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Cartoon Modern

UPA Commercials Discovered

In the six years since the publication of my book Cartoon Modern: Style and Design in 1950s Animation, a lot of new artwork and films from the mid-century era have surfaced. The flow of material isn’t slowing down either. Animation director Michael Sporn recently came into possession of a trove of layouts and model sheets from 1950s United Productions of America (UPA) commercials. He’s generously shared them HERE and HERE.

Among the stash are a few drawings from an Aqua Velva Ice Blue aftershave lotion spot, which can be seen in this newly uncovered collection of UPA commercials:

These commercials are rarer than they might appear. Of the hundreds of commercials that UPA produced during the 1950s, I’ve managed to see just a few dozen over the years. UPA’s advertising work has proven more difficult to track down than some of the other major animated commercial producers of the era like Playhouse Pictures and Ray Patin Productions.

The same user on YouTube also posted this UPA commercial for Tang, which I believe was designed by Roy Morita.

  • The Gee

    They are something, aren’t they?

    There’s one I ran across that is a sales film, called Big Tim.

    It is unfamiliar to me. And, perhaps it is on that collection that came out a while ago. Not sure.

    But, obviously, it i quite different from the TV spots.

    (should there be a letter Y at the end of “Discovery”? or, am I missing something?)

  • The Gee

    well maybe the letter D, not Y.

  • My favorite part is when the glass of Tang is picked up and poured down the lady’s dress.

    • Funkybat

      That Tang commercial reminded me of those “Jot the Dot” Christian cartoon shorts.

  • Loved these!

  • Watching these, you realize how difficult a food ad man’s job was in the fifties and sixties. You have this appealing little animation, and then it’s time to bring out the product, and VOILA! Tang! Or possibly a glass of gray dishwater, nobody can tell!

    I like Tang.

  • George

    This is the slick level of hand cel inking that I remembered from the mid-century TV commercial animation style. So very many surviving commercials (other than these) contain examples of lesser inking that it’s bracing to see that the craftsmanship standard was as high as I assumed it had to have been.

  • So with all the flow of new material, your follow up book will be when???

  • Fernando

    It’s a pleasure to see these commercials. Great design solutions in character and movement. Very inspiring!
    By the way, and the Magoo theatrical collection on DVD? Was cancelled? With this box set, the Jolly Frolics collection, Cartoon Modern and Abraham’s book, all we need is a an exclusively and fully illustrated “Art of UPA” book (and McBoing Boing Show on DVD).

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I have heard it’ll be out by December of this year.

  • Here’s what’s funny to me: these UPA commercials – on 16mm film – are readily available on eBay. That’s where I bought them from before I transferred them and uploaded them to YouTube.