Shull Bonsall

Birth: June 30, 1917 in Los Angeles, California, USA

Death: June 27, 2002 (age 84) in Newport Beach, California, USA

*Occupation/Title*
Producer, Liquidator, Horse Ranch Foreman

*Bio Summary*
Bonsall had been the owner of the TV Spots studio in the 1950s, who had taken over the rights to the Crusader Rabbit property that had been created by Alex Anderson's and Jay Ward's Television Arts Productions in 1949-1951. Bonsall then made new episodes, from 1957 to 1959. Bonsall got the Crusader Rabbit rights through a hostile court trial, and there were still bad feelings with the TAP animators and voice actors in the 1980s. Lucille Bliss, who was the original voice of Crusader Rabbit, said that Bonsall wanted her to do the voice again for the new cartoons; but he offered an insultingly low pay rate, and when she refused and tried to get the voice actors' union to support her, he got another voice actress and tried to get her blacklisted in the animation industry. She said that he was an awful liar and would deny it. When Patten interviewed Bonsall -- he was then the foreman of a son in law's ranch in Chatsworth -- he said, "Yeah, the bitch tried to get everybody against me and I fought her back."

*Early Life/Family*

*Education/Training:*

*Career Outline:*
Shull Bonsall was a liquidator in the beginning. He would buy companies that were going to bankruptcy and he would sell off the assets to make money. He got into animation because he liquidated a company called TV spots in the late 40s. In the mid-1954, When Jerry Fairbanks NBC sold off the film library of the first animation for television created by Jay Ward and Alex Anderson, *Crusader Rabbit*, in a national syndication. *Crusader Rabbit*was sold to wealthy Shull Bonsall and he continued the distribution of the *Crusader Rabbit* with out paying Ward and Anderson any royalities.

Meanwhile, Anderson and Ward were far more concerned with the financial well-being. The original deal with Fairbanks guaranteed them 50% of the profit, but he defaulted and completely stone-walled them. Anderson and Ward lost the law suit after a long battle with Bonsall who owned Television Arts Productions. Anderson said, “There was indeed litigation…. We learned to our dismay that with a few legal loopholes…..our 50 percent equity in the films had disappeared” (Scott 25).

In the late 1956, after a great mourning experience, Ward and Anderson discussed about animating *Crusader Rabbit*, this time in color. They made a deal with Bill Hanna at MGM and did first 11 new series of *Crusader Rabbit*in color. At this point, Ward and Anderson owned the copyright of the character, the core copyright. Suddenly new trouble loomed, Shull Bonsall, who had basically liquidated Fairbanks Productions and thus owned the negatives to the original of Crusader rabbit, approached them to make *Crusader Rabbit* through TV Spots—a small commercial animation studio he had bought in 1954. Of course Ward and Anderson were not interested because Bonsall had made their lives miserable in court for five years. Alex Anderson was so upset about it and he had bleeding ulcer and almost died. Bonsall then intimated them. He showed his financial record, and said, “I’ve got a lot more money than you guys” (Scott 28). Soon after, a call from Bonsall’s lawyer, Donald Dewar, saying he would sue them and claiming that Television Arts did not have clear title to the property. Bonsall made it impossible for them to fight back because the retainer fee for lawyer would cost $40,000 right off, and it was a five-year court case. Ward had to accept it because he did not have the money to challenge Bonsall’s claim of ownership. Bonsall basically blackmailed them to sale *Crusader Rabbit.* “He got the characters by simply paying Jay and Alex $50,000”(Scott 28). The only thing they saved out of the production company was the unproduced products that they came up with but never produced, included *Bullwinkle the Moose, Dudley Do-Right*, and some other characters.

The new colored *Crusader Rabbit* were done horribly, but Bonsall made lots of money. He called up the original voice of *Crusader Rabbit*, Lucille Bliss, and to do the voice again for the rabbit. He wanted to pay $35 per 5 minutes episode. She refused it because of the low pay rate and asked the voice actors’ union to back her up. Thus, he began very vindictive when she was up for a part with a new Hanna Barbera company. He threatened to destroy Hanna Barbera if they gave her a job. She still hates his guts; he basically stopped her from getting a job, just being vicious. Later Hanna Barbera gave her roles after it was safe.

*Crusader Rabbit* cartoons were very successful and had made a lot of money. So when they had finished that series in 1959, they had to come up with an idea for another TV cartoon series. About that time, the famous *Amos and Andy* radio program and TV series had just become politically incorrect and was cancelled, despite its popularity from the late 1920s to the early 1950s. The series' two creators and long-time voice actors, Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, were suddenly "at liberty". Bonsall got the idea of hiring them and creating a new series with funny animal characters around their voice talents, which would not suggest Black characters so it would not arouse any prejudices.

Unfortunately, Gosden & Correll considered themselves to be major celebrities and experienced veterans, and they refused to work for Bonsall unless he gave them total creative control over *Calvin & the Colonel*. He had to agree, and they promptly threw out the TV Spots' idea for the series and recycled some of their old *Amos and Andy* scripts with only superficial changes. The result was that, even with funny animal characters and no visual hint of "Blackness", *Calvin & the Colonel* was so obviously Black because of the ethnic voices and the lower-class ghetto setting that it was widely considered just as politically incorrect as *Amos and Andy* was. Bonsall said that *Calvin & the Colonel* lost TV Spots all the money that *Crusader Rabbit* had made them.

*Calvin & the Colonel* was their last production. After that, TV Spots tried to keep going by developing a TV series around popular newspaper comic strips owned by King Features Syndicate such as *Beetle Bailey* and several others. TV Spots put their last money into producing two or three pilot episodes on spec, but they failed to sell. After that, as closely as Fred Patten can remember Bonsall's exact words, "I had got my start by buying companies that had gone bankrupt for their assets. So I had no trouble recognizing bankruptcy when it was headed right towards me." He and his staff agreed that they should go out of business before they were forced to go through bankruptcy, while they still had a little money left around 1963.

**Comments On Style:*
Ruthless Robber Barons of the 1900

*Influences:*

*Personality:* According to Fred Patten, he would call him egocentric and ruthless because as a businessman, he used his instinct to act upon money opportunity. On the other hand, Larry Loc would say he was the evilest man in animation history. He basically destroyed anyone who was in his way. He blackmailed Anderson and Ward to give up *Crusader Rabbit*. He was also very vindictive. There were times, when Lucille Bliss rejected his offer in voice acting because of a low pay rate; Bonsall tried to crushed her career in the entertainment field. He told H&B that if they used her he would destroy them and their new studio. *Anecdotes:*

*Miscellaneous: *
He liquidated everything when his company went bankrupt, and he ended his career and his life working at Chatsworth as a foreman at his son in law’s horse ranch.

**Filmography:* *Producer Filmography* "Crusader Rabbit" (13 episodes )
Caeser's Salad (1 January 1957)
Sahara You (1 January 1957)
Apes of Rath (1 January 1957)
The Yukon Adventure (1 January 1957)
West We Forget (1 January 1957)
Tales of Schmerwood Forest (1 January 1957)
Should Old Acquaintance Be for Cotton (1 January 1957)
Scars and Stripes (1 January 1957)
Gullibles Travels (1 January 1957)
The Great Baseball Mystery (1 January 1957)
Nothing Atoll (1 January 1957)
The Search for the Missing Links (1 January 1957)
The Great Uranium Hunt (1 January 1957)

*Honors:*

*Related Links:*

*Bibliographic References:*
"Shull Bonsall - IMDb." The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). 10/23/2011. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0095178/
"Larry Loc. In-person interview. 10/10/2011”
“Fred Patten. Email Conversation.”
Scott, Keith. *The Moose That Roared: The Story of Jay Ward, Bill Scott, a Flying Squirrel, and a Talking Moose*. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2000.

*Contributors To This Listing:*

Febriyanto ‘Vincent’ Mak
Larry Loc
Fred Patten

Animators Hall of Fame