When Magoo Flew: The Rise and Fall of Animation Studio UPA
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What do Franklin Roosevelt, Dr. Seuss, the U.S. Navy, and Mr. Magoo have in common? They are all part of the surprising story of the pioneering cartoon studio UPA (United Productions of America). Throughout the 1950s, a group of artists ran a business that broke all the rules, pushing animated films beyond the fluffy fantasy of the Walt Disney Studio and the crash-bang anarchy of Warner Bros. Instead, UPA’s films were innovative and graphically bold—the cartoon equivalent to modern art. When Magoo Flew is the first book-length study to chronicle the complete story of this unique American enterprise. The book features cameo appearances by Aldous Huxley, James Thurber, Orson Welles, Judy Garland, Robert Goulet, Jim Backus, Eddie Albert, and Woody Allen, as well as a select filmography of the best of UPA.
Magoo ﬂew : the rise and fall of animation studio UPA / by Adam Abraham. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-8195-6914-1 (cloth : alk. paper)—ISBN 978-0-8195-7270-7 (ebook) 1. UPA Productions of America—History. 2. Animated ﬁlms—United States. I. Title. NC1766.U52U733 2012 384’.850973--dc23 2011041674 “… abandon hopelessness, all ye who enter here.” —G. K. CHESTERTON This page intentionally left blank CONTENTS PREFACE IX ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AUTHOR’S NOTE XIII
thank the ﬁlmmakers. He told Schwartz, “I decided if I came out of the war alive, I was going to devote myself to making educational ﬁlms, because that ﬁlm of yours showed me what could be done.”60 While the studio was working on the Signal Corps ﬁlms, Steve Bosustow landed an assignment from the U.S. Navy. Using Hell-Bent for Election as a demonstration reel, Bosustow found a receptive audience in 58 Industrial Films the Navy leadership, which, conveniently, was pro-Roosevelt.61 Further,
Fantasyland in Revolt It was perfect. A state-of-the-art facility comprised of twenty buildings, sprawled over ﬁfty-one acres and connected by tree-lined walkways. On a given afternoon, impromptu games of Ping-Pong, croquet, or baseball might take place on a patch of grass. The amenities included a restaurant, a gymnasium, a barbershop, a gift shop, and two sun decks (one for men, one for women).1 The idyllic atmosphere evoked the happy destination of a fairy tale, which was appropriate because a
even more. Similarly, Columbia and Bosustow demanded sequels to Cannon’s Gerald McBoing Boing. Zaslove insisted that “Bobe did not want to make more than one.” T. Hee agreed: “We wanted to make every picture a new experience for our audience.” But Gerald’s success was undeniable, and Cannon soon complied. The ﬁrst sequel, Gerald McBoing Boing’s Symphony, was announced in the press in March 1952 and completed in September. It picks up where its predecessor left off and ﬁnds little Gerald
Our Mr. Sun were obviously complex and expensive. The best way for a studio to turn a proﬁt in the early years of television was to create commercials. Advertising in the 1950s meant Madison Avenue, which, inconveniently, was some three thousand miles from Lakeside Drive. As early as 1946, United Productions of America maintained an ofﬁce in New York City, on East Fifty-seventh Street. By 1950, UPA relocated to 521 Fifth Avenue. A year later, the company opened its ﬁrst New York animation studio,