoyed seeing Marky Mapo make a tv appearance in “The Iron Giant”. It was a nice touch of reality, and a clever nod to some great animation at the same time.

  • Hi Eric, Great post!!!

  • Welcome aboard Eric! Why can’t commercials look like this anymore? I love the designs of these characters, it reminds of an early version of the Peanuts commercials for the Ford Falcons. Keep on writing…

  • Thanks Eric, such great stuff to make your first post on the brew with, and certainly always an inspiration!

  • It feels great just to know Eric Goldberg is posting on the Brew! Hope to see many more such enlightening posts in the future!

  • thank YOO for such a great post! Easily one of the most charismatic commercial characters of the 20th century!!

  • Very nice firstpost Mr. Goldberg.

  • Gobo

    These ads are brilliant in a way that ad execs can never understand; they’d never be made today.

    “Okay, so in this ad a little kid jumps on his uncle’s belly, says something about playing doggies, and starts making oatmeal in the guy’s hat.”

    “Uh huh. And how’s it end? With a product shot and nutritional info, right?”

    “Er no, the kid throws a tantrum and falls off the back of the couch.”

    “You’re fired.”

  • That kid looks similar to the kid in the Log commercial. I guess John K. was referencing this commercial.

  • So happy to see Eric add his brilliant mind to this great site. Now, I want my Maypo!

  • Pedro Nakama

    I want TV to be like that again!

  • yvette kaplan

    Thank you for starting my day with a smile Eric. I’m thrilled you are here in the first place– but to debut with such a loving piece on the Hubleys? I couldn’t ask for more. And yes, Adventures of an * is my favorite film in the world, both breaks my heart and lifts it into the stratosphere. To me that’s what it’s all about. Welcome, and keep the inspiring pieces coming. xoxo, yvette

  • Doug Drown

    Oh my goodness, what a joy to see these again. Talk about a great childhood memory — and they are indeed brilliant. What year did the first one come out? I’m guessing 1959 or thereabouts. I know I was in elementary school at the time.

  • acetate

    I can already hear the suits cry out, “But wouldn’t this be so much better in 3D ?”

  • corey

    If a company was smart enough to advertise this exact way in the midst of so much crappy flashy commercials their product would stand out in an instant

  • doug holverson

    Why does the kid have elf ears? Or are they sow ears? Is daddy a bartender? ;)

  • Joe Dante

    Hi, Eric!
    Your addition to the site is one of Jerry’s best ideas ever!
    Folks, I’ve seen Eric in action and not only is he one of the most brilliant minds in the field and a master animation director, but he’s tough as nails when it comes to dealing with The Enemies of Expression.
    Looking forward to more posts!

  • Randy

    Great commercials. Hated Maypo when I was a kid and still don’t like the stuff. But great commercials. :)

  • great!! Amid Amidi had a post about John Hubley’s wonderful Maypo commercial..luckily i was able to download them from the link posted at cartoon modern..great post!!

  • Janet Benn

    I can still recite the sound track from the first commercial verbatim. Imagine my amazement when I found myself working for these wonderful people who introduced me to such marvelous work at the age of five!

    Thanks, Eric – you put words to the feeling thesae spots engendered. And still do.

  • I’ve never seen these before, but I love ’em. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • This seems so cool and relevant to animation today. To see limited animation done so well, should be an inspiration to Flash animators in TV. BTW, I was at Ottawa animation festival and several people at the bookstore thought I was you, Eric. It was weird till they showed me your caricature in your new book (the one on this blog) and sure enough, drawn we could be twins!

  • Brad Bird

    One of the most amazing things about these commercials was how much they achieved with a limited drawing count. When I put the first Marky Maypo spot in IRON GIANT I actually counted the number of drawings per minute and found it to be significantly lower than much of what is considered to be “limited” animation today… and yet it FEELS like much fuller animation.

    Because the animation is done with so much knowledge and experience, because the animator knew exactly what was essential and what wasn’t… you are left with an incredibly distinctive impression of these two characters… AND IT’S A DAMN INSTANT OATMEAL COMMERCIAL!

    But this sort of old-school-at-its-best expertise was learned through a thorough knowledge of full animation, and the Eric is dead-on in mentioning that Hawkins knew just how to give weight and mass to the characters, though the characters are highly stylized (not unlike Goldberg’s own beautifully animated scenes in ZIGGY’S GIFT).

    I sometimes worry that people whose knowledge is limited to FLASH tricks will never be able to reach the level of skill demonstrated in these little demonstrations of genius.

    They remind me of that quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery; “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”.

  • Chris

    Seems like two hands at work in that first Maypo spot. Could that be Dick Lundy’s drawing in the first 20 seconds or so?

  • eric goldberg

    Hey, folks –
    Just wanted to say thanks for all all the great feedback on this post. It warms my heart to know how much these little spots hit the mark for people, including some damn fine luminaries! As a side note, when these ads were created, they weren’t from the brain of a copy writer at an ad agency (not that I’m casting any aspersions here). TV advertising was in such a state of infancy, that they would give the production company (in this case, Storyboard) the parameters – maple flavored oatmeal, the brand name – and the animation company would do the rest: storyboard, dialogue, design, sound, animation. Can any of us even IMAGINE what that creative atmosphere was like? Gets me all far-klempt….

  • I actually just stumbled upon one of those commercials last week. I was kinda surprised at how fun an ad could be, and not to mention how adorable it was.

  • Great first post Eric!

    Now give us MORE!

  • Hi,

    This might seem kind of weird but I just wanted to ask. My student film was recently green lit and I want to create a similar look to the commercial above. However, most of my fellow students are computer people and are being put off by a 2D project. I just wanted to know is there any feasible way of doing a film in this style using computers.


    Always Panicking.

  • Rio

    Wow, it would be smart for any animation student to study this posts and understand what Eric Goldberg and Brad Bird is trying to teach us. Amazing stuff.

    Thank you Eric and Brad. And thanks to the Brew Masters for providing everyone this opportunity to learn from the masters in this industry.

  • Blimey Eric! Very nice too…good to see you spouting forth, also!

  • OMG! Thank you Eric! You woke up memories and synaptic responses that have lied dormant for 40+ years! Now, with an animator’s perspective, I can see what a gem this really is. I really do want my Maypo!

  • I’ve always loved these . At first I thought they were produced by Chuck Jones , they have such a similar style. Of course after the first 2 Hubley versions the imitations that followed were just pale imitations.

    So in the end what this proves is it’s good to be banned from a major studio :)

  • nancym

    Was there a commercial with a girl named Emily? I remember a line that said “walk like Emily”