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from Grahame L. Newnham B.Sc.

George Pal in 1970

George Pal (born György Pál Marczincsak; February 1, 1908 – May 2, 1980) was a Hungarian-American animator, film director and producer, principally associated with the fantasy and science fiction genres. He became an American citizen after emigrating from Europe.

He was nominated for Academy Awards (in the category Best Short Subjects, Cartoon) for seven consecutive years (1942–1948) and received an honorary award in 1944. This makes him the second-most nominated Hungarian exile (together with William S. Darling and Ernest Laszlo) after Miklós Rózsa.

George Pal was born in 1928, at Cegléd, Hungary, the son of György Pál Marczincsak, and his wife Maria. He graduated from the Budapest Academy of Arts in 1928 (aged 20). From 1928 to 1931, he made films for Hunnia Films of Budapest, Hungary.

At the age of 23 in 1931, he married Elisabeth "Zsoka" Grandjean, and after moving to Berlin, founded Trickfilm-Studio GmbH Pal und Wittke, with UFA Studios as its main customer from 1931 to 1933. During this time, he patented the Pal-Doll technique (known as Puppetoons in the US).

In 1933, he worked in Prague; in 1934, he made a film advertisement in his hotel room in Paris, and was invited by Philips to make two more advertising shorts. He started to use Pal-Doll techniques in Eindhoven, in a former butchery, then at villa-studio Suny Home. He left Germany as the Nazis came to power.

He made five films before 1939 for the British company Horlicks Malted Milk. Luckily for Ninefivers, it is those advertising films made for Philips and Horlicks that survive on the 9.5mm home movie film gauge in both silent and optical sound film releases, edited to remove the direct advertising material. Sadly, whilst the original films were in colour, these 9.5mm releases are black & white. As well as the UK releases on 9.5mm by Pathéscope, in France, Pathé-Baby also released these titles in both 9.5mm silent and optical sound, despite having French titles, they still retained the English sound tracks.

A younger George Pal constructing a prop for one of his Puppetoons - 1930s

In December 1939, aged 32, he emigrated from Europe to the United States, and began work for Paramount Pictures. At this time, his friend Walter Lantz helped him obtain American citizenship.

As an animator, he made the Puppetoons series in the 1940s, which led to him being awarded an honorary Oscar in 1943 for "the development of novel methods and techniques in the production of short subjects known as Puppetoons". Pal then switched to live-action film-making with "The Great Rupert" (1950).

Later other feature films made by George Pal include "When Worlds Collide"; "War Of The Worlds" (1953); "Tom Thunb" (1958); "The Time Machine" (1960) and "The Wonderful World Of The Brothers Grimm" (1962).

from a George Pal puppetoon

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 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.

The Puppetoons made for Horlicks were made in the UK / Holland with the following credits:

Director: George Pal
Production Company: J. Walter Thompson
Sponsor: Horlicks
Script/Storyboard: Alexander Mackendrick
Camera Operator: Frank Hendricks (Frans Hendricks)
Music: Debroy Somers


"What Ho! She Bumps" GB/H 1937

Puppetoon animated film short advertising Horlicks Malted Milk drink

George Pal’s ‘puppet pirates’ rule the waves and prey on a sleeping Navy.
After a close shave the weary crew of HMS Hopeless transform themselves
into the good ship HMS Hopeful as the virtues of Horlicks are explained.
Our revitalised heroes pursue their attackers and night starvation becomes a thing of the past.
(BFI Player)

   T.9677 CAPTAIN KIDDING  1 reel B/W sound Released by Pathéscope: Jan51 - 
  M.30575 CAPTAIN KIDDING  (200ft) B/W Mute Released by Pathéscope: Feb51-
 MS.70169 BATEAU CORSAIRE (LE) 1 reel B/W sound Released by Pathé-Baby France
   M.4690 BATEAU CORSAIRE (LE) (200ft) B/W Mute Released by Pathé-Baby France: Feb51 
Watch the original colour film on the BFI Player: 


"Sky Pirates" GB/H 1937

Puppetoon animated film short advertising Horlicks Malted Milk drink-

Pilots at a little aerodrome rise in the morning, but are still tired and go
to their planes yawning. They are attacked in the skies by raiders who then
bomb their base. A survivor escapes to headquarters with the story of a
terrible defeat. [It is discovered that the pilots are suffering from night
starvation, but after drinking Horlicks they are revived] A rejuvenated
squadron, aided by an airship, attacks and destroys the enemy.

(T/9673 - Dec 50) (Text kindly supplied by Maurice Trace)

*  The section above [in brackets and italics] is missing from the 9.5mm print.

   T.9673 SKY PIRATES  1 reel B/W sound Released by Pathécope; Dec50 
  M.30574 SKY PIRATES (200ft) B/W Mute Released by Pathéscope: Feb51
 MS.70166 PIRATES DE L'AIR (LES) 1 reel B/W sound  Released by Pathé-Baby France
   M.4687 PIRATES DE L'AIR (LES) (200ft) B/W Mute  Released by Pathé-Baby France


"Love On The Range" GB/H 1937

Puppetoon animated film short advertising Horlicks Malted Milk drink
(last in the series)

When you see something billed as a “Silly Billy Romance”, how can you resist?
George Pal produced five animated adverts for Horlicks in the late 1930s, and this last film might be the best.
The mock-opera singing, the Western setting and the barn dance dénouement are a winning combination,
even if you are not a fan of malted milk.

Pal’s “Puppetoon” replacement animation technique brings expressive
movement to the characters in perfect synchronisation with the music.
(BFI Player)

   T.9679 LOVE ON THE RANGE 1 reel B/W sound Released by Pathéscope; Mar51
 MS.70168 FAMEUX COWBOY (UN) 1 reel B/W sound  Released by Pathé-Baby France
   M.4689 FAMEUX COW-BOY (UN) (200ft) B/W Mute Released by Pathé-Baby France 
Watch the original colour film on thr BFI PLayer: 


"The Sleeping Beauty" GB/H 1934

One of the advertising Puppetoon animated shorts made for marketing Philips radios

A witch casts a princess and her kingdom into a deep sleep that lasts for hundreds of years,
as attempts are made in vain to break the curse. But it's not a kiss that wakes her, but a
Philips radio set of course!!

   T.9678 SLEEPING BEAUTY  1 reel B/W sound Released by Pathéscope: Feb51
  M.30577 SLEEPING BEAUTY (THE) (200ft) B/W Mute Released by Pathéscope: Mar51
 MS.70170 BELLE AU BOIS DORMANT (LA)  1 reel B/W sound  Released by Pathé-Baby France
   M.4691 BELLE AU BOIS DORMANT (LA)  (200ft) B/W Mute Released by Pathé-Baby France 


"South Sea Sweethearts" GB/H 1937

Puppetoon animated film short advertising Horlicks Malted Milk drink

Aloha! When the hero’s sweetheart is kidnapped you know he’s going to rescue her –
but does it usually take six weeks sitting around drinking Horlicks first?
The master of the Puppetoon George Pal made five cinema ads for Horlicks in the late 1930s.
The advertising agency J Walter Thompson were the British link with Pal’s Dutch studio,
with the scripts developed by JWT agency employee Alexander Mackendrick, the future Ealing and Hollywood director.

The Puppetoon animation technique relied on the production of a series of different puppets,
heads, faces, and limbs for each character in different stages of motion or expression which
could be swapped between filming frame by frame. It brought the squash and stretch qualities
of the cartoons to the physicality of puppets (hence the name Puppetoon).

Pal successfully took his formula to the US in the 1940s, before moving into special effects features like War of the Worlds (1953).

   T.9680 SOUTH SEA SWEETHEARTS 1 reel B/W sound Released by Pathéscope: Apr51
 MS.70167 IDYLLE HAWAIENNE 1 reel B/W sound  Released by Pathé-Baby France
   M.4688 IDYLLE HAWAIENNE  (200ft) B/W Mute Released by Pathé-Baby France 
Watch the original colour film on BFI Player: 


Note: The Pathéscope prints come from the British 1950 reissues by D.U.K Films (An E.J. Fancey company)
who released versions in black & white and with all the publicity material eliminated.
This reduced the running times to about 6 minutes.


Probably the better DVD to choose
but it is region 1, so you will need a
multi-region DVD player in the UK
or Europe!

As it will usually come from the USA
it is expensive!

There are some of the early titles,
including a couple of those released
on 9.5mm. Remember the originals
were filmed in Technicolor!


A DVD has been released in the USA
some time ago.

This (from memory) is a feature film
made up as a compilation of the early
Puppetoon films.

Currrently you may find a spare copy
on Amazon or ebay, but pricey!


 T before a film ref. number indicates a '1 reel' sound film up to 300 foot/ 100 metre 
 M before a film ref. number indicates a 200 foot / 60 metre film 
MS before a film ref. number indicates a 200 foot / 60 metre French sound film 
   The Great Cartoon Stars by the late Denis Gifford (Jupiter Books)
   The Animated Film by Ralph Stephenson (Tantivy Press, London)
   Guide To Pathéscope Silent 9.5mm Cartoons & Animated Films by Maurice Trace
   Much of the biographical material comes from Wikipedia 

Any corrections, or additional information will be greatly appreciated! 
please e-mail me, Grahame L. Newnham at:  presto @ 
                              (no gaps in actual e-mail address)

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Created 12May2019 .. Last updated: 26 May 2019 ....... 95flmartgeorgepal.htm ....... ©MMX1X Grahame .L. Newnham
13May2019 - Many corrections/typos from 9.5mm historian extraordinaire Maurice Trace - grateful thanks!
16May2019 - French 9.5mm releases added / 26May2019 - younger George Pal photo added