Thursday, October 06, 2011

Tommy Tucker's Tooth

(Laugh-O-gram, US 1922) D: Walt Disney; DP: Walt Pfeiffer; anim. DP: Rudolf Ising; cast: ? (Tommy Tucker), Jack Records (Jimmie Jones); filmed: 12.1922, Laugh-O-gram studio; Kansas City locations; dist: non-theatrically to Missouri school system; 35 mm, 949 ft, 11'30" (22 fps); from: The Walt Disney Company. English intertitles.

Russell Merritt & J.B. Kaufman (GCM Catalogue): "Although Walt Disney is most widely known today for his theatrical films, his non-theatrical productions – training, classroom, and public-service films – were another important part of his career. In this dental-care picture, produced in Kansas City in late 1922, we see the beginnings of that educational tradition. And while the income from the educational Disney films would later be seen as merely a supplement to the box-office returns on his theatrical pictures, in 1922 the situation was reversed. By now it had become clear that the promised payment from Pictorial Clubs was never going to be made. Walt, desperate for some income to keep his little company afloat, accepted the offer of Kansas City dentist Dr. Thomas McCrum to underwrite a film that might encourage schoolchildren to take care of their teeth. Dr. McCrum proved more reliable than Pictorial Clubs, and Tommy Tucker’s Tooth became one of the few Laugh-O-gram ventures to return a profit."

"Most of the picture consists of live action, which was much faster and cheaper to produce than animation. Children from Kansas City schools were recruited for the cast, especially for the two lead roles of Tommy Tucker, who takes good care of his teeth and his general appearance, and Jimmie Jones, who doesn’t – until he learns better. The role of Jimmie was played by a youngster named Jack Records. Nearly seven decades later, by then retired from a career in medicine, Dr. Records recalled his early association with Walt Disney with great pleasure. He also observed a private irony: “I never had any idea, as I was doing this, what a career I would have as a patient of dentists.”"

"Animated inserts do appear in Tommy Tucker’s Tooth, interpolated in the live-action scenes to illustrate principles of dental care. Today it’s especially interesting to observe these vignettes, which make their points simply and effectively. It’s not difficult to see Walt’s future as an educational filmmaker in these scenes. Meanwhile, in 1922, the film accomplished both its goals: it effectively promoted dental care for children – and continued to circulate in the Kansas City area for years afterward for that purpose – and, at the same time, provided Laugh-O-gram Films with some badly needed income. Four years later, by then ensconced in Hollywood but facing a lull between distribution contracts, Walt again turned to Dr. McCrum. The result was a second Disney dental-care film: Clara Cleans Her Teeth." Russell Merritt & J.B. Kaufman

AA: Non-fiction. Revisited Walt Disney's educational film which has funny animated bits (the tooth devils with their drills). A film in the Dale Carnegie tradition

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