Saturday, September 4, 2010


One thing I notice in old cartoons is that whenever a character is using a phone, it's always a candlestick phone. You may be familiar with it, the kind where its upright, with the speaker on top of the stand and a separate receiver connected only by the wire.

Apparently animators really loved these phones, because they continued to appear in cartoons all the way into the early 1970s and sometimes beyond. The real-life phones, meanwhile, became obsolete in the early 1930s (modern "retro" phones are still being made with push-button dials).

Why is it that they appeared to be the cartoon symbol for phones several decades after they were discontinued? Hard to say. One could speculate that they're just plain funny looking. They can be useful for some visual gags; there were a few cartoons where a character hides a stick of dynamite in one of these phones. One person suggested to me that they're just easier to draw (I never found that to be the case, alas. Thank god for cell phones).

Whatever the reason, candlestick phones, we salute you.


Will Finn said...

Good call, Charles. As late as the early 1990's one of my friends in animation pointed this out and it struck us funny too.

Brubaker said...

One person theorized to me that most of the animators who worked on these cartoons grew up when these phones were still the norm, hence their appearance in cartoons.

Similar to how you may see cassett tapes in some of today's cartoons. I was going to mention vinyl records, but they're still being made.