Think or Sink: The Flebus of Famous Studios

Usually, the posts about Famous Studios are reserved for Jerry, but just this once, I have to share a Famous short. I ran across Think or Sink (1967) last night and it’s a really goofy piece of animation. Shamus Culhane, the director, proudly proclaimed years later that it was the only Famous short which ever screened in competition at Annecy. The story was written by the crazy-man of East Coast animation Jim Tyer, who according to IMDB, hadn’t written a short since 1942′s You’re a Sap, Mr. Jap (can anybody confirm that?). Tyer appears to have modeled his short after Ernie Pintoff’s Flebus, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to note that Tyer was the primary animator of that earlier pop psychiatry-themed cartoon, not to mention that Tyer also animated the neurotic Terrytoons elephant Sidney.

There’s plenty of good stuff happening in this film. The Bobcat Goldthwait-esque voice of Roscoe the elephant, provided by Lionel Wilson, is a unique and funny choice. The film has three (!) designers–Hal Silvermintz, Dante Barbetta and Gil Miret. I don’t know how they divided the work up, but it looks fresh. The animation by Al Eugster is also a treat. There are some ridiculous moments–look at Roscoe’s forehead at the one-minute mark when his hat pops up. As simple as the animation is, Eugster’s poses are expert and move just enough to get the personalities across. I won’t go so far as to proclaim this a great cartoon, but it’s better than a lot and its obscurity is undeserved. Below is a layout drawing by Dante Barbetta found in Culhane’s Talking Animals and Other People:

Think or Sink


  • http://bakertoons.blogspot.com/ Charles Brubaker

    Few weeks ago the Animation Guild blog posted storyboards Jim Tyer did for an unproduced Terrytoons short, so yeah, he did dome writing in-between “You’re a Sap, Mr. Jap” and this short. He just didn’t receive writing credit except for those two.

    There was a sequel short featuring the same characters called “Forget Me Nuts”, this time directed by Chuck Harriton with animation by Howard Beckerman. That one’s just as insane. Watch it below:

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xbok6u_forget-me-nuts-paramount-1967_shortfilms

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Though I’m glad you finally saw this Amid, I assume the voice Wilson used for Roscoe was patterned on Andy Devine. In terms of how they credited those for “Design” at the time, usually one of them did character designs, another layout, and another perhaps painted the backgrounds (as the term “Scenics” was dropped as a credit for that).

  • http://somebodyelseslightbox.blogspot.com/ Dani Boy

    Sounds like Jeff Garlin trying to do Bobcat Goldthwait trying to do Andy Devine!

  • http://www.michaelspornanimation.com/splog/ Michael Sporn

    Dante Barbetta’s still around; you could ask him what he did on it.

    Definitely, Lionel Wilson impersonating Andy Devine, and it’s a good impersonation.

    Too bad Jim Tyer didn’t animate on it. He might have added some of the life he brought to Sidney the Elephant.

  • http://www.elliotelliotelliot.com Elliot Cowan

    I used to steal from this regularly as a kid.

  • http://nickmould.blogspot.com Nick

    I really like this cartoon. Its pretty off beat and deceptively simple. With the exception of perhaps De-Patie Freleng, I think that Famous Studios theatrical output in the late ’60s is superior to that of the other main studios at the time.

  • John

    Paramount’s output during its final couple of years of operation definitely was the more interesting in terms of variety of stories of any of the studios still surviving at the time — some cartoons that borderline on great, and some total dreck. But at least they were trying something different (thanks mainly to the studio bosses selling off all the old characters and forcing the studio to survive on either new characters or one-shots).

    “The Plumber” is my favorite from the period, and reminds me a lot of some of the animated public service ads NYC was doing for the Department of Transportation (the “Don’t Cross the Street in the Middle of the Block” jingle PSA) and the Department of Sanitation (the “Phil D. Basket” animated jingle). Not sure if those were done at Paramount or by some of the staff moonlighting, but the character design and even the music is pretty similar.

    • Margaret Fulton

      My father, Walter J. Boppert, Jr., did the animation for the Don’t Cross the Street in the Middle of the Block PSA in the 60′s and won a Cleo for it.

      • Andrew Poretz

        Any chance you have a copy of this??? The audio for it is on YouTube, but not the animation, which I remember so vividly almost half a century later!

  • http://www.jjsedelmaier.com J.J. Sedelmaier

    You’re right – refreshing ! Who’s the narrator ?

    • http://bakertoons.blogspot.com/ Charles Brubaker

      Probably Lionel Wilson. I suspect that he did ALL the voices on it.

  • Christopher Cook

    Jim Tyer co-wrote “You’re A Sap, Mr. Jap” with Carl Meyer. Tyer and George Germanetti animated it.

  • http://www.animationarchive.org Stephen Worth

    Tyer wrote a 1960 Terry-Toon called The Tiger King. Probably more that he didn’t receive credit for.

  • http://www.itsthecat.com Mark Kausler

    “Think or Sink” was originally written and drawn by Jim Tyer as a comic book story starring Flebus and Rudolph called “Strange Footprints”, published in Mighty Mouse Fun Club Magazine No. 1, Fall 1957 published by Pines comics. It doesn’t have an elephant, but Rudolph is almost as heavy as one. Evidently Tyer wrote AND drew a lot of his comic book stories, the Heckle and Jeckle stories he drew for St. John and Pines, certainly feel like his brand of nonsense.

  • uncle wayne

    thank YOO! Thoroughly enjoyed it. [I am astounded that that is NOT Mr. Devine!]

  • http://andynortonuk.spaces.live.com/ Andy Norton

    I do find shorts from the Famous Studios don’t normally get this kind of blog treatment.

    But this short, on the theme of thinking what you are capable of thinking of, is probably the stuff film academics could get very analytical on. But on a more personal preference, it is just an entertaining short with the involvement of cartoonist Jim Tyer as a ”writer’.

    Thanks for sharing a short that still has a lot to offer.

  • http://howardbackerma.com Howard Beckerman

    Regarding Jim Tyer’s story work. He made many contributions to story sessions at Terrytoons and at other studios for most of his career. However, not all contributions were recognized in credits in any of the cartoon studios. Many times the films have erroneous credits regarding who did what. The animation of “Think or Sink,” by Al Eugster is superb. Everyone was doing stylized limited animation at that time, but only a master like Al could make such simple animation so expressive and neatlty timed. He’d come into the studio, line up his pencils and his cigars in an orderly row and just animate. On one film, “My daddy The Astronaut,” he numbered all t he drawings consecutively, 1,2,3,4,5, and so on till the final drawing in the film which, for those limited cartoons, might have numbered somewhere between 400 and 1000 sheets.
    At the end of the day, he’d stand up, put on his hat, and go home. One day the director, Shamus Culhane passed through the animation department and exclaimed heartedly that one of the films that Al was animating would get an Academy nomination. Once he was out of the room, Al remarked.”That’s not the way it happens. You just do films and one of them spins out and is recognized.”

  • http://www.davemackey.com Dave Mackey

    Hal Silvermintz passed away a couple of months ago….