Scrappyland in Hollywood is Almost Here

When I founded Scrappyland, I never thought it would soon inspire an actual live event in Hollywood, produced with some help from Columbia and featuring restored Scrappy cartoons–including some shorts that nobody’s seen since the 1930s. But thanks to Jerry Beck and ASIFA-Hollywood, it’s happening, and the whole thing will take place in a little over a week.

I’ll be there, of course–along with some collectibles from my Scrappy archives. It should be…well, an event unlike anything that Hollywood has ever seen. Hope to see some of you there.

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How Brenda Got Her Stamp

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Many obituaries of Dale Messick have mentioned that Brenda Starr, her long-lived creation, was one of twenty classic strip characters who appeared on postage stamps in 1995. (In these overcommercialized days when even the cotton-pickin’ Lion King has his own stamp, it’s easy to forget how big a deal those stamps were at the time–it was remarkable to see the post office acknowledge comic art with such fanfare.)

What I haven’t seen discussed is how Brenda Starr ended up on a stamp in the first place. The other 19 characters had two things in common: They were created before 1950, and their creators were deceased as of the time the stamps were conceived. That was a sort of counterpart to the rule that only dead people can appear on stamps, and it explains why Peanuts, for instance, didn’t make the cut. But Dale Messick was alive and well. So why did Brenda rate a stamp?

Well, late in the planning stage, it occurred to someone that all the cartoonists whose characters were being honored were…men. So it was decided that one stamp should feature a character devised by a woman. Now, there were certainly some wonderful female cartoonists who were no longer with us in 1995. (Edwina and Marge come to mind; I would have been delighted to see the post office pay tribute to either or both of them.) But if you narrowed the field to deceased female cartoonists who created enduringly popular characters who appeared primarily in newspaper comics, the pickings became slim. Maybe nonexistent.

So the post office broke its own rule and gave a stamp to Brenda Starr, even though Dale was still very much with us. And I certainly don’t begrudge Brenda her stamp, since she is, inarguably, a classic comic-strip character.

Oh, one other thing–this decision came so late in the process that a stamp that had already been picked (and honored with a handsome stamp design) had to be bumped from the lineup. I’m sure it was a difficult decision. If I’d made it, I might have canceled the Toonerville Folks stamp, even though I’m a big Fontaine Fox fan. Or maybe the Flash Gordon one, though that strip was undeniably a classic.

But the post office kept the Toonerville and Flash Gordon stamps. Instead, it nixed one devoted to a strip that many consider the best work of comic art there ever was.

That’s why our country managed to honor twenty classic comic strips without honoring Pogo.

Now you know…the rest of the story. And hey, wouldn’t it be nice if the post office made amends by commemorating Walt Kelly and his immortal possum with a stamp now? They surely deserve one just as much as Tweety and Donald Duck.

Postscript: The stamp at the top of this entry isn’t the Brenda Starr stamp we all bought in 1995. It’s an alternative design, and I have to say I like it better, although I understand why they chose something a bit more cheery. This excellent article by Rick Marschall, written before the stamps appeared, shows the Brenda design that got picked, the other stamps, and some additional discarded ideas. (I particularly like the unused Nancy art.) It also mentions the possibility of a Pogo stamp…but doesn’t, unfortunately, show it.

Does Opus Read Harry-Go-Round?

This should probably remain my little secret, but for years, one of the top three search terms that has led visitors to this site from Google and other search engines has been “Chilly Willy.” (It points people to this image in my gallery of home-movie boxes.) In a typical month, hundreds of Netizens arrive at my site in search of Chilly. (Or is it Willy?)

Anyhow, when reading a Jerry Beck post on Cartoon Brew, I was moved to surf over to Breathed’s site…where I ended up reading this Opus strip. I was appropriately amused, and about to move on to other matters, when I noticed that the last panel had a tiny image of…a Castle Films Chilly Willy box. A rather familiar looking one.

Breathed panel:

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My Chilly image:

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Mind you, I can’t say that that’s my image for sure, though it certainly looks like it. And even if it is the picture that’s on this site, I don’t feel proprietary about it. (In fact, it’s darned presumptuous of me to call it “my image,” given that I scanned and posted it without asking the folks who own Chilly.)

Actually, I’m such a fan of Breathed’s work that I’d be tickled if he–like so many other folks–happened to find the image of Chilly Willy he needed on my site. It sure beats fielding questions about stretch pants.

Oh, and what’s usually the top search term that gets people to Harry-Go-Round? I’m not saying, but it’s even less obvious

Voom’s Doom

Voom–the high-definition TV satellite service–is shutting down as of April 30th. It has only 40,000 customers, and has been on the verge of death for at least a couple of months now. But even with this news, Cablevision, the service’s parent company, says that it’s going to try to convince other TV systems to provide the Voom HDTV stations.

I’m bringing all this up because Voom’s Animania channel showed some rare Columbia cartoons, including Fox and Crows, early UPAs, and, best of all, the occasional Scrappy.

Coincidentally, April 30th is also the date of ASIFA-Hollywood’s Scrappyland event. So if you’re a cartoon-loving Voom subscriber, get yourself to Hollywood on that day, and we’ll show you some Scrappy cartoons and commiserate.

The Wonderful World of Off-Model Old Character Merchandise

Snohomish, Washington–a little town I visited yesterday–is home to maybe the best selection of antique shops I’ve ever seen. And its largest store is home to an astonishing array of old cartoon-related toys. With a lot of this stuff, it feels like the manufacturer just wasn’t trying to depict the characters in question in anything like an accurate fashion, I took pictures of just a few of the oddball items I stumbled across–from a red Huck Hound to portly Lady and the Tramp dolls wearing human clothing to a multitude of Soakies:

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