Fans of classic animation will have a lot to cheer about this spring, when Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) bring 38 timeless cartoons from the 1950s to DVD for the first time ever. UPA: The Jolly Frolics Collection is a treasure trove of animated shorts from United Productions of America (UPA), home to such beloved characters as Mr. Magoo and Gerald McBoing Boing. The three-disc set will be sold exclusively through TCM’s online store at http://shop.tcm.com, beginning March 15.
Featuring a video introduction by film critic, writer and historian Leonard Maltin, UPA: The Jolly Frolics Collection is the perfect addition to any animation and classic movie fan’s DVD library. Each short has been digitally remastered, with audio commentaries by Maltin and animation historian Jerry Beck included on select cartoons. Extensive bonus features include a rare Pencil Test for the short, “Christopher Crumpet’s Playmate” (1955), and over 100 examples of production art, marketing materials, and more. The beautiful gate-fold collection is accompanied by a 16-page in-depth booklet featuring historical backgrounds, animator bios, and a timeline of the studio.
“I’m sure I’m not the only animation enthusiast who’s been longing to see these great cartoons released on DVD. It’s a privilege to be able to introduce them and provide commentary tracks, but it’s even more exciting to see them so beautifully restored.” says Maltin.
Meticulously restored and remastered, this collection represents a milestone for cartoon fans of all ages. “TCM is proud to add these historically important films to TCM Vault Collection series,” says Dennis Adamovich, SVP Brand Activation, Turner Entertainment Networks. “The UPA cartoon library has not been available in this quality since the cartoons were originally theatrically presented over a half century ago. SPHE has done incredible work in bringing this library back to life. Many of these shorts are modern masterpieces of the animation world and can now be enjoyed again for a new generation.”
“We are thrilled to once again work with our partners at Turner Classic Movies to bring these films into the homes of those who have been waiting for their release,” says Marc Rashba, Vice President, Marketing for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. “We hope the new bonus content, including commentaries by Leonard Maltin, will make an exciting viewing experience for fans.”
Among the highlights of UPA: The Jolly Frolics Collection is the 1949 short “The Ragtime Bear,” which introduced the world to that lovably cantankerous, near-sighted millionaire Mr. Magoo, voiced by Jim Backus. The Academy AwardÂ®-winning 1950 short “Gerald McBoing Boing,” based on a story by Dr. Seuss, is also featured, along with “Gerald McBoing Boing’s Symphony” (1953) and “Gerald McBoing! Boing! on Planet Moo” (1956).
Other highlights include the studio’s first two shorts for Columbia Pictures, “Robin Hoodlum” (1948) and “The Magic Fluke” (1949); an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” narrated by James Mason; and “The Unicorn in the Garden,” which was originally intended to be part of an ambitious feature-length cartoon based on the works of James Thurber.
UPA was formed in 1943 by a group of artists and animators who left Walt Disney during the 1941 animators strike. Hoping to break away from the ultra-realistic animation style Disney had been advocating, the UPA artists sought freedom to experiment with animation techniques, non-realistic colors, contemporary designs and sometimes-provocative storytelling. They began applying their concepts in wartime work for the government, later scoring their first major success with “Hell-Bent for Election,” a Chuck Jones-directed short produced for FDR’s 1944 re-election campaign and sponsored by the United Auto Workers (UAW).
After government contracts dried up in the late ’40s, UPA forged a contract with Columbia Pictures to produce theatrical animated shorts, achieving great success casting Columbia’s Fox and Crow characters in “Robin Hoodlum” and “The Magic Fluke.” When those projects both garnered OscarÂ®-nominations, Columbia gave UPA free reign to create its own characters. That led to the emergence of Mr. Magoo and Gerald McBoing Boing, the latter earning the studio’s first Academy Award for Best Animated Short. The studio went on to win two more Academy Awards for “When Magoo Flew” (1954) and “Magoo’s Puddle Jumper” (1956). UPA would continue to enjoy unprecedented critical acclaim and awards recognition in the 1950s, including collecting all three of the nominations in 1957, a feat not even achieved by Walt Disney.
Throughout the 1950s, UPA scored several successes, despite losing several of its most talented staff members to the communist purge of the film industry in the 1950’s. After earning 15 Oscar nominations and three Academy Awards over 12 years, the studio stopped producing theatrical shorts in 1959. Two theatrical features followed: 1001 Arabian Nights (1959) and Gay Purr-ee (1962).
UPA artists revolutionized animation, not only through their striking design aesthetic but also through the use of limited animation, which incorporated more static backgrounds and less fluid movement. Beginning in the mid-’50s, UPA found great success on television, where lower budgets and tighter deadlines allowed limited animation to thrive. The studio produced such series as The Gerald McBoing-Boing Show, Mister Magoo and The Dick Tracy Show, as well as the enormously popular 1962 holiday special, Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol.
The following is a complete listing of shorts in UPA: The Jolly Frolics Collection:
“Robin Hoodlum” (1948) — Oscar nomination
“The Magic Fluke” (1949) — Oscar nomination
“The Ragtime Bear” (1949)
“Punchy De Leon” (1950)
“The Miner’s Daughter” (1950)
“The Popcorn Story” (1950)
“Gerald McBoing Boing” (1951) — Oscar winner
“The Family Circus” (1951)
“Georgie and the Dragon” (1951)
“The Wonder Gloves” (1951)
“The Oompahs” (1952)
“Rooty Toot Toot” (1952) — Oscar nominee
“Willie the Kid” (1952)
“Pete Hothead” (1952)
“Madeline” (1952) — Oscar nominee
“Little Boy with a Big Horn” (1953)
“The Emperor’s New Clothes” (1953)
“Christopher Crumpet” (1953) — Oscar nominee
“Gerald McBoing Boing’s Symphony” (1953)
“The Unicorn in the Garden” (1953)
“The Tell-Tale Heart” (1953) — Oscar nominee
“Bringing Up Mother” (1954)
“Ballet Oops” (1954)
“The Man on the Flying Trapeze” (1954)
“Fudget’s Budget” (1954)
“How Now Boing Boing” (1954)
“Spare the Child” (1955)
“Four Wheels No Brakes” (1955)
“Baby Boogie” (1955)
“Christopher Crumpet’s Playmate” (1955)
“The Rise of Duton Lang” (1955)
“Gerald McBoing Boing on Planet Moo” (1956) — Oscar nominee
“The Jaywalker” (1956) — Oscar nominee
“Trees and Jamaica Daddy” (1958) — Oscar nominee
“Sailing and Village Band” (1958)
“Spring and Saganaki” (1958)
“Picnics are Fun and Dino’s Serenade” (1959)