Jay Ward’s Wonderful World of Color. At the beginning of NBC’s prime time “The Bullwinkle Show”, the show’s early episodes began with a Bullwinkle hand puppet (voiced by Bill Scott) saying some pretty outrageous things. Ward was particularly amused by the then recent appearance of Walt Disney’s new NBC show, “The Wonderful World of Color”. Even from the first episode with Professor Ludwig Von Drake explaining the process of color, the show made a big deal about being in color while the majority of the viewing audience still had black and white sets. This amused Ward and Scott so one week, the Bullwinkle puppet tried to explain to the audience color television. “It’s really very easy,” the moose puppet told NBC viewers. “First, think of your income tax. Next, Mr. Khrushchev’s latest speech. Then think about what Mr. Disney said about your black and white set. Makes you see red, doesn’t it?” NBC (which was promoting RCA color television sets) was not amused (and perhaps not Walt either) so after a few other similar outbursts, the puppet bit the dust.
Tennis Tom and Jerry. Tennis star Monica Seles was only sixteen years old when she beat Steffi Graf to win the German Open thanks to some behind-the-scenes help from cartoon characters Tom and Jerry. Seles’ father, Karolj, was a professional cartoonist as well as her coach. To stop her grom getting bored during practice, he would draw the faces of Tom and Jerry, her favorite characters, on the tennis balls. “I’d draw Tom and Jerry and tell her, ‘You’re the cat; that’s the mouse. Go get it!’” laughed her father.
Explaining Heavy Traffic. In 1971, producer Steve Krantz described the story of the next Bakshi-Krantz colloboration after the popular “Fritz the Cat”. Entitled “Heavy Traffic”, it was supposed to be according to Krantz a kind of “rock version of ‘Fantasia’” about the fantasies of several different types of people who comee into a bar in Brooklyn. The characters included a Mafia hood, a suburban housewife who has a flat tire, a homosexual, a hooker, a Jewish landlord, a “Joe-type” hard hat, a cab driver and a black barmaid. “We take two types of fantasy machines—the bar and a giant jukebox—and expose the characters to them and have their fantasies play out,” explained Krantz. This description has no relation to the actual film that was eventually made, where for a short time Bakshi was locked out of his studio by Krantz who was hoping animation legend Chuck Jones would step in to finish the film.
The Original Top Cat. Back in the 1980s, Hanna-Barbera staff were cleaning out their files and one alert staffer rescued from a garbage can the original storyboard for the Top Cat series. The storyboard was drawn by the late Harvey Eisenberg. The character was dressed differently from the final version and even more interesting was addressed as “J.B.” Why “J.B.”? Some H & B employees suggested that it was an homage to Joe Barbera.
Rocking Saturday Morning. In 1965, following the success of the musical group The Beatles in cartoon form, Al Brodax announced he was going to do a cartoon series with Herman’s Hermits and another with Freddie and the Dreamers. At the same time, Hanna-Barbera announced plans to do a Beach Boys series. None of these projects ever developed.
What was Cheech Smoking? In 1982, it was announced that Richard (Cheech) Marin of the Cheech and Chong comedy team was going to partner with TMS (Tokyo Movie Shinsha) to make an animated feature, “The Ronin”. The picture would tell the story of a boy in medieval Japan who searches for the person who raped his mother and killed his father. When he finds the criminal, the boy discovers the man has become a saint in the eyes of the world. Cheech stated, “it is our desire to make a film which will reshape the animation medium and reflect the decade of the 1980s as ‘Yellow Submarine’ reflected the decade of the 1960s and as Ralph Bakshi’s work reflected the decade of the 1970s.”
Saturday Morning Nonsense. When comedian Marty Ingels was hired as the voice of Pac-Man for ABC’s Saturday morning cartoon show from 1982, he thought that the character should utter a catch phrase like “PacapacaWowie!” Suddenly, this became a major problem with executives debating whether it shouldn’t be “Pacapacaweewee” or “Pacapacawoowoo” or any of a dozen other choices. Finally, a call was place to an executive in New York who nixed the whole idea. “That’s the kind of baloney that broke me before,” stated Ingels. “And sure enough, driving home, I began to hyperventilate, which is how my anxiety attacks begin.”
The Musical Walt Kelly. In 1981, radio personality Gary Owens was interviewing Ward Kimball and the Disney Legend mentioned that he was responsible for “Pogo” creator Walt Kelly to be hired at Disney. “Not because he was a great drawer,” said Kimball but because both Kimball and Kelly liked to play the tin whistle. When Kimball and Kelly were working on “Fantasia”, they would start each day by grabbing their whistles and retiring to the men’s room where they would play musical selections in duet.
A Real Champ. Even though his title was on the line with his scheduled fight with Ernie Shavers, Muhammad Ali heeded the desperate plea of producer Fred Calvert and took a half day off his training the day before the fight to re-record his dialogue for an episode of his Saturday morning cartoon show, “I Am The Greatest: The Animated Adventures of Muhammad Ali” (1977). It seems the sound was mysteriously messed up on the original film and Calvert had less than 48 hours to deliver it. The series that only lasted 13 episodes had Ali solving mysteries and crimes. In one episode, Ali wrestled a crocodile and took down a ruthless villain whose intent was to sabotage Ali’s career in the ring.
When Censors Slept. The censors probably never realized that when the Prince in the Sleeping Beauty parody episode of Jay Ward’s “Fractured Fairy Tales” admits that he is a “hog flogger” that according to modern slang he is confessing to masturbation.
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