Paul Terry to TV GUIDE: “Kids love violence!”

Yesterday, during commercial breaks on Stu’s Show, I was going through Stu’s complete collection of vintage TV Guide magazines. There I found this intriguing 1955 article (below), written by animation producer Paul Terry, called “How To Make Children Laugh” – subtitled “A Cartoonist Tells The Brutal Truth”.

What is that “brutal truth“? That “children react best to situations in which there is a slight suggestion of violence“. Terry, who had just sold his studio to CBS, was hyping his ancient Terrytoon shorts then being screened on Barker Bill’s Cartoon Show. It’s a strange little article and his conclusions are debatable – but he got one thing right, the last line: “…the popularity of animated cartoons will live on and on; the humor in them is visual and, therefore, universal.”

  • there is nothing better than wonderfully stylised violence.
    the more exaggerated, colourful and impossible the better.

    • cbat628

      While I won’t say there’s anything better, I do have to agree that stylized, exaggerated, colorful cartoon violence tends to put one in a good mood :).

  • Christopher Cook

    Any violent scene in a Terrytoon animated by Jim Tyer is always funny.

  • Scarabim

    Maybe I was a weird kid, but I didn’t care much for the violence in most cartoons. “Tom and Jerry” was my least favorite cartoon for that reason. I preferred Looney Tunes, and yes, I know they’re full of similar slapstick, BUT the characters were funny whether they threw dynamite at a foe or not. Their personalities and dialogue made me laugh. I think Mr. Terry was selling kids a bit short with his kids-love-violence theory. But then he was hardly the only one in his profession who believed as he did.

    Frankly, I think TV toons are much much better than they were when I was a kid. That’s blasphemy, I know. But there were no Phineas and Ferbs, no Spongebobs, no My Little Pony:Friendship is Magic back then. There was Hanna-Barbera and Filmation and that was about it. Given that kind of programming, if it weren’t for Disney films, I doubt I’d be an animation fan today.

  • Rolando

    In a 1970 issue of Pace magazine, Walter Lantz stated words to the effect that “someday our animated heroes and heroines will rival the popularity of their live action counterparts.” Far from a senile rant, Lantz’s statement turned out to be prescient. CG animated features have pulled in the bulk of Hollywood’s grosses now for years.

  • uncle wayne

    Ahhhhhhhhhh….and THAT’s why i adore this site, and it is my Home Page (for MANY a year now!) Long ARE the days when one would watch Mighty on CBS. I’ll never forget when the broadcast went to color. It was dazzling!! I sure wish I had a complete Mighty (DVD) collection. Somehow, i doesn’t exist!!

    And, ironically enough, they were still MAKING the Mightys in 55!!

  • Tom Minton

    Paul Terry wrote in 1954 “Basically, humor never changes, nor do tastes in humor. The same situations which made children and adults laugh 2000 years ago cause them to laugh today, when done up in modern dress.” Did Paul Terry read the first edition of Joseph Campbell’s ‘The Hero with 1000 Faces’? Not likely. He learned it from working with Gandy and Sourpuss.

  • The headline for this entry is entirely accurate.
    I lived for that stuff, and even invented the idea of gore before I know such entertainment existed, by drawing Bugs and Popeye and Underdog with fanciful guts squirting out of hilarious wounds.
    Thank goodness TV cartoons can hit each other again, and in the case of Spongebob, even dismember each other from time to time.
    I hope some day new children’s TV cartoon characters can shoot each other in the face with guns again.

  • Niffiwan

    Maybe it depends on what you’re used to?

    I remember really being uncomfortable as a kid about Looney Tunes and Tom & Jerry, because I started out only watching Eastern European cartoons, and so I was used to thinking of cartoon characters as real, feeling creatures, while in those American cartoons the approach was completely the opposite; there was a lot of cruelty and they got hurt all the time. You’re not meant to think of American cartoon characters as “real”.

    This was discussed a while ago:

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I know how you feel. I kinda noticed that at an early age when I was watching stuff out of Europe and then comparing that to the domestic product and saw those differences as well.

  • dbenson

    It’s hilariously vague and stiff, sounding more like a college student bluffing through an unresearched essay than an old hand. Terry (or his flack) name-drops a few characters and the show that runs them, but can’t summon an anecdote or even show he knows who the characters ARE.

    Guessing this is really a PR defense, using positive-sounding academic talk (“the child”) while staying vague about the actual product. Heckle and Jeckle dropping heavy objects on a moronic dog would undercut his point. But then, so do both the illustrations: Mighty Mouse rescuing a duckling is socially commendable but not really funny; MM uppercutting a rhino while seeming to enjoy the discomfort of an impaled wolf is . . . okay, but it’s IRONICALLY funny.

  • Was My Face Red

    So Mighty Mouse is defeating a runaway rhino and by a happy coincidence comitting an anal assault on a wolf/big foot who was falling from a plane? I wanna see that cartoon!!!

    • John A

      Is that what he’s doing? I thought he had caught the rhino specifically for the purpose of sodomizing the cat. Either way, it sounds like a must-see cartoon.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Trying to stop myself from being a nerd here, it kinda seems like the horn is placed a bit above the tail, it’s more like the rhino’s getting him in the spine (or kidneys) but I see what’s implied anyway.

      • David Breneman

        That’s the Hays Office for ya’.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Still I’m a sucker for classy censorship!

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Thinking about it some more, I had to remind myself of one brilliant pre-code Looney Tune (“Big Man from the North”) where Bosko jabs a knife up a villain’s hinder so all you could see sticking out was the hilt.

  • A little cartoon violence never hurt anybody.

  • George

    Why do these images of Might Mouse remind me of that “Superman is a dick” site? Regardless, they’re fantastic.

  • John A

    What really sells these pictures is how chipper MM appears while performing his antisocial acts of aggression on the mere ‘mortal’ members of the animal kingdom.

  • Tom and Jerry was and still is funny.

    We all know most comedy comes from the spectacle of someone’s misfortune….so long as they are not permanently hurt. (Even in cases where characters “die” in cartoons they never really die as we see them usually floating on a cloud afterwards)

    I find films like The Matrix, or even Transformers where scores of characters are killed horribly with little or no regard to the consequence to their deaths a lot more “disturbing”. <—–kids watch these movies too.

    Why do these "parental groups" make crusades over obvious cartoon violence but say nothing about the realistic violence in your average summer blockbuster?

    • iseewhatyoudidthere

      Probably because whereas typical cartoons w/ Tom and Jerry violence are rated TV-G/TV-Y7, films such as the Matrix are rated R and therefore much less accessible by children?

      • Yes, I completely agree, on paper they should make them less accessible to children….but everyone knows kids…they always find a way to see what want.

        Parents even know Transformers is as irresistible to kids as as anything you can imagine.

        I guess it all comes down how things are “labeled”. However Tom and Jerry was never created in with the intention of babysitting small children.

        (That is with the exception of the ABC Tom and Jerry show in the 70’s….anyone remember that?)

  • Gerard de Souza

    It’s called slapstick-
    After the stick Punch & Judy would hit one another with back in the days before film.

  • GW

    Speaking of fables, the power structure of the animation industry is effectively echoed in Mandeville’s The Fable of the Bees.

  • Jeff

    And in 2011 Terry Tunes’ Mighty Mouse is still not on DVD.