The Most Obscure Warner Bros. Cartoons of All Time

Written by Jon Cooke, Lee Glover, Matthew Hunter, and Pietro Shakarian

There are a select few Warner Bros. cartoons that, after their initial theatrical release, were hardly ever seen again, if at all. These shorts do indeed exist and are owned and maintained by Warner Bros. but their lack of exposure has kept them out of the public's reach for decades. Despite this, thanks to recent DVD releases, limited television exposure, and the work of a few diligent researchers, these films, previously thought impossible to find, are finally getting the attention they properly deserve. Provided below are images and detailed descriptions of arguably the most obscure Warner Bros. cartoons of all time.


Index:

Point Rationing of Foods (1943) | So Much for So Little (1949) | 90 Day Wondering (1956) |
Drafty, Isn't It? (1957) | Philbert (Three's a Crowd) (1963) | Norman Normal (1968) |
The Door (1968) | Injun Trouble (1969)


Point Rationing of Foods


Release Date: 2/1943; Genre: educational film; Produced for: Government Office Of Price Administration; Released by: Government Office Of War Information Bureau of Motion Pictures; Direction: Chuck Jones; Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling; Narration: Robert C. Bruce

Background: Produced by the Schlesinger studio for the US government, Point Rationing of Foods is a film aimed to instruct wartime audiences about the point system of food rationing.

Description: The film opens explaining the importance of food for US troops, the home front, and the overseas Allies in the war effort. Each of these is accompanied by stylized visuals of American troops arriving in Europe, an American family flanked by farmers and factory workers, and a Soviet soldier trudging through the snow on the Eastern Front respectively. The film then moves on to describe the most effective way to provide American and Allied soldiers with food that is, both in cans and in dried form. Unfortunately, the film explains, wartime shortages in tin and farm labor as well as the use of transportation for troops, armaments, and supplies have placed a restraint on the canning and shipping of foods. The narrator concludes that rationing needs to be implemented in order to ensure that everyone gets their fair share of food supplies.

The film states that, until 1943, the government had been rationing one item at a time. However, this system proved inadequate for fruit and vegetable needs. So, it explains the reason that point rationing is a much more reliable and effective system for the rationing of foods. Point rationing basically assigns point ration numbers to various food items, with the less scare items having lower numbers and the more scarce items having higher numbers. Shoppers are required to use a booklet of ration stamps, with blue stamps for canned goods and red stamps for meats. To demonstrate how this works, a young woman shopping for groceries is used to illustrate to the audience how to best use the system. Instead of buying processed or canned fruits, for example, she instead opts to buy fresh fruits and vegetables that are not subject to rationing.

Point Rationing of Foods is a fascinating film in more ways than one. It is, first and foremost, a work of historical interest. However, it is also graphically enticing, utilizing minimalist and highly stylized backgrounds and layouts. In terms of daring, the film comes extremely close to, but just shy of, the radical stylization of John Hubley's Flat Hatting that would be finished a year later.

The animation is impressive. Jones' direction is energetic and engaging. Stalling delivers an effective musical score, utilizing Now's the Time to Fall in Love during the shopping sequence. Though the film may not be viewed with much regard today, it certainly must have had an impact on American movie-going audiences in the 1940s, not least because it succeeds in holding and maintaining the interest of the viewer. The film was relatively obscure for several years. However, despite this, it was released on volume three of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD series in October 2005.

- P.S.

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So Much for So Little


Release Date: 1949; Genre: educational/documentary film; Produced for: the Federal Security Agency Public Health Service; Direction: Chuck Jones; Animation: Ben Washam, Ken Harris, Phil Monroe, Lloyd Vaughn; Layouts and Backgrounds: Robert Gribbroek, Paul Julian, Peter Alvarado; Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling; Awards: Academy Award Winner for Best Documentary Short Subject 1950 (tied with A Chance to Live (1949))

Background: Essentially a PSA for the U.S. Health Department, So Much For So Little is an unusual entry in the Warner Bros. cartoon filmography.

Description: The film follows a man named Johnny from infancy through old age, and demonstrates what the government's health services do for him throughout. Diseases and the flies that carry them are depicted as imaginative, monstrous creatures, school health services are shown as simple doodles on a chalkboard, and the depiction of Johnny's near-heart attack will make you think twice before eating that next donut. Overall, despite its dated information, So Much For So Little manages to take relatively boring subject matter and demonstrate it in an imaginative and visually impressive way.

Directed by Chuck Jones and narrated by Frank Graham, the film won an Academy Award in the "Best Documentary" category. Though it is woefully dated now and provides little entertainment value, it remains an interesting work, primarily for its innovative use of graphic design. Background painters Paul Julian, Robert Gribbroek and Pete Alvarado all contributed to the still image-heavy style, and Jones' expressive, limited animation shows a side of his creativity that was rarely expressed in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series. It was featured on The Lost Cartoons episode of Toonheads on Cartoon Network in March 2000 and was released on volume two of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD series in November 2004 and on the Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Academy Awards Animation Collection in February 2008.

- M.H.

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90 Day Wondering


Release Date: 1956; Genre: educational film; Produced for: the United States Army MF 12-8669; Production Number: 1394; Direction: Chuck Jones; Story: Michael Maltese; Animation: Ben Washam, Abe Levitow, Ken Harris, Richard Thompson; Layouts: Maurice Noble; Backgrounds: Philip DeGuard; Musical Direction: Milt Franklyn; Voice Characterizations: Mel Blanc, Daws Butler

Background: Produced for the U.S. Army, 90 Day Wondering is a cartoon showing the benefits for ex-soldiers to re-list in the Army within three months of leaving.

Description: A grown-up Ralph Phillips can not wait to leave the Army and return to civilian life, and leaves in Taz-like fashion by taxi (stopping halfway to get a tailor-made suit), plane, and train. Sometime after being enthusiastically greeted by his family, he returns to his old haunt The Sugar Bowl, expecting to be greeted by his old friends, but finds that a new generation has taken over, making him feel "old." Dejected, he phones his old girlfriends (listed in his little black book), but finds out that every one of them is now married. Having learned that his hometown has changed so much during his time in the army, he sits on a park bench, depressed, wondering if he should re-list in the Army. Then, a tiny character called Pete (the civilian's friend) appears, trying to persuade Ralph that he should stay a civilian. However, Pete is challenged by another dwarf, a soldier named "Re-Pete", who shows Ralph the benefits of re-listing in the Army, each time offering more than Pete could muster. Convinced by Re-Pete, and discovering that he has only 27 minutes to re-list, Ralph rushes back to Army camp by train, plane, and taxi (stopping halfway to return his suit to the tailors).

This cartoon would not be out of place with the studio's general output (the Sloane Foundation shorts were similar in style to this cartoon) and is quite an entertaining short, but this was produced only for the U.S. Army, and therefore it did not obtain great exposure to the wider public. However, this was included on volume four of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD series in November 2006.

- L.G.

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Drafty, Isn't It?


Release Date: 1957; Genre: educational film; Produced for: the United States Army MF 12-8853; Production Number: 1478; Written and Directed by: Chuck Jones; Animation: Ken Harris, Abe Levitow, Richard Thompson; Layouts: Maurice Noble; Character Layout: Abe Levitow; Backgrounds: Philip DeGuard; Film Editor: Treg Brown; Voice Characterizations: Daws Butler; Musical Direction: Milt Franklyn

Background: Made for the U.S. Army, Drafty, Isn't It? is an animated recruitment film informing would-be soldiers on the facts and benefits of Army life if they volunteered rather than being drafted.

Description:Ralph Phillips, now graduated from High School, is sleeping in his bedroom with his window open, letting in a terrible draft. Despite this, he keeps dreaming of his future occupations, which always end with a giant shadow-like figure beckoning towards him. Meanwhile, a dwarf soldier (Willie N. List) enters his house, and tries quietly to enter his bedroom without waking up his dog, which at times he has to sing Rock-A-Bye Baby just to send it back to sleep. Meanwhile, he employs his "ACME Anti-Nightmare Machine", to "project" dreams of Army life to a still-sleeping Ralph, pointing about the benefits and also shattering the comical myths. At the end, the dog wakes up and leaps towards the soldier, but he escapes, and the pooch lands on Ralph instead, which wakes him up. Then, he sees the same shadowy figure outside his window, which turns out to be a soldier on a billboard.

A rather straightforward cartoon with light humour, this was intended only for the U.S. military audience, in particular would-be recruits. The general public was finally able to view this on volume four of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD series.

- L.G.

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Philbert (Three's a Crowd)


Release Date: 4/1963; Genre: TV pilot/theatrical featurette; Production Number: 3106 (trailer: 3105); MPAA: 20295; Starring: William Schallert, Joanna Barnes; Voice of Philbert: Trustin Howard; Director: Richard D. Donner; Director Of Animation: Friz Freleng; Story: Friz Freleng; Screenplay: Richard DeRoy; Animation Gag Material: John Dunn; Musical Direction: Howard Jackson; Animation Co-Directors: Hawley Pratt, Gerry Chiniquy; Animation: Art Babbitt, Virgil Ross, Ken Harris, Bob Matz, Ben Washam, Art Leonardi, Lee Halpern; Art Direction: Stanley Fleischer; Set Decorations: C.H. Barrett, Ralph Hurst; Assistant Director: Russ Saunders; Film Editor: Donald Tait; Music Editor: Hal Findlay; Title Song by: Sammy Fain, Sy Miller; Sound: Ross Owen; Makeup Supervisor: Gordon Bau; Supervising Hair Stylist: Jean Burt Reilly

Background: Philbert was an idea for a television series thought up by Friz Freleng in 1961. Warner Bros. produced the pilot for ABC. It never broadcast due to executive politics between ABC and Warner Bros. which resulted in ABC canceling all Warner Bros. programming from their network in the early 1960s.

Description: A cartoonist named Griff (William Schallert) draws the Philbert comic book, the title character has the ability to come to life in the form of a six-inch tall cartoon character (in a blend of live-action and animation). In the pilot, Philbert (voiced by Trustin Howard) tries to cause trouble between Griff and his girlfriend, Angela (Joanna Barnes) when he overhears her plans to marry Griff and "make something of him" ("No husband of mine is going to spend his time drawing corny jokes for a living.").

Philbert was eventually released as a theatrical featurette in 1963 and in March 2000 was featured on The Lost Cartoons episode of Toonheads on Cartoon Network. In October 2005, a restored print was released as a special feature on volume three of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD series.

- J.C.

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Norman Normal


Release Date: 2/3/68; Genre: "Cartoon Special"; Production Number: 3345; MPAA: 21778; Producers: William L. Hendricks, N. Paul Stookey; Direction: Alex Lovy; Story and Voices: N. Paul Stookey, Dave Dixon (mis-credited as Paul Dixon); Animation: Ted Bonnicksen, LaVerne Harding, Volus Jones, Ed Solomon; Layout: John Freeman; Backgrounds: Bob Abrams, Ralph Penn; Film Editor Hal Geer; Music: William Lava, N. Paul Stookey

Background: Norman Normal was released as neither a "Looney Tunes" nor "Merrie Melodies" short, but as a "Cartoon Special". It featured music by Paul Stookey of the folk-rock group Peter, Paul, and Mary, who released an album in 1967 by Warner Bros. entitled Album. Dave Dixon (mis-credited as Paul Dixon) provided the voice of Norman.

Description: The film opens with a multi-colored band playing the Norman Normal theme song. Norman, the cartoon's self-described "hero" closes the door on the band and tells us that we'll hear the song "again at the end." He walks down the corridor and enters another door where he meets his boss. He tries to coax Norman into making a cilent sign a contract by getting him drunk. "Eveybody's doing it, Norm!" Norman is clearly uncomfortable about the request. "Nobody'll ever know," the boss says. "I'll know," Norman responds. Both begin arguing, as the cartoon illustrates, like children. Finally, Norman agrees, but privately decides to do otherwise. "I'll go to his office and I'll say, look here B.B. we got a good ball bearing and we haven't. You don't buy favors with alcohol."

Norman then drifts off towards another door and meets his father, seeking advice. However, his father only rambles about his childhood during the Great Depression. He tries to tell Norman "not to make waves" and "fit in" while mysteriously blending into the scenery. From there, Norman enters another room where he finds a business party. There he meets his friend Leo who wears a lamp-shade on his head and worries about seeking the approval of others. Another one of Norman's friends starts telling him a joke about "the traveling salesman." But Norman asks him if the joke is "going to be about a minority group" and if after he tells it that "we're all going to laugh and feel superior?" The bartender, Hal, insults Norman after Norman selects ginger ale as his beverage of choice and not giving into the pressure of selecting an alcoholic drink. Norman leaves and apologizes to the audience before returning to the door with the multi-colored band. We zoom out and we see that the door is on Norman's head. Norman shuts the door and the film ends abruptly.

Norman Normal is a very interesting cartoon. A "think piece", it seems to focus on the importance of individuality as opposed to conformity in society. It is further significant as a "generation piece" with Norman representing the late-1960s everyman, facing the difficulties and anxieties of the Baby Boom Generation (minus, of course, Vietnam, which is not mentioned in the film at all). Due to the fact that the short was geared more to adults than to children, it has rarely been broadcast on television. However, there have been noteworthy exceptions including broadcasts in the late 1980s on Looney Tunes on "Nick at Nite" and in 2002 on Cartoon Network in the United Kingdom. A fully restored print of the film was released on volume six of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD series in October 2008.

- P.S.

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The Door


Release Date: 6/1/68; Copyright Year: 1967; Genre: animated independent/art film; Production Number: 3426; Presented by: Silver-Campbell-Cosby Corporation; Produced and Directed by: Ken Mundie; Associate Producer: Les Goldman; Music: Clark "Mumbles" Terry

Background: The Door was not an official Warner Bros. cartoon, but an independent short film acquired and released under the cartoon banner. It was directed by Ken Mundie and produced partly by Bill Cosby.

Description: Two stylized, watercolor-rendered American Indians go hunting, to the scat-sung, mumbled soundtrack. They come upon an Indian maiden who shows them a strange door. They open the door and see live-action shots of busy cities, war, and other modern chaos. As they see this, the music becomes more and more frantic. The ending of the cartoon shows an atomic bomb exploding as the door closes, revealing the precautionary, and very 1960s message: "peace." It's an interesting film, but frankly, it isn't particularly enjoyable more than once or twice. Perhaps the reason it is so rarely seen, and has never aired on television alongside the other cartoons, is that it might not appeal to children.

- M.H.

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Injun Trouble


Release Date: 9/20/69; Genre: theatrical animated short subject (Merrie Melodies); Production Number: 3462; Direction: Robert McKimson; Story: Cal Howard; Animation: Ted Bonnicksen, Jim Davis, LaVerne Harding, Ed Solomon; Layout: Bob Givens, Jaime R. Diaz; Backgrounds: Bob McIntosh; Film Editors: Hal Geer, Donald A. Douglas; Voice Characterizations: Larry Storch; Music: William Lava

Background: Injun Trouble is the lost last of the last. It is the final Cool Cat cartoon, Robert McKimson's last Warner Bros. cartoon, the last of the Seven Arts Productions Warner Bros. cartoons, and the last of all original-run Warner Bros. theatrical cartoons from 1930 to 1969. They didn't exactly go out with a bang, but this cartoon really ain't half bad. It was McKimson's second try at Alex Lovy's Cool Cat character and, like his earlier Bugged By A Bee, is one of the funniest of the six Cool Cat films.

Description: Cool Cat, driving a dune buggy, is riding in the desert across Native American territory and sets himself up for a series of rapid-fire puns.You know it won't go well for the poor guy when a smoke signal tells him "Go home Cool Cat!" He encounters one Indian with a bucket on his head ("Look, me PAIL face!") and gets chased by an Indian on horseback who, when clinging for dear life on the edge of a cliff, asks for a hand...Cool Cat claps for him and compliments him on the great stunt. Cool Cat is also given an ugly squaw by a brave guarding the Indian village, causing Cool cat to scream: "Indian giver!" Another character asks Cool Cat "Why", and when the tiger responds, confused: "But I thought Indians wanted to know HOW", the Indian, imitating comedian Groucho Marx, replies "I know how, now I wanna know why!" Yet another wacky Native American hands Cool Cat his shirt so he can ride his horse "bare-back". Finally, Cool Cat enters the city of HotFoot ("A jumpin' town!") and sees horses playing "human shoes". He sees a sign for a topless bar, and winking to the audience, walks right on in...only to find a male bartender with no shirt on. Cool Cat makes the best of it and plays cards with cowpuncher Gower Gulch, but when he learns how Gulch literally "punches", Cool Cat announces that he's "cuttin' out". So, with a pair of scissors, he cuts a hole in the film and exits, delivering the last line of the last classic Warner Bros. cartoon: "So cool it now, ya hear?"

Injun Trouble is perhaps one of the rarest Warner Bros. cartoons of all. Since its original release, the short has received limited television exposure, largely due to its use of Native American stereotypes. It was part of the syndicated Merrie Melodies Show during the early to mid-1970s but has not been broadcast in North America since that time. Overseas, it aired on Cartoon Network France in early 2004 and made an appearance on Germany's Speedy Gonzales Show (Die Schnellste Maus Von Mexiko).

- M.H.

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