POLAR PLAYMATES

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Three nice cels from Polar Playmates (1946) are currently up for sale on ebay.Polar Playmates, directed by former Disney animator Howard Swift, with characters designed by Charles Thorson, is arguably one of the better cartoons in the later batch of Columbia Color Rhapsodies. Columbia’s Screen Gems studio of the 1940s produced the greatest mixed bag in cartoon history. There were wise guy characters in the Bugs Bunny mold (The Fox & Crow), comic strip adaptations (L’il Abner), surreal experiments (John Hubley’s Professor Small and Mr. Tall), and too many newsreel spoofs (most of them painfully unfunny). Occasionally they’d try something in the Disney vein of personality animation – and Polar Playmates hit the mark with charm and style. The characters were strong enough to be adapted into a short lived series of comics – a back up strip in the earliest issues of DC’s Real Screen Comics. Howard Swift would go on to establish Swift Chaplin Productions, a leading maker of animated TV commercials (with partner Charlie Chaplin), and Columbia’s cartoon library would drift into obscurity (superseded by the acclaimed UPA cartoons in the 1950s). But there are nuggets of gold in that collection – and hopefully someday they’ll be seen widely again.For more information on the Columbia cartoon library, visit my Screen Gems webpage and the Columbia Crow’s Nest website.