Terrytoons was a studio in New Rochelle, New York that produced animated cartoons for theatrical release. Its founder and chief was Paul Terry.
Paul Terry founded the studio in 1929 with Frank Moser, with Audio-Cinema studios providing funding and workspace in the Bronx. Terry and Moser worked with no pay until Audio-Cinema recouped its investment on the first films, released by Educational Pictures.
The cartoons were haphazardly animated and very bizarre, populated generally by mice. It was assembly-line animation with Terry regulating the films with tight budgets and gauging a cartoon ready by how high the stack of animation was. Farmer Al Falfa was the studio's first regular star, and the films in general relied mainly on background music over dialogue. The themes of the cartoon were formulaic and repetitive, with usually no coherent direction. Sometime later in the 1930s, 20th Century Fox took over distribution of the cartoons.
This pretty much continued after Terry broke ground on his own studio in 1934, and many one-shot cartoons were churned out under formula alone. Two films featuring an imperiled heroine, Fannie Zilch, were created, and the villain in the films, Oil Can Harry would be revived later. Terrytoons graduated to color films in 1938, one of the last studios to do so. Gandy Goose and Dinky Duck would be born during this era. It was in 1941 that Terry would capitalize on the success of Superman, which the Fleischer studio brilliantly animated, by creating Super Mouse, which would eventually become Mighty Mouse. It was in the late 1940s Mighty Mouse films that Oil Can Harry would be revived as a villainous cat. Through the 1940s, the Terry cartoons were so bland and listless that theaters would run a Terrytoons film last in a program just to clear the auditorium. As bad a reputation as Terrytoons had, it did garner four Academy Award nominations (1941's All Out For V, 1944's My Boy Johnny, the 1945 Mighty Mouse cartoon Gypsy Life, and the 1958 Silly Sidney cartoon Sidney's Family Tree). In the late 1940s, the studio brought in Jim Tyer, an expatriate animator from Paramount's Famous Studios. Tyer's slapdash style of animation has been widely acclaimed as inherently hilarious for its sheer lack of quality control.
Heckle and Jeckle, two mischievous magpies, were created in 1946 and would become the studio's second biggest stars. In the 1950s, Little Roquefort (a mouse) and the Terry Bears would emerge. In 1955, Paul Terry sold the Terrytoons studio to CBS for $1 million and retired, turning the reins over to financial chief Bill Weiss. CBS immediately capitalized by launching Mighty Mouse Playhouse on Saturday mornings, showcasing Mighty Mouse cartoons, and Barker Bill's Cartoon Show Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Colgate Toothpaste sponsored Mighty Mouse's show. In 1956, Terrytoons films were spotlighted in the summer series CBS Cartoon Theater, hosted by Dick Van Dyke. That series begat The Heckle and Jeckle Cartoon Show. CBS also began syndicating the Terrytoons product through its CBS Films division (later renamed as the original CBS Enterprises in 1968) around that time.
In 1955, CBS brought comic strip artist and former UPA staffer Gene Deitch to give the studio a creative kick in the pants. He created the Terrytoons "smiley-box" logo (pictured above) and he churned out some cartoons that critics actually liked with characters like John Doormat, Clint Clobber, Flebus, Gaston Le Crayon, and his classic TV star Tom Terrific. However, Weiss wasn't thrilled about the Terry studio becoming a renaissance art house, choosing instead to fall back on the same old. It was said that he wanted Deitch out from day one. In 1958, Deitch developed a pilot for CBS prime time, The Easy Winners (about life through the eyes of two toddlers--33 years before Rugrats), which did not sell. In 1959, Deitch left to helm Rembrandt Films, a Czechoslovakia-based studio that would make made-for-TV Popeye cartoons and theatrical Tom and Jerry cartoons.
Terrytoons films released to theaters took on the appearance of made-for-TV budgeted efforts, and the studio created their first all-cartoon made-for-TV effort, The Deputy Dawg Show. Mighty Mouse and Heckle and Jeckle appeared in cartoons that made their earlier efforts look like Disney made them. Other characters from the 1960s included Lariat Sam, Possible Possum, James Hound, Sad Cat, the Martian Moochers, and the Mighty Heroes. In 1964, the Total Television company (Underdog) created a proposed series called The Colossal Show and farmed the pilot out to be animated at Terrytoons. A comic take on Ancient Rome (eight years before Hanna-Barbera's The Roman Holidays), it did not sell. Ralph Bakshi, who started as a cel inker at the studio and took it upon himself to become an animator then a director, would make most of these cartoons and would create the Mighty Heroes for CBS's Saturday morning line-up. After that, the Terrytoons studio shut down. Bill Weiss farmed out two pilots for CBS in 1967--The Ruby Eye Of The Monkey God and Sally Sargent were animated by the Fred Calvert studio. Neither pilot sold, and they would both go into the Mighty Mouse package in syndication. The Fred Calvert studio was commissioned in 1970 to animate Mighty Mouse for Zestabs children's vitamins commercials, using original animation and reusing and altering animation from classic Mighty Mouse films.
CBS Enterprises, the original TV distributor of the Terrytoons library, became Viacom Enterprises in 1971 after CBS spun off its syndication operations due to a 1970 FCC ruling prohibiting the broadcast networks from distributing their own shows in syndication. When Viacom acquired Paramount Communications in 1994, the rights to the Terrytoons library passed to Paramount Pictures (taking over from 20th Century Fox) for theatrical re-release and to Paramount Domestic Television (which had absorbed Viacom Enterprises) for TV distribution. Following Viacom's reacquisition of CBS in 1999 and subsequent corporate restructuring that saw Viacom split into two companies (with the original Viacom becoming what is now CBS Corporation and the current Viacom being spun off from the former) in 2005, CBS reacquired the Terrytoons library as a result. CBS Television Distribution now syndicates the Terrytoons catalogue for television, while the theatrical re-release rights remain with Paramount on behalf of CBS, and home video rights are with Paramount Home Media Distribution via CBS Home Entertainment.
In 1999, Nickelodeon Animation Studios attempted a reboot of Terrytoons stars and created a pilot, Curbside With Heckle & Jeckle. It did not sell.
Characters with two or more theatrical shorts
|Farmer Al Falfa||1931||1946|
|Kiko the Kangaroo||1936||1937|
|Fannie Zilch and Oil Can Harry||1935||1937||Oil Can Harry revived as cat for Mighty Mouse cartoons|
|Puddy the Pup||1936||1938|
|Sourpuss||1938||1951||Mainly co-starred with Gandy Goose|
|Nancy||1941||1941||Comic strip character by Ernie Bushmiller|
|Mighty Mouse||1942||1961||as Super Mouse, 1942-44|
|Heckle and Jeckle||1946||1966|
|Dimwit||1953||1957||stand-alone cartoons (had co-starred with Heckle and Jeckle)|
|The Terry Bears||1951||1956|
|The Dingbat||1949||1952||First appeared in Gandy Goose cartoon|
|Good Deed Daly||1956||1956|
|Gaston Le Crayon||1957||1959|
|Astronut||1964||1966||First appeared on Deputy Dawg TV show; cartoons were released to theaters through 1971|
|Sad Cat||1965||1966||Cartoons were released to theaters through 1968|
|Duckwood||1964||1964||First appeared on Deputy Dawg TV show|
|Possible Possum||1965||1966||Character of Macon Mouse first appeared as Mischa Mouse on the Deputy Dawg TV show; cartoons were released to theaters from 1968 to 1971|
|The Martian Moochers||1966||1966|
Characters created specifically for television
- Tom Terrific
- Lariat Sam
- Deputy Dawg (Selected cartoons were released to theaters through 1971)
- The Mighty Heroes (Selected cartoons were released to theaters through 1971)
Terrytoons TV Series
- Barker Bill's Cartoon Show - CBS, 1953-56
- The Heckle and Jeckle Cartoon Show - CBS, 1955-57, 1965-66; NBC, 1969-71
- Mighty Mouse Playhouse - CBS, 1955-66
- CBS Cartoon Theater - CBS, 1956
- Farmer Al Falfa & His Terrytoons Pals - Syndicated, 1956
- Tom Terrific - CBS, 1957-59 (as segment of Captain Kangaroo)
- The Easy Winners - CBS, 1958 (unsold pilot)
- The Deputy Dawg Show - Syndicated, 1961; NBC, 1971-72
- The Adventures of Lariat Sam - CBS, 1961-62 (as segment of Captain Kangaroo)
- The Hector Heathcote Show - NBC, 1963-64
- The Colossal Show - studio animated unsold pilot, farmed out from Total Television
- The Astronut Show - Syndicated, 1965
- Mighty Mouse & The Mighty Heroes - CBS, 1966-67
- The Ruby Eye of the Monkey God - CBS, 1967 (unsold)
- Sally Sargent - CBS, 1967 (unsold)