Smiler (The Funny Side, 7 June 1925).

Harry Julius was an Australian commercial artist, caricaturist and printmaker, as well as one of the country's first comic artists and animators. He created several comic features for the children's supplements of the Sydney Sunday Times, including 'The Bears of Stringy Bark' (1921-1922), 'The Egglets' (1922), 'The Crazy Crew of the Crayfish' (1922-1923) and 'Smiler' (1925). With his animation studio Cartoon Filmads, Ltd., he was a pioneer in cut-out animation, color animation and the usage of storyboards.

Early life and advertising career
Born in Sydney in 1885, Julius served in the Boer War as a bugler, then studied at Sydney's Julian Ashton Art School before turning to advertising art. Together with Sydney Ure Smith, he founded the ad agency Smith & Julius in 1906. The duo set new standards for Australian advertising through their high quality color printing states. Among the artists who worked for the firm were J. Muir Auld, Percy Leason, Roland Wakelin, Lloyd Rees, Adrian Feint and John Passmore. Julius and Smith were also prominent members of the Sydney Sketch Club and the subsequent Australian Arts Club, two sketch clubs active in Sydney between 1914 and 1920.

Illustrator and cartoonist
Through Smith & Julius, Harry Julius began a regular collaboration with the paperbacks publisher NSW Bookstall Company. The first book he illustrated for them was 'The Poor Parson' by Steele Rudd (1907). Around the same time his cartoons and caricatures began appearing in newspapers and magazines. He drew sketches of Sydney street characters for the Evening News, and worked as a cartoonist for the weekly Comic Australian (1911-1913). At The Bulletin, he specialized in caricatures of theatrical personalities, some of which were collected in the book 'Theatrical Caricatures' (1912). Julius additionally wrote and illustrated articles for the literary magazine The Lone Hand, and had drawings published in the Sydney Mail and Wentworth Magazine during the 1910s and 1920s.

While most of the Smith & Julius work was for print media, Harry Julius was also the first Australian to make animated cartoons for cinemas. Julius was fully self-taught in the profession. At age nine, he already appeared publicly with projected lightning sketch performances. Following in the footsteps of other local pioneers Virgil Reilly and Alec Laing, he fully embraced the new medium. In the period 1915-1916, his 'Cartoons of the Moment' segments appeared in on a weekly base in the First World War editions of the Australasian Gazette newsreel. Julius is seen onscreen browsing through the newspaper for a topic of his liking, and then making his drawing "live" on chalkboard. These - for their time - innovative cartoons were screened weekly in all the major cities of Australia and New Zealand.

Cartoon Filmads Ltd.
In 1916 Julius and his wife travelled to the USA to work in the New York animation industry. There, he participated in the production of 'Mutt and Jeff' cartoons for Raoul Barré. Full of new knowledge, he was back in Sydney in the following year, where he founded Cartoon Filmads Ltd. Officially, the new firm was division of Smith & Julius, but it operated independently, hiring Sydney Miller, Lance Driffield, Geoff Litchfield, Harrison Ford and Arthur Sparrow as main animators. Over the course of 15 years, the Cartoon Filmads team produced animated advertisements and industrial films for both national and international markets.

Cartoon Filmads quickly expanded and became a major enterprise, employing new directors, producers, artists, colorists and camera operators, while opening several new national and international offices, inlcuding in England, India, Burma, Egypt, Java, Singapore, China, the Philippines and the Netherlands. They regularly used the cut-out animation technique, which Julius managed to patent in Australia in 1918. Even though the technique had been used before, Julius further developed it by experimenting with cotton (simulating smoke) and newspaper clippings. Julius was also eager offer the production of color-animated films to his clients, although they initially had to film in black-and-white and color each frame of each print of the film by hand. By 1920 Filmads was already using storyboards as part of their pre-production process.

'The Egglets', 2 April 1922.

Early 1920s comics
In the early 1920s, Harry Julius was also one of the first Australian cartoonists who tried his hand at (color) comic strips. Around that time, B. Ericsson ('Algy & Kitty' in The Golden Age, 1916), Stan Cross ('You & Me' in Smith's Weekly, 1920) and Jimmy Bancks ('Us Fellas' in the Sunday Sun, 1921) were among the few with recurring comic characters for Australian publications. Julius did his contributions to the children's supplement of The Sunday Times, known as the Sunday Times Comic and Childrens Magazine, where they appeared amidst some foreign comic features.

'The Crazy Crew of the Crayfish' (4 February 1923).

His first feature was 'The Bears of Stringy Bark', which debuted on the center spread on 4 December 1921. It ran with intervals until 16 July 1922, and starred a family of anthropomorphic bears. Main focus was on the father Bear, who always had bad luck. Julius' next comic was also about a family, this time featuring an odd cast of egg-shaped characters. 'The Egglets' appeared between 26 March and 9 July 1922. Julius moved to the supplement's front page on 23 July 1922, when his strip 'The Crazy Crew of the Crayfish' began. The crew joins the pirate Dirty Dick on a treasure hunt. The pirate's exploits are however constantly sabotaged by the pranks of two kid sailors. The feature had an ongoing narrative, which came to an end on 22 February 1923.

In 1924, during an interlude from the Times, Julius was present in Sunbeams, the Sunday children's supplement of The Sun with the kids' gang comic 'Happy Days'. When on 22 February 1925 the Sunday Times comics section was renamed to The Funny Side, Harry Julius' 'Smiler' appeared on its front page. Smiler was a kid with good intentions, who always goofs up his chores. It was a balloon comic, with additional text captions underneath the panels, and ran until 21 June 1925. Its spot on the Funny Side's front page was filled by Wynne Davies' 'Percy the Pommy'.

Mr. Gink
By August 1926, Julius appeared in the comic section of the Sunday News with his comic 'Mr. Gink' ("Mr Gink - He Didn't Think!", in full). Starring the gullible Hercules Gink, the strip was described as "the escapades of a much harassed and henpecked gentleman." It became Harry Julius' most famous comic strip, which the cartoonist also dramatized on air in cooperation with well-known ventriloquist and radio personality Russ Garling. The segment was part of Julius' weekly radio show 'Air Cartoons', which he started in 1927.

Later life and career
In 1924, Cartoon Filmads, Ltd. branched out to live-action as well, changing its name to Filmads, Ltd. By 1927, the Australian advertising company Catts-Patterson took over both Smith & Julius and Filmads. Julius remained with the company until the new owners gradually began to downsize their animation output and focusing on the print division. In the 1930s he set up his own advertising agency, called Harry Julius Advertising Service. Later in life he also turned to fine-art watercolor painting.

Death and legacy
Harry Julius died in Sydney in 1938. A pioneer in color advertisements, comics and animation, Harry Julius stood at the vanguard of several new media in the beginning of the 20th century. In terms of comics, his legacy is largely overshadowed by Jimmy Bancks and Sydney Wentworth Nicholls, whose respective comics 'Ginger Meggs' and 'Fatty Finn' have left a more lasting mark on Australian comic history.

Still from a 1915 'Cartoons of the Moment' segment (© NFSA Films).

Series and books by Harry Julius you can order today:


If you want to help us continue and improve our ever- expanding database, we would appreciate your donation through Paypal.