"Disney is the Tiffany's in this business, and I am the Woolworth's."
—Paul Terry summing up Terrytoons in a nutshell.
One of the more obscure studios from The Golden Age of Animation, Terry Toons was the animation division of 20th Century Fox. It was founded by former Van Beuren employee Paul Terry. It produced classic cartoon serials such as Mighty Mouse and Heckle and Jeckle.
Animation historians and modern animators (with occasional exceptions like Leonard Maltin and John Kricfalusi) are hostile towards this studio and its output, writing off these cartoons as cheaply produced garbage only worth a footnote in their books. This is Hilarious in Hindsight because Paul Terry was considered the Dean of Animation in the 20's and 30's period of animation; even Walt Disney looked up to him and hoped to make cartoons as good and funny as his.
The animation was crude, but it had its merits: from the beginning it was cartoony and lively, and the cartoons had good pacing and crisp visual jokes. Jim Tyer and Carlo Vinci in particular made some creative, wild animation in these shorts, which helped contribute to their popularity back when they were popular.
Terry himself didn't care how these cartoons were drawn or animated as long as the animators met their quota. There were and are many, many cartoons from this studio, but most of them (even the good ones) haven't gotten much airtime since the end of The Dark Age of Animation.
This was the debut studio of three major animation stars: Bill Tytla of Disney fame, Joseph Barbera of Hanna-Barbera before he went to MGM, and Ralph Bakshi, who joined the studio in its twilight years.
These cartoons were also a big influence on anime legend Osamu Tezuka.
Now has a Character Sheet.
Series Made By This Studio:
- Farmer Alfalfa
- Mighty Mouse
- Gandy Goose and Sourpuss
- Heckle and Jeckle
- Tom Terrific
- Dinky Duck
- Deputy Dawg
- Hector Heathcote
- Sidney the Elephant
- Oil Can Harry
Tropes Related to This Studio:
- Ambiguously Gay: Gandy Goose. This was even parodied in Mighty Mouse the New Adventures.
- Animated Anthology: "Mighty Mouse Playhouse" is potentially the Trope Maker for Western Animation clip show re-airings of old cartoons.
- Dead Horse Trope: The shorts would frequently parody melodramas of the day, a genre that is only remembered because of its many parodies.
- Deranged Animation: Any scene done by Jim Tyer, arguably Terry's top animator.
- Executive Meddling: A GOOD example of this trope--Paul Terry made only the barest effort put into his cartoons production values until the late 1930's, when Fox forced him to beef up the quality of his cartoons or get the axe.
- High on Catnip: One short is about a cat who goes through a Disney Acid Sequence after sniffing some catnip.
- Limited Animation: One of the most prominent and early users of this.
- Long Runner: Despite the low budgets, total reliance on formula, and rushed animation, the Terrytoons enjoyed a very long, healthy lifespan, lasting from 1929 all the way up to 1968, where they were finally forced to close up shop on account of theatrical cartoons becoming all but completely unprofitable by that point--only the Walter Lantz cartoon studio was able to outlast Terrytoons with their shorts, by four measly years. And even that wasn't enough to kill them--the Terrytoons enjoyed an equally healthy lifespan on TV for decades, with Mighty Mouse Playhouse pioneering the concept of recycling old theatrical cartoons for reairing on TV.
- Money, Dear Boy: Paul Terry was a total cheapskate and believed animation should be all business and no art. And how long an employee stayed at the studio depended on whether they could rush to meet their quota. On a side note, back at Van Beuren, Paul was known for having his cartoons cranked out at breakneck speed, with a new cartoon finished and shipped to theaters once a week for eight uninterrupted years. And he had no qualms about selling off his studio to CBS in 1955 when he retired.
- Recycled Script: A lot of the shorts.
- Retool: After Paul Terry sold the studio to CBS they hired Gene Deitch to take over as the creative director. Deitch, who himself had very low opinion of Terry's outputs, proceeded to change everything, from getting rid of the old characters in favor of the new (removing the likes of Mighty Mouse and Heckle and Jeckle in favor of Clint Clobber and Sidney the Elephant), changing the design style to a more contemporary UPA style, hiring new personnel (WITHOUT firing old ones, amazingly enough), and more. It's agreed that the cartoons produced during this era are genuinely good.
- It didn't last long. Bill Weiss took over the studio after Terry sold it to CBS, and he wasn't warm to the idea of Terrytoons becoming a rennaisance animation house. It was said he wanted Deitch fired from day one, so after Deitch did leave, Weiss chose to fall back on the same old same old, only on TV budgets.
- After the studio shut its doors, Bill Weiss commissioned two pilots for CBS: Sally Sargent and The Ruby Eye Of The Monkey God, both farmed out to the Fred Calvert studio. Neither pilot sold, but the Calvert studio did animate two commercials with Mighty Mouse hawking Zestabs children's vitamins.
- Strictly Formula: Paul Terry was the kind of guy who liked to play it safe and cared little to nothing for innovation, with his shorts often relying on plots, jokes and formulas long after other cartoons had stopped using them. One short with Gandy and Sourpuss even had a plot very similar to "Mickey's Trailer," a full decade after that cartoon had been aired in theaters! Worse yet, he waited till 1938 to switch to color, and if it hadn't been for Fox forcing him to raise the quality of his cartoons in the late 30s and 40s, he would have stuck to making cartoons as simple as early 30s cartoons.
- As Ralph Bakshi once quipped: "Why do you need another Terrytoons, with a cat chasing a mouse, in 1956?"
- With Friends Like These...: The relationship between Gandy Goose and Sourpuss the Cat. Animator John Kricfalusi claimed that their relationship was part of what inspired the relationship between Ren and Stimpy.