The phonograph version. Artist: Dr. Seuss.


Original Medium: Sound recording
Released by: UPA
First Appeared: 1951
Creator: Dr. Seuss
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Gerald McBoing-Boing, the little boy who used sound effects instead of words, first appeared in a cartoon bearing his name, in 1951. It was an unusual offering from an unusual studio, UPA, which …

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… once set the tone of American animation but whose most enduring legacy is Mr. Magoo.

This cartoon was directed by Robert "Bobe" Cannon, and appeared as part of UPA's "Jolly Frolics" series. What made it stand out from the UPA crowd — and undoubtedly contributed heavily to the fact that it won that year's animation Oscar — is that it was simply an animated version of a children's record written by Dr. Seuss. Seuss's script, which consisted almost entirely of voice-overs and sound effects, was unusual even for that gifted rhymester, in that it not only used polysyllabic sound effects to fill out lines, but even pulled off a few rhymes with them.

The initial outing was followed by a brief series of sequels which, while not quite capturing the unique charm of the original, nonetheless stand as excellent examples of 1950s animation.

Gerald even had his own TV show, 13 episodes of which were produced for the 1956-57 CBS season. Gerald served as host to a compilation of old UPA theatrical shorts and experimental animation produced especially for the show. Animation talents who got their start on The Gerald McBoing-Boing Show include Gene Deitch, who went on to head Terrytoons and later produced Tom & Jerry shorts for MGM; and Ernest Pintoff (Flebus), who also made a mark at Terrytoons and later headed an Oscar-winning studio of his own. Bill Scott, best known as the voice of Bullwinkle, also worked on Gerald's show. Critics unanimously praised the show, but it failed to find an audience and was not renewed.

Gerald McBoing-Boing also appeared in Dell comic books, although he had to share billing with Mr. Magoo. The first was a direct adaptation of the initial cartoon, simply fitting an exact transcription of the cartoon's script to still-drawn comic book pages. Today, it is among the most obscure of Dr. Seuss's published works.

Like the cartoon, the comic book kicked off a short series of follow-ups. By the late 1950s, however, Gerald had completely faded from public view. For decades, he existed only in the fading memories of an aging generation, a half-forgotten gem from the 1950s.

But a half-century later, he was back. In 2005, Cookie Jar Entertainment (Dark Oracle) gave him a segment in its anthology Tickle U, which began August 22 of that year on Cartoon Network (Dexter's Laboratory, Johnny Bravo). Early returns have been disappointing, so it looks like Gerald won't make his mark on a new generation.


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