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Saturday Matinee

Disney Cartoon #9: "Three Notable Disney Commercials" (circa 1950s & 2002)

by Albert Gutierrez

Jello, breakfast cereal, and cars have more in common than one would think.  Let's get a few of the obvious similarities out of the way: all three feature vowels, all three come in different colors, and all three are edible for a goat.  Something not so obvious is their Disney connection, and that Disney connection happens to be the focus of this week's Saturday Matinee.  Jello, breakfast cereal, and cars (as well as other products not covered here) were promoted on television through Disney characters!  Like last week's focus on the "Toy Story Treats," this week I'm going to focus on cartoon shorts that weren't in theatres.  And like last week's "Toy Story Treats," these shorts really are...short.

First up is a memorable commercial all about Jell-O.  As the narrator (Sterling Holloway) tells us, "So bright and scolorful, it's like something out of Wonderland!"  This commercial featured Disney's Alice (voiced by Kathryn Beaumont or a very good imitator) along with two Wonderland characters that were developed, but ultimately not used in the 1951 film.  The Mock Turtle and the Gryphon sit with Alice, where she teaches them how simple it is to make Jello.  Despite Jello being known for its variety in color and flavors, this cartoon (like most of American television) was only broadcast in black and white.  However, animated cels that still survive show that the Gryphon would have been two shades of brown, while the Mock Turtle was wearing a blue suit underneath his green shell.

The black-and-white nature does make the commercial feel separate from the animated film, although Alice is remarkably on-model.  According to online sources (such as the Vintage Disney Alice blog), the specific date of these commercials is unknown.  Most simply give it the 1955 or 1956 date, which would account for the slightly-older voice of Alice.  In addition, by this time, Disney was firmly entrenched in television production, and so utilizing animation in commercials for other products would not be so far-fetched an idea.  There is another Alice in Jell-Oland commercial floating around, but as it simply re-uses animation from the film with new voiceovers, I won't be covering it here.

The next commercial is one which features the primary animated cast of Song of the South! Brer Fox and Brer Bear are chasing Brer Rabbit, who locks himself inside an American Motors car. More importantly, he locks himself inside the new Rambler, with all-season air conditioning. So while Brer Fox and Brer Bear must endure the winter snow and summer heat as they wait for him to emerge, Brer Rabbit enjoys heat and cool air. Never mind that there's no food in that car at all, hehehe.  Unlike the Alice commercial, the animation here is not as well done.  The characters look familiar enough, and they got good voice actors, but the whole thing looks very dated. The animation also is just a little over a third of the 90-second commercial, the bulk of which is a narrator telling viewers about the wonders of all-season air conditioning.  

Then, we come to nearly 50 years later.  The third commercial that gets a Saturday Matinee spotlight is promoting 2002's Mickey's Magix Cereal.  Sorcerer Mickey is waving his magic wand, trying to cast a spell on a beaker of blue liquid.  Donald comes bursting in and wants to try the wand too, wrestling it away from Mickey.  He swishes-and-flicks it in the air, where it hits the beaker and a blue mist emerges.  It turns Donald blue, and then spreads across the rest of the castle and land.  Mickey then dons his hat and tries to fix Donald, but instead gives him polka dots!  

This commercial shows just how far commercials have come since the 1950s.  There's a near-cinematic quality to this entire short, the production values are quite amazing, with very on-model animation and a polished look to the entire thing.  It's almost as if Mickey and Donald stepped out of "Fantasia 2000" in order to shoot this piece.  Also, it sets out to tell a story rather than sell the product, even tying the product to the story as they proclaim the cereal will "magically turn milk blue, but not you!"  From what I remember of the cereal (more can be read about it in Reuben's March 6th, 2011 Sunday Brunch), it did have effective color-changing properties, though your mileage may vary on how blue the milk was.  But still, blue milk is cool, especially since the only color change I ever had in cereal was when my Cocoa Pebbles gave me chocolate milk.

Availability of these short cartoons is unfortunately limited to online sources.  The two older cartoons have likely slipped into the public domain, thus allowing people to upload them to YouTube.  Since the copyright status of those two shorts are dubious, I can't provide the links here, as they would not be "official" presentations of the material.  I also can't tell you to enter "Alice in Wonderland Jello" in a search on any online sites that rhyme with ZooChoob.  And I certainly can't tell you to try out terms that involve "Hudson Hornet Pinocchio," "Nash Car Mickey," or "Peter Pan Peanut Butter".  ;-)

However, I can provide the actual "Mickey's Magix Cereal" commercial here.  The animation studio who produced it, Pepper Films Inc., uploaded it to their YouTube page and their own official website: ht

Be sure to come back next week for another fun-filled Saturday Matinee, as I return to the world of theatrical cartoons and take a look at the misadventures of a silly ole bear.


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