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Commercials more expensive than the TV shows they sponsored

Photo caption: In the 1950s, everyone loved Lucy.

IA members helped create the commercials that made television so profitable.  More was spent to make commercials than to make the shows they sponsored, at least during the first decade or so of television’s history.  For example, estimates were that commercials cost between $10,000 and $20,000 per minute, while the comedies and dramas cost about $2,000 a minute to produce.

Cartoon commercials became a mainstay of television, since it cost much less to produce an animated commercial.  At one time there were sixty studios in New York alone, employing about 500 members of Local 841, Screen Cartoonists.  IA animators were kept busy in these and other shops all across the U.S. and Canada.

Toothpaste tubes danced, soap boxes opened magically, and animated children ate tons of candy without gaining a pound or developing a single cavity.  These cartoonists worked tirelessly, on demand, despite being repeatedly laid off when work was slow.

In addition to the cartoon commercials, the 1950s and 1960s saw the rise of entertainment cartoons - the Saturday morning staple.  This work brought many IA members long-term contracts, a welcome change from the uncertainty of the early days.