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Mr. Magoo and McBarker from What's New, Mr. Magoo?.
|Created by||Millard Kaufman|
Mr. Magoo and McBarker from What's New, Mr. Magoo?.
|Created by||Millard Kaufman|
Quincy Magoo (or simply Mr. Magoo) is a cartoon character created at the UPA animation studio in 1949. Voiced by Jim Backus, Quincy Magoo is a wealthy, short-statured retiree who gets into a series of comical situations as a result of his nearsightedness, compounded by his stubborn refusal to admit the problem. However, through uncanny streaks of luck, the situation always seems to work itself out for him, leaving him no worse than before.
Affected people (or animals) consequently tend to think that he is a lunatic, rather than just being nearsighted. In later cartoons he is also an actor, and generally a competent one except for his visual impairment.
Magoo has won 2 Oscars for Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoons). It, along with Tom and Jerry, The Pink Panther, Silly Symphonies and Looney Tunes, are notable for their Oscar achievements.
Mr. Magoo's first appearance was in the theatrical short cartoon The Ragtime Bear (1949), scripted by Millard Kaufman. His creation was a collaborative effort; animation director John Hubley is said to have partly based the character on his uncle Harry Woodruff, and W. C. Fields was another source of inspiration. In a legend circulating among medievalists, Harvard professor Francis P. Magoun is also said to have been the model for the character. However, there is no evidence that artist Hubley knew the scholar. Columbia was reluctant to release the short, but did so, only because it included a bear. However, audiences quickly realized that the real star was Magoo, one of the few "human" cartoon characters ever produced in Hollywood at the time. The short became a box-office success.
The Magoo character was originally conceived as a mean-spirited McCarthy-like reactionary whose mumbling would include as much outrageous misanthropic ranting as the animators could get away with. Kaufman had actually been blacklisted, and Magoo was a form of protest. Hubley was an ex-communist who had participated in the Disney animators' strike in 1941. Both he and Kaufman had participated in the blacklist front and perhaps due to the risk of coming under more scrutiny with a successful character, Hubley, who had created Magoo, handed the series completely over to creative director Pete Burness.
Under Burness, Magoo would win two Oscars for the studio with When Magoo Flew (1955) and Magoo's Puddle Jumper (1956). Burness scrubbed Magoo of his politicized meanness and left only a few strange unempathic comments that made him appear senile or somewhat mad. Magoo was frequently accompanied in his on-screen escapades with his nephew Waldo, voiced at various times by Jerry Hausner or Daws Butler.
On talk shows, Backus often told the tale of how he originally discovered Magoo's voice when he put on a fake rubber nose that pinched his nose slightly, giving it the nasal sound. He was only able to perform the voice with the help of the rubber nose for some time, but eventually learned how to re-create it without its assistance. He would usually pull out the nose (or a facsimile, since the original had been lost some years before) and put it on and break into the familiar voice.
In 1957, the record album Magoo in Hi-Fi was released. Side 1 consisted of a dialog between Magoo and Waldo taking place while Magoo was attempting to set up his new sound system. Music on the album was composed and conducted by Dennis Farnon and his orchestra. Side 2, "The Mother Magoo Suite", was a series of musical pieces which included two solos by Marni Nixon.
In 1997, a live-action comedy film based on the character with the same name was produced by Walt Disney Pictures on December 25, 1997 and starred Leslie Nielsen as the title character. The film received negative reviews and was a box-office flop.
In 2010, a direct-to-video action-comedy film based on the character, Kung Fu Magoo, was released on DVD on May 11, 2010. It features the voices of Jim Conroy, Chris Parnell, Dylan and Cole Sprouse, and Alyson Stoner. The film is a Mexican-American co-production, produced by Classic Media, Ánima Estudios, and Santo Domingo Films. The film was directed by Andrés Couturier.
In the 1960s, UPA transferred its attention to television, and began producing the series The Mr. Magoo Show for the character. Because UPA shut down its animation studio in 1959, the animation for these cartoons was done by Jack Kinney Productions and Larry Harmon Pictures. Because of this, the cartoons suffered from varying character designs and choppier animation, due to rushed production schedules. Magoo's nephew Waldo (voiced, as in most of the theatrical cartoons, by Jerry Hausner) was seldom seen with his uncle, now appearing in his own episodes, introduced by a brief phone conversation from Magoo's point of view which acted as a teaser. The Waldo episodes also featured a slick-talking con man named Presley, and always ended with a return to Magoo saying, "Oh, that Waldo and Presley. What'll they be up to next? Hee hee hee!"
Magoo's houseboy Cholly (i.e. "Charlie") took up a lot of Waldo's slack. Cholly was a Chinese stereotype with huge buck teeth and comically fractured English pronunciation, a fact that makes these cartoons even more politically incorrect than the theatrical ones from the 1950s. In fairness, it should be noted that despite his stereotyped appearance and voice, he nonetheless usually plays straight man to Magoo's shenanigans, rather than being a source of humor himself. He is the 'sane' one of the pair. His resourcefulness often saves Magoo from danger.
Still other cartoons featured Tycoon Magoo, voiced by Mel Blanc, and his bumbling assistant Worcestershire.
During the UPA television era came Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, an abbreviated but largely faithful retelling of Charles Dickens's tale. It was the first ever animated Christmas special made for television and is considered to be a holiday classic of the 1960s, ranking alongside A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. The special inspired production of an animated TV series titled The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo, which placed Magoo as an actor in other well-known stories. After an introduction in Magoo's backstage dressing room, Magoo was depicted in such roles as The Count of Monte Cristo, Merlin in an upbeat retelling of the story of King Arthur, Friar Tuck in Robin Hood, and Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
In 1970 Mr. Magoo starred as Uncle Sam in the TV special Uncle Sam Magoo.
In the late 1970s, Mr. Magoo appeared in a new Saturday morning CBS television series called What's New Mr. Magoo? This series was made under license by the DePatie-Freleng studio, as UPA had by this time ceased in-house cartoon production.
In 1997, Mr. Magoo was portrayed by Leslie Nielsen in a live-action Mr. Magoo feature film. It failed to find critical or popular success, and some support groups for the disabled, including the National Federation of the Blind, protested it on behalf of the blind and sight impaired.
Mr. Magoo helped advertise the General Electric line of products throughout the 1950s and 60s. In 2005, Mr. Magoo became the spokesman of the optical retail store Sterling Optical. Magoo also was featured in a series of commercials for Stag Beer in the 1960s. Also in the 1960s, the Polaner company sold its line of preserves in jars decorated with images of Mr. Magoo, which when empty could then be used as drinking glasses.
Mr. Magoo's catchphrase was "Oh Magoo, you've done it again!"
Mr. Magoo is an alumnus of Rutgers University, Class of 1928. The reason behind this is that his creators wanted him to be "a college alumnus who was still fired up with the old school spirit [and they felt] Rutgers was the embodiment of the 'old school tie' in America.". He was definitely in a fraternity since he would often shout out, "Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Rho - Rutgers, Rutgers, Go - Go - Go!"
The following Mr. Magoo cartoons were either nominees for or recipients of the Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoons):
The series has been criticised for vilifying the blind. Similar vilification has been used to harass and ridicule blind children.
On February 8, 2005 Sony Wonder (under license from Classic Media) released The Mr. Magoo Show: The Complete Collection. This 4-disc set featured all 26 episodes of the series as well as bonus features. This release has been discontinued and is now out of print.
On November 8, 2011, Shout! Factory (under license from Classic Media) released Mr. Magoo: The Television Collection 1960-1977 on DVD in Region 1. This 11-disc collection contains all episodes from all three Mr. Magoo television series including all 26 episodes of The Mister Magoo Show, all 26 episodes of The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo, all 16 episodes of What's New Mister Magoo?, and the prime-time TV special Uncle Sam Magoo as well as several bonus features.
On December 6th, 2011, Sony released the feature 1001 Arabian Nights on DVD through their Screen Classics MOD program, now available through a licensing deal through the Warner Archive.
In 2011, animation historian Jerry Beck announced the release of a Shout! Factory boxed set of the Mr. Magoo theatrical (UPA) shorts, under license from Sony. Originally scheduled for release in 2012, the set was pushed back for two years as Sony remastered some of the cartoons from higher quality sources, including newly discovered elements. The four-disc Mr. Magoo Theatrical Collection, containing all Mr. Magoo theatrical shorts and 1001 Arabian Nights, was released on April 22, 2014.