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Terry, Lantz and Quimby: The Producers Write Back!

Question for my fellow historians: When was the last time you saw a letter from Paul Terry or Fred Quimby? Today is your lucky day! Animation collector Martin Almeyra has been sharing with me some material from his collection of cartoon correspondence, and I thought these pieces were particularly delightful. First (click thumbnails below to enlarge) is a letter from Walter Lantz (Universal), who apparently didn’t approve the hideous cover to Gerald and Danny Peary’s 1980 book, The American Animated Cartoon (at left, click cover to enlarge). Next is note from Fred Quimby on his MGM stationary – note the cute images of Tom & Jerry at the bottom – to MGM musical director Johnny Green. Finally, a Paul Terry letter to radio broadcaster Mary Margaret McBride displaying more wit than any ten (make that twenty) Terrytoons combined! Is he coming on to her?

  • Walter sounded pissed! I wondered what ever happened about the prints. Cool letter…

  • Maybe the letter was something about bad drawings like Paul Smith used to do on Woody Woodpecker. I don’t know. I like the “Quimby” letter, even though it was short. Quimby was described as a man with no sense of humour and who didn’t understand cartoons.

  • uncle wayne

    Well Walter is indeed right….that pic IS horrible!!

  • Joseph Fobbs

    That Paul Terry was either a natural charmer or a man with way too much free time on his hands.

  • gd0

    Ha! Of course Terry’s letterhead was cheap / bare-bones / black-text-only, while the others had classy full-color character images. Funny.

    I received an acknowledgment letter from John Burton in the late 50s (I had sent my fan drawings to WB). The WB Cartoons letterhead was glorious, included a dozen characters, as well as the LT/MM display text, in full color. Of course it’s long since been lost.

    And Lantz was right. Who did that Zombie Woody anyway?

  • Alan

    Aahhhhh…the GREAT Johnny Green. Qui by must have been so flattered to receive a note like that from such a giant in the industry. I hope he shared it with the crew that made the short.

  • In the 1950s Mary Margaret McBride married Bill Thompson, the voice of Droopy. The Bob & Ray character Mary McGoon (sometimes called Mary Margaret McGoon) was a parody of McBride.

  • Paul Terry wrote that? Reads more like Jeckle playing a cruel joke on the man. What that magpie wouldn’t do for money.

  • Reminds me of a certian job done in graphic design that is mocked by this contest:

  • JD

    Pretty sad when the tree is upstaging Woody.

  • I agree with Walter Lantz that the drawing of Woody is pretty ugly, but I find it hard for me to take his words seriously when you consider how downright ugly the late-era Paul Smith shorts were.

  • Gerard de Souza

    The Betty Boop on the back was pretty bad too IIRC.
    The book had some interesting articles and essays especially interviews and stuff by John Canemaker but the biggest inaccuracy I remember is an author on the topic of Bob Clampett says he created Boris and Natasha….I think mixing up Boris with Dishonest John.

  • Gerard de Souza

    Ha. Michael Wagner got an even better autograph. Keep the picture Walt!

  • steve w.

    Since Quimby’s letter is dated February 27, 1952, I guess he’s talking about “The Two Mouseketeers” – 1951 (Tom & Jerry) A.A. Winner – Best Short Subject, Cartoons. Awarded March 20, 1952.

  • Herlihey

    Walter Lantz was so ticked because the old time cartoon producers appreciated how important a still image was when it came to their characters. It’s why Golden Age title cards and any character drawing held over two frames was drawn as good as it could be. It IS an amateurish drawing of Woody on that cover (in addition to everything mentioned, just look at those hands!) but, coming out when it did, that book was welcome because there was so little real information available on classic cartoons.

  • Chuck Starkweather

    If this is the same person, perhaps Paul Terry was trying to impress Ms. McBride with his own literary aspirations, cheap though they were:

  • The Gee

    I agree with JD, that woodpecker doesn’t pop as much as the tree.

    You would have thought that maybe, just maybe, it would have been designed as if
    Woody had carved out the title in the tree trunk. But, the designer didn’t go there.

    As for the Terry letter:
    He does seem to be coming across as clever. As to why: that is beyond my wee, widdle head. Maybe he just didn’t want his interview to be chopped down too much. So, he sucked up a bit.

  • Terrible cover, certainly–but it’s a great, great book.

    Everyone here should have a copy and read it. Excellent compilation of all kinds of cartoon interviews, essays and articles.

  • Russell H

    I wonder if Mr. Lantz’s pique was also due to the fact that although Woody appears on the cover of THE AMERICAN ANIMATED CARTOON, there is, so far as I remember, no article anywhere in the book about the Lantz studio.

  • I remember borrowing that book from the library about 12 or 13 years ago. I remembering seeing a image of the bathtub scene from Fritz the Cat in it. Possibly the first glimpse of cartoon nudity I saw as a lad just starting puberty.