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.
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. This, however, was not entirely out of line with the way McCarthy came to be perceived during the same era. 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.
Magoo on television
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; that is, 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 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 protested it on behalf of the blind.
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 1903 (or "aught-three" as Magoo would say). 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."
- Mr. Quincy Magoo (voiced by Jim Backus) — An elderly, bald man whose eyesight is failing, though he either does not know it or is too stubborn to do anything about it.
- Waldo (voiced by Jerry Hausner in the '60s' series, Casey Kasem in the '70s' series, and Daws Butler on the 1957 record) — Quincy Magoo's nephew.
- McBarker (voiced by Frank Welker) — Quincy Magoo's dog, in the 70s cartoon series, What's New, Mr. Magoo? A talking bulldog, he shares his owner's facial features and poor eyesight.
- Mother Magoo (voiced first by Henny Backus in "Meet Mother Magoo" (1956), then June Foray) — Quincy Magoo's "Momma", Linda.
- Charlie (Voiced By Benny Rubin)— Quincy Magoo's Chinese houseboy. Charlie's depiction as a Chinese stereotype was controversial. The character was prone to unusual misuses of English, such as referring to himself in the third person as "Cholley", and calling Mr. Magoo "Bloss" instead of "Boss". In the late 1960s, episodes featuring Charlie were dropped from the series and his character was never mentioned again. A version on the series that runs on the christian network KTV retains Charlie, but dubs over his ethnic-sounding voice track.
- Grandma "Granny" Magoo
- Presley (voiced by Daws Butler) — Waldo's "partner in crime" in the 1960 cartoon.
- Bowser — Quincy Magoo's dog (really a Siamese cat).
- Wheeler and Dealer — Two children Quincy Magoo occasionally babysits in "The Mr. Magoo Show" (1960–1962)
- Tycoon Magoo (voiced by Mel Blanc) — Quincy Magoo's rich uncle. His catchphrase is "Worcestershire, get in here!"
- Worcestershire (voiced by Mel Blanc) — Tycoon Magoo's butler who is always trying to prevent Quincy Magoo from ruining Tycoon Magoo's property.
Theatrical cartoon shorts
- For a complete list of theatrical Mr. Magoo cartoons, see List of Mr. Magoo cartoons
The following Mr. Magoo cartoons were either nominees for or recipients of the Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoons):
- 1950: Trouble Indemnity
- 1952: Pink and Blue Blues
- 1955: When Magoo Flew (winner)
- 1956: Magoo's Puddle Jumper (winner)
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.
According to Jerry Beck on August 10, 2011 on Stu's Show internet radio show, Shout! is looking into releasing the Mr. Magoo theatrical (UPA) shorts. Shout! -- under license from Sony -- will release the four-disc Mr. Magoo Theatrical Collection containing all Mr. Magoo theatrical shorts. First it was scheduled for 14 February 2012, then delayed to 19 June 2012, and then rescheduled for late fall 2012. The reason for the delays is because either Shout! or Sony are attempting restore the cartoons from higher quality source materials, including some newly discovered elements.
- TV Guide Book of Lists. 158: Running Press. 2007. ISBN 0-7624-3007-9.
- Letter from Hubley. Kaufman claimed in a 2007 interview that the character was based on his uncle.
- According to John P. Walter, the archivist for the Walter Ong archive (St. Louis University)
- Hill, Jim (November 28, 2006). "Scrooge U: Part VI -- Magoo's a musical miser". JimHillMedia.com. Retrieved 2006 12-25.
- General Electric advertisement featuring Mr. Magoo. Life Magazine December 14, 1959
- "Retrieved 2011-10-06". Asientertainment.com. Retrieved 2012-06-13.
- "Retrieved 2011-10-06". News.google.com. 1985-08-13. Retrieved 2012-06-13.
- "Retrieved 2011-10-06". Books.google.com. Retrieved 2012-06-13.
- Rutgers timeline Rutgers University. Retrieved 2008-01-05.
- "A Quincy Magoo Biography by Josh and Ed Shapiro" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-06-13.
- "Mr. Magoo Show: The Complete Collection: Jim Backus, Joan Gardner, Marvin Miller, Paul Frees, Dal McKennon, Howard Morris, Julie Bennett, Everett Sloane, Shepard Menken, Robie Lester, Morey Amsterdam, Dick Beals: Movies & TV". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2012-06-13.
- "Mr. Magoo DVD news: Box Art and Contents for Mr. Magoo on TV Collection: 1960-1977". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Retrieved 2012-06-13.
- "Mr. Magoo: Theatrical Collection". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2012-06-13.
- "Mr. Magoo Theatrical Collection may be in Trouble". Intanibase.com. Retrieved 2012-06-13.
- Mr. Magoo at Internet Movie Database
- What's New, Mr. Magoo? at Internet Movie Database
- The Big Cartoon DataBase entry for Magoo
- UPA: Mavericks, Magic, and Magoo
- The Columbia Crow's Nest
- Don Markstein's Toonopedia: Mr. Magoo page
- Toon Tracker's Mr. Magoo Page