UPA (animation Studio) - History - Abandoning Animation and Toho Studios

Abandoning Animation and Toho Studios

Saperstein kept UPA afloat in the 1960s and beyond by abandoning animation production completely after the animation studio closed permanently in 1964 and sold off UPA's library of cartoons, although the studio retained the licenses and copyrights on Mr. Magoo, Gerald McBoing-Boing and the other UPA characters. This led to UPA contracting with DePatie-Freleng Enterprises studio to produce a new animated series called What's New Mr. Magoo? in September 1977.

Columbia Pictures retained ownership of UPA's theatrical cartoons. The studio's TV cartoon library was licensed by Classic Media in New York (although 77 other cartoons were sold to Studio-100 Media), and then in 2007 merged into Entertainment Rights in London.

In 1970, Saperstein led UPA into a contract with Toho Studios of Japan to distribute its "giant monster" (see kaiju and tokusatsu) movies in America. Theatrical releases, and especially TV syndication, of the Toho monster movies created a new cult movie market for Japanese monster movies, and such long-running television movie syndication packages such as Creature Double Feature exposed the Toho movie monsters to young American audiences, who embraced them and helped them maintain their popularity throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

When Toho began producing a new generation of monster movies in the late 1980s, beginning with Godzilla 1985, UPA capitalized on its Toho contract and helped introduce the new kaiju features to the Western world.

Because of its long association with Toho, UPA is better known to cult-movie fans today as Toho's American distributor rather than a pioneer of animated cartoons, but the legacy of UPA is an important chapter in the history of American animation. UPA continues to license the American library of Godzilla movies, even today. UPA's contract with Toho also resulted in Saperstein producing Woody Allen's first feature film, What's Up Tiger Lily?.

In the early 2000s, UPA was acquired by Classic Media. On July 23 2012, DreamWorks Animation purchased Classic Media for $155 million and as a result UPA is now owned by DreamWorks Animation. Although DreamWorks Animation now owns the ancillary rights to most of the UPA library, UPA itself continues to hold the licensing rights to Mr. Magoo, and Saperstein was executive producer to Disney's unsuccessful live-action feature Mr. Magoo in 1997 (DreamWorks Animation does own some rights, however).

Classic Media/Sony Wonder began issuing the Mr. Magoo TV cartoon series on DVD in 2001, beginning with Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. The television cartoons have also been released on DVD, and the theatrical cartoons will be released in 2012, with an introduction by film critic Leonard Maltin.

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