Remember Little Audrey?
Do you remember Little Audrey? In 1947, Famous Studios cartoons introduced Little Audrey, a character that was akin to the popular Little Lulu cartoon. Little Audrey was a precocious young girl with a vivid imagination and a knack for getting into trouble. She was streetwise and sarcastic. In some comics, she was more childlike, and in others, she was flirtatious and slightly naughty. This could be because Little Audrey before she was a Famous Studios characters, was a popular folk character who was often the butt of salacious, adult jokes. Let’s look at Little Audrey’s backstory.
Little Audrey Comic Strip and Cartoon
In addition to a comic strip, Little Audrey appeared in 16 cartoons from 1947 to 1958. Her first cartoon was the 1947 Santa’s Surprise. In it, Little Audrey was one of a group of cartoon children from around the world who come together to clean Santa’s house for him. In 1948, she had a starring role in Butterscotch and Soda. The Little Audrey cartoons employed a popular trope of the time…a dream, or fantasy, sequence. This allowed the animators to move the character out of a realistic setting and into whimsical fantasy land. This technique was seen in Tarts and Flowers, Goofy Goofy Gander, and The Seapreme Court.
Little Audrey and Little Lulu, Similar But Different
Little Audrey was brought in to replace Little Lulu so the artists had a challenge before them. They wanted the characters to be similar enough that fans of Little Lulu would follow Little Audrey, but they also wanted to make the Little Audrey character distinctive. In the end, they decided to change hair and dress styles and colors on the two characters. The facial expressions were changed, too. While Lulu was drawn with wide-eyed innocence, Little Audrey had an impish gleam in her eye that tipped off her fans to her defiant behavior.
Little Audrey was Based on a Previous Folk Character
Little Audrey was at first the butt of adult-humor jokes in the early 20th century…much like the dumb blonde jokes that came later. She was not always depicted as a child, but more of a naïve young girl. Later, in the 1920s and 1930s, Little Audrey was the main character in humorous or ironic short stories. She was all-knowing, meaning she often had knowledge that the other characters did not have. For example, in one tale Little Audrey was playing with matches an accidentally burned the house down. Her mother says, “Wait until your father gets home!” But Little Audrey knew that she was safe from his punishment because her father had come home early to take a nap. Like this example, the stories often had a dark twist.
Little Audrey’s Catch Phrase
Unlike most catchphrases, Little Audrey did not say her own catchphrase, but a trademark of the Little Audrey jokes was the phrase, “Little Audrey just laughed and laughed.” This was usually the indicator that Little Audrey knew something that the other characters didn’t…and that she found it funny in a macabre sort of way.
Did Little Audrey’s Voice Sound Familiar?
In the cartoons, Little Audrey was voiced by Mae Questel. If her voice sounded familiar to you, it is because Questel also voiced Betty Boop and Olive Oyl. A former Vaudeville performer turned voice-over actress, Questel also gained a cult following after her portrayal of Aunt Bethany in the 1989 comedy hit, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
From TV and Film to Comic Books
As was the trend of the time, Little Audrey’s presence on TV and films was reinforced with a series of comic books. Little Audrey appeared in four of her own comic books and as the back-up in others, including Caspar the Friendly Ghost, Little Dot, and Richie Rich. Little Audrey comic books were only moderately successful and never reached to the success of Caspar the Friendly Ghost and Richie Rich. Still, the Little Audrey character, which was licensed by Harvey Comics in 1952, was Harvey’s most popular female character by 1960.
Little Audrey was Phased Out in 1976
Sales of Harvey Comics slumped in the mid-1970s. All but the top-selling characters in the company’s line up were discontinued, including Little Audrey. Her antics and plot lines were viewed as old-fashioned and out-of-date.
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