Top 10 Advertising Cartoons

The best toon commercials made before TV.
November 23, 2009
Are you annoyed with TV commercials for cars and the National Guard? Here's a little piece of trivia. Trailers, logos and tie-ins were not the only piece of advertising when movies came before TV and cost a nickel or dime to see. In fact, there were commercials that played up to 10 minutes long, and not just in the theaters of the food and car factories, but the nearest movie palace. Execpt two or three on my list, these were short cartoons that played in the theater.

They had some great robust plots for ads to do its one purpose- to try to sell you something. Some on my list were kind of shameless, others were completely to the point. These didn't just last 30-60 seconds, the most was ten minutes!

I didn't grow up with these, but they ended up on public domain tapes of classic cartoons and TWO authorized releases on behalf of the producers. I watched 'em all either on those videos or on YouTube. The video versions I saw usually removed the product placement.

Some of these cartoons you may have never heard of, but are bits of obscurity and is beyond retro enough to qualify for RJ users' classification of what is "retro".

10. Breakfast Pals

Sponsor: Kellogg's Rice Krispies

Producer: Cartoon Films, Ltd.

This cartoon tells it all, a nice breakfast, a good-ol' fashioned whistle for Snap, Crackle, and Pop. Until some time in the 90's, I don't know (probably when Cap'n Crunch stopped battling with the Soggies), kids wanted cereal that wasn't soggy. So, with some cartoon violence using a "complete breakfast" (the healthier and more fattening) as weapons, Snap Crackle and Pop battle the Soggy, Toughy and Mushy and in victory they make a golden cereal crackle with milk. The end. The print had no end title, and I think some footage was missing, so unless there's a long version, I didn't think it was long enough. Allthough I did vauglely remember it from a Kellogg's Museum near the headquarters.

9. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (NOT the Rankin-Bass Animagic special currently repeating annualy on CBS)

Producer: Jam Handy Orginization

Directed by Max Fleischer

Sponsor: Montgomery Ward/St. Nicholas Music, Inc.

In this Christmas cartoon, techincially not a commericial and doesn't sell anything (I can imagine the line for Santa that this played on looking like the Movie Ride at Disney-MGM Studio), but is an ok cartoon nontheless.

Seen on Disney sing-along/Kit Parker tapes and a Republic Pictures tape by accident (despite it being listed on the back cover).

Rudolph is playing games and the other reindeer tease him (but the remarks aren't for me "calling names" but are still hurtful). Santa calls out the reindeer and we see some fluidly almost Disney or Russian cartoon studio type animation, just countless inbetween movements. But Santa sees the blizzard out his window and calls out Rudolph when he's sleeping. They deliever presents to cartoon animals and Rudolph gives a medal of honor.

He then blushes (which embarassed me too for some reason).

And the standard verision has this akward end title which may have obscured any reference to "Ward's". Maybe latter-day Jam Handy Studio employee Ray Pointer, who is alive and well in the animation forums (, The Animation Show Animation History Forum, etc.)

But it's still an ok cartoon nonentheless. I prefer the claymation special better.

8. In My Merry Oldsmobile

Producer: Fleischer Studios, Inc.

Sponsor: Olds Motor Works

Popeye, Mickey Mouse, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, typical silent movies, Superman, King Kong, and much later Dudlely Do-Right all have one thing in common- a typical villian going after the girl.

This is one of those cartoons or movies. Clever Fleischer gags and Bouncing Ball Sing-Along, I wish Paramount would have been involved in some input by putting their logo or something.

Plot? The villian is going after a female, and after her boyfriend saves the day, it leads to a sing-along to the praises of Oldsmobiles.

Too bad GM shut the brand down in 2003.

7. "Chiquta Bannana" series

Sponsor: United Fruit Co.

Producer: Unknown

It's hard to tell if it's Disney or Famous Studios (Paramount) who produced these movie-house ads, but since they look like Famous Studios to me, and they have a great snip of the song, they're good for me.

For some, the song the anthro-bannana is singing considered a scam to buy more bannanas. Also, it could have #10 spot, but since they did a better try than the others and aren't a bore (execpt when you see live-action shots of people making and eating bannanas), but it's a nice try.

The bannana's end title? A simple wink- fade out. No lettering.

A more tropical look at the Winnie-the-Pooh featurettes and movie, eh?

6. Nicky Nome in "Peg Leg Pedro"
Producer: Jam Handy Orginization

Sponsor: Chevrolet (GM)

This "Treasure Island" commercial opens with the evil captain lashing his crew of pirates with a certian song inspiring SpongeBob's theme, then attacks a good captain's sailboat with a cannon shot. The good captain needs Nicky Nome's help and they both go to a island full of treasure. They try to get gold, but the pirate has a Chevy to fill in the loot. The pirates then get a cartoon bruise from being run over their own Chevy. But how will the good captain bring home the treasure? Nicky has an idea: The Chevy pulls the entire ship full of gold.

Great music, and this is an idea of how robust your commercials can be. The print was nice, looks very Technicolor-quality.

5. The Sunshine Makers

Producer: Ted E. Cartoon Studio (possibly reissued by Van Buruen) (can't spell his last name online, it's pretty long).

Sponsor: Borden's Milk

It's almost morning and the little dwarfs knock for their daily ritual: worshipping the sun. They sing their happy musical number about the sun and how it makes great Borden's milk, as the lab turns it into milk bottles and make everybody happy. Meanwhile, some unhappy creatures are singing about their miserable lives and how it's ok for them. After a milk bottle is dropped onto a sad creatures bottom, he runs around in terror that happiness is coming to them. So it's a fight to the finish until the milk bottles ends the war.

End title is intact on Borden's prints.

4. A Coach For Cinderella

Producer: Jam Handy Orginzation

Sponsor: Chevrolet (GM)

The first animated movie-house commericial in Techincolor. The one that started it all (even though B&W ads and #5 precceded it). Also the debut of Nicky Nome.

Cinderella is unhappy with her stepsisters being mean to her, so Nicky Nome decides to make a coach for her. Nicky orders in ryhme "the finest coach in all of the land". While you see a silk shirt being made, the coach-building is the real deal. Fun gags and music ends up putting the coach inside the inferno "Modernizer" and with a suprised Cinderella seeing the curtian opening a brand new 1936 Cheverolet at the end. Even though the sequel, "A Ride For Cinderella" helped countiue the rest of the fairytale, this is a classic nontheless.

3. Phillps Brodcast of 1938

Producer: George Pal (billed as a "Puppetoon")

Sponsor: Phillips Electronics

Has some great musical moments and the animation is wonderful. Another reason I loved this is because the sequel was a Paramount Puppetoon called "The Little Brodcast", which was even BETTER, despite the only uncut splice-less copies of Paramount's version being at the UCLA Film and TV Archive. In fact, they even combined in 1987's "The Puppetoon Movie".

2. Ether Symphony

Producer: George Pal (billed as a Puppetoon)

Sponsor: Phillips Electronics

(note that this was orginally in color, but these pics are sketches).

In the heavens of radio, comes a God-like King of the Ether, warning people who have mono static radios. Musicians play and falls down, with beautiful music. When the musicians fall down on an old radio, the instruments break so they break the old radio with weapons and replace it with a radio that reproduces such beautfiul music as the invisible salesman claims. The King of the Ether sends down a note saying that the best music comes from a Stereophonic radio, and splices to the Phillips radio end title.

1. Mickey Mouse in Mickey's Suprise Party

Producer: Walt Disney Productions

Sponsor: Nabisco

This great cartoon was shown at the 1939 New York World's Fair and is rarely seen in theaters.

Minnie Mouse makes some homemade cookies to suprise Mickey, but a fly and Fifi have a fight which puts popcorn kernels in the batter. When Mickey comes, she rushes to bake it and plays the piano. After Mickey guesses that it's cookies that's the suprise and Minnie replies, "Maybe...", Mickey smells the burning cookies and Minnie screams in horror. Mickey tries to put out the "popcorn" cookies before they burn using the water in Cleo's fishbowl and fight with the popping cookies. Pluto fights with a cookie, and it pops inside his stomach in crazy directions. The next scene involves Minnie crying and revealing the suprise, but they're burnt. So Mickey has an idea- he suprises Minnie with cookies his mom used to buy after burning her own. After he opens the box when suprising Minnie it turns out his mother bought Nabisco cookies, most of which exist in your real-life cookie aisle today, along with Milk-Bone for the dogs. Mickey Mouse opens a box of Fig Newtons, his favorite, and Minnie kisses him as a thank you. Iris out to the old-school Nabisco logo superimposed by a super sound recording bug and "The End".

So the next time you go into a theater and groan to yourself about how ads were a new thing and they don't belong think of these 10 great advertisements and their impact on theater advertising. Even if you're not intrested in what's being pitched, don't just completly take it for granted by saying "My theater didn't play commercials back in the good ol' days.".

Bye for now!

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