That’s the Woodpecker Song. The Woody Woodpecker Song was recorded by Kay Kyser in 1947 and it was an immediate hit. Recorded at 11:50 pm on December 31st to avoid a moratorium on recordings caused by labor disagreements involving musicans and producers, the session barely avoided the deadline. The son hit the charts at No. 3 and shot to the top spot which it held for several months. It also spawned several cover versions which shared the top spots on the charts. Sheet music sales hit 5,000 monthly and over two million records were sold. The tune earned an Academy Award nomination but lost to “Buttons and Bows”. Controversy was also born over the immense popularity of the song and the laugh was the subject of a suit by Mel Blanc which was settled out of court.
Walter Lantz on Violence. In the 1980s, Walter Lantz of Woody Woodpecker fame, stated, “Cartoon character never die. They never bleed. They get blown up or run over and the enxt scene there are hale and hearty. That’s part of the magic, their fantasy. These so-called critics say kids can’t separate fantasy from reality. They’re looking at things they, as adults, consider harmful to the child. The critics don’t look at cartoons through the eyes of a child. I always considered our type of humor as being slapstick, not violent. They’re like the old fairy tales.”
Toon Justice. For those like me who were disturbed by the death of the happy shoe by Dip in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1988), the actual shooting script was even more graphic. In the third draft of the screenplay, it is an actual cartoon animal, a gopher, who bumps into Judge Doom, soiling his cloak. The meek little gopher pulls out a clothes brush and tries to clean off the Judge who proclaims, “You’ve defiled a symbol of justice!” Before he puts the gopher into the Dip, the frantic animal pleads, “Hey, don’t I have any rights?” Doom’s response is “Yes, you do—to a swift and speedy trial.” One of the weasels retrieves a briefcase from the sedan, puts it on the hood and snaps it open. Twelve toon kangaroos pop up, arranged in a jury box for a Kangaroo Court. They deliver the verdict instantly. Twelve little kangaroos pop out of their mother’s pouches holding small cards each with a letter spelling “Y-O-U-A-R-E-G-U-I-L-T-Y”. The gopher is put in the Dip to dissolve as Eddie and the police watch helplessly.
Will the Real Mel Blanc Please Speak Up? One of the few times Mel Blanc used his real voice for an animated cartoon character was when he voiced “Once Upon A Time” (1965), a half hour film done for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce illustrating the dangers involved in over regulation of private enterprise by the government. The setting was medieval times and Blanc provided voices for all the characters. For the narrator, a troubadour, Blanc used his normal speaking voice.
Bargain Bullwinkle. In 1989, Bullwinkle the Moose appeared in commercials sponsored by the Wyoming Travel Commission (“If the last moose you watched was on Saturday mornings, it’s time to find yourself in Wyoming.”) The advertising agency that handled the account originally wanted Yogi Bear for the commercials, but weren’t willing to pay the fee of $150,000. The rights to use Bullwinkle for two years were a bargain at only $20,000. The director of the Wyoming Travel Commission claimed that when the commercials first aired, his office received over 2,000 calls a day.
Smarter Than the Average Rocket Scientist. When “The Yogi Bear Show” first hit television in the early 1960s, Yogi was a huge hit, not only with kids but also with adults. The show was often missed by a group of Los Alamos scientists because of its early screening time on television. In those days, before video recorders, audiences often got only one chance to see a show. So the scientists sent Hanna-Barbera a signed petition requesting the show be changed to a later hour so they wouldn’t miss it. Unfortunately, Hanna-Barbera had no control over the scheduling and had to content themselves with viewers like the ones on the U.S. Coast Guard ship “Alert” who put a picture of Yogi on the ship with the motto “Better Than the Average Ship”.
That Darn Bakshi. Actress Emma Samms who found success playing Fallon Carrington Colby on television’s “Dynasty” and Holly Scorpio on “General Hospital” auditioned for a part in Ralph Bakshi’s animated feature “Fire and Ice” (1983). The film was inspired by the work of artist Frank Frazetta known for painting well-endowed, unclothed females. Bakshi often photographed actors performing a scene and then used rotoscoping to save money. Samms in her very early Twenties auditioned topless and wearing scanty panties for the lead role of Teegra. She did not get the part nor did she get back the roll of film that featured her audition but very shortly afterwards got the role on “General Hospital”.
No Birds Allowed. Ralph Bakshi’s staff had fun including guest appearances of old Terrytoons characters like Gandy Goose, Sourpuss, Hashimoto, Deputy Dawg and even the Mighty Heroes in episodes of the television series “Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures” (1987). However, they were told they could not use Heckle and Jeckle because “it has been proven that children prefer cartoon mammals (especially furry ones) over cartoon birds”. How Gandy Goose slipped by is still a mystery.
The Disney Monsters. Most animation fans know that in the classic science-fiction movie “Forbidden Planet” (1956), there is a very effective monster that is outlined by crackling electricity. This “Monster from the Id” was drawn and animated by Joshua Meador, on loan to MGM from the Walt Disney Studios. Another Disney animator, Millicent Patrick, was responsible for the “Creature from the Black Lagoon”. In a 1954 article in the magazine “Mechanix Illustrated”, it states “after working for a while for Walt Disney as the first girl animator in history, she was hired to create monsters for Bud Westmore at Universal-International. The Gill Man is her masterpiece…” She was also responsible for the mutants in “This Island Earth” (1955), the Xenomorph from “It Came From Outer Space (1953) and “The Mole People” (1956). And, although, not exactly the standard monsters, some of the bird effects in Hitchcock’s famous film were the work of Ub Iwerks who was nominated for an Oscar for this work.
Editor’s Note: Jim Korkis’ Animation Anecdotes appear here each Friday on Cartoon Research. Korkis is the author of two recently published must-have books about Disney animation: Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South and The Revised Vault of Walt. Both are highly recommended. – Jerry Beck