Little Audrey

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Little Audrey
First appearance Noveltoon Santa's Surprise (December 5, 1947)
Created by Seymour Kneitel
Bill Tytla (design)
Portrayed by Mae Questel
Information
Aliases Audrey Smith
Gender Female
Relatives Suzie (cousin)
Grandma

Little Audrey (full name: Audrey Smith) is a fictional character, appearing in 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 Marjorie Henderson Buell's comic strip character. 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 of).[1] 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.

History[edit]

Animated cartoons[edit]

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 in 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.

Television era[edit]

The pre-October 1950 Little Audrey cartoons were sold to television distributor U.M.&M. T.V. Corp. in 1956. Only two Little Audrey cartoons were syndicated with U.M.&M. titles. National Telefilm Associates (NTA) completed the refilming of the titles to the other Little Audrey cartoons that were sold to U.M.&M, and eventually full-circle back to Paramount (via parent company Viacom's Melange Pictures unit). 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. Meanwhile, Olive Oyl for President would be sold along with the rest of the Popeye series to Associated Artists Productions, and eventually Warner Bros. Pictures (via Turner Entertainment Co.).

Character[edit]

Little Audrey's last name is Smith.[2]

Little Audrey has brown hair with ribbons. She wears a little dress with puffed sleeves, white gloves, 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.

In other media[edit]

Comic strip[edit]

Animation historian Jerry Beck notes that Famous Studios' animator Steve Mufatti drew a short-lived "Little Audrey" comic strip in 1951, which were syndicated by King Features. These strips were also reprinted in 1952-55 by Harvey Comics.[3]

Comic books[edit]

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" 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).

In popular culture[edit]

According to B.A. Botkin, Little Audrey jokes were in circulation in the 1930s:

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 sees the humor in any situation. As the character Audrey frequently ends her animations by laughing hysterically, it seems likely she is based on this folklore that precedes the animations.[4]

Pierre Berton, in The Dionne Years: A Thirties Melodrama (1978), offers this example of a Little Audrey joke as was in fashion around the time of the Dionne Quintuplets birth in 1934:

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.

Famous Studios filmography[edit]

All cartoons listed are entires in the series unless otherwise noted. Credited directors for each short are noted.

Title Director Story by Release date Summary
Santa's Surprise
(Noveltoons series)
Seymour Kneitel Larz Bourne December 5, 1947 As Santa delivers presents to Audrey and other children from different parts of the world, they slip into his sleigh to repay him by cleaning up his house, while the other children get annoyed with a clumsy Dutch boy's antics.
Olive Oyl for President
(Popeye the Sailor series)
Isadore Sparber Joe Stultz
Larry Riley
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.
Butterscotch and Soda Seymour Kneitel Larz Bourne
Bill Turner
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.
The Lost Dream Bill Tytla Steve Muffatti
Bill Turner
Larz Bourne
March 18, 1949 Audrey has dreams about how dreams are made and cannot resist the temptation to open the Black Door.
Song of the Birds Bill Tytla Bill Turner
Larry Riley
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.
Tarts and Flowers Bill Tytla Bill Turner
Larry Riley
May 26, 1950 While waiting for her cookies to bake, Audrey dreams about a marriage between the Gingerbread Man and Angel Cake about to terminated by the Devil's Food Cake.
Goofy Goofy Gander Bill Tytla Isadore Klein August 18, 1950 When Audrey is sitting in the corner for not paying attention in school, she dreams about the Mother Goose Land about to be threatened by a couple of comic book crooks.
Hold the Lion Please Isadore Sparber Isadore Klein 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' let her. Audrey then befriends a lion, who scares away the townspeople.
Audrey the Rainmaker Isadore Sparber Isadore Klein 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.
Law and Audrey Isadore Sparber Isadore Klein 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.
The Case of the Cockeyed Canary Seymour Kneitel Isadore Klein December 19, 1952 Audrey dreams she's a detective (complete with Deerstalker hat) on a case of 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.
Surf Bored Isadore Sparber Larz Bourne 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.
The Seapreme Court Seymour Kneitel Larz Bourne January 29, 1954 While fishing Audrey goes to the seabed and is tried a criminal in a fish court of murder. When she is to be sentenced to the eel-lectric chair, she tries to escape and finds that it was a dream.
Dizzy Dishes Isadore Sparber Isadore Klein February 4, 1955 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.
Little Audrey Riding Hood Seymour Kneitel Larz Bourne October 14, 1955 Audrey is sent to take a cake to Grandma. At Grandma's house, a burglar is robbing the place, but has to hide in bed from Audrey. Once uncovered, the burglar chases Audrey until Grandma comes to her rescue.
Fishing Tackler Isadore Sparber Isadore Klein March 29, 1957 Audrey and her dog Pal try to spend a peaceful day fishing, while avoiding the mean old truant officer.
Dawg Gawn Seymour Kneitel Carl Meyer 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 episodes were rebroadcast as part of The Harveytoons Show (a.k.a. Casper and Friends), which currently airs on Teletoon Retro.
Note 2: The episode "Song of the Birds" is the remake of the homonym Max Fleischer's Color Classic episode, which was released in March 1, 1935.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cartoon Brew article "Facebook Fun" (Dated: April 5, 2010) - containing the original 1946 model sheet of Little Audrey by Bill Tytla.
  2. ^ "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".
  3. ^ "Paramount/Famous Studios Original Titles, Cartoon Research website. Accessed December 12, 2011.
  4. ^ Botkin, B.A. A Treasury of American Folktales (Random House, 1944).

External links[edit]

  • Archive.Org: