Car-toons, with the emphasis on 'Car'
January 17, 2013 12:15 PM   Subscribe

Cartoon Brew's animation historian Amid Amidi posted an almost-definitive collection of Automobile-themed cartoons from the 1950s and 1960s.

Amid's list (all of which are also embedded in the first link):
Motor Mania, 1950 (6:40), in which Disney's Goofy is at his most out-of-character as a mild-mannered pedestrian who becomes an anti-social demon behind the wheel. Typical driver?
Car of Tomorrow, 1951 (6:21), a Tex Avery (previously here) collection of over 50 rapid-fire gags (which would be recycled elsewhere for years to come). Not futuristic, it's more about catering to car buyers' perceived desires of the time. Warning: lots of 1950's stereotypes, racial and gender.
There Auto Be A Law, 1953 (6:51), gags about cars and driving from Looney Tunes' Robert McKimson, with lots of car crashes and a couple odd running jokes. Mildly amusing at best.
Four Wheels No Brakes, 1955 (6:43), less about cars, more about "Pete Hothead", UPA's attempt to establish an ongoing character other than Mr. Magoo (who we'll see later).
The Jaywalker, 1956 (6:39), dangerous pedestrian behavior as obsession in a more stylized UPA cartoon from Bobe Cannon and T. Hee.
Magic Highway USA, 1958 (48:17), a full episode of Disneyland/Wonderful World of Color, directed by Ward Kimball (previously here) and sponsored by the Portland Cement Association is a mix of live-action and animation that is more about roads than cars (and mostly cheerleading "the freedom of the American Highway"). Animated Segments: American Roads Before the Auto (3:30), Tongue-in-Cheek Ideas for Improving Cars & Highways (3:50), Ever-More-Futuristic Transportation Predictions (as of 1958) (8:45).
Automania 2000, 1963 (8:48), Halas & Batchelor's tale of a utopian-turned-dystopian future where auto overpopulation changes everything.
Autókor, 1964 (9:34), a Hungarian production mixing photographs of cars (and other things) with cut-out animation for an abstract version of a car-driven lifestyle.
The Ever-Changing Motor Car, 1965 (10:35), made for Ford of Britain, a not-quite intellectual "Psychological Enquiry Into Motor Car Design and Fashion" featuring "Professor Siegfried Von Fraud" and many whimsical car designs Ford was not selling in the '60s.
Mr. Rossi Buys a Car, 1966 (10:25), directed by Bruno Bozzetto (previously here), in which one of the last pedestrians makes the transformation into driver and learns all the pitfalls of car ownership, ending up a little like Goofy in "Motor Mania" - some themes just keep recurring.
What on Earth, 1966 (9:35), from the Film Board of CanadaMars, showing what happens when explorers from another planet make their first aerial surveys of Earth and mistakenly conclude that the dominant species is the Automobile. One of my personal all-time favorite stand-alone cartoons.

But wait! Mr. Amidi missed a few other significant cartoons from the era...

"Susie the Little Blue Coupe", 1951 (8:15), the anthropomorphized autos in this Disney cartoon were an obvious inspiration for Pixar's "Cars".

"Magoo's Puddle Jumper", 1956 (6:20), the second Oscar-winning animated short for UPA's nearsighted Mr. Magoo finds him buying an 'electric car' and driving it straight off a pier and into an unwitting underwater adventure.

"Your Safety First", 1956 (12:38), produced for the Automobile Manufacturers Association, this year-2000 set toon (it's always the year 2000) features "future living" tropes years before The Jetsons (but no flying cars) segueing oddly into a self-congratulatory history lesson about cars and the carmakers' commitment to safety.

"Stop Driving Us Crazy (The Spy from Mars)", 1958, part 1 (4:56) 2 (4:54). With an abstract/minimalist style and a story similar to "What on Earth?", an alien who resembles an automobile tries to blend in on earth, with messages of safe driving and spirituality from a National Safety Council/Methodist Church co-production. Quite an unusual mix.

Of course, the most iconic cartoon cars of the early '60s were George Jetson's flying vehicle (Show Opening (:55)) and Fred Flintstone's foot-powered roadster ("Fred's Second Car", part 1 (12:24), 2 (12:06)).

Gerry Anderson's first 'Supermarionation' production in 1961 featured the ultimate all-terrain "Supercar" (first episode, part 1 (12:21), 2 (11:51)).

"Freewayphobia or The Art of Driving the Super Highway", 1965 (15:34), has Disney's Goofy again, portraying three different "bad driver types" (Timidius, Fidgitus and Neglectus, all a little more like the ol' Goof than in "Motor Mania") in an obvious Driver's Ed film.

But in 1967-68, TV cartoons lost interest in the street and the highway and set all their auto-themed animation on racetracks, including the seminal anime "Speed Racer" (first episode (24:02)), Hanna-Barbera's large-cast "Wacky Races" (first episode (10:53)) and Jay Ward's satiric "Tom Swift" (first episode (6:31)).

And it must be noted that some of the most popular cartoons set on a highway during those years featured no cars (and only an occasional big truck): Chuck Jones' (previously here, a lot) Road Runner and Coyote (here's the classic 'painted tunnel' gag from the first Road Runner cartoon "Fast and Furry-ous").

Of course, there were cartoons depicting America's 'love affair with the automobile' long before 1950, as far back as 1916 for the short shorts based on Tom Powers comics ""Mr. Nobody Holme - He Buys a Jitney" (1:40)" and "Never Again! The Story of a Speeder Cop" (2:04).
1931 saw now-forgotten cartoon star Flip the Frog in "The New Car" (7:25) and Fleischer Studios' sing-a-long advertisement (with a chaotic and somewhat racy intro) "In My Merry Oldsmobile" (6:26).
In the late '30s, Chevrolet sponsored several cartoons in which one of its cars played a major, but usually non-sequitur, role, including 1938's wacky Magic Elf vs. Pirate tale "Nicky Nome (their spelling) in Peg Leg Pedro" (9:19).
And in 1939, Betty Boop ran an 'Auto Hospital' in the suggestively-titled "So Does An Automobile" (6:26).

Happy motoring!
posted by oneswellfoop (6 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
No mention of Tex Avery's "One Cab's Family"?!? Sigh. If Lasseter wasn't watching this when Pixar started "Cars", I'd be stunned.
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:36 PM on January 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Damn. I was hoping this would be about CARtoons magazine.
posted by Splunge at 1:28 PM on January 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

great post...well, except that first one...I have never found any appeal in the disney shorts, that talent-free rat and his buddies aren't good for much outside of being merchandising fodder. Also, wtf?...where the hell are goofy's EARS? srslywtf?

(i will come back later with something nice to say, i promise)
posted by sexyrobot at 1:33 PM on January 17, 2013

Damn. I was hoping this would be about CARtoons magazine.

Krass and Bernie got me through my formative years. I learned how to draw hot rods going "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA" thanks to George Trosley.
posted by rhythim at 3:55 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

JoeZydeco, on search, "One Cab's Family" only showed up on some rather dicey foreign video sites, but here is the least dicey, (Romania?) - at least it hasn't virused MY computer - yet. As for the toon itself, the usual auto anthropomorphizing (hot rods aren't owned by juvenile delinquents, they ARE juvenile delinquents) and plenty of Tex A.'s madcappery in a heartwarming story. A fun watch, but I still think the "Cars" makers borrowed more from "Suzie the Little Blue Coupe", which is a year older.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:29 PM on January 17, 2013

"Damn. I was hoping this would be about CARtoons magazine."

Having been a connoisseur of CARtoons magazine in the mid 60’s
I use to draw my own strips with the little critters. I haven't thought about it
for really tweaked my nostalgia bone. You go, daddy-o
posted by quazichimp at 12:56 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

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