Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Sunshine Makers Mystery

Issue 88 of Alter Ego, a magazine devoted to comic book history, has a lengthy article on Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, an early comic book publisher whose company was taken over and eventually became DC comics.

What's interesting from an animation standpoint was this page from the first issue of New Fun Comics published in 1935. The illustration is credited to Dick Loederer.

When I saw this, I instantly recognized the character from The Sunshine Makers, a 1935 cartoon directed by Ted Eshbaugh that was released by Van Beuren. Here's a poor frame enlargement, but hopefully it makes the resemblance plain.

Both images are from 1935, so it's not obvious which came first. While there is some information about Dick Loederer, it doesn't mention any animation experience. There is no mention of Loederer on Alberto Becattini's index of animators. Neither is there a mention of Loederer in Talking Animals and Other People, Shamus Culhane's autobiography which includes his time at Van Beuren during this time period. While many animation artists also worked in cartoon illustration, I can't tell if Loederer was responsible for both designs, if he originated the design, or if he swiped the design. Swiping was extremely common in early comic books, so that might be the most likely answer. However, it's still interesting that the design made enough of an impression at the time to inspire a swipe.

Can anyone shed any light on Dick Loederer or the origin of this design?

The complete cartoon is included below for your enjoyment.


Michael Sporn said...

A quick search brought up the following image from the comic strip Bubby and Beezil.

Obviously Mr. Loederer has this character in his genes.

Since The Sunshine Makers was an ad for Borden's Milk, isn't it possible that the cartoonist worked for the client who brought the character to Van Buren. This would allow Loederer to be the designer hoisted onto the animated short without having worked in an animation studio.

Paul Penna said...

You probably noticed that, particularly in the second panel, the other character bears more than a little resemblance to the Sunshine Makers grumpy guys, and also, based on those two panels, the storyline might be similar as well.