Spare the Child - UPA

Toon In: UPA’s Spare The Child (1955)

Friends, welcome back to a new installment of Toon In and for this week’s offering we have a 1955 UPA animated short entitled Spare the Child. It’s an odd one too because what I’ve been able to find online, this particular cartoon was something of a mess when it was finished. Jerry Beck of the always amazing Cartoon Research mentions in an article on the short that he believes the original audio was removed, replaced by narration from Hal Peary – probably best known as the voice of Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve on the hugely popular The Great Gildersleeve old time radio show. Beck also feels that the short itself felt the touch of a heavy dose of re-editing before it’s theatrical release with the possibility of new animation being inserted to help fix the cartoon.

I’m sharing Spare the Child today because of just how odd it is. While I will not say it’s great – it is still enjoyable even for all it’s faults. In particular I really do love the animation style used in this UPA short, provided by Fred Grable and Grim Natwick. Both men were legendary animators with Natwick working on the likes of 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to 1993’s The Thief and the Cobbler. Fred Grable besides animating the likes of Mr. Magoo shorts did a ton of TV animation in his career from Sabrina and the Groovie Ghoulies to Scooby’s Laff-A Lympics!

[Via] Cartoon Intros

The story for Spare the Child concerns a Father and Son – the parent is concerned that his child isn’t behaving properly and the young boy feels his Father is too harsh. So during the young boy’s birthday party he makes a wish – not that he can trade bodies with his Father but that they swap sizes. Sure enough, the boy grows to the size of an adult and his parent, much to his understandable horror, shrinks in size.

Throughout the cartoon, the Son now lords it over his Father in sometimes some truly bizarre ways. Naturally there comes a point where the young boy learns there is more to being a parent than ordering their children around.

That’s what it might look like on paper because if you ask me, the child in this animated short is a complete psychopath. Granted we aren’t actually getting the story as it was originally intended…but I’m pretty sure there is a moment that the kid, while pretending to be asleep sets up a trap for his Father.

I also can’t shake the odd feeling – that when the folks at Pixar were designing the character of Sid for 1995’s Toy Story, they must have based him off the kid in Spare the Child!

Perhaps, my friends, I am just looking at the morale of the animated short all askew. Make up your own mind as you Toon In and join us for 1955’s Spare the Child!


Editor at Retroist
Searching through the alleys for useful knowledge in the city of Nostalgia. Huge cinema fanatic and sometimes carrier of the flame for the weirding ways of 80s gaming, toys, and television. When his wife lets him he is quite happy sitting in the corner eating buckets of beef jerky.

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