ANIMATION ANECDOTES
May 24, 2013 posted by Jim Korkis

ANIMATION ANECDOTES #111

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Everybody’s A Critic. In a 1994 biography of actress Marlene Dietrich written by her daughter, Maria Riva, Maria recalls her mother’s reaction to being at the premiere for Disney Snow White in 1937 : “Now, tell me one thing! Who is going to see that? A full length picture of nothing but ‘cutesy-poo’? Except for the wonderful stepmother….it is for two year olds! And, all those ugly little men, like the midgets, and that Prince—looks queer…You can’t allow somebody who does Mickey Mouse to become a movie producer! Sweetheart, you have to see it! There’s a ‘cleaning scene’….I nearly peed in my pants! Little ‘birdies’ and fluffy squirrels, all helping the village idiot! And that terrible music. All sugarty doodle-doo…They can’t allow such things and then even have premieres for them. And for this abortion, I had to dress up! Sweetheart, I tell you one thing…it will never make any money!”

daffy150The Duck Cure. In 1991, a news story from Sweden stated that a 23 year old man named Nils Wirten found a way to stop his seizures. His miracle cure was the voice of Daffy Duck, which was on television one day during one of his attacks. “Now I keep a small cassette player with me all the time and whenever I feel funny, I just snap on a Daffy tape. It always works like a charm,” claimed Wirten. His doctor responded, “It’s a remarkable effect and I can’t explain how it works.”

Disney Spin. The Disney spin machine went into hyperdrive when at an early screening of the animated feature, “Aladdin” (1992), it was suggested that the evil Jafar was modeled after First Lady Nancy Reagan. “I wanted him to have a face like a mask,” responded supervising animator Andreas Deja. “I made him very, very skinny like a fashion drawing.”

That Disney Humor. Walt Disney was well known for having fun at his employees’ expense. Donald Duck director Jack Hannah wanted to go into live action directing (even eventually writing a comedy screenplay about the misadventures of some Army recruits who had to secretly move a barracks building that Ron Miller liked so much he almost “greenlit” the film with Hannah as director) but Walt was more than content to leave Jack doing shorts and some work for the television series. One day, Hannah was wandering around the Disney backlot looking at the set for a new live action feature. Suddenly, Walt walked by and Hannah asked who was directing the film. “Oh,” replied Walt. ”A new guy named Yensid.” Jack smiled and thought nothing about it and went back to his office. Later, he heard from a friend that Walt had gone to a story meeting and regaled the storymen by telling them that he had told Hannah that Yensid (Disney spelled backwards) was the director and Jack had responded, “Yeah, he’s a good man.” Apparently it was a gag Walt used on others as well.

baba_looey150Stern Humor. Fans of Howard Stern know that his long time producer is Gary Dell’Abate whose is nicknamed “Baba Booey”. How did he get that unusual nickname? Well, Dell’Abate at the time was a collector of animation art and had several framed cels hanging in his living room. One day, he was trying to tell Stern about Quick Draw McGraw’s Mexican burro sidekick, Baba Looey. But, he mispronounced the name of the Hanna-Barbera character as “Baba Booey” and the unforgiving Stern dubbed his unfortunate producer with the mispronunciation.

Beauty and the Beast Took Forever. In Newsweek for February 16, 1953, there is a big feature article on the Disney studios and their latest hit “Peter Pan”. At the end of the article, it is announced that after the completion of the next Disney animated feature, “Lady and the Tramp”, the studio is considering doing Beauty and the Beast and that Walt Kelly’s Pogo the Possum was another possibility.

The Secret of Bullwinkle’s Gloves. When a young boy wrote to ask why Bullwinkle Moose wore gloves, Jay Ward’s widow responded, “I always figured the gloves just came in handy when Bullwinkle was trying to pull a rabbit out of his hat. Things can get kind of messy in there, you know.”

Dinner Guest. In 1990, J&B Scotch polled 1,000 people and found that more of them would like to have dinner with cartoon brat Bart Simpson than with President George Bush. However, given the choice between Bart and Barbara Bush, most of them selected the First Lady hands down.

HowdyDoody_TVGuideThat Disney Dummy. Howdy Doody, the famous puppet, was in trouble. His original owner, Frank Paris, left the television show and took his puppet’s head with him, leaving the Howdy Doody show with a bandaged puppet who supposedly had had plastic surgery. A new puppet was needed quickly. NBC programming manager Norm Blackburn put Buffalo Bob Smith in contact with two Disney artists who submitted drawings of what the new Howdy Doody could look like after the bandages were removed. Choosing a composite from the sketches, NBC and Smith then contacted a young puppet artist in Los Angeles named Velma Dawson who had also done some work for Disney. She made some additional sketches and one of those was approved for the final puppet that people today know and love as Howdy Doody. Despite all these Disney connections, Howdy was knocked off the air when Disney premiered the original Mickey Mouse Club television show in the same time slot. Even the son of the director and writer of The Howdy Doody Show told a reporter that he preferred watching the Disney show. Another Disney connection was Disney artist Milt Neil designed a lot of the marketing material and worked on the newspaper comic strip.

dummyThat Disney Dummy, Too. In the Twilight Zone episode, “The Dummy” that originally appeared in 1962, the script called for a ventriloquist doll whose face would be a caricature of actor Cliff Robertson who was portraying the performer. The show bought a dummy with all the mechanics already in it and decided to build the caricature over the existing dummy, but they needed artwork as a guideline. William Tuttle remembered seeing the work of an extremely talented man actually named T. Hee, who had worked at Disney as a storyman. Thornton Hee passed away in 1988 but had a rich career in animation. He was a caricaturist at Warner Brothers, was discovered by Friz Freleng who used his work in a number of cartoons. Hee also worked at UPA and Terrytoons in addition to Disney.

13 Comments

  • The Twilight Zone puppet always reminded me of Jerry Mahoney with bushy eyebrows.

    Wonder if the guy in Sweden would have gotten faster results with the more sped-up Daffy voice Warners used prior to 1940?

    • The dummy reminded ME of Jerry Mahoney, TOO.

  • I’m gonna have a T-shirt printed with this immortal quote:

    Sugarty Doodle-Doo

  • oh how i adore the Friday anecdotes! That Marlene “review” is a riot. That’s about how i feel about football!! And Queeks Draw would (very often) call Baba “Babo Booey” on the show, too!! Interesting!!!

    • I think what Quick Draw was actually saying was “Baba boy,” not Babo Booey. ( I cringe whenever I hear the cretinous Howard Stern and good ol’ Baba connected in any way.)

    • Uncle Wayne is correct. If you listen to the end credits when Baba is bounced out of the stagecoach, Quick Draw yells “Hey, Baba Booey, you allright?” I think Quick Draw was saying “Baba boy” and the words got a little mangled. So Howard’s producer Gary was semi-correct.

    • I’ve read many reviews of Snow White, from ’37 through present day, but I’ve never read one like Marlene’s – hilarious! Hey, if we could all predict the future, we’d be millionaires.

  • Remember when Madeline Kahn played Marlene being interviewed by Gilda Radner as Baba Wawa? In my head I hear Marlene’s comments in that Elmer Fudd style: “You can’t awwow somebody who does Mickey Mouse to become a movie pwoducer!”

    I nearwy…my pants.

    Also if I’m not mistaken, there is a representation (not sure if it’s the real one) of that dummy at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in Florida. The last scene in that Twilight Zone episode is still very frightening, especially when the Cliff Robertson dummy is revealed with a swivel and a shakes — a la Norman’s stuffed Mama in Psycho.

    • Tower of Terror has A LOT of Easter eggs from the show hidden in the ride, mostly in the line up and at the very end when your getting off. I don’t remember seeing the dummy off hand, but I wouldn’t doubt it’s presence!

  • Back in the 1990s, there was an indispensable review and news zine called THE LASERDISC NEWSLETTER edited by Doug Pratt. I remember a review he ran of some deluxe Disney edition of SNOW WHITE with a lot of extras, including contemporary newsreel coverage of the premiere. That last had brief on-the-spot interviews with some of the Hollywood stars who had turned out for the gala occasion, and in particular Pratt mentioned a sound bite with (I think) Clark Gable, who was cautiously guarded in saying what he thought of it all. Pratt pointed out that while there were fears on the one hand that SNOW WHITE would bomb because audiences just wouldn’t sit through an hour and a half long cartoon, on the other hand, there were fears that it would be so successful that animation might replace live action entirely and actors like Gable would be out the door. Every time I see a movie with a lot of CGI, I think of Pratt’s remark that “it might happen yet.”

  • I question the story of Howdy Doody being bumped off the air by The Mickey Mouse Club. Howdy was an NBC network show airing at the same time weekdays (and in the last couple of years once a week on Saturday mornings) on NBC Owned and Operated stations and affiliates around the country (time zone differences accepted). The Mickey Mouse Club debuted in syndication in 1955. It was sold to CBS, NBC, ABC and independent stations who decided what daypart of the schedule it would air. Since Howdy Doody ran until 1960, it’s demise was due to other factors than TMMC.

  • Howdy wasn’t bumped off the air, but the shows weekday dominance was ended by the higher rated Mickey Mouse Club. This is what is generally credited with leading to the show going from weekdays to once a week, the Saturday morning edition.

    Marlene shows her Hollywood ignorance with her assessment of Snow White. ‘Sound Won’t Last’, ‘TV Won’t Last’. She could obviously only think with tunnel vision. Snow White didn’t so much erase other forms of film entertainment, it simply expanded the base. And it wasn’t for the animated cartoons of the 30s and 40s, a lot of stars from back then would be completely forgotten.

    • That’s true too.

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