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George Pal's Puppetoons were a series of animated puppet films made in Europe in the 1930s and in the United States in the 1940s. They are memorable for their use of replacement animation: using a series of different hand-carved wooden puppets (or puppet heads or limbs) for each frame in which the puppet moves or changes expression, rather than moving a single puppet, as is the case with most stop motion puppet animation.

The series began when Pal made an advertising film using "dancing" cigarettes in 1932, which led to a series of theatrical advertising shorts for Philips Radio in the Netherlands. This was followed by a series for Horlicks Malted Milk in England. These shorts have an art deco design, often reducing characters to simple geometric shapes. A typical Puppetoon required 9,000 individually carved and machined wooden figures or parts.

Pal came to the U.S. in 1940, and produced dozens of Puppetoons for Paramount Pictures, eight of which received Academy Award nominations, including Rhythm in the Ranks (for the year 1941), Tulips Shall Grow (1942), Jasper and the Haunted House (1942), The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (1943), And To Think I Saw it On Mulberry Street (1944), Jasper and the Beanstalk (1945), John Henry and the Inky-Poo (1946), Jasper in a Jam (1946), and Tubby the Tuba (1947). (Info source: AMPAS Animated Short Film Oscar archives.)

The series ended due to rising production costs which had increased from $18,000 per short in 1939 to almost $50,000 following the war. Paramount Pictures, Pal's distributor, objected to the cost. Per their suggestion Pal went to produce sequences for feature films.[1] In 1956, the Puppetoons as well as most of Paramount's shorts, were sold to television distributor U.M. & M. TV Corporation. National Telefilm Associates bought out U.M. & M. and continued to syndicate them in the 1950s and 1960s as "Madcap Models".

Pal also used the Puppetoon name and the general Puppetoon technique for miniature puppet characters in some of his live-action feature films, including The Great Rupert (1949), Tom Thumb (1958), and The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1963). In these films, the individual wooden figures were billed as The Puppetoons.

In 1986, film producer-director-archivist Arnold Leibovit, a friend of George Pal, collected several Puppetoons and released them theatrically and to video as The Puppetoon Movie reintroducing them to contemporary audiences. A feature-length documentary on the life and films of George Pal followed.


Some controversy exists in modern times, as the black character, Jasper, star of several Puppetoons in the 1940s, although innocently conceived at the time, is considered a stereotype today. Pal described Jasper as the Huckleberry Finn of American folklore.[1] Already in 1946, an article of the Hollywood Quarterly protested that the Jasper shorts presented a "razor-totin', ghost-haunted, chicken-stealin' concept of the American Negro".[1]

A 1947 article in Ebony pointed that George Pal was a European and not raised on racial prejudice. "To him there is nothing abusive about a Negro boy who likes to eat watermelons or gets scared when he goes past a haunted house". The article, though, pointed that this depiction touched on the stereotypes of Negroes being childish, eating nothing but molasses and watermelons, and being afraid of their own shadows.[1]


The Academy Film Archive preserved several of the Puppetoons in 2009, including Jasper and the Beanstalk, John Henry and the Inky Poo, and Rhythm In the Ranks.[2]



  • Midnight


  • Radio Valve Revolution
  • The Ship of the Ether


  • The Magic Atlas
  • World's Greatest Show
  • In Lamp Light Land
  • Sinbad


  • Vier Asse
  • Ether Symphony
  • Charlie's World Cruise
  • Ali Baba
  • On Parade!


  • What Ho, She Bumps (a.k.a. Captain Kidding)
  • The Reddingsbrigade
  • Philips Broadcast of 1938 (a.k.a. The Big Broadcast of '38)


  • South Seas Sweethearts
  • The Ballet of Red Radio Valves
  • Sky Pirates



  • Gooseberry Pie
  • Friend in Need


  • Dipsy Gypsy
  • Hoola Boola
  • Rhythm in the Ranks
  • Western Daze
  • The Gay Knighties



  • Bravo, Mr. Strauss
  • The Little Broadcast
  • Goodnight Rusty
  • The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins
  • Jasper and the Choo Choo
  • Jasper Goes Fishing
  • Jasper's Music Lesson
  • The Truck That Flew



  • A Hatful of Dreams
  • Jasper and the Beanstalk
  • Jasper's Booby Trap
  • Jasper's Close Shave
  • Jasper's Minstrels
  • Jasper Tell
  • Hot Lips Jasper



  • Shoe Shine Jasper
  • My Man Jasper
  • Date with Duke
  • Wilbur the Lion
  • Rhapsody in Wood
  • Tubby the Tuba
  • Romeow and Julicat (Shown in the film Variety Girl)


  • Sweet Pacific


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Cohen (2004), p. 58
  2. ^ "Preserved Projects". Academy Film Archive.

External links[edit]