UPA Cartoon Tribute at Cinefamily

Creators of Mr. Magoo and Gerald McBoing Boing, United Productions of America (UPA) was the most significant animation studio of the 1950s. Ushering in a whole new way of making cartoons, combining modern art with slapstick comedy, UPA challenged the way Disney made toons and dominated the Academy Awards during that decade. There’s no doubt of their inspiration on international and independent animators for decades to come.

Charles Solomon (who did a great job hosting the Mary Blair tribute last night at the Academy) recorded an audio editorial championing UPA that will run on L.A.’s public radio station KPCC (89.3 FM), Off Ramp, Saturday at noon and Sunday at 7pm. Solomon points out that a current local art show cooperative – Pacific Standard Time, which celebrates southern California’s contributions to pop culture – omits the UPA studio’s significant influence on art and animation. KPCC has just posted his piece online, in advance of its broadcast: Download or listen to stream here.

Meanwhile, I will be doing my part by mounting a tribute to UPA at my next Animation Tuesday screening, on Tuesday November 1st at 8pm. I will be introducing rare 35mm prints of the studio’s undeniable classics on the big screen – including their acclaimed adaptation Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell Tale Heart, Oscar winner When Magoo Flew (in wide screen CinemaScope), and rarely shown The Jaywalker, Willie The Kid and Fudget’s Budget and more – along with a selection of rare commercials, industrial films and TV films not seen in public for over 50 years. More info and tickets: click here.


  • Heinz

    UPA cartoons on Blu-Ray just now!!! Please!!!

  • Cordell Rainwalker

    I know this is a stupid question but how come the UPA catalog hasn’t been released on DVD?

    • http://www.cartoonresearch.com Jerry Beck

      The Columbia Pictures theatrical UPA cartoons are coming to DVD early next year. I’m involved in the process. All I can say at this time is: it’ll be worth the wait. More details to come. Stick with Cartoon Brew for news updates.

      • James Fox

        Jerry, I can’t hardly wait for the set to come out!
        I hope it surpasses that of what we remember of Wienerville!

  • Benny

    Excellent! I saw Mr. Soloman’s Mary Blair tribute last night and it was the best!

  • Damato

    The main reason UPA wasn’t included in Pacific Standard Time is because it has been forgotten. Can’t really blame the curators if no decent prints of UPA cartoons have been in circulation for thirty years. Without pristeen Technicolor negatives and/or prints available as VHS, DVD and Blu Ray masters, UPA cartoons have simply not been seen at their best, and that is a shame. All of UPA’s output was made with color as an integral part of its design. Rendering such a crucial element of that studio’s gestalt unavailable through neglect over time has robbed generations of perceiving UPA for what it was at its best – a creative force that forever changed animation. I hope what Jerry says is correct, that the upcoming Blu Ray UPA release will be worth the wait – and produced from the best possible negative source material. It may be too little too late but at least it’s something.

    • amid

      Have you looked at the people who are being honored by the Pacific Standard Time exhibits? Most of the artists are far more obscure than UPA’s body of work so it has little to do with UPA being forgotten. No, the main reason is that there’s institutionalized prejudice against animation by the mainstream art community. Animation has two strikes against it in the view of the art community—it’s collaborative and commercial; the idea that individuals can present a personal voice in animated film is not readily acknowledged by those outside of the field.

      Bottom line is that it’s hard to take the curation of PST seriously when they omit one of the most influential southern California art movements of the 20th century.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        I certainly wouldn’t trust them for that omission.

  • The Ghost of Warner Bros. Past

    I know UPA cartoons have a lot of style. But are there any UPA cartoons that are actually funny? Just asking?

    • Upstanding Citizen

      Are there any Bugs Bunny cartoons that are actually scary?

      Animation doesn’t HAVE to be gut-bustingly hilarious. Though I think the earliest Magoo’s are quite funny.

  • Damato

    Of course there’s institutional prejudice from the mainstream art community against any commercial Hollywood product. No argument there. The art community’s attitude has always been that it depends on how a given work is presented that determines whether it is or isn’t art. That alone defines UPA’s stuff as commercial. But it did not help UPA’s rep when they changed owners, quit making intelligent and artistic shorts and began grinding out voluminous kiddie crap for television, commencing with that mammoth order for the Gerald McBoing Boing Show, followed quickly by Dick Tracy. UPA largely destroyed its own reputation with those moves. It’s a miracle that Magoo’s Christmas Carol was the hit that it was, given that it, too, was ground out quickly and on the cheap. The stratospheric ratings of that special kept what was left of UPA going for a few years, if you can call what they did after 1961 reflective of operational status as a studio. Regardless of the road to crap that UPA went down, their best work should be in a museum. It would help if UPA today had a corporate parent with bottomless pockets and the desire to follow through, to further that cause. Pixar’s stuff appears in class museums. In the 1950′s, so did UPA’s.

  • JAP

    Sorry if this is already known but Turner Classic Movies and Sony have already announced the “UPA Jolly Frolics” DVD set to be released in early 2012.
    Press release courtesy of the HTF (http://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/315383/turner-classic-movies-and-sony-pictures-home-entertainment-team-up-on-tcm-vault-collection-dvds):
    “Turner Classic Movies and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Team Up on New TCM Vault Collection DVDs

    Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) are joining forces on a new line of DVDs to be made available as part of the TCM Vault Collection. The offerings will include first-time DVD releases of classic films from the Columbia Pictures library. Among the DVD sets on tap will be a four-film collection of comedies starring Jean Arthur and introduced by TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz; a five-film set starring Humphrey Bogart; a large selection of cartoons from the United Productions of America (UPA) Jolly Frolics series, which includes the debut of the one-and-only Mr. Magoo and a special introduction and audio commentaries by film historian Leonard Maltin; as well as an intriguing collection of film noir thrillers, presented in partnership with The Film Foundation.

    Like all films in the TCM Vault Collection, the new sets from SPHE are digitally remastered and include extensive on-screen bonus materials, including photos, posters, lobby cards and more. TCM Vault Collection sets are presented in beautiful gatefold packaging and available exclusively through TCM’s online store at http://shop.tcm.com.

    The following sets from TCM and SPE are coming soon to the TCM Vault Collection:
    (…)
    UPA Jolly Frolics – This amazing DVD set includes, for the first time ever, 38 cartoons created by United Productions of America (UPA) and originally distributed by Columbia Pictures. The Jolly Frolics series began in 1949 with Ragtime Bear, which introduced audiences to the hilariously myopic Mr. Magoo. Included in this set are the Academy Award-winning cartoon Rooty Tooty Toot (1952) and the Oscar-nominated Madeline (1952) and Christopher Crumpet (1953). This set includes an abundance of bonus features, including introductions and audio commentaries by film historian and critic Leonard Maltin, who has written extensively on the history of animation. Street date: early 2012.
    (…)”

    • http://www.cartoonresearch.com Jerry Beck

      Actually, I mentioned in the comments above that I’m working on two forthcoming UPA dvds – one for TCM and Sony containing the miscellaneous Columbia Pictures theatrical “Jolly Frolics” and a second disc for Shout Factory collecting all the theatrical Magoo cartoons. Both collections are being newly restored from the master film elements. I’ll be posting more about these discs when everything is ready to go.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Either way, excellent news Jerry and glad this is all coming out so perfectly!

  • Andrew KIeswetter

    Any chance you’ll be screening ‘Gay Purree’?

  • Mario

    I’d like to know if the UPA boxsets will contain subtitles or closed captions. I ardently hope so. I’m awaiting for years the DVD release of UPA cartoons, perhaps the only major outpout of the Golden Age animation not covered at all by the medium and I’m really salivating for what could be the release of the year – and my love for cartoons is only a part of my love for cinema. However, seems the policy about subtitles is becoming from day to day more stingy (even the recent Laurel and Hardy “definitive” collection doesn’t contain at all!) and I’m beginning to fear…