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Cartoon Culture

Bert & Harry Piel

Just for fun – and thanks to Chuck Howell, the Archivist at University of Maryland’s Special Collections in Mass Media & Culture – we are happy to show off these cool 1957 Bert and Harry Piel bar coasters. The characters were created in 1953 for a TV ad campaign by UPA New York, under Gene Deitch’s supervision. Jack Sidebotham designed the characters for the Cunningham and Walsh agency – and of, course Bob Elliot and Ray Goulding provided the voices. For more about this (and to see one more of these coasters), read Gene Deitch’s account on his blog.

  • The intertwining of us Piels with animation is an interesting one to me. My grandfather David Piel, rather than following in the family brewing business, was also an animator with a multimedia advertising agency in Manhattan around the time these ads were made. He said he did some work with the Hubleys, or possibly just learned from them. I have been able to find very little surviving footage of his animation (apparently he won a Clio award for a combination live-action and animated campaign he did with Ernie Kovacs for Dutch Master cigars).

    He did make one standalone film, an adaptation of “Harold and the Purple Crayon,” the children’s book by Crockett Johnson. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzaovPWUb-0

    I grew up with lots of old Piel’s Beer memorabilia around the house with Bert and Harry on it, and perhaps that was one reason I have been an obsessed animator/animation geek for life.

    Gene has some pretty harsh words to say about Piel’s Beer (the beer itself and the management of the company), but from what I’ve heard from the various family legends it’s probably true.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I think I envy your grandpa!

  • Anthrocoon

    There are similarly animated ads (on Youtube etc.) including Mike Nichols and Elaine May for New England’s Narragansett beer (also Jax beer). Also Daws Butler voiced some cartoon ads for beer too.

  • There is a spot on YouTube for Dutch Masters which opens with Ernie Kovacs, hosting the game show “Take A Good Look,” taking a break for Dutch Masters. It then goes into a commercial not featuring Ernie (certainly not typical for a Dutch Masters ad on a show Ernie was in) which is sort of a “quasi” animated spot where the cigars and box are moving around.

    I don’t know if this is a spot David Piel did with Ernie.

    Al Quagliata, webmaster
    http://www.erniekovacs.net and http://erniekovacs.blogspot.com

  • Carl Russo

    I wonder whether the colors on the coaster are deliberately offset in the way UPA mimicked that printing problem in their cartoons.

  • I emailed Ben Model, the Kovacs curator and historian who runs http://www.erniekovacs.info. He has seen most everything and helps the estate to put together the video releases. This is what he said:

    “I have never seen a Dutch Masters spot that combines live action with animation, and I am pretty sure there is no such thing. The ABC shows had commercials for Dutch Masters that were animated and also each show contained one live-action spot by Ernie. That is probably where the “combination” legend may have come down to Mr. Piel.”

    He then went on to say:

    “all the ABC/DM shows had 3 breaks: an animated spot, an EK-made one, and an animated spot. The animated ones do resemble the look of the Piels ones, so that makes sense.”

    Interesting. Great post by the way.

  • Liesje

    Pretty sure I’ve seen a bunch of these for sale at the Brooklyn Flea.

  • Hi Al! Thanks for looking into that! The only source I have from my late grandfather’s exploits is a collection of typed anecdotes, and they all ran the risk of being exaggerated/conflated/confused.

    However, I also think I remembered the story incorrectly. When I looked again at the bit he wrote about it, it says the animated/live-action spots had Edie Adams’ radio jingle, “Fish bite, lighters light, everything’s right when you light a Dutch Masters.” The visual of the ad, he recalled, was a “wiggly” animated character, after the style of illustration in the Dutch Masters print ads, who is lighting his cigar while looking at a tank of tropical fish. Ernie Kovacs didn’t appear in this ad, he just mentioned him in passing as he was in other DM spots, and Adams was his wife.

    • Hi Zoe! It’s my pleasure and since today would have been Ernie’s 93rd birthday, it’s great to be discussing this.

      I’d love to see the spot you mention; perhaps a copy will surface someplace.

      I was incorrect as well; I said it wasn’t common for DM spots in Ernie hosted shows to not feature Ernie but Ben Model pointed out that 1 spot would have Ernie and the other two would be animated.

  • Mariana

    Just got a book by Bob and Ray, “Linda Lovely and the Fleebus”, 1960, 1st edition.

  • J.J. Sedelmaier sent us these images of the packaging these coasters were originally distributed with:

    Piels A

    Piels coaster

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I would so join that club Jerry (and I don’t drink)!