The story of Pauline Comanor & Chunky Monkey


With hand-made Chunky Monkey dolls, 1995.

 


A "Cartoon-In" at the Country Club Mall,
Cumberland, Maryland, 1999.

 


The doughnut man in the sketch had a motto:
"As you go through life make this your goal, watch the doughnut not the hole."

 


The "Silly Zoo" mural, done on location at the Market Square Mall in Kitchener, Ontario, in December of 1993. A local TV news crew came down to cover the event.

 


The finished mural, which included sketches of shoppers who came by to see it take shape, was donated to the KW Hospital in Kitchener. It took just two hours to complete from start to finish.

 


Kids working on a Chunky Monkey Magic Mural
in San Bernardino, Calif., 1999.

 


"Fathers of Fairy Tale Fame" was donated to the Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver, B.C., 1987

 


A full color Popeye done in under a minute at the Macon Mall in Macon, Georgia. in 2000.

 


Finishing up a show in Auckland, New Zealand, 1988.

 


Betty Boop and friend at the Maui Mall, 1985.

 


Sketching at the Tampa, Fla. Humane Society
to promote pet adoptions, 1982.

 


A performance at the Concord Mall, Champaign, Illinois, in 1988.

Chunky Monkey was born in 1973, inspired by a portly little monkey whose antics were observed by "World’s Fastest Cartoonist" Pauline Comanor in New York’s Central Park Zoo.

A ‘performing artist’ practically all her life, Pauline's professional career began in her teens when she became the 'drawing hand' for legendary cartoonist (and Betty Boop creator) Max Fleischer. While on a visit to Gimbel's department store in Philadelphia, Fleischer noticed her conducting an art school for kids (she was only 16 herself) and was impressed enough to invite her to "look me up" if she was ever in New York City.

Two years later, after graduating from high school, Pauline went to New York to pay Fleischer a visit. He put her on the payroll.

Billed as "the country's one and only girl movie cartoon artist," Pauline went on the road, appearing with "Little" Anne Little, a Fleischer performer who sang Betty Boop songs, in a string of Paramount theaters where she would sketch some of the cartoon characters from Paramount shorts (including Popeye). They both finished the act together with a "boop-boop-a-doop."


Fleischer Studios publicity hand-out, 1930s

Leaving Fleischer Studios shortly before it moved to Florida, Pauline started to focus her work on her own passions -- those that would benefit kids and animals. As a pioneer in early television, she directed and starred in her own television shows for kids, beginning with the Tee Vee Cartoon Club on Miami's WTVJ, and later Cartoon Party on Philadelphia's WPTZ (now KYW). Decades before Sesame Street, Pauline's format was to make learning just as much fun as playing.


On the Cartoon Party set at WPTZ, Philadelphia in the early '50's. The show's"ringmaster" was Philly radio personality Bob Benson.

From the late 1960s through 2002, she again took her show on the road, performing at shopping malls from Newfoundland to New Zealand as the "World's Fastest Cartoonist" with an event she called the "Cartoon-In." Along the way she created dozens of murals for children's hospitals, made an untold number of appearances to benefit charity events for kids and promoted pet adoptions around the country through her drawings and appearances in animal shelters. Always producing finished art on the spot, she gave away thousands of super-size cartoons, drawings and portraits. As she told a reporter in 1998 when asked about her ability to do speed sketching, "You can't gild the lily with creative work. It's best when you're working right from the heart."


Cartooning for the Mardi Gras review at
Atlantic City's Showboat Casino in 1994.

Taking a leaf from Max Fleischer, who believed the best school was life ("You don't need teachers when you have animals themselves to teach you," he said), Pauline also made frequent visits to zoos around the country, always ready with pencil and paper to do a quick sketch.

It was on such a sketching expedition at New York's Central Park zoo in 1973 that Pauline encountered the monkey who would make her life more interesting. Looking as if he had eaten too many bananas, he was friendly, a bit on the pudgy side and appeared to enjoy being sketched. She established a rapport with him, doing numerous drawings on the spot -- naming him Chunky Monkey.


One of the first sketches of Chunky Monkey.

Her impressions of that little monkey found their way onto her easel and he soon became a regular part of her "Cartoon-In repertoire, along with hand-made Chunky Monkey dolls, shirts and other items. Then in 1983, Pauline chronicled the character’s adventures in a book she both wrote and illustrated, The Story of Chunky Monkey.

A few years later, however, Chunky Monkey somehow became the 'monkey in the middle' in several legal muddles. What we can say at this point is that Chunky Monkey's first experience in 1990 with such things was resolved with good grace and diplomacy by two individuals named Jerry and Diane, and later in 1995, the same folks were instrumental in joining Pauline to have a Chunky Monkey doll manufactured by a Vermont-based toymaker.

But then in 2000, a big multi-national company bought out Jerry and his friends, and all we can say right now is that things just haven't been the same since.

Despite it all, however, Pauline Comanor's Chunky Monkey has continued to have fun and do good, whatever banana peels might occasionally have been thrown in his path.

Pauline continued to entertain audiences, cartoon, paint, write poetry and stories and benefit animal and primate causes until shortly before her death at the age of 91 in 2005.

But Pauline's legacy and the saga of Chunky Monkey continue on his Web site (created by Pauline's daughter Linda), the Chunky Monkey gift shop (where Chunky Monkey doll purchases continue to help benefit the International Primate Protection League), and in a new company, Chunky Monkey LLC.

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