Cartoon Brew TV #22: Howdy Doody and His Magic Hat (1953)

Welcome to the first entry in our very special series “The Modern Art of Gene Deitch.” Over the next few weeks, we’ll be presenting some of the rarest and most obscure modern shorts by animation legend Gene Deitch. To kick off the series, we’re starting with what is arguably his rarest film: Howdy Doody and His Magic Hat. It is a film that Deitch spent over half a century attempting to track down and it was discovered only last December following this post on Cartoon Brew. The film marks his first directorial effort at United Productions of America (UPA), the modernist animation studio that defined the look of mid-century cartoon animation.

We’re going to hand the floor over to Gene now and and let him tell everybody the story of how this film came to be. If you have any questions or comments for Gene, please share them in the comments.

Gene Deitch
Prague
February 2010

In June 1949 I left my dream job as Bobe Cannon’s Production Designer at UPA Burbank, to take up an offer to become a director at the Jam Handy Organization in Detroit. It was a risky career move, but it worked out, as I managed to prove myself enough in two years as a director at JHO to induce Steve Bosustow to fly to Detroit and make me an offer I couldn’t refuse: if I would go to New York as a member of the founding group of the planned UPA/Manhattan studio, in the temporary function as studio Production Designer, I would be in line to become a director within one year. Steve tried to explain to me that the condition was necessary because he had somehow committed the position of director to Abe Liss, but he regarded it as “temporary.” As things developed in New York, there was a great tension between Abe and Steve. I never found out what it was, but in a matter of months, Abe left UPA and I was in fact named Creative Director of the studio. I was not happy about the circumstances, as being so set-up, but I was of course delighted that my early Hollywood dreams of become a UPA director had come true. All this is just to emphasize how eager I was to prove myself, and I put everything I had into that goal.

I very soon won twice the New York Art Directors Club Gold Medal for my Steinberg Jell-O commercials, and soon had a chance to make my first UPA entertainment short. It was a custom production order from the Kagran Corporation, the owner of the hot daily NBC-TV show Howdy Doody. In 1953 we were commissioned to make a low-budget pilot film for a proposed Howdy Doody animation series.

The catch to this opportunity was that all of us bright young hotshot UPA stars absolutely hated the Howdy Doody show, and felt that the puppet itself was gross–a ten on a kitsch scale of one to ten. We determined to “improve” the Howdy Doody character to the level of our hallowed UPA design standard. After all, we were already the toast of New York animation, raking in the prizes and publicity. We simply couldn’t lower ourselves to something so crude, even if the client was paying us to do just that. So we just blithely went ahead with transforming Howdy Doody in our own image.

Unfortunately, this God-like endeavor went down in flames. Kagran paid for the film, but “Buffalo Bob” Smith, Howdy Doody’s Daddy, hated what we had wrought, and ordered the negative destroyed. Our little pride and joy experiment was never shown publicly, and was never properly listed on the International Motion Picture Database. In plain language, it simply did not exist.

A 16mm print did exist. I had managed to liberate it when I left UPA. The heavens still punished me when this “one and only existing print” vanished without a trace in an international shipment. I spent the next fifty years–a full half-century–in a fervid but fruitless effort to track down another print. Not that this little film was any kind of a marvel, but simply because it was the very first film to bear the screen credit, “Directed by Gene Deitch,” and thus personally important in my own history. Further, it was a pretty good example of early 1950s animation thinking. The actual film was animated in a very low-budget paper cutout technique with a few camera effects.

Above all, at this late date, I would like to recognize my great departed collaborators on this long ago effort: the budding genius animator, Duane Crowther; the brilliant and not nearly enough appreciated graphic designer, Cliff Roberts, who I had discovered in Detroit; Bill Bernal, my closest friend and collaborator to the end of his life, who co-authored the folk-based story with me; and the brilliant avant composer, Serge Hovey, who I never saw again. All of those great people are gone but are strongly in my memory. The only other survivor of the creative team that made this little film, aside from myself, is Ken Drake, who rode shotgun on our studio Acme animation camera. Ken and I are still in daily email contact. He too will have his memory shaken when he sees the film today!

No one else has ever seen it before. Now, whoever is interested will be able to view it and make whatever judgement as to its place in the animation history scheme. Now, fifty-seven years after it was made, a miracle has happened, and you can have your chance to judge whether this long search made sense. After all this time, due to the relentless efforts of Jerry Beck, never to allow an animation discovery to elude him, and because he is such a loyal fan, a reasonably well-preserved 35mm print has been located in the deepest and darkest archives of the U.S. Library of Congress in Washington. D.C. So that’s it. Does this film show anything ahead of its time, or should it be allowed to rest in peace? Take a look.

(Our thanks to Dave Gibson for his detective work at the Library of Congress, and Ondřej Muška for his restoration work on the print)


  • http://bakertoons.blogspot.com/ Charles Brubaker

    That was a neat little film (even if the cut-out animation can get grating after certain time) and I can see where Deitch and the UPA team was going with this.

    It’s great that the film is finally available to the public after nearly 60 years went by without anyone seeing this.

  • Mark

    That is ONE Freakin’ great cartoon! Right up there with “Ersatz” as one of the greatest animated shorts of all time. THANK YOU FOR POSTING!

  • http://andrewatteberry.blogspot.com Andrew Lee

    I love it…..love the designs. Love the musicality. Love the story. I love love love that horse design.

    What a cool film to see… I am so glad it’s been put up on the brew for all to see. I live in Nashville, not quite the animation mecca, so I rarely get the opportunity to see these cool bits of animation being shown/shared.

  • http://goldenagecartoons.com Matthew Hunter

    Man, is that a strange little cartoon! But it’s definitely ahead of its time. The cutout style animation is like a prehistoric “South Park”. It’s barely even “animated” at all, but the design of it gives the illusion of animation. It sort of reminds me of some of the artsy 1960′s movie credit sequences. I wish the color wasn’t so faded, because if it was originally as bright as the still image shown earlier, I imagine we’re missing out on some interesting use of color.

    I see why this pissed people off. I’m sure it’s not what the Howdy Doody people had in mind when they wanted a “cartoon series”. The character doesn’t really even LOOK like the puppet, but even with the limited animation, he has a warm and likeable personality. Reading Deitch’s insight above, I have to say this: he did exactly what he set out to do.

  • RobEB

    Congratulations Mr. Deitch. What a wonderful piece of storytelling, though I guess I can see why Bob Smith didn’t like it. Quite a departure from the Peanut Gallery. And the story behind it all is just as fascinating. Kudos to Jerry for locating the print, and for putting it online.

  • http://www.copernicus.ca Murray Bain

    Wow, that was such a charming short. Buffalo bob must of been scared of the modernity of the treatment, but the message was a great one for the peanut gallery, the magic isn’t in the hat. Wouldn’t it be great if PIXAR put this in front of toy story 3? since woody is a homage to howdy anyways.The colors, the pacing, the stark bold shapes, so amazing! Pretty great for a first time director.

    Mr. Deitch, were the UPA artists aware of the golden books put out at the time, were they at all an influence, or was it the other way around, UPA influenced those folks, because watching this it reminded me of
    Aurelius Battaglia:
    http://goldengems.blogspot.com/2008/03/cowboy-jack-sheriff.html

    But all the kids had cowboys on the brain in 1953, And all the artists of the time had to take this kitsch and turn it to something tasteful. Too bad this wasn’t a series on TV, maybe “dubya” would of grown up a nicer person.

  • Mike Kazaleh

    Fantastic! I love it!

  • Keith Krail

    Glad to see that the film was found, and it really is a wonderful work of art. It is such a shame that it wasn’t able to be viewed on television at the time, but thankfully we now have the chance to see it. Is that Dan Backslide I see making a cameo in the opening credits?

  • Bob Harper

    Hussah! Very inspirational – made my day. In the world of preschool, it would be something I would reference for my own work, kids have a better ability of translating the unique and whimsical visuals such as this, since they haven’t had their minds polluted by the adult sensibilities of how things have to move.

    I have a question for Gene. You mentioned the composer. Was it a choice not to have Western style music, which was most associated with Howdy Doody, a personal one because of the dislike for Howdy Doody? I enjoyed it, but I definitely felt that it wasn’t a Howdy Doody cartoon, but a neat UPA cartoon about a cowboy, which is maybe what was intended.

    Anyway thanks for all of the inspiring work and thanks Jerry for the endless quest to preserve our cartoon history.

  • Stephen

    A charming little film – what a shame Howdy Doody wasn’t as endearing as his cartoon alter ego.
    I must confess I often find UPA and Deitch-era Terrytoons to be slowly paced, but this hits every note just right. Bravo.

  • tom

    A real treat.

    Thanks to Gene Deitch and Cartoon Brew!

    I especially like the dense-ness of some of the backgrounds and the heraldic patterning in the lion and eagle sequences.

    Don’t think I’ve really seen that before.

  • __MC

    It’s a nice film, very much ahead of its time. A lot of fun. I can see why Buffalo Bill hated it, he was the Milton Berle of kids’ entertainment, not a scrap of joy in him.
    Nice touch: the cowboy with the director’s credit on his back holding The Cat’s glasses.

  • Christopher Cook

    Gene, you have nothing to be ashamed of. For all its low-budget trappings, this film is filled with an essence that eludes other short subjects of this type–heart. A truly joyful little film.

  • http://doubled8.blogspot.com/ jeaux janovsky

    Wow. This was excellent. Thanks to the Brewmasters and Mr. Deitch for a secret gem blast from the past.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    I’m reminded of what someone said months ago when talking about this film in general…

    “I’m confused. Did the client never ask to see any production stills? Any animation tests? The script? The boards? Did they just hand over 15 grand and let UPA do whatever they wanted?”

    I almost want to say that’s probably what they did. They obviously had no idea what they were getting back and probably had a narrow-minded view of the process itself. But again, they got what they paid for, and were entitled to do so with whatever they want with it despite the efforts Deitch & Co. brought to the celluloid medium. Bob Smith had every right to hate the film as he saw fit, but at the same time, I can’t help but feel this film deserved better if only given the chance to be aired at least once to see what the viewers of America may take of it’s fruits.

    This was quite a charming, fresh little story that is still relevant today as it was then (certainly not so for the TV show). I love it’s message and could see how children could relate to those designs and simple animated concepts like I remember seeing from UPA’s best. As someone else had pointed out, this film really isn’t about Howdy Doody at all, yet if it had been simply titled “The Magic Hat” and presented it in that fashion, it probably still would’ve held up greatly on it’s own past the show’s prime, and perhaps as something you saw in school off 16mm for decades to come.

    It’s glad to see The Library of Congress had a copy of it all this time, and for Deitch, a chance to see his first credited directorial work again after so many years. My thanks to Cartoon Brew for making this happen!

  • Jim

    Thanks so much Gene, Jerry, and Amid for sharing this with us!

    Really fun to see it. ~~ It reminds me of something that might result from a collaboration involving Jim Flora and the Zagreb studio.

    Many inspiring aspects to enjoy in the piece. If Howdy Doody’s name had simply been removed, I’m sure this would have held its ground with the rest of UPA’s artistry.

  • Tom Ruegger

    Fabulous!
    Hats off to Gene.
    And the music adds a lot. I love Serge Hovey’s score.

  • http://www.milkmoneycartoons.com Ohjeepers

    This short is filled with eye candy, and the use of music is completely inspired, thanks to Gene for making it and Jerry for finding it!

    I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Gene for his Sidney the Elephant shorts, which I think are some of the funniest cartoons ever made, and Terr’ble Thompson for its incredible artwork!

  • http://www.cartoonresearch.com Jerry Beck

    To give credit where credit is due, I would like to publicly thank Dave Gibson at the Library of Congress for his part in actually locating the print and digging it out for us.

  • http://www.johnsemper.com John Semper Jr.

    Hat’s off to all involved in making and subsequently resurrecting this gem!

    And I personally want to thank Mr. Deitch for “Tom Terrific.” Clearly, Buffalo Bob’s loss was Captain Kangaroo’s gain!

  • Dave

    Thanks Jerry! I’m just glad to have played a small part in the rediscovery of this film. I’m happy to see that people will have a chance to see it here on Cartoon Brew.

  • http://www.seezen.net/ Daev

    “Buffalo Bob” Smith ordered the negative to be destroyed? What a dick move. Was that a standard practice back then?

  • Steve Menke

    Gene, congratulations (decades belated) on taking a one-dimensional character and giving him far more personality than his creator probably envisioned. I like Howdy better sans Buffalo Bob’s voice.

    I’m reminded of Gene Kelly squelching Michael Kidd’s “Jack and the Space Giants” number from the film “It’s Always Fair Weather.” Silent outtake footage was included on the DVD, and (IMHO) it would’ve been the standout number — Kelly probably feared being upstaged in his own project.

  • Bill Cross

    I thought it was a charming cartoon. And I am very glad to finally have a chance to see it. (Thanks Gene & Jerry!)

    But I can also understand why Bob Smith didn’t like it. This was way too “arty” for the decidely “middle brow” appeal of Howdy. Too bad this couldn’t have been produced as a regular UPA cartoon.

    BTW I met and spent a day with Bob Smith a few years back (more like 20). Whoever made the comment that he had no joy in him never met the man.

  • Christopher Smigliano

    I was pleasantly surprised! This was very nicely done, and the design was handled perfectly!-Kinda weird seeing Howdy without strings, though! ;0)

  • http://www.classicparamountcartoons.blogspot.com ParamountCartoons

    If nitrate stock was not made after 1953, then why is it detorirating?

  • Rod Jones

    Thank you, Gene and Jerry for providing us with this glimpse into Gene’s fabulous career! Through simple cut-outs, Gene and his talented crew gave Howdy a warmth and charm seldom (if ever) seen in the live-action puppet. This would have made a wonderful series!

  • Karen

    If it wasn’t shot and printed on Technicolor stock, it was probably shot on Eastmancolor (which was available in 1949, although not widely used until 1956, when most major studios Technicolor contracts ran out), which is why it’s deteriorating. But I do not know for sure. Maybe Jerry could help us out here?

    GREAT film! Thanks!

  • Bugsmer

    As crude as the animation is, and notwithstanding how surreal and strange the this adventure is, one can’t help but like the cartoon. It has a charm all its own, and the music really adds an otherworldly aspect to an otherwise linear story. Written down as a script, the story would seem no more interesting than similar stories, but transferred onto celluloid, the effect is staggering! One would be hard-pressed to make a cartoon this strange, particularly at at time when Disney, MGM and Warner Bros. cartoons were still the norm. I can understand why Howdy’s owners didn’t like it. They were probably expecting a “Dance of the Hours” sequence, will full animation, brilliantly designed characters, and accompanied by a full orchestra…something they would definitely not get for only $15 000. I guess the LOC had a copy because it had to be copyrighted, and thus UPA had to send them a print. Well done, Mr. Deitch! Your early efforts were not wasted.

  • Karen

    Technicolor used Nitrate stock as well, but did switch to a more stable base. Not sure when, though. Probably 1950 or so.

    Was it shot “successive exposure?” or all in one?

  • http://www.davemackey.com Dave Mackey

    This is a beautiful film. Like others here, I can see why Bob Smith wanted to wash his hands of this, but Gene, you and your crew here did a very nice job and thank you Jerry Beck for hunting this down. Just forget it’s supposed to be Howdy Doody. (I think the Buff would have been happier if you’d thrown Clarabell and the Indian Princess in there.)

  • Karen

    Why are there no Flash cartoons that look this good?

  • Walt Mitchell

    Re the comment above by Bill Cross: You’re absolutely right about Buffalo Bob Smith. I knew him for some of his later years (not intimately–only on a casual basis), and he was invariably a positive and enthusiastic man when doing a Howdy event.

    Bob’s first commercial record (“Where Is Sam?”) was co-written by Howdy’s first writer, Eddie Kean, just months before Howdy went to TV. The song had several choruses, but only one verse. I had the idea to write a second verse, and I did. A few years later, when face to face with Bob, I sanf my new verse to him and he paid me the ultimate compliment: “Would you write that down for me?” I joyfully complied, and handed it to him about 24 hours later. He was on the move with an entourage, but as he accepted my little effort, he exclaimed, “OOOOH! I LUV YA!” Slightly taken aback, I replied, “Thanks, Bob! I love you, too!”

    True, there were things during the run of the show which Bob disliked, and when that happened behind the scenes, he made no secret of his displeasure. But to me, he was always kind.

  • mark Newgarden

    Bravo.

  • Robert Barker

    No wonder Buffalo Bob hated this. He probably just wanted to entertain the kiddies and he ends up, with, ugh, art! I always disliked Golden Books, or Jelly Jars, or this cartoon, that tried to arrogantly cutesy pie Howdy up. Howdy Doody is not a little boy, and it’s annoying how every artist tried to change the character into that. And Deitch’s characterization is not much different than the one done for the Howdy Doody comic books. This cartoon is a lot of pretty drawings, some dramatic music, and not one moment capturing the feel or look of the real Howdy Doody. You know, the one all those millions of children loved.

  • John Michaud

    Beautiful to watch and to listen to! I love the designs and the elegant music track. From now on I’ll think of Howdy Doody as THIS very human character, instead of the freaky puppet. So, Gene, thank you! And thank you Jerry and Dave Gibson at the LOC.

  • Gijs Grob

    Thanks for posting this! Although I’m no fan of the very limited animation used in this cartoon, I really enjoyed watching it. The designs, story and music are absolutely gorgeous. They, once again, make one hunger for the complete UPA catalogue on DVD…

  • Karl Wilcox

    This is one bizarre rendering of Howdy Doody: he looks anorexic,
    and where are his ears? Since the story is credited to Gene Deitch
    and Bill Bernal, I assume longtime HOWDY DOODY scribe Edward
    Kean only wrote the Little Golden Book adaptation (too bad they
    didn’t follow Art Seiden’s beautiful drawings for the book). I can
    see why Buffalo Bob Smith reportedly hated this cartoon. Having
    said all that, it still is a colorful and interesting piece of animation and
    of Howdy’s history; and I’m glad the “lost” film was finally found.

  • http://www.markmcdermott.com Mark McDermott

    Jerry, this site NEEDS a “Share this” button so I can repost it to all my friends!

    I ‘spect B.Bob was expecting cartoons that matched the frenetic pace of the TV show, that could be run during the show after their theatrical run. He probably correctly figured that a hyped-up peanut Gallery wouldn’t sit still through these for 7 minutes at a time.

    Not the first time I’ve heard the words “the negative was ordered destroyed.” Ultimately, that’s the prerogative of someone commissioning a work made-for-hire, to prevent their property from being exploited by someone else.

    Ultimately, too bad. A series of Howdy Doody theatricals might have kept the character popular today. I doubt there’s a lot of footage from the live show around, or else there’d have been a lot more PD DVD’s out there.

  • Joni Berton

    I am a BIG Howdy Doody fan and I really love this! I guess at the time Bob Smith was basically thinking “Howdy is not ready to be shown in an art museum-type setting – YET! I love the animation style (very basic, yet elegant), the editing and especially the music. I think this short movie definitely gives Howdy a bit more of an “artsy adult” feel; a higher step up from what he was perceived as at that time. Most definitely a work of art! Too bad no one got to see this originally – I really think open-minded people living back then wouold have definitely enjoyed this fresh take on the Howdy Doody legend!

    Congratuations to Mr. Deitch and his team on a job well done! And many thanks to Jerry and The Brewmasters for finding this special treasure and sharing it with the world!

  • http://www.rocarts.com Meredith D.

    I loved the designs and backgrounds! Beautiful stuff to look at!

  • Terri M

    Thank god for Dave Gibson’s great detective skills at the Library of Congress or this cartoon would still be laying at the bottom of the obscurity bin! Cudos Dave! You deserve the credit here!!!

  • http://willfinn.blogspot.com/ Will Finn

    This was really nice. Loved the hand made feel and the pure simplicity of it all.

    Light night and day of difference between this and the show it’s based on.

  • Bill Field

    Three cheers to you and Dave Gibson! Jerry these gems keep showing up on your watch- I am so glad that animation- as a whole has YOU, Jerry Beck with the keenest eye, using it to find and spotlight the amazing works that might be forgotten without you.

  • Gene Deitch

    I’ve written to Dave Gibson expressing my heartfelt thanks for fulfilling my seemingly hopeless dream of one day finding my old film
    “alive & well!”

  • Lynn P.

    You were a bright young hotshot then and still are! What a lovely look at your youthful talent.. The music has always been there! Why DID the library of Congress have the film? Just curious. I wonder what other treasures you will continue to unearth! You always have such swell surprises to share.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    If I had even thought to doing so, I would’ve tried asking the Library of Congress too, then I’d be the hero, and I wouldn’t have to do it with magic hat either. :-) Oh well, I was still quite far away from there to even embark on that goose chase.

  • Bill Field

    Gene, I feel remiss that I didn’t cheer you, first- the man who brought this wonderfully fluid and fanciful short to life- that’s no longer gone, and was never forgotten! Thanks again, Gene for this and all your animated feats!

  • http://hedgehog-rover.deviantart.com Martin Juneau

    Wow! This is truly lovely! And the fact that it’s very stylised and how the animation is cut-out make the film much lovable to watch. In fact, i will say that this is very stylish because it was done by professionals unlike the stuff you see thrse days on TV using the same style but animated in Flash.

    Thanks Jerry, Amid and Gene for shared this treasure! This film should be showed to everyone!

  • Dan Riba

    Thank you Mr. Deitch for creating this amazing work of art. I really, really love this film. It’s a beautiful, emotional, poem of a film. The sophisticatedly simple design was perfectly complemented by that wonderfully evocative music. Thanks to all involved in finding this gem
    and making it available to new generation.

    I also need to thank you Mr. Deitch for creating “Tom Terrific”, one of my favorite memories from childhood.

  • Tom Minton

    This amazing film is still ahead of its time. I saw only one minor splice in the print and digital restoration and a few bucks could bring it close to mint condition if anyone with deep enough pockets has the guts. Now Jerry must dig up the lost 1921 Marx Bros. “Humor Risk” two-reeler.

  • http://www.fluffyandmervin.com Debbie

    I may be the only one to say so, but I found this to be a rather dull film. Maybe I just don’t appreciate “arty” cartoons.

  • http://cheekyentertainment.blogspot.com/ Craig Clark

    So great to see some animation from my old mentor, Duane Crowther.
    Thanks for posting this!

  • http://www.tjrmusic.com TJR

    I enjoyed the cartoon and thought it made brilliant use of limited animation (you make limited animation look good). It was also miles better than anything I have ever seen of the Howdy Doody live action show…..But the musical score was AMAZING! I could just listen to it by itself.

  • http://www.genedeitch.com/ Gene Deitch

    I’m still on a thrill ride with the 58-year old “lost” film of mine suddenly being found, and presented with such fanfare on Cartoon Brew with the totally unexpected stream of praise from Cartoon Brew viewers of this truly modest little production of 1952.

    I’m impressed by the many perceptive comments, and the intelligent questions asked, making me feel that I should be supplying some answers, which I’ll now try to do:

    Marty Bain very perceptively noted the relationship of our styling to the Simon & Shuster “Little Golden Books,” many of which were illustrated by various UPA and other animation designers. We were all on the same graphic kick. He specifically mentioned Aurelius (“Aurie”) Battaglia, who was one of our greatest designer colleagues! Marty also notes that all kids of the era had “cowboys on the brain.” That certainly included me! Take a look at these two snapshots of me as a kid. This was long before the appearance of the superheroes, and I went around all the time in my chaps, bandana and six-shooter cap pistol. (Long before I became anti-gun.)

    Bob Harper asked why we didn’t use “Western” music. Serge Hovey was a brilliant avant-garde composer. I chose him because I greatly admired his work, and had no intention of telling him to “hold back.” I work closely with all my composers, but never, never hold them back from doing what I chose them for. However, I do feel that Serge used Western references in this score.

    Sharp-eyed MC noticed that the cowboy figure with my personal credit on his shirt was holding my glasses in his hand. But so far no one has noticed that the figure bearing the UPA producer credit was a caricature of Steve Bosustow!

    Chris Sobeniak asks a very pertinent question; “I’m confused. Did the client never ask to see any of the production stills? Any animation tests? The script? The boards? Did they just hand over the 15 grand and let UPA do whatever they wanted?”
    The answer is that to our joy all they wanted to see was the script, which they whole-heartedly approved. They knew nothing of the usual approval steps in animation, and once they approved the story line they never asked to see anything until the finished film. At the time when we were in production, we were also producing PUMP TROUBLE, another of my long unseen works, which you will see on this Cartoon Brew series. In the course of that production I had hired the amazing voice actor Allen Swift, who is to this day my closest friend, but then was newly met. He was in fact the voice of nearly all of the puppet characters on the Howdy Doody TV show, including the voice of Howdy Doody himself during the year that Bob Smith was out after suffering a heart attack. That was an unpublicized secret. Smith was convinced that “no one can do Howdy but me,” but nevertheless Allen did it live on air for over a year, and no one knew the difference! Allen thought we were playing with fire in our attempt to “improve “ Howdy. He knew Smith every day as a tyrant, whom no one crossed. And of course he was right!

    Chris also points out quite astutely that if we had simply titled the film, “THE MAGIC HAT,’ without the name Howdy Doody, the film would have never been lost, and we could have put it on the UPA “McBoing-Boing Show,” then running in early color TV on CBS television. Exactly right, but unfortunately, we couldn’t do either, as our film was a paid for custom production, belonging to the Kagran corporation.

    Karen was one of the writers who focused to the nature of the film stock we used, and why it has deteriorated. It was early Eastmacolor, as I recall. I don’t remember that our Acme animation stand had a color wheel on it to produce a Technicolor type film record.

    The print we scanned for this presentation arrived at the Library of Congress after years of poor storage. It was donated to the Library by a pair of collectors whom I did not and do not know. That is the reason by it could not earlier be found, and doubtless the reason for the deterioration. Probably it was exposed to dampness. However, I remember once being told that an Eastmancolor print would have an average life span of 50 years… so in any case it’s time had come; a great pity, because the continuous flashing and fading cannot practically be overcome, short of redoing the entire film… THAT could be done if someone would finance it! Here in Prague, with the use of Protools we were able to greatly restore the faded color and dramatically boost the music track.

    Lynn P. asks bout “what other treasures” will be unearthed on Cartoon Brew. Answer: You will soon see!

    Among 52 gloriously praiseful appraisals of my slightly little H.D. film I’ve read so far, Debbie wrote the only outright dissent. She found it to be “rather dull.” She wrote that she doesn’t appreciate “arty” films. I respect her opinion, but I would like to claim a difference between “arty” and “artful,” which is what I always strive to be, as well as entertaining and enlightening.

    I extend my heartfelt thanks to all you who wrote your comments about this 58-year-old minor effort, and will be happy to answer any of your further questions.

    I am only sad that all of this glory is coming too late to be enjoyed by my wonderfully talented co-creators.

    • Vincent Olin

      You are the best Supervising director from Terrytoons your popular creation like John Doormat Clint Clobber Gaston Le Crayon Foofle Sidney the Elephant and of course Tom Terrific your are the Best. Mr.Deitch and your good friend Allen Swift he also voices of Clint Clobber Flebus and Gaston Le Crayon.

  • Bill Field

    Let’s hope that good quality copies of your work can be found or maybe already has from your foreshadowy comment, Gene! Did I miss something, or is this all cut out and not cel animation? I do wish Tom Terrific was more readily available to the masses.
    Is there a commonality between this short and Lariat Sam? there does seem to be a lot in common design-wise between the two.

  • Sat

    I wasn’t expecting something so entertaining. There’s so little UPA to see you don’t know what to expect. And the sad thing with internet streaming is this tendency to not seriously watch. Well I watched the whole thing with great pleasure here.

    I seriously think the next step now is some official release of the UPA shorts. Somebody gotta do something, and looks like it won’t happen inside Columbia. Nothing will happen if we keep doing nothing. We need to reunite and yell that something is wrong.

  • Stephen

    Allen Swift’s obituary is up on Cartoon Brew. Another loss.

  • Tom Minton

    It’s amazing, given the number of faded Eastmancolor prints that have deteriorated to near invisibility over time, that this UPA picture is in as good a shape as it appears to be, though Mr. Deitch states that he kicked up the contrast digitally in Prague. What gets me is that certain major Hollywood studios who should know better to this day digitally output their very expensive CGI produced assets onto vegetable dye negative stock. At least two of them know better and still do a step-frame monochrome three-strip YCM filter archival version of everything to back up their library. That’s what that color wheel on the old Acme camera was for. We are very fortunate today not to have to jump through quite so many hoops in just getting animation photographed. The rub comes in how the stuff gets archived. Anything digital is a time bomb. I’m not selling anything but I am amazed how no one in real power seems to learn a thing from the mistakes of the past. Could be because their tenures are relatively short. They grab what they can for themselves, then get out. We end up with lost films. This one time, because of a couple of collectors, we didn’t.

  • William Carroll

    I am thrilled to be among the folks discovering this film for the first time! It’s really wonderful. And the music score is delightful, too. THANK YOU, Mr. Deitch, and additional thanks to Dave Gibson at The Library of Congress for finding this gem, and to Jerry Beck for posting! You’ve brought me seven minutes and three seconds of absolute joy!!
    P.S. Mr. Deitch, I really dig your amazing cover art for that “Fats Waller Plays The Organ” LP, and your Tom & Jerry cartoons… ’cause they’re so STRANGE!! And, my dad was a big fan of Tom Terrific – he’d watch Captain Kangaroo in the mornings while getting ready for work.

  • gene schiller

    I thought the color looked fine – bright and vibrant, particularly the tree-scapes. Nice art direction and music score by Serge Hovey (but then, Flebus, Foofle & Sick, Sick Sidney had great scores as well.)

  • http://weirdocorner.blogspot.com Eric Noble

    This is a cute short. The design is beautiful. I much prefer this Howdy Doody to that alien from Mars they showed on TV. Thank you guys for managing to find a print and showing the rest of the world.

  • http://celestebergin.blogspot.com/ c. Bergin

    What truly fascinates me is the black horse and how it was so obviously Picasso-inspired. It indicates that fine art influences were present and accounted for and not in any rip off sort of way–but more as “a tip of the hat to”. The black horse is as beautiful as anything Picasso himself rendered. It’s all art. I’m sorry they didn’t get it –children would have.

  • V.E.G.

    Unfortunately, Buffalo Bob Smith is no longer living. He died on July 30, 1998.

  • V.E.G.

    Buffalo Bob Smith felt, the animated version, he hated the cartoon so much. It is very hard to find.

  • http://www.duncanstudio.com Ken Duncan

    Absolutely phenomenal!…extremely “modern”.
    Inspiring for any animation artist/filmmaker.