Mighty Mouse Heckle & Teckle
Comic books based on Terrytoons characters by St. John Publishing.

Paul Terry was an American animated film producer who founded Terrytoons. He had a brief comics career, continuing the newspaper comic 'Have You Seen Alonzo?' (1909-1910) for less than a year. By 1915 he went into animation, creating the 'Farmer Alfalfa' (1915-1956) series for many different studios, until he established his own studio, Terrytoons, in 1929. His most famous series at Terrytoons are 'Mighty Mouse' (1942) and 'Heckle & Jeckle' (1946), while in the TV era the company had a minor ratings success with the show 'Deputy Dawg' (1960-1961). At the height of their popularity many Terrytoons characters received their own comic book titles. Between 1929 and 1971 Terrytoons produced over 1.162 (!) animated shorts (theatrical releases and TV shorts combined) making it the most productive cartoon studio of the Golden Age of Animation. While an amazing feat, quantity was put over quality. Terrytoons was so unapologetically commercial that they rushed out new cartoons like a factory product. All followed the same formulas and lacked innovative spirit. It's therefore that, despite his pioneering role in the history of animation, Paul Terry's work is mostly forgotten today. 

Early life and career
Born in 1887 in San Francisco, Terry began his career as a news photographer and newspaper cartoonist. He contributed to the San Francisco Bulletin and San Francisco Call-Examiner between 1904 and 1914. In June 1909, Terry took over the newspaper comic 'Have You Seen Alonzo?' from the original artist, Ralph Yardley, and worked on the feature until 7 May 1910. Alonzo the dog was the mascot of the Saturday edition children's pages in the paper San Francisco Call.  The series was then continued by Paul's brother John Terry for a short while, followed by a host of other cartoonists until November 1912. Another family member of Terry who would become a well known cartoonist in his own right was Alex Anderson, who designed the main characters in Jay Ward's animated TV series 'Crusader Rabbit' (1950-1959) and 'Rocky and Bullwinkle' (1959-1964). In 1913 Paul Terry worked as an artist for King Features Syndicate. 

Have you seen Alonzo by Paul Terry

Farmer Alfalfa
After seeing Winsor McCay's groundbreaking animated short 'Gertie the Dinosaur' (1913) Terry decided to become an animator himself. He sold his first film, 'Little Herman', to the Thanhouser film company in 1915. His first succesful cartoon character was the grouchy farmer Alfalfa (sometimes spelled as 'Al Falfa' too), who debuted in 'Down on the Phoney Farm' (1915). Between 1916 and 1917 Terry was an animator for the J.R. Bray Studios, where Alfalfa was one of their main series. After a brief career at the Edison Company and Paramount, Terry established his own studio, Paul Terry Productions, in partnership with Amadee J. Van Beuren (1920-1929). Together they made several cartoons under the title 'Aesop's Film Fables', most starring Farmer Alfalfa. Despite the title many had little to do with Aesop's classic fables and were just standard cartoon fare. Rather remarkably, new episodes were churned out on a weekly basis, this while other studios needed at least a month or two to complete a new cartoon. Yet Terry used more limited animation, much like TV cartoons would nearly three decades later. Separate cels were used for various body parts, so they didn't need to be redrawn all the time. 

Dinner Time: first sound cartoon?
On 1 September 1928 the Farmer Alfalfa cartoon 'Dinner Time' was the second attempt to make an animated film with synchronized sound, after Max Fleischer's 'My Old Kentucky Home' (1926). Far from perfect in its execution, the short failed to impress audiences. Walt Disney saw the picture too and reviewed it as "terrible". However, two months later, he came out with a sound cartoon of his own, 'Steamboat Willie' (1928). Far superior on a technical and narrative level, 'Steamboat Willie' became an over-nite sensation. It not only launched the Disney Empire but also completely overshadowed 'Dinner Time' in the history books. 

Everready Harton in Buried Treasure
Another historically important cartoon made that same year was 'Eveready Harton in Buried Treasure' (1928). which was the first 'adults only' cartoon in history. A collection of naughty pornographic jokes, it was allegedly intended for a party to honour Winsor McCay's birthday. According to Disney animator Ward Kimball it was made as a collaboration between Raoul BarréMax Fleischer and Paul Terry's studios, who all animated certain scenes without each other's knowledge. Among the animators who worked on the picture were George Canata, Walter Lantz, George Vernon Stallings and Rudy Zamora Sr. Other sources claim that the short was too risqué to be processed by any lab at the time, which led the footage to sink in obscurity until the 1970s. 

Terrytoons
When Van Beuren got fed up over Terry ignoring his request to create sound cartoons, he fired him. In 1929 Terry established his own cartoon studio, Terrytoons, in New Rochelle, New York, signing a distribution contract with Educational Pictures. The 'Farmer Alfalfa' series continued, but after a while he was phased out and replaced by new stars. Over the decades the studio created many characters which never quite caught on with the public: Fanny Zilch (1933), Puddy the Pup (1935-1942), Kiko the Kangaroo (1936-1937), Oil Can Harry (1937), Gandy Goose (1939), Sourpuss (1939) and Dinky Duck (1939-1957). An attempt to adapt Ernie Bushmiller's 'Nancy and Sluggo' into a series of theatrical animated shorts failed too.

Mighty Mouse
It wasn't until 'The Mouse of Tomorrow'' (16 October 1942) that the studio finally had a commercial hit. In this particular cartoon a mouse version of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's 'Superman' made his debut under the name 'Super Mouse'. He too was an ultrastrong superhero who could fly. The similiarites were so close to plagiarism that in 1944 he was renamed 'Mighty Mouse' to avoid copyright issues. Another reason to change the character's name was the comics series 'Supermouse' (1942-1955) by Kin Platt. Terry presumably wanted to avoid confusion, particularly since Platt once worked for Terrytoons. Mighty Mouse  became very popular with children, despite the fact that he usually only turns up in the last third of each cartoon, solves the problem and then disappears again. Together with Max Fleischer's 'Betty Boop' and 'Popeye' and Disney's Donald Duck he was one of the few theatrical cartoon characters to have his own theme song ("Here I come to save the dàààày!'"). As a theatrical series Mighty Mouse kept running until deep in the 1950s. Since he was Terrytoons' mascot he also received his own comic book title in 1946, distributed by Timely Comics (nowadays Marvel) and Gold Key from 1963 on. 

Heckle and Jeckle
The second most popular and recognizable characters by Terrytoons were the identical magpies 'Heckle and Jeckle' , who debuted in 'The Talking Magpies' (4 January 1946). Much like Tex Avery's Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Droopy, Screwy Squirrel and Walter Lantz' Woody Woodpecker they were screwball tricksters. The two birds enjoyed fooling everybody and were always master of the situation. The only way to distinguish them were their voices. Jeckle spoke with a British accent and Heckle in Brooklyn slang. Critics and audiences agree that 'Heckle and Jeckle' are by far the most entertaining cartoons the company ever made. As early as 1947 the duo was featured in their own comics series, again distributed by Timely Comics and from 1963 on Gold Key. 

TerryToons ComicsTerryToons Comics
Terrytoons comic books by Timely (Marvel) and St. John Publishing.

Move into television
In 1955 Terry sold his studio to CBS, after which he retired. Gene Deitch became the new production director and dropped all series in favour of new cartoon characters. By 1958 it was clear that none of them caught on and Deitch left again. Terrytoons revived 'Mighty Mouse' and 'Heckle and Jeckle' and kept them running for years. In 1959 the studio created a character named 'Heather Heathcote'. While forgettable in many ways the concept of his adventures were interesting, because Heathcote was a time traveller with a dog. They debuted several months before Jay Ward's Sherman and his dog Mr. Peabody also started travelling back in time in 'Rocky & Bullwinkle' (1959-1964).

Deputy Dawg
By far the only Terrytoons character of the TV era to enjoy any popularity and durability was 'Deputy Dawg' (1960-1961). The bumbling dog who worked as a sherrif somewhere in the U.S. South was often trying to catch Ty Coon the raccoon, Muskie the Muskrat and Vincent van Gopher, who played tricks on him. Between 1961 and 1962 Dell Comics turned Deputy Dawg into the star of his own comic book series. In 1965 these were reprinted by Gold Key Comics. A 1987 comic book adaptation of ‘Deputy Dawg’ was drawn by Rusty Haller.

Terrytoons: studio employees and comics artists
Among the people who once worked for Paul Terry's cartoon studio were Ralph Bakshi, Joseph Barbera, Eli Bauer, Gene Deitch, Vincent Fago, Jules Feiffer, Dan Gordon, Dick Hall, Earl Hurd, Bill Kresse, Bob Kuwahara, Frank Little, Dan Noonan, Kin PlattVivie Risto, Larry Silverman, Al Stahl, Milt Stein, Martin B. Taras, Frank TashlinDavid TendlarReuben Timmins, Jim Tyer, Bill Tytla and Cliff Voorhees. Bakshi in particular produced an animated TV reboot of Mighty Mouse named 'Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures' (1987-1988), where John Kricfalusi's innovative style was first noticed. Like all other cartoon studios Terrytoons also produced several comic books based on their characters. They were licensed by Timely Comics (nowadays Marvel) from October 1942 until August  1947, after which St. John Publications took over until 1956. Between 1956 and 1959 Pines Comics produced them, followed by Dell between 1959-1962 and 1966-1967. Western Publishing circulated the comics from 1962 until 1980. Among the people who drew them were Frank Carin, Vincent Fago, Chad Grothkopf, Ernest Hart, Frank B. Johnson, George Klein, Milton KnightBob Kuwahara, Pauline Loth, Tom MooreKay WrightJim Tyer and Ed Winiarski. Special mention should go to Herb Roth, a friend of Terry, who drew some samples for a 'Mighty Mouse' Sunday comic which never went into syndication. Its naïve art has gained some notoriety on the Internet decades later. 

Recognition
Four Terrytoons shorts were once nominated for an Oscar: 'All Out For V' (1942), 'My Boy, Johnny' (1944), 'Gypsy Life' (1945) and 'Sidney's Family Tree' (1958), none of them ever winning one. 

Legacy and influence
Paul Terry passed away in 1971. As a businessman his track record was impressive. He managed to keep his studio profitable by saving on production costs. He already worked with cels and limited animation during the 1910s, which saved time and money. For decades new cartoons were released on an almost weekly basis. He wanted to make them "like a milkman delivering a new bottle every day." While other cartoon studios came and went, he managed to keep Terrytoons running longer than most of them. However, this was accomplished by making it a mere factory product. Most of his cartoons are shoddy, low-budget work, since they had to be rushed out at such tight deadlines. In terms of content they are extremely formulaic, down the point of being monotone. Strictly aimed at children, adults look in vain for something that could count as a parental bonus. Only 'Heckle and Jeckle' sticks out. Even as an animation pioneer Terry was no innovator. 'Dinky Duck' was inspired by Daffy Duck, but reimagined as a cute little duckling.  'Mighty Mouse' was a rip-off of Superman. 'Heckle & Jeckle' were typical screwball trickster birds. 'Little Roquefort and Percy Cat' (1950-1955) were a basic cat-and-mouse cartoon. He resisted any changes, both in content as well as production. His studio only started producing sound and colour cartoons under pressure of his distributors. By the time these necessary changes were made they were basically the last cartoon studio to do so. Oddly enough, Terry didn't create much merchandising around his characters either. The comic book adaptations are by far the only notable exception. But he at least showed no pretense over his work, once famously naming himself "the Woolworth's of animation", referring to the store. His mentality became very sour when he coldly sold off Terrytoons to CBS in 1955, leaving all his loyal animators behind while he spent a wealthy retirement. 

All this explains why Terry is often overlooked in the history of animation. Long before Hanna-Barbera was accused of downgrading the medium from the mid 1960s on, Terrytoons already had that reputation decades earlier. Yet the company also launched the career of the aforementioned Ralph Bakshi, who would revolutionize the medium. Bakshi has stated that he gave the crows in his animated feature 'Fritz the Cat' (1972) a Brooklyn accent, because he found these so funny when Heckle and Jeckle used them. Osamu Tezuka's comic book character 'Astro Boy' was originally called 'Mighty Atom', named after Mighty Mouse. Hal Seeger's 'Batfink' was a very clear rip-off of Mighty Mouse. Another impact the mouse had on popular culture was in a famous sketch by Andy Kaufman, where the comedian plays a vinyl record of the 'Mighty Mouse' theme song, only to lip sync along with just the refrain: "Here I come to save the dàààày!". In the first issue of 'Mr. Natural' (1970)  Robert Crumb drew a supposed obituary about "the great film comedians" Gandy Goose and Sourpuss, entitled 'Great Cartoon Characters From The Past: Where Are They Now?'. And John Kricfalusi has defended some of Terrytoons cartoons for at least being a bit better animated compared with many animated shorts that have been created since the mid 1960s. He specifically singled out their animators Jim Tyer and Carlo Vinci. Kricfalusi also said that he inspired the dynamic between 'Ren & Stimpy' on Gandy Goose and Sourpuss. For fans of unintentional comedy the "off-model mistakes" and corny comedy in Terrytoons are a treasure too. 

Bibliography
For those interested in Terry's career the biography 'Terrytoons: The Story of Paul Terry and His Classic Cartoon Factory' (2017) by Gerald Hamonic is highly recommended.

Farmer Alfalfa
Farmer Alfalfa give-away booklet for Weeties (1961).

Alonzo on the Stripper's Guide

Series and books by Paul Terry in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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