|First appearance||Noveltoon Santa's Surprise (December 5, 1947)|
|Created by||Seymour Kneitel
Bill Tytla (design)
|Portrayed by||Mae Questel|
Little Audrey (full name: Audrey Smith) is a fictional character, appearing in early 20th century folklore prior to her appropriation as the star in a series of Paramount Pictures' Famous Studios cartoons from 1947 to 1958. She is considered a variation of the better-known Little Lulu, devised after Paramount decided not to renew the license on the comic strip character created by Marjorie Henderson Buell (AKA: "Marge"). Despite some superficial similarities between the two characters, the Famous animators were at pains to design Audrey in contrast to Lulu, adopting an entirely different color scheme and employing the stylistic conventions common to Famous Studios' later 1940s repertoire, as opposed to Buell's individualistic rendering of Little Lulu. Veteran animator Bill Tytla was the designer of Little Audrey, reportedly inspired by his daughter Tammy (who was also his inspiration for Famous' version of Little Lulu, which he also worked on and directed several shorts with that character). The original voice of Little Lulu was performed by actress Cecil Roy (who also provided the voice of Casper the Friendly Ghost). Little Audrey was instead voiced by Mae Questel, who also voiced most of Paramount's other major female cartoon characters including Betty Boop and Olive Oyl.
In folklore and juvenile humor
According to B.A. Botkin's A Treasury of American Folktales:
Little Audrey is a folk-lore character about whom thousands of nonsensical short tales during the past five or six years — have been told. Sometimes Little Audrey parades as Little Emma or Little Gertrude, but she usually is recognizable by a catch phrase 'she just laughed and laughed'. The amusing incident is typically a catastrophe.
Little Audrey's mother asks her to buy some groceries at the Safeway, and she laughed and laughed because she knew there was no safe way.
One of the most famous goes like this:
One day, Li'l Audrey was playing with matches. Her mother told her she'd better stop before someone got hurt. But Li'l Audrey was awfully hard headed and kept playing with matches, and eventually she burned their house down.
"Oh, Li'l Audrey, you are sure gonna catch it when your father comes home!" said her mother.
But Li'l Audrey just laughed and laughed, because she knew her father had come home early to take a nap.
As nasty as some of these jokes were, they were extremely popular, and it became inevitable that someone would appropriate the name of the character.
Audrey first appeared in the Noveltoon' Santa's Surprise (1947), where she was the most prominent member of a multicultural child cast working to clean Santa's workshop while he was asleep, and was briefly seen in the January 1948 Popeye cartoon Olive Oyl for President. Her first starring vehicle was the short Butterscotch and Soda, released on July 16, 1948. In common with many animated shorts of the period, childlike fantasy played an important role in Audrey's early cartoons, which often used dream sequences as the basis of the storylines. In this way, Audrey could ride the clouds with Mother Goose (Goofy Goofy Gander, 1950), attend a wedding in Cakeland (Tarts and Flowers, also 1950), or face an underwater tribunal of outraged catfish (The Seapreme Court, 1954). Slapstick humor crept into the series with the release of Surf Bored (1953), which pitted the precocious little girl against a hulking but ultimately brainless life guard. A total of sixteen cartoons starring Audrey were produced for theatrical release, several of which were re-packaged for television from the late 1950s on.
She was the only character in the series to have their own theme song with vocals ("Little Audrey Says", by Winston Sharples and Buddy Kaye). Some other characters (and certain one-shots) in the series had their own themes, but were entirely instrumental. Two Noveltoons spin-offs, Casper the Friendly Ghost and Herman and Katnip had their own vocal themes, but only after leaving the series.
The pre-October 1950 Little Audrey cartoons were sold to television distributor U.M. & M. TV Corporation in 1956. The post-September 1950 cartoons would be sold to Harvey Comics, when they acquired the rights to the character in 1959. Today, they are the property of DreamWorks Animation, a subsidiary of NBCUniversal, and distributed by Universal Television. Meanwhile, Olive Oyl for President would become property of Warner Bros. (via Turner Entertainment Co.).
The Famous/Harvey character
Little Audrey's last name is Smith.
Little Audrey has reddish brown hair with ribbons making three pigtails. She wears a little dress with puffed sleeves, white ankle socks, and black Mary Jane shoes. In the short subjects, the dress and ribbons are blue, but by the time of her Harvey comics runs, they are red.
The comic "Little Audrey & Melvin and Cousin Suzie's Dance Party" (issue unknown) reveals that Audrey has a cousin named Suzie, who has a friend named Bubu. The first several issues of the comic book also reveals she has a brother nicknamed "Patches".
In other media
While the jokes remained popular well into the 1980s, the Famous/Harvey character had an entirely different career:
Animation historian Jerry Beck notes that Famous Studios' animator Steve Mufatti drew a short-lived "Little Audrey" comic strip magazines in 1951, which were syndicated by King Features. These strips were also reprinted in 1952-55 by Harvey Comics.
Little Audrey was never as successful as Famous' best-known creation, Casper the Friendly Ghost, but the character had considerable success in printed form. The first Little Audrey comic book series was St. John Publications from April 1948 to May 1952. Featuring stories which depended more on situation comedy than on fantasy, the comics featured artwork done in a style approximating the original Famous character designs (most of them by Steve Muffati). The series met with moderate success on the newsstand, running for approximately twenty-four issues until Little Audrey was licensed by Harvey Comics in 1952.
Initially, Harvey's comic-book version closely followed its animated template, but the character was redesigned during the mid-1950s to conform more closely to the company's in-house style. The general storyline was simultaneously overhauled to provide Audrey with supporting characters such as Melvin Wisenheimer, her ugly, prankish arch-rival, and Tiny, a young black boy. Domestic comedy gradually took over the scripts, as Audrey was shown in conflict with parents, teachers, and other authority figures.
Harvey purchased the rights to all of Famous' original properties - Little Audrey included - in 1958, also acquiring the rights to the post-1950 Audrey cartoons. It was during this time that the "definitive" Audrey came into being, taking on the signature red dress and appearance most often associated with the character. By 1960, Little Audrey was the best known of Harvey's female characters due to her multi-media presence (comic books, television/theatrical animation and - briefly - newspaper strips), although her popularity was later eclipsed by the company's other female characters, Little Dot, Wendy the Good Little Witch and Little Lotta.
Later comic series were titled Playful Little Audrey (The name under which the character has been trademarked in 1961) and Little Audrey & Melvin. In the latter, Audrey and Melvin become less antagonistic and Audrey demonstrates affections for and jealousy towards him, much like Little Lulu had done with Tubby Tompkins.
During her most successful period, Audrey starred in at least four of her own titles and was a back-up feature in Richie Rich, Casper, and Dot. The character lasted until 1976, when an industry-wide distribution slump brought an end to most of Harvey's line and most children's comics in general. Since that time, the character has undergone several revivals and made scattered television and video appearances, most notably in The Richie Rich Show (1996) and Baby Huey's Great Easter Adventure (1998).
Famous Studios filmography
All cartoons listed are entires in the series unless otherwise noted. Credited directors for each short are noted.
|#||Title||Directed by||Story by||Animated by||Scenics by||Original release date|
|1||"Santa's Surprise"||Seymour Kneitel||Larz Bourne||Myron Waldman and Wm. B. Pattengill||Robert Little||December 5, 1947|
|As Santa delivers presents to Audrey and other children from different parts of the world (a Dutch boy, a Chinese boy, an African-American boy, a Russian boy, a Hawaiian girl and a Spanish girl), they slip into his sleigh to repay him by cleaning up his house. (In this story, poor Santa lives a hermit-like existence , without wife or elves to help him maintain his household.) The kids escape in Santa's sleigh just as he awakes on Christmas morn to find a spotless house and a note that reads, "Don't forget us next year!"|
|2||"Olive Oyl for President"||I. Sparber||Joe Stultz and Larry Riley||Tom Johnson and John Gentilella||Tom Ford||January 30, 1948|
|Audrey appears briefly in a sequence where she's seen pushing a baby carriage, while licking a gigantic ice cream cone nestled inside of it.|
|3||"Butterscotch and Soda"||Seymour Kneitel||Larz Bourne and Bill Turner||Al Eugster, Bill Hudson, and Irving Spector||Robert Owen||July 16, 1948|
|Audrey is confined to her room by her family's maid for wanting to eat candy instead of a nutritionally balanced lunch. She then dreams about going to a candy land, feasting on every scrumptious confection imaginable, and getting sick to her stomach while candy monsters narrate her painful plight in a swing song, admonishing her for the pig she's made of herself, which eventually puts her off sweets.|
|4||"The Lost Dream"||Bill Tytla||Steve Muffatti, Bill Turner,
and Larz Bourne
|George Germanetti and Harvey Patterson||Shane Miller||March 18, 1949|
|Audrey has dreams about how dreams are made and cannot resist the temptation to open the Black Door.|
|5||"Song of the Birds"||Bill Tytla||Bill Turner and Larry Riley||George Germanetti and Steve Muffatti||Robert Little||November 18, 1949|
|Audrey is enjoying her air rifle, until she shoots down a baby bird and is filled with remorse until she sees it survived. The other birds, however, don't believe she's sincere about her reformation (even after she destroys the rifle), until the baby bird proves it.|
|6||"Tarts and Flowers"||Bill Tytla||Bill Turner and Larry Riley||George Germanetti and Steve Muffatti||Robert Little||May 26, 1950|
|While waiting for her cookies to bake, Audrey dreams about a marriage between the Gingerbread Man and Angel Cake about to be terminated by the Devil's Food Cake.|
|7||"Goofy Goofy Gander"||Bill Tytla||I. Klein||George Germanetti and Steve Muffatti||Anton Loeb||August 18, 1950|
|When Audrey is sitting in the corner for not paying attention in school, unlike another kids in class; she magically shrinks as Audrey dreams about the Mother Goose Land about to be threatened by a couple of comic book crooks.|
|8||"Hold the Lion Please"||I. Sparber||I. Klein||Steve Muffatti and George Germanetti||Robert Owen||August 27, 1951|
|Audrey really wants a pet, but she can't afford one. At the zoo, she tries to get a baby kangaroo and seal, but their mothers won't let her. Audrey then befriends a lion, who scares away the townspeople.|
|9||"Audrey the Rainmaker"||I. Sparber||I. Klein||Steve Muffatti and Bill Hudson||Tom Ford||October 26, 1951|
|Audrey is so annoyed by the rain, she wishes so strongly it would "never rain again" that her wish is granted. Months later, a drought hits the continent hard as a result of her wish, and the flowers in her garden are dying. A living drop of water takes her to the Land of the Rainmaker to ask the Rainmaker's forgiveness and to let it rain again.|
|10||"Law and Audrey"||I. Sparber||I. Klein||Steve Muffatti and Morey Reden||Tom Ford||May 23, 1952|
|Audrey plays baseball with Pal, but she hurts and angers a police man several times, that he chases her, but Audrey rescues him from drowning in a pond.|
|11||"The Case of the Cockeyed
|Seymour Kneitel||I. Klein||Steve Muffatti and Morey Reden||Robert Connavale||December 19, 1952|
|Audrey dreams she's a detective (complete with deerstalker hat) on a case of the murdered Cock Robin. She chases the suspect: a cuckoo bird (a caricature of Harpo Marx). Mary Canary confesses that she only shot Robin with a cupid arrow.|
|12||"Surf Bored"||I. Sparber||Larz Boune||Steve Muffatti and Morey Reden||Robert Connavale||July 17, 1953|
|Audrey takes Pal to the beach, regardless that dogs are not allowed. As Audrey tries to incessantly keep Pal, she has to rescue the life guard from a giant octopus.|
|13||"The Seapreme Court"||Seymour Kneitel||Larz Boune||Tom Golden and Morey Reden||Robert Owen||1953|
|Audrey falls asleep on a small grass-field island; while fishing, she goes to the seabed and is tried as a criminal in a fish court of law for the murder of fishes with a fishing hook. When she is sentenced to the eel-lectric chair, she tries to escape and finds that the events were only a dream.|
|14||"Dizzy Dishes"||I. Sparber||I. Klein||Tom Golden and Bill Hudson||Anton Loeb||1954|
|While using her contraption to wash dishes for her, Audrey dreams about aliens with the power to disintegrate. Only Audrey, with her superweapons, can stop them.|
|15||"Little Audrey Riding Hood"||Seymour Kneitel||Larz Boune||Tom Golden and Morey Reden||Robert Connavale||October 14, 1955|
|Audrey is sent to take a cake to Grandma. At Grandma's house, a burglar is robbing the place, and hides in the bed from Audrey. Once uncovered, the burglar chases Audrey until Grandma comes to her rescue.|
|16||"Fishing Tackler"||I. Sparber||I. Klein||Tom Golden and Bill Hudson||John Zago||March 29, 1957|
|Audrey and her dog Pal try to spend a peaceful day fishing, while avoiding the mean old truant officer.|
|17||"Dawg Gawn"||Seymour Kneitel||Carl Meyer||Tom Johnson and Nick Tafuri||Robert Owen||December 12, 1958|
|Pal so much wants to go to school with Audrey, but she shoos him away. Audrey then has to rescue Pal from a sadistic dogcatcher.|
Note 1: These cartoons were rebroadcast as part of The Harveytoons Show (a.k.a. Casper and Friends), which aired in Canada on the now-defunct network Teletoon Retro.
Note 2: The first two cartoons (Santa's Surprise and Olive Oyl for President) are respectively part of the Noveltoons series for the first, and the Popeye the Sailor series instead for the second.
Note 3: The cartoon Song of the Birds is a remake of the homonym Max Fleischer Color Classic cartoon The Song of the Birds, which was released on March 1, 1935.
- Cartoon Brew article "Facebook Fun" (Dated: April 5, 2010) - containing the original 1946 model sheet of Little Audrey by Bill Tytla.
- Botkin, B.A. (Random House, 1944).
- "The ETC Sitter," Playful Little Audrey #75 (April 1968). Confirmed in "Little Audrey & Melvin and The Secret of Silent Island" (issue unknown), where Audrey's friend Lucretia (visiting her uncle Bruce Bagley) refers to Audrey's mother as "Mrs. Smith".
- "Paramount/Famous Studios Original Titles, Cartoon Research website. Accessed December 12, 2011.