Paul Terry (cartoonist)

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Paul Terry
Paul Houlton Terry

(1887-02-19)February 19, 1887
DiedOctober 25, 1971(1971-10-25) (aged 84)
New York City, New York, U.S.
OccupationCartoonist, screenwriter, film director, film producer
Years active1915–1956
Spouse(s)Irma Terry (19??-1969; her death); 1 child

Paul Houlton Terry (February 19, 1887 – October 25, 1971) was an American cartoonist, screenwriter, film director and producer. He produced over 1,300 cartoons between 1915 and 1956 including the many Terrytoons cartoons.


Early life[edit]

Terry was raised in San Francisco and in 1904 he began working as a news photographer and began to draw cartoons for newspapers. He contributed, along with his brother, John, to a weekly comic strip about a dog titled "Alonzo" for the San Francisco Call.[1] He later transferred to the New York Press, a newspaper in New York City.[2]

In 1914, Terry became interested in animation after seeing Winsor McCay's Gertie the Dinosaur. While still working for the newspaper, he made his first film, Little Herman, which he completed and sold to the Thanhouser film company of New Rochelle, New York in 1915.[citation needed]

Later that year, he completed his second film, Down on the Phoney Farm. There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that Terry attempted to sell his cartoon to a producer who made a small offer for the film. When Terry told him that the offer was less than his production costs, the producer supposedly replied, "I'd had paid more if you hadn't put those pictures on there!"[citation needed]

J. R. Bray Studios[edit]

In 1916, he began working at the J. R. Bray Studios, directing and producing a series of eleven Farmer Al Falfa films.[2] Before the end of the year, Terry left Bray, taking the rights to Farmer Al Falfa with him.

Paul Terry Productions[edit]

In 1917, Terry formed his own production company, "Paul Terry Productions"[2] and produced nine more animated films, including one Farmer Al Falfa film. Terry closed his studio to join the United States Army and fought in World War I.[citation needed]

Fables Studios[edit]

In 1920, Terry entered into a partnership with Amadee J. Van Beuren, and founded Fables Studios. During this time, he began producing a series of Aesop's Film Fables as well as new Farmer Al Falfa films under that banner. Terry experimented with sound process in a Fable Cartoon called Dinner Time after pressure from Van Beuren, released in September 1928, two months before Walt Disney's Steamboat Willie was released in November 1928.[2]

Terry's partnership with Van Beuren lasted until 1929, when Terry and Van Beuren disagreed over the switch to producing films with sound. Terry started up the Terrytoons studio in the "K" Building in downtown New Rochelle, New York, where the Thanhouser film company, purchasers of Terry's first films, was also located. Van Beuren retained "Fables Studios" and renamed it "Van Beuren Studios".[citation needed]


Terry's Terrytoons produced a large number of animated films, including Gandy Goose, Mighty Mouse, Heckle and Jeckle, and many other lesser known characters.[2] Theatrical distribution was at first through Educational Pictures, then, after it was acquired in 1937, through 20th Century Fox. One of his works produced during this time, called The Three Bears, gained internet fame almost 70 years later when one of its scenes became an Internet meme

Terry was quick to adopt techniques that simplified the animation process, but resisted "improvements" that complicated the production. He was one of the first to make use of "cel animation" including animation of separate body parts. His studio was slow to switch to synchronized sound tracks and to color. He managed to keep his studio profitable, while others went out of business. Terry was once quoted as saying, "Disney is the Tiffany of animation. I'm the Woolworth."[citation needed]

Retirement and legacy[edit]

Terry became the first major cartoon producer to package his old films for television. In 1956, Terry sold his animation studio and film library to CBS for $3.5 million and retired.[3] CBS appointed Gene Deitch, who replaced the old characters with new ones such as Clint Clobber and John Doormat.

Deitch departed after three years. After Deitch's departure, Mighty Mouse and Heckle & Jeckle returned, as well as new characters such as Deputy Dawg.[2] CBS made the Terrytoons library of films a mainstay of its Saturday morning programming and continued operating the studio making both new theatrical films and series for television until the late 1960s.[citation needed]


Terry died on October 25, 1971, aged 84[2] in New York City. His nephew, Alex Anderson, was also an animator. Terry's wife Irma preceded him in death in 1969, and daughter Patricia Terry-Leahy, who survives them, has her father's cremated remains in her North Carolina home.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Stripper's Guide Obscurity of the Day: Alonzo". Retrieved November 10, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Paul Terry". Retrieved December 23, 2017.
  3. ^ Markstein, Donald D. "Don Markstein's Toonopedia: Heckle and Jeckle". Retrieved December 23, 2017.

External links[edit]