They say that Jack Warner was one day conducting some lot visitors past the animation building. Someone asked Jack about it, whereupon he waved a dismissive hand and replied, Oh, that’s where we make all those Mickey Mouse cartoons. I can believe that story, for based on an ongoing perusal of old trade magazines, it never did seem as though Warners really noticed their cartoon department, certainly not to the extent other companies did --- as witness these attractive ads for the 1945-46 release season. It goes without saying that RKO was proud of their relationship with Walt Disney. Those family-friendly features and shorts were quite an inducement for exhibitors when an RKO season contract was laid before them, and the studio could prop up a lot of their own weak sisters with the promise of Disney subjects to sweeten the deal. Notice how they’re linking cartoon characters with that massive crowd outside Radio City Music Hall. Prestige bookings on Broadway sure helped when it came time to sell product to the hinterlands. RKO salesmen would no doubt be waving this trade ad in front of every small exhibitor in their territory.
Metro took a lot of pride in their shorts department, and nothing made them glow like Tom and Jerry, which was far and away the biggest success story of any cartoon series the company had. Here they are clubbing exhibitors with the Academy Award for Quiet, Please. That cartoon was like every other T&J --- cash cows for MGM. Ponder these figures --- Quiet, Please, a 1945 release, had a negative cost of $27,198. Domestic rentals for its first release totaled $77,520. Since cartoons were happily a timeless product, Metro was able to bring it back in 1953 for another haul --- this time rentals were $67,018. Yet another re-issue, this time in 1963, enriched the company to the tune of $35,404. Add to that the eventual TV sales, non-theatrical --- yak yak --- and those registers still sing with DVD sales for Quiet, Please as part of the Tom and Jerry Immortal Uncut (whoops --- some of them are!) Classics Collection, or whatever it’s called. That’s a lot of coin for a little seven-minute cartoon to be mining over sixty-plus years, and a real tribute to the longevity of golden age animation. Even Jack Warner might finally be impressed.