Terrytoons was an animation studio founded by Paul Terry. The studio, located in suburban New Rochelle, New York, operated from 1929 to 1972. Its most popular characters included Mighty Mouse, Gandy Goose, Sourpuss, Dinky Duck, Deputy Dawg, Luno and Heckle and Jeckle; these cartoons and all of its others were released to theaters under the studio's solitary Terrytoons banner by both Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox.
Terry first worked for Bray Studios in 1916, where he created the Farmer Al Falfa series. He would then make a Farmer Al Falfa short for Edison Pictures, called "Farmer Al Falfa's Wayward Pup" (1917), and some later cartoons were made for both Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox.
Around 1921, Terry founded the Fables animation studio, named for its Aesop's Film Fables series, in
conjunction with Amadee J. Van Beuren. Fables churned out a Fable cartoon every week for eight years in the 1920s. In 1928, Van Beuren, anxious to compete with the new phenomenon of talking pictures, released Terry's Dinner Time (released October 1928). Van Beuren then urged Terry to start producing actual sound films, instead of post-synchronizing the cartoons. Terry refused, and Van Beuren fired him in 1929. Almost immediately, Terry and much of his staff started up the Terrytoons studio.
Through much of its history, the studio was considered one of the lowest-quality houses in the field, to the point where Paul Terry noted, "Disney is the Tiffany's in this business, and I am the Woolworth's." Terry's studio had the lowest budgets and was among the slowest to adapt to new technologies such as sound (in about 1930) and Technicolor (in 1938), while its graphic style remained remarkably static for decades. Background music was entrusted to one man, Philip Scheib, and Terry's refusal to pay royalties for popular songs forced Scheib to compose his own scores. Paul Terry took pride in producing a new cartoon every other week, regardless of the quality of the films.Following the success of Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Paul Terry considered doing an animated feature film on his own. However, after seeing the failure of Max Fleischer's Mr. Bug Goes to Town, and the additional failures of Disney's Pinocchio and Fantasia he decided to abandon the project. Until 1957, screen credits were very sparse, listing only the writer (until 1950, solely John Foster, then Tom Morrison thereafter), director (Terry's three main directors were Connie Rasinski, Eddie Donnelly and Mannie Davis), and musician.
Terrytoons' first distributor was Educational Pictures, specialists in short-subject comedies and novelties. The Paramount Pictures Film company (known as Paramount Pictures) and The Fox Film company 20th Century Fox) released Educational shorts to theaters in the 1930s, giving the Terry cartoons wide exposure. Farmer Al Falfa was Terry's most familiar character in the 1930s; Kiko the Kangaroo was spun off the Farmer Al Falfa series. Most of the other cartoons featured generic animal characters. One of the stock designs was a scruffy dog with a black patch around one eye; Terry ultimately built a series around this character, now known as Puddy the Pup.
Paul Terry may have realized that Educational was in financial trouble, because he found another lucrative outlet for his product. In 1938 he arranged to release his older cartoons through home-movie distributor Castle Films. Educational went out of business within the year, but 20th Century-Fox continued to release Terrytoons to theaters for the next two decades. With a new emphasis on "star" characters, Terrytoons featured the adventures of Super Mouse (later renamed Mighty Mouse), the talking magpies Heckle and Jeckle, silly Gandy Goose, Dinky Duck, mischievous mouse Little Roquefort, and The Terry Bears.
Despite the artistic drawbacks imposed by Terry's inflexible business policies, Terrytoons was nominated four times for the Academy Award for Animated Short Film: All Out for V in 1942, My Boy, Johnny in 1944, Mighty Mouse in Gypsy Life in 1945, and Sidney's Family Tree in 1958.
The studio was sold outright by the retiring Paul Terry to CBS and 20th Century Fox in 1956, but both Paramount Pictures (PP) and 20th Century Fox (TCF) continued to distribute the studio's releases. The following year, CBS put it under the management of UPA alumnus Gene Deitch, who had to work with even lower budgets.
Deitch's most notable works at the studio were the Tom Terrific cartoon segments for the Captain Kangaroo television show. He also introduced a number of new characters, such as Sick Sick Sidney, Gaston Le Crayon, John Doormat, and Clint Clobber. Deitch brought much creativity and life to the Terrytoons cartoons, but because he was only 31 years old when he came to the studio, he wasn't entirely welcome. An internal battle was fought by studio stalwarts and Deitch was forced out. Soon after Deitch moved to Prague where as of March 2011 he continues to live and work.
Before Deitch was fired in 1959, Bill Weiss took control of the studio in 1958. Under his supervision, Heckle and Jeckle and Mighty Mouse went back into production. Besides the three core directors of the Terry era who were still involved as animators and directors, two Famous Studios stalwarts joined the crew, Dave Tendla] and Martin Taras. Other new theatrical cartoon series included Hector Heathcote, Luno and Hashimoto San. In addition, the studio began producing the Deputy Dawg series for television in 1959. Another television production for the Captain Kangaroo show was The Adventures of Lariat Sam, which was written in part by Gene Wood.
Phil Scheib continued as the studio's musical director through the mid-1960s when he was replaced by Jim Timmens and Elliott Lawrence.
The most notable talent at Terrytoons in the 1960s was animator/director/producer Ralph Bakshi, who got his start with Terrytoons in the 1950s and later helmed the Mighty Heroes series. Bakshi left Terrytoons in 1967 for Paramount, which closed its cartoon unit later that year. He would later go on to produce Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures for television in 1987.
After the departure of Bakshi after 1967, the studio petered out and finally closed in 1972. However, the film library was still regularly rereleased to theaters by Paramount Pictures and Fox, thus ensuring its existing cartoon library a long life in TV reruns.
The Terrytoons cartoons (especially Mighty Mouse and Deputy Dawg) were syndicated to many local TV markets, and they were a staple of after-school and Saturday morning cartoon shows for over three decades, from the 1950s through the 1980s, until the television rights to the library were acquired by USA Network.
In the 1970s, the CBS Films properties and the FOX Films properties were spun off to create Viacom and 20th Century Fox, which itself re-merged with CBS and FOX in 1999.
In the late '70s, Filmation Studios licensed the rights in order to make a new Mighty Mouse series. Later in 1987, Ralph Bakshi produced Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures which lasted for two seasons. Bakshi and John Kricfalusi inspired the staff to try to get as much Jim Tyer-style drawing in the show as possible. Tyer, a stand-out Terry animator of the original cartoons with a unique style, became a strong influence on the artists of the Bakshi series.
In 2002, the Terrytoons characters returned to television in original commercials for Brazilian blue cheese (for what is now America's Dairy Farmers) and a fine wine.
Through the years that have followed since the last Terrytoons TV series material in 1988, the rights have been scattered as result of prior rights issues and corporate changes involving Viacom (the ownership and distribution history is noted below). However, some Terrytoons shorts are believed to be in the public domain, and have been issued on low-budget VHS tapes and DVDs. The first official release of any Terrytoons material by CBS DVD (Ralph Bakshi's Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures was issued January 5, 2010).
- CBS Television Film Sales (1953-1958, underlying rights to library).
- CBS (1953-present, underlying rights to library).
- CBS Films (1958-1968, 2007-present, underlying rights to library).
- CBS Enterprises (1968-1971, 1995-2006, underlying rights to library).
- Viacom Enterprises (1971-1995, underlying rights to library).
- Viacom Productions (1974-2004, 2017-2019, underlying rights to library).
- News Corporation (1985-2013, underlying rights to library).
- Carolco Pictures (1991-1993, underlying rights to library).
- Paramount Communications (1994-1995, underlying rights to library).
- Westinghouse Broadcasting (1994-1999, underlying rights to library).
- Westinghouse Electric Corproation (1994-1999, underlying rights to library).
- Fox Family Films (1994-1998, underlying rights to library).
- Fox Animation Studios (1994-2000, underlying rights to library).
- Paramount Television (1994-2006, 2012-2020, underlying rights to library).
- CBS Corporation (1995-2000, 2005-2019, underlying rights to library).
- Bain Capital (1997-2003, underlying rights to library).
- Fox Television Studios (1997-2014, underlying rights to library).
- 20th Century Fox Animation (1997-2020, underlying rights to library).
- Westinghouse Licensing (1998-present, underlying rights to library).
- Westinghouse Electric Company (1999-present, underlying rights to library).
- Touchstone Television (2001-2009, 2020, underlying rights to library).
- Walt Disney Feature Animation (2001-2007, underlying rights of library).
- The Walt Disney Company (2001-present, underlying rights to library).
- IDT Entertainment (2003-2007, underlying rights to library).
- Lions Gate Entertainment (2003-2008, underlying rights to library).
- Starz Entertainment Group (2005-2009, underlying rights to library).
- Starz Media (2005-2013, underlying rights to library).
- Fox 21 (2005-2014, underlying rights to library).
- Lionsgate Entertainment Corporation (2005-present, underlying rights to library).
- Walt Disney Animation Studios (2006-present, underlying rights to library).
- Starz Animation (2006-2011, underlying rights to library).
- CBS Paramount Television (2006-2009, underlying rights to library).
- ABC Studios (2007-2020, underlying rights to library).
- Liberty Starz (2009-2013, underlying rights to library).
- CBS Television Studios (2009-present, underlying rights to library).
- Paramount Animation (2011-present, underlying rights to library).
- 21st Century Fox (2013-2019, underlying rights to library).
- ABC Signature Studios (2013-2020, underlying rights to library).
- Starz Distribution (2013-present, underlying rights to library).
- Starz, Inc. (2013-present, underlying rights to library).
- Fox 21 Television Studios (2014-2020, underlying rights to library).
- Searchlight Television (2018-present, underlying rights to library).
- Fox Corporation (2019-present, underlying rights to library).
- ViacomCBS (2019-present, underlying rights to library).
- 20th Century Animation (2020-present, underlying rights to library).
- ABC Signature (2020-present, underlying rights to library).
- Paramount Television Studios (2020-present, underlying rights to library).
- Theatrical rights:
- Educational Pictures (1930-1938).
- 20th Century Fox (1935-2020).
- Vestron Pictures (1986-1992).
- Carolco Pictures (1991-1993).
- Viacom Pictures (1991-1999).
- Fox Searchlight Pictures (1994-2020).
- Paramount Pictures (1994-present).
- Artisan Pictures (1998-2005).
- Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group (2001-2007).
- Buena Vista Pictures Distribution (2001-2007).
- Touchstone Pictures (2001-2018).
- Walt Disney Pictures (2001-present).
- Lions Gate Films (2003-2008).
- Lionsgate Films (2005-present).
- CBS Films (2007-present).
- Walt Disney Studios (2007-present).
- Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (2007-present).
- 20th Century Studios (2020-present).
- Searchlight Pictures (2020-present).
- Home video and DVD rights:
- Magnetic Video (1978-1982).
- CBS Video Enterprises, Inc. (1979-1980).
- CBS Video (1980-2006).
- Vestron Video (1981-1992, 2016-present).
- 20th Century Fox Video (1982).
- CBS/Fox Video (1982-2001).
- Children's Video Library (1982-1988).
- CBS/Fox Children's Video (1984).
- Future Vision, Ltd. (1984-1987).
- The Video Collection (1984-1995).
- GoodTimes Home Video (1984-2000).
- Kids Klassics Home Video (1984-1995).
- United American Video Corporation (1984-1998).
- Celebrity Home Entertainment (1985-2001).
- Celebrity's Just for Kids Home Entertainment (1985-2001).
- Playhouse Video (1985-1990).
- Video Treasures (1985-1998).
- Starmaker Entertainment (1988-1998).
- Carolco Home Video (1991-1993).
- LIVE Home Video (1991-1995).
- Fox Video (1991-1998).
- Family Home Entertainment (1991-2007).
- Sterling Entertainment Group (1992-2006).
- LIVE Entertainment (1994-1998).
- GoodTimes Entertainment (1994-2007).
- Paramount Home Video (1994-2010).
- Paramount Home Entertainment (1994-present).
- Video Collection International (1995-2005).
- Anchor Bay Entertainment (1995-2017).
- 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (1995-2020).
- Artisan Home Entertainment (1998-2005).
- Family Home Entertainment Kids (1998-2005).
- Paramount DVD (1998-2019).
- CBS DVD (1999-present).
- Fox DVD Video (2000-2002).
- Buena Vista Home Video (2001-2003).
- Disney Videos (2001-2005).
- Walt Disney Home Entertainment (2001-2008).
- Touchstone Home Entertainment (2001-2017).
- Buena Vista Home Entertainment (2001-present).
- Disney DVD (2001-present).
- GT Media (2003-2009).
- Gaiam (2003-2013).
- Lions Gate Home Entertainment (2003-2008).
- 2 Entertain (2004-present).
- Lionsgate Family Entertainment (2005-present).
- Lionsgate Home Entertainment (2005-present).
- Vivendi Entertainment (2006-2012).
- Starz Home Entertainment (2007-2017).
- Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment (2007-present).
- CBS Home Entertainment (2007-present).
- Paramount Home Media Distribution (2011-2019).
- Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment (2012-2013).
- Cinedigm (2013-present).
- New Video Group (2013-present).
- 20th Century Studios Home Entertainment (2020-present).
- Television syndication rights:
- CBS Television Film Sales (1953-1958).
- TCF Television Productions, Inc. (1953-1958).
- The CBS Television Network (1953-1967).
- CBS Films (1958-1968, 2007-present).
- 20th Century Fox Television (1958-2020).
- CBS Enterprises (1968-1971, 1995-2006).
- Viacom Productions (1974-2004, 2017-2019).
- CBS Entertainment Productions (1984-1995).
- Vestron Television (1987-1992).
- 20th Television (1989-present).
- Fox Entertainment Group (1990-2019).
- Group W Productions (1994-1996).
- Paramount Domestic Television (1995-2006).
- Paramount Television (1995-2006, 2012-2020).
- Eyemark Entertainment (1995-2000).
- CBS Productions (1995-2012, 2015-2017).
- Fox Television Studios (1997-2014).
- Artisan Television (1998-2005).
- King World Productions (2000-2007).
- ABC Group (2001-2004).
- Buena Vista Television (2001-2007).
- Walt Disney Television (2001-2007, 2019-present).
- Touchstone Television (2001-2009, 2020).
- Lions Gate Television (2003-2008).
- Disney-ABC Television Group (2004-2019).
- Fox 21 (2005-2014).
- Lionsgate Television (2005-present).
- CBS Paramount Domestic Television (2006-2007).
- CBS Paramount Television (2006-2009).
- Disney-ABC Domestic Television (2007-2015).
- ABC Studios (2007-2020).
- CBS Television Distribution (2007-2021).
- CBS Television Studios (2009-2020).
- 20th Century Fox Television Distribution (2011, 2013-2020).
- ABC Signature Studios (2013-2020).
- Fox 21 Television Studios (2014-2020).
- Disney-ABC Home Entertainment and Television Distribution (2015-2020).
- Searchlight Television (2018-present).
- Disney Television Studios (2019-present).
- Fox Entertainment (2019-present).
- ABC Signature (2020-present).
- CBS Studios (2020-present).
- Disney Media Distribution (2020-present).
- Paramount Television Studios (2020-present).
- CBS Media Ventures (2021-present).
- Disney Platform Distribution (2021-present).