- 1965: An Overview
Noell Wolfgram Evans) If you want to get an immediate response
from someone walk into a room and say 'Superfriends' or 'Flintstones'
or 'Smurfs'. You'll elicit instant memories and conversation from
those around you. In fact, there may not be a better phrase to
break the ice at a party than 'What was with that Scrappy-Doo?'
There is something about television animation that binds us together.
It's like we've all been through some special initiation, and
now we're bound together by it.
For a completely
different reaction, walk into a room and bring up the Trix Rabbit,
the Jolly Green Giant, Mr. Clean or Cap'n Crunch. You'll see even
the unlikeliest people spin around faster, talk with more passion
and move about in excitement. The extra buzz from these characters
comes because they represent a special form of animation: television
advertising. Advertising animation is special because it's fleeting,
stopping on the screen for only a few seconds before disappearing,
sometimes never to be seen again. Because of its short time frame,
it needs to be as packed with entertainment and information as
it can be. And because of the sheer number of commercials, each
needs to be as different and as grabbing as possible. It's not
though just the information packed inside an animated advertisement,
it's also the way that the information comes at you.
program encompasses both sight and sound. For those shows that
also have toys (or books or
) associated with them, we are
allowed the extra bonus of touch. Commercials offer this and so
much more. These too bring your sight and sound skills into play,
but with these forms of entertainment you are not meant to just
react to what you see (as you would react to a television program),
rather these call you out to be proactive. They ask you to go
out and buy their products and then (in many cases) eat what you
bought; they invite you to be a complete participant in their
world. This full sensory inclusion makes animated commercials
an important part of television and a key piece of your memory.
you consider how many commercials have been run on television
and how many of those have been animated, the numbers can hurt
your brain. For an idea of how many commercials are in fact run
each year consider that in 2000 more than 1.3 million ads for
cereal alone ran on American television (that averages to just
over 25 hours a day). Multiply this out by the number of products
that are produced and you can see just how staggering these numbers
and television have been linked from the beginning. It's been
said that the first image ever broadcast was a picture of Felix
the Cat. With the medium literally starting with animation it
should be no surprise that animated commercials were an early
stable of television broadcasting. In 1941, with television still
feeling it's way around and with less than 5,000 TV sets across
the country, the first animated commercial was broadcast. It was
in September of that year when the animated Botany Lamb first
pranced across television screens to promote Botany Mills ties
(as well as forecast the weather). There were seven of these spots
produced for this original campaign, but the series its self continued
through 1948. It was produced by Douglas Leigh but, in an interesting
connection with that first ever television broadcast, was animated
and directed by Otto Messmer (the creator of Felix the Cat).
As the decade
wore on more and more companies went the way of animated advertising.
Not all of the work produced during this time was full-fledged
'theatrical' style animation. The Fletcher Smith Studios produced
a campaign in 1946 for a raceway where they took horses and animated
their mouths to make it appear as if they were talking. Other
studios utilized stop motion animation to sell their products.
Many of these ads, were completely realized as they were produced
with budgets ranging from $3,000 to $5,000 dollars. This was top
money for the time and was used to attract top talent. As an example:
in 1947 Shamus Culhane Productions produced a popular ad for Ajax.
The Ajax Elves were animated by Grim Natwick (the 'creator' of
Betty Boop and the animator of Snow White) and Art Babbit (who
had animated Goofy among other stars) and voiced by June Foray
(who would go on to star in numerous Jay Ward cartoons) and Hans
Conreid (the voice of Captain Hook and many other cartoon stars)
Due to it's
ability to show nearly anything (people flying, animals talking,
inanimate objects dancing around), it's eye catching appeal, relative
low cost and deep talent pool, animation soon became the preferred
way to advertise on television. Over a short span of time Coke,
Plymouth, Tide, Alka Seltzer (even those who were not born at
the time can recognize Speedy), Keds, Skippy Peanut Butter and
Canada Dry were all some of the many popular ads. Many of the
animated ads would have caused an outcry today. Animation populated
the television screens of American selling Camel Cigarettes, Kools
Cigarettes and Hamm's Beer featuring the Beer Bear. The Piel's
Beer ads (which were promoted by the animated characters of Bert
and Harry Piel) were so popular that the New York Times would
list out when they would be aired.
The list of
advertisers who used animation to sell their products continued
to expand as more and more companies jumped in with television.
As the years have gone by though, this list has shrunken considerably
with many advertisers preferring to go the live action route,
relying more and more on special effects (which often does utilize
some form of animation) and outrageous humor. Over all this time,
there has though been one consistent group of animated advertisers:
cereal has been a part of the mass media since the beginning.
Most of the major companies had sponsored radio shows during the
30's and 40's. As television grew in popularity, they realized
that if they were going to keep their market presence, they were
going to have to go to where the people were. Rather than deal
with the production hassles of producing their own 'complete'
program (in a medium that had such a large learning curve), they
opted to instead take the role of sponsor. It was not a passive
role though as the companies and their advertising agencies were
an active part in everything that went into the production of
a show. Part of this sponsorship included of course commercials
the cereal companies were one of the first groups to jump on the
idea of using animation to sell their products. In 1949 Bill Tytla
created an ad for (Post) Sugar Crisp cereal. The cereal was not
very memorable, but the ad, featuring three bears, was the start
of a phenomenon.
have realized it at the time, but his commercial opened the floodgates
for animated advertising as it helped to get advertisers (particularly
cereal advertisers) thinking about how they could reach children.
It also helped lay the groundwork for the Saturday morning memories
of many a child.
take long for other advertisers and cereal companies to get their
characters on the screen. In 1951 Kellogg's was advertising Sugar
Frosted Flakes, while Post debuted Captain Jolly (who sold CornFetti).
By the end of 1954 Cheerios, Kellogg's Corn Flakes and Snap, Crackle
and Pop were all popular program interruptions. Marky Maypo, perhaps
the biggest early animated cereal star, debuted in 1956. These
ads for Maypo were the creation of StoryBoard which was founded
and led by John
Hubley. The ads were so popular that Maypo sales increased
by 78 percent and the tagline 'I want my Maypo' became an instant
catchphrase. In this popularity, the marriage of medium and consumer
Some of the
other major players in these early animation endeavors were:
B. Winkles III - For creating memorable commercials for
Crackle and Pop and the Kellogg's Rooster.
Hixon and Gene Kolkey - They brought Toucan Sam and Dig
Sugar Smacks Frog) to TV.
- Who brought the Trix Rabbit to life in 1959.
Butler - This voice actor may be best remembered for his
hundreds of cartoons (including Yogi-Bear). He was also a prolific
writer penning numerous commercials for Marlboro and National
Schinto - In 1962 he created the character of Linus the
Post Crispy Critters. Soon after he realized that Post was creating
animated commercials as well as sponsoring the shows that they
aired in. He started to wonder why they couldn't just do both.
In 1963 he brought the 'Linus the Lionhearted' program to television.
The production, featuring many of the Post cereal 'stars' was
an intrinsically plotted one with storylines slipping from the
show into commercials and back.
For all of
the animated ads done, there were perhaps none more popular, more
influential or more memorable than the creations of Jay Ward Productions.
Known mainly for Rocky and Bullwinkle, Jay Ward spent nearly twenty-two
years creating a number of animated campaigns for the Quaker Oats
Company. His studio put together spots for Scooter Pies, Aunt
Jemima, Mr. Chips Cookies and the popular Quisp and Quake cereals
(the characters of Quisp and Quake were created by Ward veteran
Bill Scott). His longest running series was the promotion of Captain
Crunch. In 1962, Ward brought Captain Crunch (actually Cap'n Crunch
thanks to an early voice over 'flub') to the television sets of
America, a place where he remains today (even though Ward's association
with the brand stopped in 1984). Through the years, The Captain
fought the pirate Jean LaFoote in his efforts to steal the cereal
cargo of the Captain's ship, the S. S. Guppy. These commercials
were amazingly popular, shooting Quaker from the back to the front
in the breakfast cereal market. In fact, Quaker even had to build
a separate production plant to concentrate solely on Captain Crunch
(and it's eventual spin-offs).
continued to grow, so did the popularity of using animation as
an advertising form. The format became so successful and influential
that many political action and moral patrol groups began to seriously
monitor its usage for fear that advertisers were 'preying' on
the minds of the youth. It's an argument that continues to rage
on. It continues though in the face of evolving technology that
only pushes even further the ways animation can be used in the
medium. With all of this new technology, one is left to wonder
what the past masters would have created, had they had these tools
at their fingertips. And while you wonder that, we will return
you to your regularly scheduled program...
Evans is a freelance writer who lives in Columbus, Ohio. He has
written for the Internet, print and had several plays produced.
He enjoys the study of animation and laughs over cartoons with
his wife and daughter.
a printable version of this feature.
> return to
Features main page.
> return to front