Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Sunshine Makers Mystery

Issue 88 of Alter Ego, a magazine devoted to comic book history, has a lengthy article on Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, an early comic book publisher whose company was taken over and eventually became DC comics.

What's interesting from an animation standpoint was this page from the first issue of New Fun Comics published in 1935. The illustration is credited to Dick Loederer.

When I saw this, I instantly recognized the character from The Sunshine Makers, a 1935 cartoon directed by Ted Eshbaugh that was released by Van Beuren. Here's a poor frame enlargement, but hopefully it makes the resemblance plain.

Both images are from 1935, so it's not obvious which came first. While there is some information about Dick Loederer, it doesn't mention any animation experience. There is no mention of Loederer on Alberto Becattini's index of animators. Neither is there a mention of Loederer in Talking Animals and Other People, Shamus Culhane's autobiography which includes his time at Van Beuren during this time period. While many animation artists also worked in cartoon illustration, I can't tell if Loederer was responsible for both designs, if he originated the design, or if he swiped the design. Swiping was extremely common in early comic books, so that might be the most likely answer. However, it's still interesting that the design made enough of an impression at the time to inspire a swipe.

Can anyone shed any light on Dick Loederer or the origin of this design?

The complete cartoon is included below for your enjoyment.

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