Looney Tunes on PBS History Detectives Looney Tunes on PBS History Detectives

Looney Tunes on PBS History Detectives

Below I’ve embed the entire one-hour episode of History Detectives which aired last night on PBS. The first 18 minutes is devoted to tracking down the story behind a cache of rare cartoon cels, which turn out to be from the long-forgotten first Buddy cartoon, a Looney Tunes cartoon from 1933. During the course of the investigation, host Tukufu Zuberi interviews animation art expert Mike Van Eaton, Woodbury University’s Dori Littell Herrick, ink & paint veteran Martha Sigall and yours truly, Jerry Beck. For your further viewing pleasure, the PBS website has also post the first Looney Tunes cartoon, starring Bosko, Sinkin’ In The Bathtub (1930).

Watch the full episode. See more History Detectives.

  • Saw it last night and I LOVED IT. Someone should talk to the people at PBS about doing an entire show about untold/forgotten stories in animation.

  • Christopher Cook

    The Bosko cartoon is no longer up on PBS’s site. Still, the segment on History Detectives was terrific.

  • Jerry, I saw the animation part and it was great and informational. I know now that Charlotte Darling inked on “Buddy’s Day Out”, the Ted Eshbaugh cartoon “The Snow Man” and the Mickey Mouse cartoon “Puppy Love”. That might have all (except the get-well cel) from 1932-33 (maybe 1934). Nice to see you and Van Eaton on there.

    Keep animation history going!

  • Neat, but why did the sociologist “detective” keep saying that Buddy was “going toe-to-toe with Mickey Mouse”? He just seemed to love the sound of that.

  • Loved it!!!

  • Buddy was on “Animaniacs” and in Jerry’s Looney Tunes Visual Guide, but I could see why it was puzzling. It was an early version of the Buddy designs, not the well-known latter version seen on those two products mentioned. Also, allthough Disney may disagree with you, wasn’t Popeye the rival and the champion?

    What also was gear-grinding for obscure PD toon fans especially like me (even ones from still-in-business major studios)
    was that he didn’t reconize Ted E.’s “The Snowman” because it’s on public domain Christmas cartoon DVD’s albeit the Official Films B&W home movie/TV print. I’m not sure, but the original was probably put out on a Thunderbean DVD. So why did he need a public television TV personality to ID the cartoon for him?????

    He could have just had to pay one dollar at the dollar store/Target/Wal-Mart/garage sale to match the cel with his PD DVD playing on his TV screen.

    But noooo, he had to have it paid by millions of viewer-donated (and federal tax if CPB funded it) dollars to figure out what the cel was. If he’s going to collect cartoon cels, he has to know where they came from. Trusted eBay sellers, anyone? I’ve seen cels listed and they have the background on what they are, even if they come from Wikipedia (which isn’t always the case).

    I also knew everything they taught execpt HOW the Screen Cartoonists Union/Guild (the one with the Blockbuster-esque logo in old WB and Paramount cartoons) was formed and the Superme Court trial of the “mystery person”.

    Ink and Paint are preschool words and I also saw the old Fleischer Studios “Popular Science” segment from Paramount (where they made the “Aladdin” Popeye Color Feature). So it was no suprise what the women did for a living.

    Speaking of mystery person, this is why we have survivors of the recent “animator plauge”. Old people know everything about what today’s generation don’t fully understand. Which is sad because we can’t really time-travel.

    Now, about the Snowman. I know the evil snowman was one thing, but if someone obtained a cel of Old MacDonald (from the 1945 Famous sing-a-long) and had no clue what the farmer was, I’d proably punch that person in the nose.

    • You’re oddly bitter about people who decide to take an opportunity to educate more than just themselves about a fascinating, mostly-unknown part of history.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I still want to contend he just didn’t know and that’s it. There’s a lot clueless folks out there unlike me who would be wanting to seek out this sort of information and possibly pay any amount to do so. I’m sorry it had to come from “viewers like you”, but that happens.

    • Mr. Crankypants

      Most people, PBS viewers included, aren’t obsessive animation geeks. For the uninitiated, I thought it was a well-produced and interesting show. Kudos to Jerry and Mike Van Eaton!

      • Chris B

        Ummm O kaaaay….it was a very informative and most of all fun show. I think I will tune in to watch future episodes.Not all people know about cartoons. Hmmmm maybe you’re just bitter because there were no Popeye cels..:P …

    • The Gee

      I’m glad others already chimed in on this.

      While I have yet to watch this episode, I have seen plenty of of the “HD” shows since it debuted. The show isn’t just about finding an answer to someone’s mystery, it gives people information on how they can research various things. The show may not come out point blank and say so but that is one of the ways it is presented.

      So, it isn’t just about asking questions and finding out it is about making people more inquisitive about, mostly American, history via artifacts that are mysterious to some.

      Paramount Cartoons, you may already know how to find out the things you wish to know but most don’t. That’s why there are shows like this one and the “Antiques Roadshow.” Most people aren’t going to magically go to the exact correct dollar store and find out the answers to “where did this cel come from?” Most wouldn’t even go such a surreptitious route. And, most don’t have producers to do preliminary legwork to find experts who could provide answers or leads to other experts.

      To be quite frank you almost seem miffed that you weren’t interviewed for the show; that they weren’t so smart to find you first. Sorry, if that is the case. Not so sorry if you had presented yourself similarly had you been interviewed.

  • Tiffany

    I watched this last night and it was a pleasure. Thanks for the heads up on it.

  • We missed this but thanks for posting!

  • Found this “in a salvage yard in Berkeley, CA”? OMG, he found these at Urban Ore. That coulda been me! *kicks self prodigiously*

    • Kent Clizbe

      The collector’s assertion that he “found them at a salvage yard in Berkeley, California” did not ring true. It sounded very contrived. A “salvage yard?”

  • holyduck

    The day will come again when animation will be an important enough art form to warrant a channel with documentaries and reality shows covering cartoons of all kinds in all periods of history. We need to see more docs like this!

  • Gerard de Souza

    It was very enjoyable.
    Although I want to more details about how he found it in a salvage yard and how it got there. Surely the original owner had family who would have known it was gramma’s portfolio.
    Martha Sigall’s memory is amazing. When she said that opaquer said she was a communist and to have it confirmed…amazing memory.
    After explaining traditional animation, I felt it probably just confused more viewers with that interstitial on how history detectives do their “animation”. THAT was dumb. It confused me ….and I understand both processes.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Those were the questions I had too. Too bad I couldn’t get that lucky where I am if I tried.

      And yes Gerald, that interstitial that came after ward was dumb and confusing, that’s not really how it works.

  • Jerry – that was great! Really enjoyable and highly informative. Thanks again for sharing it with us…

  • Really fascinating. My local PBS buries “History Detectives” at 3AM, but since I happen to work late and be awake at that hour, I saw it, and enjoyed it!

  • Jody Morgan

    Thanks for your head-up on this segment last week, Jerry; I was able to watch and record the segment as it aired. Even though the segment was geared towards people who know next-to-nothing about animation, I enjoyed it, particularly Martha Sigall’s reminiscences of her co-workers. I am a bit puzzled as to why no one mentioned that it was Minnie Mouse on those cels, though, instead of Mickey Mouse…

    • I thought the same thing when I saw the flowered hat on his/her head, but he had pants and no eyelashes, so I figured it was Mickey. In the cartoon he accidentally puts on Minnie’s hat.

      • That was from “Puppy Love”.

      • Jody Morgan

        “In the cartoon he accidentally puts on Minnie’s hat.”

        Ah, that explains it! Thanks!

  • I liked the bit when you said it was like touching Judy Garland or Fred Astaire. You’re a good man, Jerry Beck.

    the animation “example” using compositing at the end WAS laaame. “it’s a lot of work to use final cut for ten minutes and hit render on after effects! That’s animation”

    Anyhoo, it’s great to see a main stream piece on animation history, that isn’t Walt Disney on biography.

  • Always a fan of the History Detectives and the animation segment was the best.
    I wanted more! Perhaps PBS should have an animation history program with Professor Jerry Beck?

  • aj

    can anybody out there tell me what kind of marker that guy is doing his cleanup work with? my instructor got on me for doing such a thing instead of using graphite; however this guy is doing it. Maybe he’s using a special type of marker. Does anybody know what type it is?

  • Thank you Jerry for posting this. When Martha Sigall started talking about the people she worked with in the business, I was enthralled. Her admiration and respect for the artists around her was touching. Here’s to keeping animation history alive!

  • Jorge Garrido

    An interesting footnote about Charlotte Darling: she was referenced in a Looney Tunes cartoon!

    In “Have You Got Any Castles?” there is a book called “Guilds – Their Formation and Management” by “Darling in collaboration with Ted Pierce””

    This was before the union, and before Tedd added an extra D to his name.


    Via http://gregbrian.tripod.com/hidden/hid03.html

    • Vik

      Was Charlotte Darling married to Keith Darling? Both names were mentioned on the 2nd URL in the text associated with the screencap from “Have You Got Any Castles?”

      • Kent Clizbe

        Charlotte Darling’s married name was Adams.

  • Great segment. You come off really well.

    Why do they insist on repeating the Disney PR line that “Steamboat Willie” was the first sound cartoon when there’s no doubt Fleischer’s “My Old Kentucky Home” beats it by two years?

    Poor history, there, detectives.

    • They didn’t say it was the first sound cartoon IN GENERAL. It was Disney’s first sound cartoon which is the correct statement. They were right.

      • I watched it again.

        The copy reads “It was Disney’s first cartoon with synchronized sound.”

        Factually accurate. Misleading, but factually accurate.

        Again, poor history. I understand the need for brevity in these pieces, so why mention the sound aspect at all?

        Given the Disney Corporation’s long tradition of misrepresenting the timeline of production advances any mention of Steamboat Willie in a contemporary piece ought to make the facts of the issue clear.

  • I haven’t seen this segment but I have seen a fair number of HD episodes and have often suspected some folks with artifacts are playing dumb — either at the request of the show to make the narrative more interesting or with-holding because they may fear there is no mystery to solve if they reveal how much they really know. In an earlier one a collector brings forward a vintage Mouse toy with the name Micky on it and claims to wonder whether it inspired Mickey. I happen to know of the collector in question well enough to wonder whether somebody who has been in fandom and selling 30+ years could really believe that–right? Yeah, ha!

  • Marlene Sharp

    You are a rock star, Jerry!

    Were your ears burning on Tuesday night? Your star turn here was one of our main topics of conversation at the WIA board meeting!

    Beware of the paparazzi . . .

  • wow, just wow.
    i was heartbroken when i heard where those works where originally found, but relieved that they were not lost to time.

    i love animation history, and this was a great gem.
    so glad you linked to it, i never would have seen this.

  • Michael Adams

    I’m Charlotte Darling’s (Adams, Huffine) son Michael Adams, and have seen the History Detective episode. It was pretty accurate, but there are a few corrections. The get well card was done by Charlotte for her sister Virginia, who lived in Berkeley and has the items that ended up in the salvage yard. Charlotte wrote it (that was her signature) and had her work mates sign it, since they all knew Virginia. Charlotte was in ink and paint, but moved to backgrounds and then eventually became an in-betweener, assistant animator and eventually was the first woman animator for a short time. She asked to go back to assistant because as a lower seniority animator she would be laid off during the annual slow period and as a as a single mom she couldn’t take that risk. Her testimony at the McCarthy hearings impacted my father’s ability to work in the film industry as a film editor. He couldn’t work for the studios and had to work for the film labs on contract. He worked for Consolidated Films for many years and while he was the film editor of many movies and TV, he didn’t get credits until later in his life. their marriage ended shortly after the McCarthy hearings. Charlotte worked from 1930 – 1982, when she broke her shoulder and had to retire. i went with her for the award ceremony honoring her and others as the “Pioneers of Animation.” She worked for Irve Spence and did a lot of freelance work at home for Rod Scribbner. Over her career she worked for Warner Bros. Leon Schlesinger, Disney, UPI, Hanna Barbara, Cliff Robertson (Man from Button Willow) and Ralph Bakshi (Lord of the Rings). Charlotte died in 1990 during heart by-pass surgery.