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In the late 1940s and early 1950s  most of the commercials created for television were transmitted live. During the show the host or star would stop what they was doing on the set and start hawking the sponsors product.  The production costs soon increased when they turned to creating their message with filmed techniques. Animation might have been an expense and time consuming  venture on one hand, but the leading animators were also desperate for work, during the the Golden Age of Television when the medium was growing and taking business away from the movie theaters.


So highly respected and formerly high-paid animators like Shamus Culhane (to see interview: click here), Art Babbit, Preton Blair, Zach Schwartz, and David Hiberman among others found there future paychecks creating animated commercials. I've spent the last four decades searching for many of those lost and forgotten commercials. Most of the time they were discarded by studios, producers and networks that had no need for them.

Growing up in the 1950s brings to mind many memorable animated characters that captured our Boomer hearts and whet appetites to urge our parents to buy their products. Boomers may recall Speedy the singing Alka Seltzer tablet, the Hamms Beer Bear, the Ajax Elf's, the Cheerios Kid, Bucky Beaver for Ipana toothpaste, Trix cereal rabbit, Kembler Elf and the list runs on.

The Disney Studios plan of a attack was to create two types of commercials. There would be those that would feature the classic stable of Disney characters catering to sponsors supporting the Disneyland television program like Peter Pan Peanut Butter, American Motors and Derby Foods. These spots incorporated characters like Mickey Mouse, Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, Pluto, Donald Duck, Jiminy Cricket, Alice, the Cheshire Cat, Dumbo and the Mad Hatter, among others. Then there was the second group Disney that produced for other companies like Tommy Mohawk for Mohawk Carpets, Fresh Up Freddie for the 7-Up soft drink and others.

The niece of  Walt Disney's wife, Phyllis Bounds, teamed up with her husband George Hurrell to start their own television adverting company at the Disney Studio. Hurrell at the time was best known for his glamorous style of photography of Hollywood movie stars in the 1940's.  Their production company utilized the Disney staff in 1952.

One of the leading story men at Disney was Bill Peet. After he had an argument with Walt Disney on a section of Sleeping Beauty, he was banished the following day to work on the Peter Pan Peanut Butter TV commercials.

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Click: Link to books on Walt Disney and Company

Long time Disney animator Harry Tytle, wrote in his autobiography ONE OF "WALT'S BOYS": AN INSIDER'S ACCOUNT OF DISNEY'S GOLDEN YEARS: "Commercial work answered our prayers, as it supplied badly needed capital. Advertising work clearly helped keep the studio intact. But while the studio made money with this type of product (and I mean big money) it was not a field either Walt or Roy were happy to be in. Their reasoning was sound. We didn't own the characters we produced for other companies; there was absolutely no residual value. Worse, we were at the whim of the client; at each stage of production we had to twiddle our thumbs and await approval before we could venture on to the next step."

 Disney animators Victor Haboush, Tony Rizzo, Walt Peregoy and Tom Oreb in 1958.

The studio gave work  to their  stock company of actors with voice work on that included Sterling Holloway (the voice of Winnie the Pooh, among others) and Cliff Edwards (Jiminy Cricket) narrating the Peter Pan Peanut Butter commercials.

Peter Pan Peanut Butter

Nash Rambler 1955 with Micky Mouse

American Motors The Hornet & The Wasp

Jello Commercials 

Tom Oreb at Disney in 1958

American Motors Corporation (AMC) was an American automobile company formed by the 1954 merger of Nash-Kelvinator Corporation and Hudson Motor Car Company. At the time, it was the largest corporate merger in U.S. history. AMC went on to compete with the US Big Three—Ford, General Motors and Chrysler—with its small cars including the Rambler American, Hornet, Gremlin and Pacer; muscle cars including the Marlin, AMX and Javelin; and early four-wheel-drive variants of the Eagle, America's first true crossover. The company was known as "a small company deft enough to exploit special market segments left untended by the giants"

At its 1987 demise, The New York Times said AMC was "never a company with the power or the cost structure to compete confidently at home or abroad."

Art Babbitt set up his camera to take a time-release photograph of himself (in the center), Fred Moore and their assistant, Larry Clemmons in their space at the Disney Hyperion studio, circa 1932

Animator Vladimir Tytla, nicknamed “Bill” by his friends

Jello Commercials with Alice in Wonderland 

American Motors Nash 1955 Mickey Mouse & Pluto

Clifton Avon Edwards

American Motors Nash Ambassador

Clifton Avon Edwards known as "Ukulele Ike" was a musician, singer, actor and voice actor, who enjoyed considerable popularity in the 1920s and early 1930s, specializing in jazzy renditions of pop standards and novelty tunes. He had a number-one hit with "Singin' in the Rain" in 1929. He also did voices for animated cartoons later in his career, and is best known as the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Walt Disney's Pinocchio (1940) and Fun and Fancy Free (1947).

Other Disney Commercials

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