Gabby checks out goings-on at the waterfront.


Medium: Theatrical Animation
Produced by: Fleischer Studio
First Appeared: 1939
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Dozens of cartoon stars have been spun off from animated features — Scamp from Lady & the Tramp, José Carioca from Saludos Amigos, Figaro the Cat from Pinocchio — to say nothing of Jiminy Cricket — but those are all Disney characters, and the first …

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… guy to start in a feature and go on to other cartoons came from somewhere else. Max Fleischer's Gulliver's Travels, released December 22, 1939, introduced an incidental Lilliputian named Gabby, voiced by Pinto Colvig (Goofy). Less than a year later — October 18, 1940, to be exact — Gabby was the star of his very own cartoon short, King for a Day.

The thinking behind making a star out of Gabby might have had something to do with Disney having marketed Dopey the Dwarf, from Snow White, as a separate character. (Dopey didn't appear as an animated star, which is why he doesn't qualify for Gabby's distinction.) Both were short (Gabby, even by Lilliputian standards), cute, and seemed equally appealing. But just as Gulliver's Travels didn't go over as well as Snow White had, Gabby didn't make as big a splash as Dopey.

In fact, film critic Leonard Maltin, no great fan of the Gulliver characters in general, called him "Just plain annoying — a characters with all the frustrations of Donald Duck but none of his inherent humor." Audiences in general may not have gone as far, but apparently didn't entirely disagree.

A total of eight Gabby cartoons were made over the next few months. The last one, released August 15, 1941, was It's a Hap-hap-happy Day. In it, Gabby reprised the most popular song from the movie, but that didn't save his series. The following year, the studio died — largely as a result of the staggering losses it took on Gulliver. Paramount Pictures absorbed its carcass, and renamed the operation Famous Studios.

Famous never made a Gabby cartoon, and that was the end of him. But he still retains his little footnote in the history of animation, as the first feature character move into other cartoons.


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Text ©2006-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Max Fleischer Productions.