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Cartoon Culture

Flea Market Discovery #1

Flea Market

I found this tattered children’s wall plaque at a flea market last weekend and forked over a few bucks for it. It reminded me a lot of Chuck Jones’s character Junyer from the Three Bears series, but no complaints because “Little Big Shot”, as he’s identified on the back, is so beautifully drawn and rendered. Is there some sort of rule that demands today’s cartoon iconography to look like this instead of being as appealing and inviting as this bear? The plaque was manufactured by the Dolly Toy Company in Tipp City, Ohio, a company that incidentally went out of business in 2008.

  • Bill Turner

    “I nudged him, and I nudged him. He’s awfully still.” One of my favorite quotes.

  • Dawwwww, but i LIKE Ugly Dolls!

    I’m scratching my head over what in the world this plaque was for though, could be anything! Nice find.

  • ShouldBeWorkin

    I immediately thought Preston Blair but how many animators must have moonlighted in illustration and advertising.

  • amid

    Jessica – These were made out of heavy pieces of layered board. They were used to decorate children’s rooms. This bear is from the “Cowboys and Indians” set which also included these characters.

  • pink elephant on parade

    Whenever I point this out I’m usually met with “well, times are changing, not everything has to look like “Disney” (the go-to word for cartoon neophytes to refer to anything that isn’t anime or graffiti). Sad thing is, even most Disney merch lost its appeal years ago.

    NOTHING out there today looks like this, and hasn’t for some time. The people who say otherwise almost never have any real concept of design or appeal anyways.

    I’m totally decorating my kid’s room with funny characters like this. Let other, better parents put their kids in sterile think tanks full of black and white checkerboard patterns that look like a mime’s version of hell.

  • I second Jessica… I like me the Ugly Dolls…

    Nice bear though. He makes me think of Harmon/Ising’s BARNEY BEAR a little bit also.

  • Actually, characters like these “ugly dolls” could deliver as much emotion and entertainment as one of those old school ones – if animated skillfully enough!

    Have you ever heard of http://festival.pictoplasma.com/ ? A whole festival devoted to modern, “graphic” characters like these. A much different style from Disney, but a style in its own right, with some excellent artists, some good ones, and lots of mediocre ones like in every other style. It’s really worth to watch their DVD, you might find something you really like.

  • Tom

    What is wrong with those dolls? Some of them even remind me of Rex the Runt, which was excellent.

  • Scarabim

    Oh god I hate Pook-a-Looz (if that’s not what those…things…are, then they’re a rip-off, meaning some fool actually wanted to COPY Pook-a-Looz). The only thing worse than the original Pooks are the Muppet Pooks! Yeah, kids, take THIS to bed with you:


    You’ll sleep soundly. ;) :P

    I’ve lost patience with people who excuse poor or lazy art skills as “edgy” or “alternative”. “Alternative” to actual drawing talent more likely. Is there anything on TV uglier than Fanboy and Chum Chum (more crud from Frederator) or Adventure Time (although that DOES have some decent 2D animation in it, so it’s almost excused)? Happily, not all recent TV toons have been ugly. Whoever designed Gunther on Kick Buttowski has some understanding of how to make characters appealing. And “appealing” ought to matter. Not every show has the writing strength of Phineas and Ferb, and thus can be excused its poor character design. Add crappy-looking characters to crappy writing, and it’s an affront to children, adults and the animated art form.

    End of rant. Thank you. You may go about your business.

  • Scarabim

    My favorite quote from Junyer:

    “Oh, the dirty bee! I will SMASH him!”


  • Vee

    I really like the ugly dolls, and there are a lot of great and inspiring designs in today’s designer toys !

    just like the Brandt Peters’ Carnies series inspired by old fashioned style cartoon

    Anyhow, even though these dolls do look dumb, all the colors and simple shapes make them easily “identify-able” which is a pretty good thing for a design.

  • startstop

    The Ugly Dolls you linked to are simply one guy’s style…………….. that happened to be mimicked by all the workers who manufactured them! I’m sure there are tons of other classic styles people in the city use nowadays! I’m sure you saw a lot of examples at MoCCA’s indie comic con in April!

  • George


    Ugly Dolls actually significantly predate Pook-a-looz. Pook-a-looz are Disney’s attempt at imitating the designer plush trend. Kinda like Vinylmation is Disney’s “answer” to designer vinyl toys.

  • Paul Penna

    The bear has a real Disney Little Golden Books feel to it.

  • evan dorkin

    I like the three bears and the Ugly Dolls.

    One thing I’ll add about Ugly Dolls is that they weren’t a cynical pop high concept somebody shoved down throats like Emily the Strange (a rip off, besides). They began as doodles in a series of letters between a long distance couple, iirc. She started making plushes based on his drawings as gifts to her boyfriend, they were seen and got into a boutique (still handmade), and things mushroomed from there until they’re in hipster catalogs and FAO However-You-Spell-It. I met the male member of the duo — David Horvath (iirc) — at the NYCC and he was super-nice to my then-four year old daughter and signed her books and talked to her. The Ugly Dolls may be a phenom but the folks responsible seem involved and cool and down to earth, far as I can tell. They weren’t out to destroy classical animation design or dumb down pop culture. They made some stuff people liked. Not their fault a ton of slobs jumped on the simple design amorphous plush bandwagon.

    End of defense of cute little harmless Ugly Dolls.

  • Mai

    The ugly dolls are an intentional statement about lack of quality in todays cartoon iconography and children’s merchandise in general. Hence the name “ugly Doll”. Truly a very uninformed post.

  • jip

    This bear makes everyone think of a dozen of bears.
    Yet people think those dolls are unoriginal?

  • Scarabim

    Thanks, George. So those weren’t imitation Pook-a-Looz after all, they were the originals that Pook-a-Looz were based on. Or maybe “steal” is the word. I wonder if Disney is capable of original creations anymore. Lately it’s been on a buying/stealing spree. Jeez.

  • Professor Widebottom

    I agree w/ ShouldBeWorking ,this has the Preston Blair stamp, distinctive amongst the genre of the time.

  • Alfons Moline

    It looks to me like Barney Bear (the late 40’s-50’s design rather than the original version by Rudy Ising) rather than Junyer. No wonder, since Preston Blair worked on the former for a short time.

  • Jeffers

    I LMAO when I saw the Steamboat Willie pook-a-looz and the Chip N’ Dale ones too. http://www.disneystore.com/toys/stuffed-toys/pook-a-looz/c/312000/

    I thought this kind of crappy minimalist design stemmed from Japan where characters like “Hello Kitty” and “Domo” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domo_(NHK) are extremley popular.

    “Kid Robot” http://www.kidrobot.com/ has some of the worst designers of all and I can’t wrap my mind around how Frank Kozik’s work ended up as their crown jewel.

  • Sink

    Uglydolls came out in 2002, Pook a looz in 2009.