Monday, March 14, 2011

What a Character! - Bucky Beaver

His flame burned bright for a number of years, but then quickly faded.  An undisputed icon of late 1950s popular culture, Bucky Beaver starred in television commercials for Ipana toothpaste, and for necessary relevance here, has quite a noteworthy Disney pedigree.

Similar to 7-Up spokesbird Fresh Up Freddie, Bucky was created by the largely forgotten Disney Studios commercials production unit that was active throughout the 1950s.  Disney artist Tom Oreb has been credited with the design of the character.  Oreb has emerged in recent years as one of the leading talents behind the stylized "cartoon modern" look that was prevalent during much of the 1950s and 1960s.  While his resume includes films such as Sleeping, Beauty, 101 Dalmatians and Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom, he worked extensively in the commercials unit, spending much of his time restyling many of Disney's own characters into more abstract designs, including Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Jiminy Cricket.  Bucky Beaver is an excellent example of that particular approach and easily one of the better designs born out of Disney's commercial efforts.

Bucky's trademark "Brusha, brusha, brusha" jingle was written and composed by adult Mouseketeer Jimmie Dodd, who also provided Bucky's voice, albeit in an altered, sped-up form.  Bucky's arch-nemesis was DK Germ, a Snidely Whiplash type villain who would always turn tail at the sight of a tube of Ipana, which Bucky was always quick to brandish.  Each commercial would have Bucky playing a different role--train engineer, circus star, white knight, and my personal favorite, Bucky Beaver-Space Guard.  That commercial in particular showcases the era's infatuation with space age-themed marketing.

Though largely unknown today, Ipana toothpaste was probably the most popular brand of toothpaste in United States from from the 1920s through the mid-1960s.  Its success began to wane in the 1970s when its parent company, Bristol-Meyers began to focus more on pharmaceuticals.  Bucky quickly faded from public memory as well.  The appearance of a Bucky Beaver Ipana commercial in the 1978 film Grease seems to be the character's only substantial claim to fame to subsequent generations.


Floyd Norman said...

I loved Bucky Beaver, and the unit that produced the commercials was right down the hall from us at the Walt Disney Studio.

As you can imagine, they were all animated and painted in wonderful black&white. Something we found quite interesting in a studio full of color.

Unknown said...

Bucky Beaver's arch rival, Mr. Decay Germ, was played by David Arvedon, who is the lead vocalist for David Arvedon and The Pyschopaths.