ANIMATION ANECDOTES
June 14, 2013 posted by Jim Korkis

Animation Anecdotes #114

thecowUdder Nonsense. When Ralph Bakshi was involved with the Saturday morning series “Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures” (1987), he was constantly running into situations where CBS would give unusual input. During the “Bat-Bat” segment where a cow’s udder pops up, CBS wanted to make sure that there were the correct number of teats on the udder. The problem was that nobody knew. One animator guessed that there were four and somebody else suggested six so to play it safe they used five. For the record, cows have four main teats although occasionally can develop one or two more non-functioning teats.

Sounds Like Avery. Like some animation directors, Tex Avery would often fill in incidental voices in some of his cartoons. Avery scholar Joe Adamson has pointed out that Avery’s “voice pops up from time to time embodied in a hippo or walrus who laughs so hard he can hardly take his next breath.” Avery’ voice is also used for those little “ouches” that come out of a bottle in “Deputy Droopy” (1955). Most prominently, Avery can be heard as the voice of the huge, dumb hunting dog Willoughby in “Of Fox and Hounds” (1940), “The Heckling Hare” (1941), and “The Crackpot Quail” (1941).

Walt Disney and Real Estate. Animation legend Hugh Harman loved telling the following story. In 1926, when Disney was taking some photographs of his studio personnel, he turned to Harman and said, “You know, I wish I had ten thousand dollars.” Harman asked what Walt would do with such an amount, assuming some magnificent animation plan. “I would quit this business and go into the real estate business. Think of the stuff up on Sunset Strip. That’s going to be the most valuable property in the world,” supposedly replied Walt.

Who Framed The Seven Samurai? Richard Williams, director of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, in a 1988 interview, claimed that two films had the most impact on his life: “When I was 15, I saw Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Rashomon’ (1950) and that made me take movies seriously. When I was five, I’d seen ‘Snow White’ (that would have been the initial release in 1938 since Williams was born in 1933) and that made me take animation seriously. I never got over it and I never got over ‘Rashomon’ either. I like to think those are my benchmarks.”

Keep On Trucking. While working on the book, “Cartoon Confidential”, animation producer and writer John Cawley and I heard from an animator who wished to be anonymous. He told us that in an animated television project he was told to redraw the hook on the back of a pickup truck because it looked too much like a sickle. “I asked why and was told the agency was afraid it might offend people with sickle cell anemia,” he laughed.

hanna-caricatureBull Hanna. During an interview I did with Bob Clampett, he showed me a Christmas card from the Harman-Ising studio drawn by Tom McKimson with caricatures of the staff. Animation director Bill Hanna was listed as “Bull” Hanna. Clampett explained to me, “Bill Hanna, at that time, was not a cartoonist but had been hired as a clean-up boy at the studio. But, right away, he showed executive ability. When the girls wouldn’t come down from the roof where they were sunbathing at one o’clock to go back to their desks, Hugh and Rudy would say, ‘Hey, Bill, would you be sure that the girls get down?’ So Bill would get to the head of the stairs and he would roar at ‘em. Boy, would they get down after that. So I nicknamed him ‘Bull’ because he roared like a stuck bull. And on this Christmas card, one of us erased the ‘i’ in ‘Bill’ and changed it to a ‘u’ and that’s the story.”

Pizza To Go. In 1994, a survey reported that bogus orders of Domino’s Pizza increased fifteen percent during broadcasts of “The Simpsons”.

Oh Danny Boy! “In the time of my grandparents, children were thrilled and chilled by Grimm’s fairy tales—and grim they were, and fairy tales they were also. The elders of the time certainly threw up their hands in horror at the violence of Grimm. Today, Walt Disney is heralded as one of the great storytellers of our time—which indeed, he is. But what do we see with a Walt Disney film? We see horror and violence, after which good triumphs over evil. My daughter, Dena, had nightmares for a whole year after she saw ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’. I hold that neither Grimm nor Disney are the culminating factors in the definition of a child’s personality. I think we would throw neither rocks nor puffs at them, but accept the fact that Grimm existed in his time and Disney does very well in our time,” Entertainer Danny Kaye quoted from his article “How Does TV Affect Our Children?” in TV GUIDE March 26,1960.

Career Move. Frank “Lank” Leonard who eventually created the popular “Mickey Finn” comic strip gave up his job as a traveling salesman in 1924 to take a job as an animator. The salesman job paid $130 a week and the animator job only paid $11 a week. His first boss at the Bray Studio was Walter Lantz who became his lifelong friend.

Hog Wild. Director Burt Gillett who directed Disney’s “The Three Little Pigs” (1932) told people that originally Walt only wanted two pigs in the film and Gillett had to fight to keep it three.

Lt-ArexBeam Me Up, Scotty. In Filmation’s “Star Trek: The Animated Series” (1973), many of the stars in the original live action series returned to perform voices for their characters. Actor Walter Koenig who played Ensign Chekov on the original series did not come back and his character was replaced by an alien named Lt. Arex voiced by James Doohan who also performed as Scotty. In fact, Doohan, known for his wide variety of accents and dialects, did many of the other characters including the Kzinti Commander in “The Slaver Weapon” and Captain April in “The Computer Clock Incident”.

Same Old Same Old. Animator Lee Mishkin once said that while working at the Famous Studio on the Casper the Friendly Ghost series “you never knew what the picture you were working on was because they were all exactly the same”.

17 Comments

  • Famous Studios must have been one of the most depressing animation companies to work at during the era of theatrical cartoons, especially given that many of the employes that originally worked for Famous Studios began back when it was Fleisher Studios.

    • It did seem like you were merely stuck there!

  • You got that cow story slightly wrong. CBS wouldn’t allow The Cow’s udder to be shown at all (even though the earliest sketches of The Cow had his or her udders exposed.) It was the udder on his logo that was the controversy. CBS insisted that the correct number of teats was six, which was actually wrong, also nobody wanted to keep drawing six teats on a small logo over and over again, so in the first sequence the logo had six teats, then the number was dropped to four after that . That seemed to satisfy the network.

    • Thanks for the correction Mike! Interesting how that worked out.

    • This is why I still wish they did more on the DVD release than they had but I suppose it’s better than nothing, at least we still have the guys behind the show to point these out!

  • Walter Koenig didn’t perform voiceover work on the animated STAR TREK because he’d sold a script for the series and due to some legality, he wasn’t allowed to write AND speak. Walter — who collects Big Little Books — told me this when he visited the comic book shop I managed in 1975.

    • Scott,
      The Koenig story is interesting. I just noticed Robie Lester voicing Roxanne in the Cyrano episode of The Famous Adventures of Mr Magoo, yet I checked every credit list on the DVD and could not find her (she had told me she was on the show).
      However, she did some singing in another episode of the series, also uncredited, and I surmise that it was either a legal, union or contractual reason. Singers were rarely credited on shows so maybe she fell under the singers’ rules.
      I have also heard that a Guest Host on Saturday Night Live cannot write material for the show, even if they are comedy writers. They probably can give or withhold approvals and make suggestions, however.

    • There’s another story that Filmation (or Roddenberry) originally planned to do the series with just Shatner, Nimoy and Doohan from the original cast. As an economy move the rest of the original characters would appear, but with Doohan mimicking the original actors (the male ones, anyway). Shatner and/or Nimoy refused to sign on unless they had the original cast all around.

    • For the record, Nimoy refused unless they hired Doohan.

  • I felt the same way as a kid watching (or avoiding) those Caspers. They were indistinguishable, as if someone had shuffled a loaf of Wonder Bread.

    • It was crazy how their late stuff was aggressively packed with “modern” designs and subjects (Beatniks! Martians! TV!) , but scored from ancient and limited stock music, including:
      – Rising “Danger” music with “dum dum da dum” death march tag (Popeye knocked out in the middle of the cartoon, or a villain nearly killed at the end)
      – “It’s a Hap-Hap-Happy Day” (last surviving remnant of “Gulliver’s Travels”, usually under a particularly treacly bit of cute)
      – “Casper wallows in self-pity” theme (also just before the hero rescues the heroine in romantic plots)
      It’s mostly good, catchy stuff. But when it appears in every blessed short some charm is lost.

  • The concern about the correct number of teats is a far cry from the Production Code days when the cows were required to wear skirts!(i.e.Clarabelle Cow)

    • It makes watching “Cow & Chicken” in the 90′s a lot more liberating when you look back at the past like that.

  • How could one omit Avery’s turn in “Ghost Wanted,” a rarish cartoon (as pointed out in B&F) where Avery did a voice for a cartoon he didn’t direct?

  • And Avery was the voice of Papa Bear in “THE BEAR’S TALE”, another cartoon that I don’t think was actually produced by Tex Avery but certainly was inspired by Avery’s sense of humor.

    It is hilarious to hear about arguments over anatomy on any cartoon, because there are *NO* classic cartoons or TV cartoons in which a character is anatomically correct!

    And I don’t think that the Walt Disney story about what he would rather do with a plot of land is the only story of an animator wishing he or she were done with the art form (sigh). Sometimes, I tend to think that the fan is far more impressed with animation or comic book art than those that produce it. Wish it weren’t so, but think of how many events you might have attended where you expected all kinds of amusing and/or interesting anecdotes from the animators in question and, instead, you got vague memories of just another workday. And it doesn’t help when the entertainment industry still considers animation as the black sheep they’d rather forget or are embarrassed about.

  • Tex also provided the non-Red Coffee (or however he spelt his name; and it wasn’t Clarence Nash like the stupid IMDB says) meows in VENTRILOQUIST CAT.. most notably that long one at the end. What a performance!

  • Re Tex Avery’s voice-work, I just went through Steve Stanchfield’s excellent WALTER LANTZ TREASURES DVD, which features two early Oswald cartoons listing “Fred Avery” in the credits among the “Artists.” One of them, “The Bandmaster” (1931), has a little-boy hippo laughing in a dopey, “yuck-yuck” laugh that sounds suspiciously to me like similar laughs credited to Avery (such as in WB’s “Hamateur Night.” Could this be Avery’s earliest vocalization of that particular laugh?

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