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Howdy Doody and His Magic Hat (1954)

A UPA experimental film about a young cowboy, (a re-designed Howdy Doody), rides a wild bucking bronco thinking he is wearing a magic hat, and even when the hat flies off his head, he conquers the mustang with pure grit.


Gene Deitch


Gene Deitch (story), William Bernal (story) (as Bill Bernal)


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A UPA adaptation of the television series (1947-1960) dummy-cowboy, Howdy Doody. Filmed in both 35 and 16mm (for immediate television use in the event theatre exhibitors balked at showcasing a television character,) the plot has Howdy Doody in quest of a magic cowboy hat that will make him invincible. Filled with predominant variations of colors and designs and abstract-color designs as Howdy chases the elusive hat. Finally capturing it, he uses the hat's magical powers to become a rodeo star. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

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Release Date:

15 April 1954 (USA) See more »

Filming Locations:

New York City, New York, USA


Box Office


$20,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The negative was destroyed by Bob Smith, Howdy Doody's creator, because he felt the 1950s graphic design was not close enough to the look of his wooden puppet. One 35mm print survived in the U.S. Library of Congress, where it was rediscovered in 2010, 58 years after it was produced, and can now be seen. See more »

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User Reviews

Howdy Doody and His Magic Hat was quite an excellent recent find of the early works of Gene Deitch
16 April 2010 | by tavmSee all my reviews

Long thought lost, this abstract animated short is mainly notable as the first credited directorial effort of innovative animator Gene Deitch. As the title implies, this was the initial effort of making a cartoon series of the popular TV puppet, Howdy Doody. Unfortunately, that puppet's creator and voice, "Buffalo" Bob Smith, didn't like the results (the fact that the whole thing had no speaking parts might have bothered him) and ordered the negative destroyed and if a copy hadn't been recently discovered at the Library of Congress, it would have remained so. Thanks to them and also to the Cartoon Brew site which put this up yesterday morning as the initial entry in their showcase of Gene Deitch rarities. As for the short itself, I just have to say how touchingly artistic the whole thing is with the leading character looking quite charming with the way he's being depicted as a painted and paper cut-off with like movements. That goes for many of the other players too like a big cowboy, a lion, and an eagle. And what beautiful music provided by the unique Serge Hovey who I previously enjoyed from a later innovative animated short he did called The Hangman. Others who deserve credit include the animator Duane Crowther, graphic designer Cliff Roberts, cameraman Ken Drake, and Bill Bernal who co-wrote the story with Deitch. They all deserve whatever recognition that comes to them from anybody that enjoyed this highly pleasing-both visually and aurally-animated short from the artistically independent UPA studio.

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