FLEBUSOriginal Medium: Theatrical cartoons
Produced by: Terrytoons
First Appeared: 1957
Creator: Ernie Pintoff
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When the average cartoon buff thinks of the average Terrytoon, probably best represented over the years by Mighty Mouse or Heckle & Jeckle — Flebus isn't what comes to mind. Even in the era of Hashimoto-San and Gaston LeCrayon, that late 1950s
period when Terrytoons could scarcely be reconciled with what went before, Flebus doesn't seem to fit in.
Terrytoons was being run by Gene Deitch, who started out with UPA and Gerald McBoing-boing, and whose Terrytoons period was characterized by Silly Sidney and Clint Clobber. Deitch recruited Ernie Pintoff from UPA, and Pintoff promptly created Flebus. Pintoff's original name for the character was "Willie", but Deitch thought that need some punching up. Hearing a radio discussion of phlebitis, he decided "Flebus" was exactly the name he wanted — not that the character resembled a painful disease, but the name was meaningless, unheard-of, and most of all, funny.
Flebus can possibly be described best as nice guy. In fact, he's obsessively, compulsively nice. He's always doing nice things for people. He wants to be everybody's friend. He can even become obsessed with someone who doesn't want to be friends with him. He was even more a "'50s" character than Charlie Brown — and made a comparable number of people laugh, at least considering how many saw him at all. Designed almost as appealingly as Ziggy but with even more aggressive minimalism, he represented new creative departures for Terrytoons. Unfortunately, Bill Weiss, who oversaw the studio for CBS, which owned it, preferred things tried-and-true.
Another obstacle to Flebus's success was that Pintoff left the studio early in the production process, and Deitch had to guide Flebus into reality. The character's major rescuer was animator Jim Tyer, whose career at Terrytoons started in 1946, but who had previously worked at MGM, Fleischer, Disney and elsewhere. By the time Tyer was through, he'd very firmly put his mark on the character.
Flebus's single animated cartoon reached movie theatres during August, 1957. It wasn't quite all the public ever saw of him — he also appeared in the back pages of a couple of Tom Terrific comic books, written and drawn by Tyer. But a half-century later, Flebus is remembered far out of proportion to his contemporary visibility.