Saturday, January 13, 2018

Children's Comics 005: Little Audrey In "Hooked Playing Hooky"

Little Audrey jumped into comic book pages a little more than a year after her first appearance in 1947's Santa's Surprise. Last year I also uploaded the 1953 cartoon "The Seapreme Court" on the CMA YouTube channel and it has been very popular

While looking through here earliest comic book stories, I was surprised to find this earlier undersea adventures from Little Audrey #05 Vol. 1, April 1949. So those of you who like "Seapreme Court" should enjoy this story.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Children's Comics 004: "Funland" by A. W. Nugent

As a kid I grew up with Bob Weber's Slylock Fox puzzles and games section. It is amazing to discover how far back the "Junior Page" or "Kids Section" goes back in newspaper comics. One great (and still running) example is "Funland" or "Uncle Art's Funland" which was created in 1933 by Arthur William Nugent (1891 - 1975) also known as Art Nugent, or A. W. Nugent. The following are early reprints for this long running children's feature from Famous Funnies comics magazine.

From Famous Funnies #76, November 1940
From Famous Funnies #077, December 1940

From Famous Funnies #94, May 1942

Saturday, December 16, 2017

This Month in Children's Media: December 2017 Part II

60 Years Ago
December 14, 1957 - The Ruff and Reddy Show, the first animated for television series by Hanna-Barbera premieres on television.

70 Years Ago 
December 27, 1947 - Howdy Doody premieres on television, originally titled "Puppet Playhouse"

80 Years Ago
December 21, 1937 - "Disney's Folly" Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Vintage Kiddie Records in the Great 78 Project

Classic children's records are still very collectible and the internet has made it possible to hear many hard to find albums. The Internet Archive is home to the Great 78 Project which is a "community project for the preservation, research and discovery of 78rpm records". The album were digitized from a group of collector and archive collections. Among the thousand of "sides" the project has digitized hundreds of vintage kiddie records from the George Blood collection.

For Christmastime I want to highlight this 1955 Christmas Album by "Miss Frances" Horwich of the pioneering preschool series Ding Dong School (1952 - 1956). She introduces the album by ringing the shows' trademark bell. If the embedded player does not work CLICK HERE

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

70th Anniversary of "Santa's Surprise" and Little Audrey

Little Audrey, or her long-running comic book title "Playful Little Audrey" was one of my favorites of the all classic cartoon characters I was exposed to on public domain cartoon VHS tapes. In cartoons like "The Seapreme Court" and "Tarts and Flowers" you knew that once Audrey fell asleep there was something fun ahead.

In Santa's Surprise, (released December 5, 1947) which was Audrey's first appearance, she is one of a group of international children who sneak away to the North Pole to thank a tired and weary Santa Claus. This cartoon seems to have been popular enough for a reissue the following year and in 1954. Audrey would appear in her first solo cartoon "Butterscotch and Soda" in 1948. Like dozens of other pre-1950 cartoons produced by Paramount Famous Studios, Santa's Surprise would be acquired for television by the National Telefilm Associates, and some available prints of this cartoon contain their logo instead of the Paramount opening.

Frequently cited sources claim that Audrey was created to replace Marge's "Little Lulu" character when Famous Studios did not want to pay anymore to license a character. There was at least one Lulu cartoon made after Santa's Surprise so maybe someone remembered the little girl with three ponytails and decided to turn her into a star. They didn't have to look far for a new voice. Mae Questel (1908 - 1998) was already the voice of Lulu (and Popeye's girlfriend Olive Oyl) and she was given the part. In fact Audrey and Olive basically have the same voice. Try watching a 1950s Popeye cartoon and a Little Audrey cartoon back to back.

Today the depiction of most of the children would be deemed racist and offensive. An interesting twist to this is that Little Audrey was noted as one of the first kids comics characters to have a non-stereotypical black character with the appearance of "Tiny" in her 1950s comics.

From Little Audrey #42, June 1955.
Image from "Out of this World" comics blog. Click Image for full article

One could also take into consideration that this was a post World War II film. In that time period there were a number of films and radio programs that tried to address racial unity, like the "problem pictures" of 1949 Pinky and Intruders In The Dust, or the Adventures of Superman radio episodes in which the Man of Steel took on the KKK.

Audiences were used to seeing films with white and black children interacting (Our Gang/Little Rascals most famously). However, a color cartoon that suggested Santa loves Chinese, Hawaiian, Black, White American, European and Russian children (and that they loved him too) may have been very special 70 years ago.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

This Month In Children's Media : Christmas 2017 Part I

Banner for the 80th Anniversary of the
children's Christmas radio serial "The Cinnamon Bear".

25 Years Ago 

December 1, 1992 - Frosty Returns (not a sequel to Rankin & Bass' Frosty The Snowman, 1969) premieres on CBS with John Goodman as Frosty and has aired each year since. Co-produced by Bill Melendez, (A Charlie Brown Christmas), the child characters look like they could fit into the "Peanuts" world.

Cover to the Little Golden Book's adaption of the holiday special, by Muller and Bill Langley,
From the Author's Collection

December 4, 1992 - Noel one of the last TV Christmas specials written by Romeo Muller (Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty The Snowman) premieres. It is the story of a joyful Christmas ornament narrated by Charlton Heston. Muller passed away on December 30 that year at the age of 64.

50 Years Ago

News story about the new Christmas special "Cricket On The Hearth". Albany (New York) Times Union) 1967

December 18th 1967 - The Rankin Bass special "The Cricket On The Hearth", based on the Charles Dickens story, debuts as an episode of the Danny Thomas Hour. Naturally it starred the voices of Danny Thomas and his daughter Marlo Thomas. It has not been screen on TV is some time, but is available on DVD.

75 Years Ago

December 14 - 25, 1942. "What is the name of the Lone Ranger's nephew's horse? Why Victor! Everybody knows that!" - A Christmas Story (1983)

Over the course of 6 episodes of the classic radio series, The Lone Ranger discovers that the son of his slain brother Capt. Dan Reid is still living! The younger Dan Reid would ride with The Lone Ranger and Tonto in many episodes of the popular radio series (and for a while in the television version). Another interesting crossword clue for "A Christmas Story" would have been "What is the dual identity of the Lone Ranger's nephew's son?" (Answer: "The Green Hornet")

80 Years Ago

November 26, 1937 - The Christmas radio serial "The Cinnamon Bear" is first heard. Still broadcast on radio to this day between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it is the longest on-going Christmas special in American broadcast history. "Rudolph" is catching up after 53 years.

125 Years Ago

December 18, 1892 - The two act ballet "The Nutcracker" premieres at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg. It was adapted from E. T. A. Hoffmann's story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King", modified by Alexandre Dumas' in his story "The Nutcracker". It originally featured choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with the still famous score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. It would take a while before the music would catch on in the United States. Today Nutcrackers are widely used and displayed with the Christmas holiday.

130 Years Ago

Cover to 1959 children's edition of Sherlock Holmes stories.

December 1, 1887 - A Study In Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes story appears in Beeton's Christmas Annual

Monday, November 20, 2017

Lost TV Shows - The Pet Shop (1951 - 1953)

TV Forecast, April 5, 1952. "The Pet Shop" co-host Gay Compton made the cover.

The Pet Shop. December 1, 1951 – March 14, 1953. WGN TV for Chicago, DuMont Network

"The Pet Shop" was a Chicago based children's series host by Gay Compton with his daughter Gail.
In his review for Billboard, Cy Wagner described the overall production as effective and Gail Compton as having an "easy going style" in his role as host. The program took place in a fictional pet shop where children could learn about animals and pet care. Gail Compton (c. 1915 - ????) was the agricultural editor for the Chicago Tribune, and this program may have began with experiences reporting animals & livestock.

This edition of TV Forecast features a two page article written by young Gail. She described the program in pretty good detail. It is a shame that perhaps no recordings of this series are known to exist. The show regularly featured guests and their pets, and one notable episode featured cartoonist Chester Gould (Dick Tracy).

If anyone knows what became of young Gail Compton or her father, this blogger would like to know.

Survival Status: Presumed Lost. Probably was dumped in the bay like the majority of DuMont TV programs.

Correction made January 9, 2018