A Dissenting View. Here’s another example of why to be wary of critics. In a July 1942 issue of “Time” magazine, its reviewer was not quite impressed by the Fleischer “Superman” cartoon series when he reviewed Superman in the Volcano, the eighth entry in the series: “Some 20,000,000 Supermaniacs can hardly wait for Superman’s ten-minute, one-reel cartoon to appear once a month in more than 7,000 U.S. movie houses…” Artistically, ‘Superman’ shorts are the movie cartoon at their worst. Superman looks and acts like a wooden puppet. So do all his playmates. There is little his creators—the old Fleischer Studios (now Famous Studios, Inc.) at Miami, Fla.—can do to improve their hero—even King Disney can’t animate human beings satisfactorily. But they did manage to give him a new voice recently. His old voice wasn’t manly enough. Now it booms.” By the way, the voice of Superman was not changed to my knowledge but remained Bud Collyer who had performed the role in the Mutual radio series although at least one animator on the series claimed that the Florida weather played havoc with the sound equipment so all the tracks had to be redone in New York.
All Tied Up. When Tom and Jerry: The Movie (1992) was being made, the artists at Film Roman fought for the iconic characters to have the classic look from their 1940s cartoons but Joe Barbera who helped originate the characters stated that he preferred them wearing ties like in their later television appearances.
The Other Captain Marvel. In 1969, in a speech to some college students, Marvel Comics Founder Stan Lee revealed that Marvel Comics’ version of “Captain Marvel” was created because an unnamed animation company was interested in producing a series about the character. They even gave Lee certain guidelines (outer space origin, member of an alien race and so forth) but when the character was finally introduced in the comic books (Marvel Superheroes #12 1967), the animation company changed its mind and dropped the project. Marvel continued to use the character because it helped maintain a trademark on the name.
Alex Toth at Disney. While many fans know that legendary artist Alex Toth did several Dell comic books featuring Disney’s live action version of Zorro, Toth also spent about three months at the Disney Studios working on the storyboard for the Disney animated feature, Robin Hood (1971). He wrote about the experience: “I was always dazzled by the corridors’ galleries of art from the past classics. Lovely quality work! But…the current Robin Hood feature just shaping up in story and character models by (Ken) Anderson, sucked! It lacked…difference! Uniqueness reason for being! It just lay there…a dud! Creaky old rehash in too many ways…without fire. No heat! Three years to do a big dud? No. I don’t think so…not for me! (Disney) was a museum to what it was…”
Duh! It’s the Fox! In the movie Making Mr. Right (1987), Sid Raymond appears in a minor role as one of actor Hart Bochner’s show-biz managers. He sings to himself as he prepares a deli sandwich. Raymond was the voice of many Famous Studios animated characters including Baby Huey.
Melendez Meet Buchwald. In 1981, animation legend Bill Melendez, responsible for the animated “Peanuts” specials proposed a series of animated half-hours based on the writings of political humorist Art Buchwald. “If things go easy, I know it’s right,” Melendez stated at the time. “I called Buchwald in Washington and he said, ‘Great’. We met on storyboards. He never asked for money. He was very helpful. But we couldn’t penetrate those network meatheads. What irritates me is when I see the garbage they do put on.”
Did You Know? In 1971, cartoonist Dan O’Neill, later infamous as the leader of the Air Pirates, let his “Odd Bodkins” comic strip characters appear in animated television commercials for Bell Telephone.
Smurf Fan. Beloved creator of the Muppets, Jim Henson, in the early 1980s told an interviewer, “I try to keep up with children’s programming, but I find the whole area of commercial television children’s programming very depressing except for The Smurfs.”
Award Winner. The animated feature Shinbone Alley (not theatrically released until 1971) won the top award, The Golden Phoenix, at the Atlanta Georgia International Film Festival in 1970. It was judged best of more than 1,200 entries in the festival. Eddie Bracken and Carol Channing provided the voices of poetic cockroach Archy and alley cat Mehitabel just as they did on a Columbia Records 1954 concept album that lead to the 1957 Broadway production that lasted only 49 performances before closing.
The Cruella De Vil Effect. In the 1990s, actress Sharon Stone told an interviewer, “I loved Cruella de Vil because she had the best cheekbones!” During that same time, actress Miranda Richardson stated, “When I was five, I had to be carried screaming from the theater that was playing 101 Dalmatians. I was absolutely terrified of Cruella de Vil.”
Just a Farm Boy. Animation director Don Bluth grew up on a Utah farm. “I became very close to some of my animals which I think helped me understand the feelings of animals,” claimed Bluth. “Whenever I’d see a movie, I’d tell my horse all about it.”
Chuck Jones on Mice. Animation director Chuck Jones is always good for an interesting quote like this one: “It’s odd that mice are as endearing in animation as they are terrifying in reality. Nobody’s comfortable with a mouse in the house. Even grown men will run for the hills if there are mice in the house.” Even Walt Disney admitted to a reporter that just about everyone was afraid of a real mouse, including himself, but felt that people would also respond to something small and cute on the screen.
On the Cutting Edge. Gary Dell’Abate, the producer of Howard Stern’s radio show, was quite the collector of animation cels but even he was surprised when he received a “Dennis the Menace” cel signed by artist Hank Ketchum from John Wayne Bobbitt’s lawyers. Bobbitt’s wife had performed a penile amputation on John giving him some limited fame in 1993. In 1993, four VHS tapes were released featuring episodes from the 1986-1988 animated “Dennis the Menace” series. Allegedly, Bobbitt’s lawyers were friends with someone in the animation industry and gave Dell’Abate the cel as a “thank you” for being kind on the Howard Stern show on one of Bobbit’s seven appearances after the incident.