Official Films

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Official Films was a home movie distributor founded by Leslie Winik in 1939 to produce educational shorts. Soon, after buying the Keystone Chaplin library, they found themselves in the home movie business. They obtained several dozen Van Beuren cartoons.

Official retitled the Van Beuren cartoons and changed the name of Cubby Bear to "Brownie Bear". The human Tom and Jerry characters were renamed "Dick and Larry" to avoid confusion with the cat and mouse Tom and Jerry from MGM.

In addition to cartoons, Official also offered a number of sports films, newsreels, and specialties including a souvenir film of the 1939 New York World's Fair (which remained available until around 1980) and "The Broadway Handicap," a home-movie-board-game combination with a horse-racing theme.

During the 1940s, Official was acquired by Robert R. Young's Pathe Industries; through which it obtained home movie rights to the Young-owned Producers Releasing Corporation's westerns and B-pictures. Official also purchased the backlog of the Soundies Distributing Corporation of America, releasing numerous short musicals; both singly and in compilation reels.

In the late 1940s, the company licensed a number of short subjects from Columbia Pictures; including Krazy Kat and Scrappy cartoons, Community Sing musicals, and comedy shorts starring Buster Keaton, Charley Chase, and others. The Columbia shorts were available through the 1950s, along with some comedy shorts originally released by E.W. Hammons' Educational Pictures.

Official became an early syndicator of theatrical cartoons for television, around 1950. They also syndicated live action television series such as Peter Gunn, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Stu Erwin Show, My Little Margie and the original Biography.

In the 1950s, Official licensed Hal Roach's Our Gang comedies for home movie release; due to trademark conflicts involving the names "Our Gang" and "The Little Rascals," Official renamed the series "Hal Roach's Famous Kid Comedies." Concentrating on TV syndication, Official's home movie operations diminished in the 50's and 60's; many older items were discontinued and few if any new titles were added, except for a Super 8mm documentary on Marilyn Monroe edited from "Biography." By the late 60's, Official's TV syndication business had also dwindled, with an aging backlog of black-and-white shows and almost no new series to offer; and the company became increasingly inactive.

In 1969, Official changed their name to Official Industries. Today, their library is controlled by International Creative Exchange.