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UPA’s “The Sailor And The Seagull” (1949)

The complete output of animation produced by UPA may never be definitively collected, as they produced a large quantity of material for the Army and the Navy; commercial, educational and industrial films for various clients; and interstitial bits and pieces – many of which are unaccounted for and some still undocumented.

I’m happy to report that we can cross this one off the “endangered species” list. Earlier this year The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) painstakingly cleaned and digitally restored this rarely seen UPA Navy re-enlistment film from 1949. The restored film made its debut last month at the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) conference in Beijing, China.

The Sailor and the Seagull is a fascinating little film. The lead character, “McGinty”, is a cross between the Navy’s Mr. Hook and UPA’s future character Pete Hothead. He is voiced by John T. Smith. Daws Butler is the Seagull, an classic old-school wise guy. It’s a pretty traditional looking picture until about 3:20 when an Arabian Nights fantasy sequence (predating the Magoo feature by ten years) turns it briefly into a stylized feast of scantily clad ladies and drunken debauchery!

There are no production credits, but I think its safe to assume that the direction is by John Hubley, the girl animation is by Pat Matthews and the music composed by Del Castillo. I welcome educated guesses as to who might have animated what – or any corrections to the above.

(Thanks, Florian Schmidlechner)

  • uncle wayne

    oh my word. Now that, truly, IZZ a “fascinating little film!” Thank YOO! Wow!!

  • Next time someone asks me to explain what makes an appealing cartoon, I’m going to just send them a link to this film.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      You do that!

  • Valentin Moretto

    Is the narration in the beginning done by Hans Conried? It sure sounds familiar.

    • I’m not so sure I hear Conreid. But if I had to take a guess, I would say it’s Paul Frees.

  • Ooh, now I wish I could see the “girl animation” and the whole fantasy sequence. Too bad this wasn’t found before the release of the UPA JOLLY FROLICS set, but hopefully, there will be more Columbia cartoons sets where that one came from. This is wonderful!

    • James

      Everything done before the Columbia Fox&Crow shorts by UPA was independently funded and are essentially public domain

  • eeteed

    possible clues to who worked on this film…

    in the gull’s record book we see the names cannon, hurtz, pyle engel, klynn and schnerk.

    the sailor also works at JONES and co.

    • Pyle is Willis Pyle, who is still alive at the age of 98! I visited him a few weeks ago, and he recalled some other obscure stuff he animated on at UPA at this time such as the Dr. Seuss designed Ford Motors commercials.

      • eeteed

        i can’t help but wonder if “klynn” is a scrambling of lynn karp.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        For a few who still wonder, the names listed in the book are Bobe Cannon, William T. Hurtz, Willis Pyle, Jules Engel, Herbert Klynn and possibly Jack Schnerk.

      • eeteed

        @ Charlie Judkins … it would be great if you could record and transcribe an interview with Mr. Pyle! I’m certain we would all be very interested in learning about him and his work.

        @ Chris Sobieniak … much thanks for the clarifications. i must admit to being disappointed that Klynn wasn’t Lynn Karp. it’s intriguing to think that Karp (who is known for working on columbia cartoons) might have worked on this UPA cartoon.

      • The Gee

        @ Charlie Judkins

        Seconded. There’s a lot of people who are interviewing and making them available already, sure.
        But, there hopefully no reason why you couldn’t line something up, if both you and he are willing…

  • Thanks for posting this, keep ’em comin’. Is is possible Freddy Moore took a break from Disney or Lantz to animate the sailor in this? It looks like his style of exaggeration.

  • Wow! This was awesome! It had everything: girls, a scary green waiter and a seagull wearing a hat and a cigar! Who wants more?

  • tak

    Man, mundane propaganda films about life in or out of institutions or public service are probably the scariest propaganda films of them all.

  • top cat james

    “Take it off…Take it off…”

    • Chris Sobieniak

      It never gets old!

  • The Gee

    The cycles stand out to me.
    The animation is appealing and the rest is great. The fact that it is in color is awesome, too. But, without looking at some, I don’t recall a lot of animation cycles in SNAFU or HOOK cartoons.

    It isn’t a big deal. It was just unexpected to see where it was used. Like that early walk cycle where the main character is speaking. Unless that was a video sync problem on my end, he keeps talking as he finishes the walk. Then the scene in the factory (which makes sense; it is a redundant activity and emphasized accordingly) doesn’t seem to deviate on the cycle.

    The only reason I bring it up is so far the comments are mostly thumbs up. But, that one aspect is still there.

  • TStevens

    Cool film! I think most of us would have loved to have worked on shorts like this.

    As far as the cycles go, you have to remember that everything has budgets. I have always assumed that UPA probably didn’t have anywhere near the resources that Disney and Warner’s had. There isn’t anything wrong with shooting on 2s (or even 3s) and getting some mileage out of a cycle when the design is strong.

    Unfortunately the video didn’t get de-interlaced from the video source, but that isn’t too big a deal.

    • The Gee

      I don’t have a problem with seeing cycles in the War Shorts. It is just that some of the ones in this one stand out a lot. Maybe the extra expense of color affected the budget too much. That’s likely a strong possibility.

      It is just some of the cycles look like they should have been cut short and animated out frame-by-frame. Most “notable” being the one that starts at 1:12. It is an impressive, expressive cycle. There’s no doubt about it but it continues past when it should have stopped. He just keeps yapping after he stopped.

      For shorts like this though: It was funded by the Dept of the Navy. The unit that did it probably did not get a ton of dough; certainly not a lot to waste but other shorts (from the same and/or different units?) did alright with their budgets, despite not having always having color.

      Anyway, no big whoop. I always respect where your coming from T. And, I agree a lot can be done with a little. Sometimes, a lot should be done with a little. It can lead to impressive efforts with the right talent.

      It is a really good short, in general.

  • James

    A cool little war-time propaganda short. Great to see the very early formative years of UPA get unearthed. Interesting depiction of post-war civilian life not being all it was cracked up to be with believably exaggerated setbacks.

    Is it just me or did the bartender look like a green Mussolini?

  • That bartender is enough to make a guy swear off liquor.
    Why is McGinty barefoot at the end?

  • Glowworm

    That bartender is pure nightmare fuel!

    Butler steals the short as the smart alecky seagull.

  • James Fox

    The civilian montage is sadly my time at the disability workshop in a nutshell


  • The dancing women have all the trademarks of Chuck Jones. And then as a civilian the main character works at “Jones and Co.” Since Jones worked on both Snafu and Hook cartoons (he did the Hook toon “The Good Egg”) it’s probably no coincidence that the main character looks so much like Hook. Now, before you go telling me Jone’s didn’t work for UPA, he was actually fired from Warner Brothers in the early 60’s for moonlighting with UPA. Maybe his moonlighting started earlier than known? Additionally, Jones directed Hellbent for Election in 1944 for the Industrial Film and Poster Service (who later became UPA).

  • Gerry

    The film looks more like Jones than the Hubley of 1949 but it seems like Jones would have mentioned it.