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Bad Ideas

The Hundreds Continues To Rip Off Animation Artwork For Its Clothes

Can you identify which animated short the T-shirt image was swiped from?
Can you identify which animated short this T-shirt image was swiped from? (See the update below for the answer.)

The Los Angeles-based fashion label The Hundreds has been caught in the past selling merchandise with traced images from animated films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Cool World. Is it legal? Does it qualify as fair use? The Hundreds was founded by two law school students so they surely have some knowledge of how much they can borrow without getting busted. Legal claims aside, selling poor tracings of the copyrighted work of other artists is an ethically dubious business model.

One of their tracers, Jose Lopez, has posted some of the his knock-offs on his personal website. He identifies them as a “Selection of designs i have done for The Hundreds over the years. Some reinterpretations of old wartime insignia and some original illustrations.” The marching band image is taken from the UPA short Fight On for Old (which was also used for the cover of my book Cartoon Modern) while the insect appears to be a WWII insignia created by the Disney Company. (The latter Disney image is one of the few examples of actual fair use since Disney doesn’t own the copyright to pieces created for the U.S. government.)

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This shirt on their site is a nearly-exact tracing of Groucho duck from Groucho Marx’s game show You Bet Your Life.

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If you can identify other cartoon and animation characters that The Hundreds has “re-interpreted,” let us know.

UPDATE: Thanks to all the readers who identified the top image as being swiped from the Tom and Jerry short Trap Happy. Reader “mrstupes” provided this comparison between the original and the trace-job:

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  • Jim Ryan

    Flat out pisses me off.

    • Does for me too, yet I wonder how many people half my age even know who Groucho was.

  • Michael Helmer

    public domain is open to everyone, this company seems to lack creativity and style to begin with – a watered down version of what World Industries was doing in the skate industry in the early 90’s – http://youtu.be/J-YOSTuhx0E

  • I haven’t seen it in years, but I would bet money that top image is of Butch from a Tom and Jerry short (sans sunglasses) in which Tom hires Butch as an exterminator to get rid of Jerry. The most irritating part though is that the t-shirt name, “Tom Kat,” seems to imply that the image is actually that of Tom. If someone wants to be a “follower of the old school,” that person should get the details right.

    …It actually just occurred to me after reading the description of the t-shirt, that labeling him “Tom Kat” could be a way of throwing off copyright infringement. Nice.

  • Christopher Stoner

    Tom and Jerry “Trap Happy”
    … to find where they lifted the sunglasses is a bit harder.

  • Christopher Stoner

    Was asking us to identify that shirt at the top rhetorical? If not …
    it’s from the Tom & Jerry short “Trap Happy”

  • Trevour

    Of course. The copied version is yet again a stiff, lifeless remake of the original. Keepin’ that swipin’ tradition alive!

  • Hankenshift

    One look at the guys website indicates why he traces other people’s work: he can’t draw or design worth a damn.

  • Sick Dollar Shirts

    What the hell does “The Hundreds” even mean.

    • You can tell these guys know ‘business’!

    • ZibZabZo

      The Hundreds of dollars they’re stealing from the original copywrite holders

  • AmidAmidi

    You’re correct that public domain art is fine to use. The problem is that a lot of their shirts are tracings of artwork that is still under copyright.

    • AnimationGuy

      Well then. Lawyers! I choose you!

  • Pat

    This gets me frustrated me off but this attitude of “all sizzle and no steak” being “cool” company is real tiresome. These are the kind of people I see at my school practicing their signatures.

  • FairlyOddAdam

    While I am pretty outraged by stuff like this, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want a Groucho Duck shirt.

  • Brian Menze

    Just an FYI, Jeff Grosso has also traced from others and has used copyrighted material and called it his own as well. I’m not justifying what happened to him, just pointing out that he has done it as well.

  • Joshua Clements

    Hey guys, there is a story behind every graphic that The Hundreds creates. These graphics aren’t as much of a ‘rip off,’ as they are a nod to the original art and artist who may have slipped into obscurity. Of course, you can go straight to the reappropriated art while hurdling over the other amazing original art that The Hundreds is cranking out. Most of us are artist here, I’m sure. Which one of us hasn’t created a master copy, or tried to imitate our favorite animators and illustrators? If you haven’t, you’re not art’ing hard enough. When I first took a deeper look into the history of illustration and animation, I found there were art gods right under my nose that were relatively unknown. These pieces need to be reintroduced to newer generations so that the art and artists aren’t erased from memory. This under-appreciated art form is now being praised by The Hundreds’ fans globally. We should be praising this renaissance. Remember, it’s not where you take things from, it’s where you take them to.

    Get familiar: http://thehundreds.com/fall-2014-inspiration/

    • kmk

      The difference is we don’t put our master copies on t-shirts and sell them under the guise of “original art.”
      If you take things that are not your own and call them your own, then it does not matter where you take them to. You should probably take yourself back to decency school.

    • Fred

      Wow, impressive verbiage. But it’s still all BS and what you’re doing is still copyright violation. Your attempt to “reintroduce” art to newer generations would be a mite more impressive if you weren’t trying to make a buck off of it. Thief.

    • heymcdermott

      Why not point out some of your original designs so I can “appropriate” them and run off a couple copies at 60 Minute T-shirts? I’m sure you’ll love having your artwork exposed to a new audience!

    • cartoonguy

      “It’s not where you take things from, it’s where you take them to?” What the hell kind of marketing speak is THAT?? Of COURSE it matters where you take things from, when those things aren’t yours to begin with!

    • Ted

      Sounds good to me – but since copyright infringement is illegal you’ll have to change the law first. Good luck!

    • BG

      I don’t think t-shirts are the best way to reintroduce “lost” art. Their are plenty of great blogs, like “todays inspiration” or “cartoon retro” that are doing in better.

  • Thad Komorowski

    Yes, a shame that the soulless Time-Warner did not get paid for the drawing Mike Lah did 70 years ago.

  • blandyblottschalk

    The tricky thing about fashion design is that apparel is considered fair use. Whereas drawn images can be copy-written, clothing in general cannot.

    • Barrett

      Doesn’t apply in this case. We’re not talking about them knocking off the patterns of garment designed by a fashion house, they are re-using illustrations that originated in film and TV and printing them on t-shirts. The fact that the stolen art is on a piece of apparel provides no exemption from copyright laws.

  • I still pine for “Illegal Art”, as once showcased here…
    https://archive.org/details/ill-art

  • Steven Bowser

    How would you suggest doing this is an ethical way? Is there a way we can have cool animation themed shirts without stealing from random cartoons and not giving them any credit? Because some of these designs look fine because the source material is good, so I like that people can wear those good drawings. But I only wish it wasn’t done unethically.

    • Ted

      Absolutely yes – they could negotiate with the copyright owner and come to an agreement – it’s actually done all the time.

  • This is just terrible. I bet they thought they were being original with this one.

  • You can pursue some sense of journalistic integrity and reach out for a comment. I think it’s fair to hear both sides. Or you can continue to write sensational stories for click$, cherry-pick issues out of context, and sound the alarm for your rabid readership. Thanks for the brand awareness regardless. Great site btw, some of our illustrators here are regular readers, and now, so am I.

    • Potato Schmotato

      And maybe you can pursue some artistic integrity and, oh I dunno, get some original art out instead of opting for the EA$Y WAY.

      Thanks for making us aware of your brand of thievery regardless.

  • mrstupes

    Please share your voice here in the comments. If we are uninformed on the issue, please explain. All I see is an artist tracing old obscure cartoon art, and then passing it off as an original piece.

  • ksquared

    any open domain material is free to use to any one who wishes to use it and how ever they wish to use it.

  • Barrett

    Look, this isn’t the New York Times, it’s Cartoon Brew. This site is a blog; essentially a glorified editorial page. It is here for the author or authors to spout off about what they feel like, there is no obligation of “editorial fairness.” I don’t expect Breitbart or Michelle Malkin’s site to adhere to proper journalistic ethics or procedures; they are platforms for opinion, now news. Treat CB as such, and you’ll lower your (probably feigned) raised ire.

  • May1979

    Dude, save the sarcasm for someone else. I don’t know you to hate you. What I hate is when the work of artists are used by companies without any recognition to the real artists who made it. Worse, they aren’t even all that well copied! Damnit, If you’re going to copy the great Preston Blair then you make it worthy of Preston f###g Blair!

    This is a community blog, which means you are free to comment in the comment section just like many leading animators have done and continue to do on whatever they wish, and in turn you’re held accountable by those of us who are working stiffs in the industry. You’re not entitled to special treatment. If you have an explanation we are more than happy to hear it. I know I am.

    I will say in your defense you’re not much worse than the executives at leading studios nowadays, but wrong is wrong, whether you’re Jeffery “Billions” or “Bobby Hundreds.”

  • I use to watch reruns of You Bet Your Life on CBN Cable Network 30 years ago.