Friends, welcome back to a new Toon In offering – this week we have a delightful 1936 animated short entitled Tea Pot Town. Until today I had never actually seen this cartoon short but I stumbled across it on YouTube and thanks to a quick check on Jerry Beck’s always amazing Cartoon Research site found this to be something I needed to share. One of those reasons is it was directed by Ted Eshbaugh – who directed 1933’s The Wizard of Oz – the first animated short to tackle L. Frank Baum’s book series but he also directed 1935’s The Sunshine Makers. The latter being one of my favorite animated shorts of all time and if we are being 100% honest here – Tea Pot Town bears more than few similarities to that classic animated short.
Before we dive into the synopsis of Tea Pot Town I want to share a little interesting history of the animation studio Eshbaugh was working with at the time. That would be the Bray Studios – founded by J. R. Bray in 1913 it resided in New York City where in it’s time it produced over five hundred animated short films in a span of 14 years. Bray was able to do this by way of staggering a group of four units of animators working on four shorts at any one time – resulting in a cartoon being delivered every week for use in the bundled travelogs and comedy shorts that played before a feature film. It’s been said that in 1920 there were ten series of animated shorts all being produced at the very same time. Movie critic and famed animation historian, Leonard Maltin, in his his 1980 book Of Mice and Magic said of the Bray Studio:
“It was not Hanna and Barbera who discovered assembly-line animation in the television era; J.R. Bray…preceded them by forty years.”
I found that quote and the incredibly interesting history of the studio that J.R. Bray formed on the Bray Animation Project page. A site devoted to trying to track down and restoring the animated shorts of the studio – as the essay by Tommy Jose Stathes on that page points out – while there were over five hundred shorts produced only a handful are readily available. The Bray Studios which became the Bray Pictures Company in 1919 had a slew of legendary animators on it’s staff – featuring the likes of Paul Terry, the creator of Mighty Mouse and Farmer Al Falfa. There was also Max Fleischer who of course along with his brother David formed the Fleischer Studios – producing not just the iconic Superman cartoon shorts but Popeye, Betty Boop, as well as Koko the Clown. In addition there was Walter Lantz of Woody Woodpecker, Andy Panda, and Chilly Willy renown.
Now then, Tea Pot Town was an animated short from 1936 that was co-produced by the Lipton company – in an effort to remind folks that drinking tea has many beneficial qualities. Believe it or not the animated short was provided to theaters that wanted to show it for absolutely nothing – as well as handing out coloring books to the patrons featuring characters from the short. The original cartoon is sadly incomplete – it ran for seven minutes with the short provided by Steve Stanchfield of Thunderbean Animation below clocking in at a little over five minutes. This version was scanned and cleaned up by Stanchfield from the 35mm print housed at the Library of Congress – actually why don’t you let Steve explain what he does for the College of Creative Studies?
Tea Pot Town focuses on the inhabitants of – well – tea pot town, who are naturally sentient tea pots. Their sole purpose is to travel across the country and help to combat the negative feelings and thoughts of the ancient order of the droops. This is done it seems by arriving on the scene and chasing the droops away with a quick blast of scalding steam from the teapots. So, take a moment and go get yourself a cup of tea and enjoy 1936’s Tea Pot Town!