Scrappy, from a movie poster.


Medium: Theatrical animation
Released by: Columbia/Screen Gems
First appeared: 1931
Creator: Dick Huemer
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Charles Mintz is famous in the history of animation, for having attempted to succeed in the business by hijacking Walt Disney's popular star, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. It didn't do him any good — in fact, he …

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… lost Oswald to Universal Studios shortly afterward, while Disney turned right around and created Mickey Mouse. But Mintz landed on his feet. For years, he produced cartoons for Columbia Pictures, where his first real star was a boy named Scrappy.

This little guy wasn't anywhere near as big a property as Mickey, and he's even less of one today — in fact, practically nobody remembers him at all anymore. But at the time (early 1930s), he was well able to hold his own in a field that included Bosko, Farmer Alfalfa, Flip the Frog and similar luminaries.

Scrappy first appeared in Yelp Wanted, which Columbia released on July 16, 1931. Prior to that, they'd done nothing but Krazy Kat (which they paid King Features to license, but which owed a great deal more to Felix the Cat than to anything George Herriman was ever involved with). Scrappy's basic design was their rather off-model version of Krazy Kat — roundish body, big head, rubber hoses for limbs — but with mostly human-like features instead of funny animal ones. The only people who got on-screen credit were director Sid Marcus (who also directed a lot of Woody Woodpecker and Pink Panther cartoons) and story man Dick Huemer (who also has major story credits on Dumbo and Der Fuehrer's Face, the Oscar-winning World War II cartoon that starred Donald Duck). Huemer is generally considered Scrappy's creator.

It's hard to pin down the actor who did Scrappy's voice. Prolific child actor Robert (aka Bobby) Winkler is credited with voice work in some of the cartoons, but with unspecified roles. It's tempting to posit a family relationship with Mintz, whose wife's maiden name was Winkler, but this doesn't seem to be the case. For one thing, the boy's last name is also (and probably more correctly) spelled "Winckler".

Scrappy (no relation to Scooby Doo's nephew or Mighty Mouse's 1980s sidekick, by the way) was of the mischievous kid genre. But he was often depicted as downright mean, especially to his younger brother (variously named Poopsy, Vontzy and Oopy, usually the latter, tho it was sometimes spelled "Oopie"). His other regular co-star was his dog, Yippy. He also had a girlfriend, Margy (sometimes spelled "Margie"), but she didn't appear in most of the cartoons. Also, in some where she was seen, her name was Heidi. The inconsistency extended even to the characters' appearances — in many cartoons, individual animators were responsible for whole sequences, and they don't always seem to have been working from quite the same model sheet.

The character was heavily merchandised in his heyday, with paint sets, 78-rpm records, a Big Little Book, wearing apparel, and even hunks of bath soap shaped and colored like Scrappy and his friends (even tho the cartoons were in black and white). Probably the most popular was a cardboard "puppet theatre", which was given away with Pillsbury's Farina cereal. It's been speculated that Mintz was especially aggressive in marketing Scrappy because he was still hoping to outdo his old victim, Disney.

As the 1930s wore on, Scrappy's popularity waned. Modern critics tend to attribute this to a toning down of his anarchic style of humor (no-doubt inherited from the old Fleischer studio, where many of Mintz's creative personnel learned the trade). New stars, most notably The Fox & the Crow, supplanted him. His last appearance was in The Little Theatre, released Feb. 7, 1941. He never got into comic books, because by the time DC Comics licensed the Columbia characters, he was long gone.

He got a new lease on life in the early days of television, with its voracious appetite for old theatrical cartoons, never mind if they were a little bit off-brand. But he disappeared from that medium when color became the norm. He was most recently seen in compilations titled Totally Tooned In, where the star was a later guy from Columbia cartoons, Mr. Magoo. This package was syndicated world-wide in 1999, but has never been broadcast in the U.S.


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Text ©2005 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Columbia Pictures.