Ignacio Coltero
2023-09-18T05:04:06Z
Hello, I'd like to share with you an interesting note that was published by Devon Baxter.
It's a telegram sent to Dick Huemer by Van Beuren in which the latter asks Huemer and his colleagues, Sid Marcus and Art Davis, to return to New York to work in his studio to produce a new series about human characters, who are undoubtedly the future Tom and Jerry.

Van Beuren telegram

This is a very interesting piece of information, as it completely overturns everything we knew about Van Beuren's launch of the series. Indeed, in the introduction to the filmography of Tom and Jerry , David Gerstein states that the creation of these two human characters was the idea of animators George Stallings and George Rufle, but this telegram shows that the idea of creating a series centered on humans did not come from them at all. Gerstein also implies that the creation of the series was a consequence of Walt Disney's lawsuit against Van Beuren over the Milton and Rita Mouse characters, but the date the telegram was sent - April 2, just two days after Disney's lawsuit - shows that the two events are not connected.

To return to the event in question, I think it was a very good idea on Van Beuren's part to hire Huemer, Marcus and Davis in his studio, because if all three were excellent animators, the Tom and Jerry series could have benefited from careful animation and could have been much more successful, because it should be noted that the main reason for the series' failure was due to its lamentable animation. In fact, the animation is so sloppy and lazy that the characters' expressions become almost unintelligible, making it impossible to get attached to Tom and Jerry as we can't feel Tom's fear and anxiety and Jerry's tranquility and cynicism. I'm sure the series could have been much more successful if it had had proper animation!

What's more, both John Foster and Dick Huemer made some very good horror cartoons, particularly The Haunted Ship (1930) and Halloween (1931), so their association could have given us great things.

Unfortunately, Charles Mintz must have been tipped off somehow, which is perhaps why he stopped producing Toby The Pup cartoons and terminated his contract with RKO.

If anyone has any further information or suggestions on this event, I'd love to hear from you!
Ignacio Coltero
2023-09-20T00:52:10Z
Obviously no one has any information to contribute or any suggestions to make...

I guess the information I have given must not have been well understood.

If you haven't understood anything I've said, please don't hesitate to let me know.
PopKorn Kat
2023-09-20T03:23:08Z
Please be patient. This forum isn't the most active place in the world, and your post was only made two days ago.
Ignacio Coltero
2023-09-20T03:40:11Z
Originally Posted by: PopKorn Kat 

Please be patient. This forum isn't the most active place in the world, and your post was only made two days ago.



Okay, I thought the lack of response was because people here hadn't understood my message, but you're right, I should have been more patient.
S. C. MacPeter
2023-09-20T12:51:51Z
I actually meant to reply to this yesterday, but other work and interests got in my way first. As long as people don't give off a sense of ignorance in their responses, I'm very much willing to respond to topics here, particularly those on New York cartoons!

Unfortunately, in this topic, we have no idea how Mintz, or Huemer and co. thought about this telegram. Since neither Huemer or Davis (most prominently interviewed) mentioned anything about this offer made by Van Beuren, its likely they either didn't respond or didn't care about the offer. By April 1931, work would've already began on the Scrappys, so its likely not one of them would have taken the offer, that likely would've eventually have them move back to New York, something I don't think they would've wanted to do. That said, Van Beuren's offer implies them staying in California, so if that was the case, its unlikely there would've been direct creative contribution between them and the NY staff

I also have some doubts about Van Beuren's seriousness in this offer too. Keep in mind, Huemer, Marcus, and Davis were just completing the Toby the Pups at this time, which were ended in part, due to politics to the RKO-Pathe merger. Pathe brought the Van Beuren studio, which seems to of been the preferred studio, and thus got more marketing. Van Beuren may not of wanted two studios both working for RKO-Pathe, which may be why he made this offer. Its possible this was an attempt swindle the staff for doing cartoons for RKO as well, but we'll never know, as again, we have no surviving evidence of how Huemer and co. reacted to this offer, or Van Beuren's further motives behind this offer, though the latter is not hard to guess, to some extent.

I'd like to thank Devon Baxter's post, An Art Davis Scrapbook on Cartoon Research , where you swiped the telegram from
Ignacio Coltero
2023-09-21T09:33:11Z
Originally Posted by: S. C. MacPeter 

I actually meant to reply to this yesterday, but other work and interests got in my way first. As long as people don't give off a sense of ignorance in their responses, I'm very much willing to respond to topics here, particularly those on New York cartoons!

Unfortunately, in this topic, we have no idea how Mintz, or Huemer and co. thought about this telegram. Since neither Huemer or Davis (most prominently interviewed) mentioned anything about this offer made by Van Beuren, its likely they either didn't respond or didn't care about the offer. By April 1931, work would've already began on the Scrappys, so its likely not one of them would have taken the offer, that likely would've eventually have them move back to New York, something I don't think they would've wanted to do. That said, Van Beuren's offer implies them staying in California, so if that was the case, its unlikely there would've been direct creative contribution between them and the NY staff

I also have some doubts about Van Beuren's seriousness in this offer too. Keep in mind, Huemer, Marcus, and Davis were just completing the Toby the Pups at this time, which were ended in part, due to politics to the RKO-Pathe merger. Pathe brought the Van Beuren studio, which seems to of been the preferred studio, and thus got more marketing. Van Beuren may not of wanted two studios both working for RKO-Pathe, which may be why he made this offer. Its possible this was an attempt swindle the staff for doing cartoons for RKO as well, but we'll never know, as again, we have no surviving evidence of how Huemer and co. reacted to this offer, or Van Beuren's further motives behind this offer, though the latter is not hard to guess, to some extent.

I'd like to thank Devon Baxter's post, An Art Davis Scrapbook on Cartoon Research , where you swiped the telegram from



Thank you for this very comprehensive and informative reply.

I am rather surprised to learn that Dick Huemer and his colleagues did not want to return to New York, as Ben Harrison in his handwritten notes  had implied the opposite. However, it seems to me that Dick Huemer had mentioned in an interview that he wanted to go and work at Disney Studios at the time, which might explain why he wasn't interested in Van Beuren's request.

I'd also forgotten that RKO didn't start distributing Van Beuren's cartoons until 1931, which explains much better why they stopped distributing the Mintz studio's cartoons, thanks for reminding me.

Again, it's a real shame that this project failed, but at least it shows that Van Beuren tried to improve the quality of animation in these cartoons (unless, as you say, it was just a scam on his part).

By the way, do you know if the first Scrappy cartoons were produced before the end of the Toby the Pup series?
Ignacio Coltero
2023-10-13T17:05:37Z
Does anyone know where the claim comes from that George Stalling and George Rufles created the Tom and Jerry characters?
S. C. MacPeter
2023-10-14T03:27:06Z
Probably less a "claim" and more so that they directed a majority of the Van Beuren cartoons. John Foster most definitely gets de facto credit because he was the head of the studio, and because he absolutely designed the two. His own drawing style, especially shown in the drawings he sent to his family during summer vacations, is very much how the two initially turned out. These images courtesy Charlie Judkins and Foster's family  

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Ignacio Coltero
2023-10-16T02:37:22Z
Originally Posted by: S. C. MacPeter 

Probably less a "claim" and more so that they directed a majority of the Van Beuren cartoons. John Foster most definitely gets de facto credit because he was the head of the studio, and because he absolutely designed the two. His own drawing style, especially shown in the drawings he sent to his family during summer vacations, is very much how the two initially turned out. These images courtesy Charlie Judkins and Foster's family  

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According to Ray Pointer, Stallings and Ruffle didn't arrive at Van Beuren until late 1930, the Stone age Stunt cartoon being their first animator credit, so they couldn't have done the majority of Van Beuren's cartoons, since, let's remember, the studio was founded in the early 20s. Before that, the two animators worked at Fleischer, but I don't know what they animated there, though what I do know is that they invented a new method of musical synchronization called the "Rufflestick" and Max Fleischer's apartment wanted to get hold of this invention, which explains why they resigned.

As far as Tom and Jerry are concerned, I totally agree with you that the original design of the characters clearly resembles John Foster's drawing style. Later, their design will be streamlined and become closer and closer to George Stallings' style, until they are completely redesigned in the middle of the series, perfectly visible on the title card. By this time, John Foster was no longer animating at all, and was content to give directions to the animators, which is perhaps why he was fired.

However, after his dismissal, the series' animation improved considerably, with character expressions becoming clearer and their design much less unstable, and gags were also much better timed. Perhaps if the series had continued, it might have become popular, but we'll never know, as Van Beuren eventually canceled it and replaced it with a new series centered on the blackface comedy duo Amos 'n Andy.

Unfortunately, the animation in this series regressed terribly for no apparent reason, becoming extremely stiff and jerky - even the early Tom and Jerry's were much better animated than this! I don't know what prompted Stallings and Ruffles to animate in this way, but it was clearly a mistake, as the public really didn't appreciate these cartoons and neither did the actors who dubbed Amos and Andy. The latter eventually broke their contract with Van Beuren to save their reputations, which put an end to the association between Stallings and Ruffles, and it's a real shame that things ended so badly for them.
S. C. MacPeter
2023-10-18T02:58:29Z
Woah woah! You're getting a little bit off track, you may want to start a general Van Beuren thread if you'd like to talk all about the studio. That said, you say a few things I'd like to address right away.

Ray Pointer seems to be a little off, Culhane accounts in his book Stalling and Rufle leaving either March or May 1930, don't have it onhand to check. They probably would've joined within a few weeks if not right away (its possible they were hired away at better pay, since a lot of staff were leaving or being terminated during this period and the need of experienced animators was apparent). The Van Beuren backlot was about 3 months around this period, so they probably start showing up around the beginning of the 1930-31 season.

You mention Foster no longer animating by then, which is understandable, he was busy trying to meet deadlines that were broken and manage the team, so he was definitely dedicated to the hard work nonetheless.

In the studio line Tom and Jerry was actually replaced contractually with The Little King series, as reported. To my understanding, it seems the shorts were nicely received, but the shorts weren't standouts and were seen as "replaceable" in a lineup. Amos n Andy was a new addition to the pipeline altogether, although it seems animation (particularly on RASSIN MATCH) was rushed for unknown reasons, being majorly done by Geo Stallings. I don't think the staff was committed to them, Amos and Andy were hard to record since they were in LA, and RKO seems to have forced the series in order to give "star power" to try and make the cartoons successful which failed miserably

I doubt there truly was an "association" between Stalling and Rufle, especially since Stalling ratted out Rufle and others as trying to unionize the studio due to the tight deadlines (from POPEYE THE UNION MAN). This may be why Stalling went to LA; Gillet had to desperately rehire a few of the guys such as Rufle in order to get a proper staff together early on

This is all way too off the original topic though, so apologies
PopKorn Kat
2023-10-18T19:14:47Z
I concur with S.C. MacPeter. If you feel this thread is straying from the original topic, you may wish to start a new, general Van Beuren thread.
Ignacio Coltero
2023-10-20T08:45:19Z
Originally Posted by: PopKorn Kat 

I concur with S.C. MacPeter. If you feel this thread is straying from the original topic, you may wish to start a new, general Van Beuren thread.



Okay, I'll create a new topic on Van Beuren.