Magoo Shorts

The UPA studio hit a rough patch in 1959 with the loss of their theatrical distribution contract with Columbia and the box office failure of 1001 Arabian Nights. Despite the setbacks, UPA began producing new theatrical shorts as part of a new plan to deal directly with theaters rather than through a distribution company. The first of the shorts, Magoo Meets McBoing Boing, directed by Abe Levitow, teamed up UPA’s two strongest box office draws and was followed by Magoo Meets Frankenstein (also directed by Abe) and one more before the theatrical shorts program was discontinued in favor of television production.

Henry G. Saperstein, a pioneer in the merchandising business, approached UPA studio chief Stephen Bosustow to discuss producing Mr. Magoo cartoons for the television market. In late 1959, an agreement was signed for UPA to produce 130 Mr. Magoo shorts for TV distribution. Abe Levitow and art director Vic Haboush were charged with setting up a number of production units and hiring the requisite number of artists to man them. In its theatrical heyday, UPA had been turning out a six minute cartoon at the rate of one every five weeks. Now it would turn out a five minute cartoon every five days.

Abe is credited as Associate Producer on the series of shorts, most likely because of his work in setting up and supervising the various units although his position was essentially that of Supervising Director. The shorts unfortunately suffer in comparison to their theatrical counterparts due mainly to the impossibly low budgets and breakneck schedules. Even with the high pace of production, artists were supported creatively and given a great deal of freedom under Abe Levitow’s supervision and many of them remembered that period fondly over 45 years later.

(Click any image to enlarge.)
Magoo Meets Frankenstein:

Design by Tony Rivera, artist for publicity drawing unknown

Model sheets for Mr. Magoo short films:

Artist unknown

Artist unknown

Artist unknown

Model sheet by Abe Levitow