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October 6, 2008 4:02 PM   Subscribe

Public television viewers from the seventies may remember being hectored and freaked out by anti-pollution animations. Three of the more catchy and memorable Willie Wimple cartoons (don't kill trees, don't litter, don't pollute the water, lyrics) that scared us away from a lifetime of casual littering were actually directed by Academy Award winning animator Abe Levitow -- also co-director of The Phantom Tollbooth (intro, time song) and director of Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol (full movie, songs: we're despicable, all alone in the world) -- as one of his final projects.
posted by jessamyn (22 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think there's a stern anti-drivel essay waiting to be written that will compare YouTube comments to cyber-litter.

(I loved these bumps as a kid—they came during Kidbits, which was science-y stuff from a chipper guy on at 5:00 am from the Detroit Science Center, and they were generally accompanied by Woodsy The Owl shorts and exhortations to join 4-H.)
posted by klangklangston at 4:13 PM on October 6, 2008


As an 80s kid, all I can say is I loved the Phantom Tollbooth. I never saw these ads, although I was of the age to watch Captain Planet fight bad people who wanted to empty green glowy sludge everywhere for their dirty dirty profits.
posted by Tehanu at 4:30 PM on October 6, 2008


Seconding the Phantom Tollbooth shout out, man I must have watched that movie a hundred times when I was a kid.
Although I do remember reading somewhere the author of the original book, Norman Juster, was unhappy with the movie adaptation that Abe and Chuck Jones created.
posted by nudar at 4:59 PM on October 6, 2008


Yeah, Norton Juster (Hampshire College represent!) wasn't a fan of the movie at all
JUSTER: It was done as a full-length animated feature film by MGM. With live scenes. Live beginning and end. And when you go through the tollbooth is when it turned into animation. It was a film I never liked. I don't think they did a good job on it. It's been around for a long time. It was well reviewed, which also made me angry. And for some reason, I don't know why, they never put it into general release. But it played a lot and it still does, on television.
I realized at some point today that I had thought these Willie Wimple bits were PSAs on television like the Crying Indian and maybe they were only on Sesame Street, though klang, you saw them on TV? I'm still trying to find the classic one that featured some nerdy kid in a fisherman's sweater talking from the torch of the Statue of Liberty about why we shoudln't screw up the world. Anyone remember that one?
posted by jessamyn at 5:14 PM on October 6, 2008


There's a PB movie?!

And somehow I never realized the Dot and Line author was the same guy.
posted by DU at 5:29 PM on October 6, 2008


You never got a sense of why polluters polluted from the cartoons, in my day. At best, it was because they were lazy; mostly it implied that they were simply wicked, and that pollution led directly to cash or just to evil laughter.

Sometimes this is actually true. I don't quite have it in me to leap to the defense of pollution just now. But I wish we could teach kids about such important things in a shade of grey or two.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:32 PM on October 6, 2008


I love love love love love love "The Phantom Tollbooth" movie. I watched it a zillion times as a kid... it's the best.
posted by adrober at 6:27 PM on October 6, 2008


I'm the wrong age group to have got anything out of these PSAs, and for probably the same reason I somehow totally missed out on The Phantom Tollbooth. But what a cast: Butch Patrick (Eddie Munster) and the voice talents of Mel Blanc, Daws Butler, Hans Conried and June Foray. Just add Paul Frees and Don Messick for a clean sweep! I'll have to check this one out.

On the other hand, Magoo's Christmas Carol is a cherished childhood memory.
Everyone in my family can sing:
We're rep- re- hensible
We'll steal your pen and pencible
We'll sneeratcho, leeratcho naughtily
And really we aughtiby
in jail!
La! La! La-la La-la-la!
We're just blankety-blank-blank no good!
posted by Herodios at 7:16 PM on October 6, 2008


I loved the book too much to ever fully accept the Phantom Tollbooth movie. Maybe because I didn't see it until I was an adult and it was on TV. But I remember that Electric Company clip! Pollution Solution! Funny how completely, weirdly contemporary it looks, except for the faded colors. I still remember how upset I was when the Electric Company went off the air.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:11 PM on October 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


My son hasn't grown up with this sort of litter propaganda, but it is obvious that there are generational and regional differences in attitudes toward litter. My wife, from Oregon, would regularly remind people in Kentucky to not throw their garbage out the window. In Utah recently a man on a motorcycle, with his 15-year-old son on the back, rode up next to a woman who had thrown a cigarette from her car. She bumped into him, he went down, and died later from injuries (no helmet). I saw my eight-year-old litter the other day--I will have to find some other way to teach him that litterers are shiftless and evil.
posted by mecran01 at 8:25 PM on October 6, 2008


The Full Movie link is for the traditional "A Christmas Carol." Am I missing something?
posted by captainsohler at 9:21 PM on October 6, 2008


The Full Movie link is for the traditional "A Christmas Carol." Am I missing something?

No I think I may have been confused. A search for Levitow and Christmas Carol got me to that video which, oddly, Levitow also worked on, though only as a guest artist and not as a director.
posted by jessamyn at 9:38 PM on October 6, 2008


I loved the book too much to ever fully accept the Phantom Tollbooth movie.

I'm glad someone said that. I was just coming here to say the same thing.

The book was much darker, deeper, more complicated. While Disney's take on Alice in Wonderland was entertaining it lacks a lot of the true dream-world surrealness of the books. Turning The Phanton Tollbooth into a second-rate Disney-esque song and dance number is rather missing the point of the book in question.

But, whatever. The movie is pretty weird for MGM.
posted by loquacious at 2:55 AM on October 7, 2008


Searching for info or video of a 1960s-1970s animated US-televised public service announcement against 'hate.' Angry man approaches viewer, head swells and three-pronged arrows whirl in his heart. Head swells and turns red and bursts as narrator says '[when you] hate, you only hurt yourself.' Possibly American Heart Association? Will donate $10 to charity chosen by first person to point me to correct online video. Many thanks. Previously.
posted by eccnineten at 6:53 AM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know, if I hadn't lived trough it, I wouldn't believe it this 30 odd years later, but it is strange to think that there was once a time where Americans really didn't give a shit about littering and how a concerted effort and public awareness campaign really changed that attitude. When I go to other parts of the world and see the cavalier attitude that some places have towards littering it actually seems offensive to me in my 2008 incarnation, but then I realize that it has only been in my short lifetime that such a thing would be offensive to an American at all!
posted by Pollomacho at 7:01 AM on October 7, 2008


"I realized at some point today that I had thought these Willie Wimple bits were PSAs on television like the Crying Indian and maybe they were only on Sesame Street, though klang, you saw them on TV? I'm still trying to find the classic one that featured some nerdy kid in a fisherman's sweater talking from the torch of the Statue of Liberty about why we shoudln't screw up the world. Anyone remember that one?"

I saw 'em on TV, yeah, but they were during the pre-cartoon Saturday morning set, which was basically all PSAs and kitchen science. It's tragically missing from the web, but I found a comment here from someone who remembers it; she links to this which has audio of the spots all the way at the bottom. There was also this guy in a straw boater who did a song and dance animated number on the side of a drinking glass, though I don't remember what his deal was.
posted by klangklangston at 9:44 AM on October 7, 2008


klang: Sounds like you're thinking of The Teeny Little Super Guy.
posted by contraption at 10:06 AM on October 7, 2008


oops, I mean The Teeny Little Super Guy.
posted by contraption at 10:07 AM on October 7, 2008


What is wrong with my ability to form a link this morning? This:http://www.metafilter.com/66176/Ladies-and-Gentlemen-The-Teeny-Little-Super-Guy
posted by contraption at 10:08 AM on October 7, 2008


ta-da!
posted by contraption at 10:08 AM on October 7, 2008


jess, your "full movie" link is to the 1972 version of A Christmas Carol, not the Mr. Magoo one.
posted by yhbc at 10:23 AM on October 7, 2008


Like was mentioned up above. Sorry.
posted by yhbc at 10:23 AM on October 7, 2008


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