LITTLE AUDREYOriginal Medium: Theatrical animation
Released by: Famous Studios
First Appeared: 1947
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Little Audrey very likely has her origin in an idea on the part of Famous Studios bean counters, that they didn't need to pay licensing fees to make cartoons about Little Lulu. They could
do just as well by changing the little girl's name and design, and calling her their own character. The last cartoon in Lulu's series, The Dog Show-Off, was released on January 30, 1948, just a few weeks after Little Audrey's first cartoon, Santa's Surprise, which came out on December 5, 1947. Mae Questel (voice of Betty Boop, Winky Dink and Popeye's Olive Oyl) provided the voice for both characters.
Somehow, Audrey never got to be as popular as Lulu. Only a dozen cartoons were made, stretched out over more than a decade. The last was Dawn Gawn, directed by Seymour Kneitel, released December 14, 1958.
Audrey did better in comic books, where she was licensed, along with Casper, Baby Huey and the rest of the Famous Studios characters, in 1948 by St. John Publishing Co. The first issue was cover-dated in April of that year. St. John did 24 issues, plus a 1950 yearbook that consisted of eight regular comics bound together, before Harvey Comics took over the license in 1952. There was also a short-lived newspaper comics version, distributed by King Features Syndicate in 1950 and '51.
The Harvey Comics version of Audrey has an interesting distinction. Audrey's friend, Tiny, was colored black that is, "colored" black, because the coloring was the only way in which his racial heritage was indicated. This makes Little Audrey, in all probability, the first racially integrated comic book series in which absolutely no stereotypes of any kind were used.
Harvey published the character from 1952-76, steadily during most of that time but with one or two sputters toward the end. In the late '50s, they bought the animated characters they'd been licensing, and from then on, Little Audrey was a Harvey character.
What set Audrey apart from most of the Harvey characters was that she didn't have a quirk. Little Lotta was a compulsive eater, Richie Rich was fabulously wealthy, Hot Stuff was a demon from Hell Audrey just couldn't stand out in a crowd like that, and she wasn't as good a character as Lulu in the first place. She faded from view more quickly than the other Harveys.
This is not to say she's completely disappeared, of course — as long as she's owned by a company that habitually maintains its properties, that won't happen. In fact, Harvey published a brief spurt of Little Audrey comic books as recently as 1992-93, and she was spotted in the back pages of an obscure magazine devoted to the Harvey characters in the late '90s. But she does seem an unlikely candidate for future superstardom.