ANIMATION ANECDOTES
July 12, 2013 posted by Jim Korkis

Animation Anecdotes #118

victor_mooreA Hairy Situation. Friz Freleng’s Ain’t That Ducky (1945) had Daffy Duck matching wits with a hunter who had a strong physical and vocal resemblance to popular comic actor Victor Moore (pictured at right). In fact, Moore did do the voice. “He did not get paid for doing the voice because he offered to do it for free if he was given a drawing, and if we promised to add a little more hair on the caricature’s head. He apparently was very self-conscious of his baldness as he happened to be married to a very young woman at the time,” remembered Freleng.

Just Ducky. Tom Ruegger, Senior Producer of “Animaniacs” (1993), talked about the look of the main characters in 1995, “The Warner Brothers were ducks originally. They went through an evolution. Suddenly, we didn’t want them to be ducks because everybody had ducks. (Disney had introduced “Darkwing Duck” in 1991 as a follow up to “Duck Tales”.) So we decided to bring together a bunch of different species and make them into sort of a generic animal creature which related back to the early 1930s style characters. We wanted these lunatic characters. There’s a Marx Brothers inspiration to them.”

Watermelon Test. Back in the early days of the Disney Studio, Walt was observing, during lunch, how each of the animators ate their watermelon differently. One man ate it carefully by starting at one end and working his way to the other. Another started in the middle and ate haphazardly. One ate with a knife and fork, and so on. Finally, Walt remarked, “You guys all eat your watermelon in different ways. This reveals your characters…but I don’t know how.”

The Great Reveal. When voice actor Daws Butler was directing a theatrical production of the play “Night Must Fall” at a Hollywood theater, the actress playing Mrs. Ramson was fired. Daws took over the part himself and at the end of the performance each evening, he would rip off his wig to reveal to an astonished audience that a man had played the part of a woman without them suspecting.

He’s a Lumberjack and He’s Okay. Some early biographies of director Chuck Jones suggest that one of his early occupations was as a lumberjack. It’s not true. When he attended union meetings, some disgruntled anti-union animators moaned, “How come they’re using these big pink lumberjack types now?” When he heard that, Jones went home to look at himself in the mirror and laughed, “Sure enough, I was a big, pink lumberjack type.”

Animators in Film. British animator Bob Godfrey appears briefly in the television studio scene in the Beatles’ film “A Hard Day’s Night” (1964).

snoopy_stashMaster of Disguise. At one point in the animated special, “He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown” (1968), Snoopy disguises himself with a large black mustache. That was Charles Schulz’s homage to director and friend Bill Melendez who provided the voice sounds for Snoopy. Melendez was instantly recognizable for his own distinctively large black mustache.

Dog Days. Artist Charles Schulz like most cartoonists had strong ideas about his characters. In a 1978 interview, he stated, “(Snoopy’s) entire relationship with the kids in the animated specials is based on his being neither animal nor human. Snoopy can act like a dog, but he’s not going to be one. After all, did Bela Lugosi decide to be a full-time vampire?”

Heckling and Jeckling. In 1975, animator Ralph Bakshi was complaining that “Terrytoons were terrified of giving me too much Heckle and Jeckle to do because I might reveal in the dialogue that they were actually two Blacks. They were afraid Middle America might stop their children from seeing Heckle and Jeckle because Middle America hated Blacks!”

The Real Stuff. Composer Leonard Roseman who provided the score for Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings (1978) remembered that, “I scored a lot of the picture to either line drawings or the live action footage (later used for rotoscoping). I was on the set one day to see Ralph and I was surrounded by 150 midgets! I felt like Gulliver. They were all dressed in costume and I thought, ‘Why didn’t he shoot it live with these people?’ They looked wonderful. I really don’t think the animation worked. Frodo was just awful, like some strange character drawn and pasted on the walls. He had no shadow!”

French Frog. How did actor John Cleese end up doing the voice of the French frog, Jean-Bob, in Richard Rich’s animated feature “The Swan Princess” (1994)? “We looked at ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’,” claimed Rich. “and actually we were looking for another actor but then Cleese came on as the French taunter, shouting insults from the top of the castle. As soon as we heard him yelling, I said, ‘That is John-Bob!’”

Flash Gordon’s Spaceships. In the days before computers made perspectives easy, other tricks were employed. On the Filmation series, The New Advenures of Flash Gordon (1979), scenes involving spaceships were photographed using white models with black lines. These photos were Xeroxed onto cels as if they were drawings. Then they were painted, and photographed accordingly, thus simplifying the problems of perspective.

Otto’s Advice. In 1949, Felix the Cat creator Otto Mesmer was asked how a young person could study to be a comic strip artist. Mesmer replied, “Try to get a job in an animated cartoon studio. You will quickly learn techniques that usually take years to pick up elsewhere. Also, make sure you take an interest in news events. You will find that you rely heavily on them for background ideas.”

Son of Mel. Voice artist Mel Blanc’s son, Noel, revealed in a 1988 interview that as a child, “I used to lie back in Dad’s lap every Sunday while he read the funnies to me—with him making up all the voices of Dick Tracy, Little Lulu and dozens of others.”

Mickey’s Best Performance. When asked in what film did Mickey Mouse give his best performance, in 1986 voice artist Jimmy MacDonald who had been doing the voice of Mickey for forty years didn’t hesitate to answer “The Pointer” (1939) where Mickey’s voice was done by Walt Disney.

15 Comments

  • Jim, your anecdotes about the voice acting of Victor Moore and Walt Disney(!) made me think of a question: There were a number of Warner Bros. cartoons, in particular, that featured caricatures of actual, well-known actors (Humphrey Bogart, Jack Benny, Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, and others). Were there any cartoons by Warners — or any other studio, for that matter — in which famous actors actually provided their own voices?

    • In “The Mouse That Jack Built” (1959), the cast of The Jack Benny Program appears as themselves (albeit as mice) and provides their own voices.

  • Folks interested in seeing what the Flash Gordon model technique may have looked like should check out the making-of featurette on Walt Disney’s 101 Dalmations. The animators used the exact same trick for Cruella’s car and Horace & Jasper’s truck.

    For more info on the technique, check out this article:
    http://www.drawntoillusion.com/Postings%202011/Why_Does_it_Look_So_Fake.html

    • Don Bluth also used that technique as well in some of his films.

  • Ahoy, DougD: “The Mouse That Jack Built” (1959) was definitely Jack Benny, Mary Livingston, Don Wilson, and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson providing their own voices. Can’t recall any other instances of Big Names doing Little Cartoons, but maybe the experts-in-residence know better.

  • The story Noel Blanc tells is similar to something Jim Cummings once said about when he’s reading stories to his daughter he’d come up with different voices for each character in a story, and his daughter would say, “Just read the story, Dad!”

  • Heckle and Jeckle never registered as black to me. Even in the old toons, one had a tough-guy New York growl (like the latter of Fox and Crow) and the other had a faintly effeminate British voice. It was Buzzy the Crow at Famous Studios, with a voice modeled on Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, who was clearly intended as a black character.

    Did Bakshi have a specific idea that alarmed the front office? It’s amusing to speculate on a Heckle and Jeckle short that foreshadowed, even faintly, the crows in “Fritz the Cat.” Maybe he tried to put them in an urban or deep south setting, or suggested new voices.

    • i don’t believe mr. bakshi’s heckle and jeckle story. mr. bakshi tells stories that are less than plausible.

      i saw an interview in which he claimed that terry studios withheld promotions from him because he was jewish. he then went on to say that he was the only jewish person working at terry studios. he then ended the story by saying that he promoted himself … simply walking upstairs and taking over some space in the directors’ area.

      the comic book and animation industries were founded and built by people of jewish heritage. the idea of a golden age animation studio without jewish people working in it is about as likely as an orchestra filled with people without hands.

      their contribution was too great. even if you were anti Semitic, it would have been virtually impossible to build a studio without these people. their talent was too precious.

      i think mr. bakshi has a poor memory, and when asked questions simply makes up answers that he’s thinks will be entertaining.

    • “i saw an interview in which he claimed that terry studios withheld promotions from him because he was jewish. he then went on to say that he was the only jewish person working at terry studios. he then ended the story by saying that he promoted himself … simply walking upstairs and taking over some space in the directors’ area.

      I recall he told a variation of this story on the Wizards DVD featurette nearly a decade ago.

    • Not very convinced that the crows as black people is an idea that came from Heckle & Jeckle, in Bakshi’s mind ; there already were such characters in the original Robert Crumb comics.

    • “Not very convinced that the crows as black people is an idea that came from Heckle & Jeckle, in Bakshi’s mind ; there already were such characters in the original Robert Crumb comics”

      Of course if you had to dig through history like I had to, there’s always stuff like this…
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_Black_Crows

    • The heckle and Jeckle I watched as a kid were a Bronx accented cab driver type and a faggy Brit who called the other one “old chap”.
      I grew up in new rochelle, where it terrytoons were made, and the town was largely black and jewish and nobody called anybody “old chap”.

      Maybe bakshi is confusing his time with terrytoons with the time he worked at Disney, when he was three years old, and they were making “dumbo” and he had the crazy idea of making the crows black and Walt rejected the idea and insisted on making them french.

  • I heard that Filmation did something similar with Bravestarr: they created CG models of vehicles and then traced over them.

    • That type of technique was also used by the Disney studio for The Great Mouse Detective and some vehicles in Oliver & Company, this involved creating vector-based models that would be plotted out on paper first and then xeroxed to cels for painting later. Bill Kroyer would use this technique in some of his work like on the 1988 Oscar-nominated short “Technological Threat”.

  • Allan Melvin does a superb Victor Moore impression as the Caterpillar on the Hanna-Barbera Record, “Magilla Gorilla Tells Ogee the Story of Alice in Wonderland.”

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