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A Strange ’80s Anti-Smoking Disney Cartoon Made in New Zealand

Smoking: The Choice is Yours… is a 1981 Disney educational short directed by animator John Ewing, who worked on Sleeping Beauty, Sword in the Stone, and The Jungle Book. Ewing, however, did not make this cartoon while at Disney.

A Texas native who was born in 1928, he moved to New Zealand in 1967, where he played an important role in the development of that country’s animation industry, first by creating American-style TV commercials and films, and later, by starting the Animation College, which trained many artists who work in the industry today. Though the Disney short contains no studio credits, I believe it to have been produced in New Zealand by Ewing’s company Freelance Animators Ltd., which did contract work for both Disney and Warner Bros. throughout the 1980s. Below is an example of an earlier commercial that Ewing made in New Zealand:

Ewing is retired today, but remains active by illustrating children’s books, creating sculptures, and talking to students about his career.

  • Raymond McGrath

    I’ve had the absolute joy of knowing John Ewing for nearly 20 years now. I used to stand behind him at his animation desk and watch him draw as he ‘fixed’ my animation. It is the closest I will ever get to that golden era of Disney. These days he will suddenly appear at our doorstep to visit us. Often he brings new artwork and stories and smiles to share (Hes doing a lot of beautiful watercolours at the moment).
    He is the most genuine, honest and talented man I have EVER met. He is a constant reminder of exactly why I wanted to work in animation. Whenever I draw I just try to make John proud of what he helped me to become. (I hope he is)
    I could write for hours about this wonderful man.
    Thank you John!
    Thank you Cartoon Brew for posting this.

  • jhalpernkitcat

    Pretty cute and well done anti-smoking short. I love that the boss of the dude ranch bears a striking resemblance to Cruella Deville.

  • David Loomis

    Besides the obvious and somewhat shoe-horned message, really well done. Charming animation!

  • Perhaps John had another studio down there at the time on this.

  • It wouldn’t surprise me if there was a bit of back and forth that took place animation-wise in both countries. When New Zealand had it’s first animated feature film produced in the 80’s (based on a comic strip called “Footrot Flats”) the work on it had to be done in Australia I suppose due to the lack of resources in it’s native country.

    “Another great and oft-forgotten animated gem from this side of the world is the H-B animated special “The Great Bunjee Venture.” It aired several times on ABC’s Weekend Special, but YouTube seems to be the only place to find it now. I think the sequel “Return of Bunjee” was done by the same Aussie studio, but it’s impossible to find online so I haven’t seen it in years.”

    You’re probably thinking of the work of “Hanna-Barbera Australia Pty., Ltd.”, which began as a satellite studio for H-B’s outsourced workflow in the 70’s but they took on some other works in the 80’s like The Berenstain Bears, CBS Storybreak and Teen Wolf. Another of theirs for ABC’s Weekend Specials I remember best was the three-parter “The Secret World of Og”.