Merchandising Mishap. Charles Schulz was involved with most of the Peanuts merchandising connected to the animated specials, but not all of it was successful. Schulz once said, “Our most disastrous item was put out with the movie “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” in which there was a scene where Snoopy played the Jew’s harp. We thought for sure kids who saw him playing it would want one. A firm put the item out but it never really did sell well at all. We couldn’t overcome the fact that people just weren’t interested in the Jew’s harp.”
Never Say Never. In a 1978 “Variety” interview, Ralph Bakshi stated, “I have no series, no pilots, nothing. I was interested in going into TV, but I want to do full animation work. I will not do the normal Saturday morning thing for TV. I love animation too much to do that. Right now, I feel ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is enough to last me for the rest of my life.” Bakshi had been working with Dick Brown on a possible Saturday morning TV series called “Hangin’ Out” for CBS.
Flintstone for President. In 1978, the Federal Trade Commission announced an international study that revealed that only one half the adults around the world could identify a picture of their national leader. However, the study also showed that 90% of the three year olds in the United States could identify a picture of Fred Flintstone.
No Difference. While plugging his book “Chuck Amuck” (1989), animation legend Chuck Jones told an interviewer, “People keep asking me why Bugs Bunny is funny to kids today, because kids today are so different than kids in the 1940s and 1950s. Kids today have cable tv and rap music and video games and are exposed to alcohol and drugs and this and that. I don’t think they’re different at all. They’re just like the kids in the 1940s and 1950s and their kids will be just like them. Kids love animals and funny stories. Always will. We just drew what we thought people would like. We made funny cartoons, and they will be funny a hundred years from now.”
Fortysomething. In the Max Flesicher cartoon “Goonland” (1938), Popeye the sailor is searching for his Pappy who left home when Popeye was born forty years earlier. That made the spinach-eating sailor actually too old for active military service once World War II started. By comparison, the Fleischer publicity department insisted Betty Boop was only sixteen years old despite her sexually seductive behavior.
Same Old Story. Warren Foster was an outstanding storyman who worked first at Warner Brothers and then later at Hanna-Barbera. One of his Warner cartoons was Windblown Hare (1949) where the Three Little Pigs pester Bugs Bunny. Almost ten years later when Foster was writing for the Yogi Bear segment of “The Huckleberry Hound Show” for Hanna-Barbera, Foster used the same story but retitled it Oinks and Boinks (1960). The Three Little Pigs were bent on escaping the Big Bad Wolf by selling their houses of straw and sticks to a sucker.
That Is Going to Hurt. In Swing Wedding (1937), an MGM cartoon by Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising, there is a scene where band instruments are being destroyed and the frogs are going crazy. There is a quick shot of a frog in a white tux jumping up and sticking a hypodermic needle in his arm at roughly the seven and a half minute spot.
Groucho’s Favorite. In 1990, Andy Marx, grandson of the famous Marx Brother Groucho, chose to reveal his grandfather’s favorite animated TV program. “Even when he was working, he found plenty of time to be a grandfather,” commented Andy. “We watched cartoons together. Crusader Rabbit was our favorite.” (The Jay Ward produced episodes.) Groucho also enjoyed watching the Bob Clampett puppet show, “Time for Beany”.
The Russians Aren’t Coming. In 1977, it was announced that Hanna-Barbera Productions were in discussion with the Soviet Union about the development of multiple co-productions of live action/animated features. Hanna-Barbera would have provided the animation and the overall production know-how while the Soviets would have provided such live action elements as the Bolshoi Ballet and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra.
Felix Lover. In the late 1980s, Federico Fellini, the famous Italian director, was honored in New York at a tribute by The Film Society of Lincoln Center. The then 68 year old director took a moment to acknowledge one of his earliest inspirations, Felix the Cat. The cartoon adventures of the silent Felix provided the first taste of American culture for Fellini when he was a small boy in Italy.
Tweety Pie the Voice Coach. In the remake of the movie “The Cat and the Canary” (1978), actress Carol Lynley played a London fashion designer and claimed she had no trouble speaking the Queen’s English. In an interview when the film was released, she said, “I used Tweety Pie as a model and 99 percent of the time I sounded right.”
Blechman vs. Stravinksy. Artist R. O. Blechman was responsible for an hour long animated version of Igor Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale” in 1984. In an interview at the time, Blechman stated, “I knew it was a good story…it was hard to adapt it for film without changing it a great deal, but I wasn’t going to let Stravinsky stand in my way of making a film.”
Smarter Than the Average Catcher. One longstanding animation legend is that the Hanna-Barbera character, Yogi Bear, took his name from popular baseball player, Yogi Berra. On ABC’s “Greatest Sports Legends” TV show in 1990, Berra was asked by an interviewer about how he felt about that fact. “I didn’t feel bad at all. In fact, I wish I had thought of it,” smiled the ballplayer.
Balloon Joke. In a 1990 Thanksgiving episode of “The Simpsons”, Homer and Bart are watching on television the famous Macy’s parade with its huge balloons. Bart doesn’t recognize the Underdog or Bullwinkle balloons and wisecracks, “It wouldn’t hurt ‘em to use some cartoons made in the last 50 years.” It just so happened that November 1990 was the first year a Bart Simpson balloon joined the parade.
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