Limpet At Disney. When thinking about animation, how many fans forget about Warner Bros.’ The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964), that according to the credits featured “Special Piscatorial Effects” by such animation talents as Vladimir “Bill” Tytla, Gerry Chiniquy, Hawley Pratt, Robert McKimson, Maurice Noble and Don Peters (background)? Although former Disney animator Bill Tytla was credited as the supervising animation director, I have been told that a combination of health issues and disagreements with producer John C. Rose led to Robert McKimson taking over most of the animation directing duties early in production. This movie was the final animated film work released by Warner Brothers before the animation studio was officially shut down. Stephen Hillenburg supposedly studied the backgrounds in the film for use in Spongebob Squarepants. A figure of Mr. Limpet wearing his trademark round glasses and Don Knotts’ lips and hiding in the seaweed appears in the Disney California Adventure’s “The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure” attraction (pictured at right). He does not appear in the Walt Disney World version. (In the last frozen pose in the big finale of “Under the Sea” musical number in the animated feature The Little Mermaid, Mr. Limpet is in the upper right hand section.)
The Lost Grail. Actor Dale Robertson, well known for his work on the television series “Tales of Well Fargo” (1957-62), wanted to do a full length animated feature film based on the search for the Holy Grail. What stopped him? The relative failure of the animated feature The Man From Button Willow (1965) directed by David Detiege for Animation Filmmakers Corp./Eagle Films that tried to capitalize on Robertson’s Western hero image. It was Cliff Edwards last major film and he provided the voice of the villain’s henchman. Pinto Colvig, Thurl Ravenscroft, Verna Felton, Ross Martin, Herschel Bernardi and Clarence Nash also provided voices. Animation was done by folks like Ben Washam, Amby Paliwoda, Ken Hultgren, John Dunn, Harry Holt, John Sparey, Don Lusk, and Moe Gollub among some other artistic talents like Ron Dias. When was the last time any of you ever saw the film? In the film, Robertson was rotoscoped for some of the action as the first U.S. Government agent helping out settlers in the Old West.
Dracula Never Returned. In April 1976, Orsatti Productions announced they were producing an animated feature based on Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula”. Emil Carle was producing and George Greer was doing the scripting. Legendary artist Frank Frazetta painted some concept artwork to sell the film as well as designing the look of several characters like Van Helsing and Dracula.
Say the Secret Word. A still photo of Groucho Marx appears in “Popeye Meets William Tell” (1940). The fabled archer opens a locket to show the photo that wiggles its eyebrows. Groucho is supposed to be William Tell’s son, who isn’t around (“I shot him from under an apple” sadly said his father) so Popeye has to substitute for him.
Standards and Practices 1977. Writer and artist Norman Maurer, who was story editor for Hanna-Barbera’s “Dyno-Mutt” in 1977 told me at the time that he had once written a scene for “Josie and the Pussycats” where a cat, escaping from some sort of science-fiction menace, hides in a dish of spaghetti. CBS disallowed it. “Kids’ll put their cats in spaghetti” Maurer was told. In one cartoon segment, Maurer tried to deliever a little message about the undesirability of dictators such as Caesar, Napoleon and Hitler and was not permitted to use Hitler as an example. These memories came up because at the time he had written a bit of dialog where Dog Wonder Dyno-Mutt used the phrase “guys and gals” and ABC Office of Standard and Practices pointed out very clearly that young ladies should only be referred to as “girls”.
Joe Barbera Quote. In 1976, Barbera told a magazine reporter that “We have run into a stone wall because some citizens for the protection of the children of the world have decided cartoons are evil, that they’re violent and full of mayhem. We showed the network folks five of the old ‘Tom and Jerry’s and they laughed so hard that they had tears in their eyes. Then they said, ‘We can’t use them. If we put those on we’ll get killed.’….I’m just as enthusiastic about Tom and Jerry as I was 20 years ago. Unless people went back and saw the old ones, I don’t think they will know there’s a difference.” Barbera was doing promotion for “The New Tom and Jerry Show” on Saturday mornings on ABC. Generally, in this series, Tom and Jerry are friends but still competitive. This is the series that also featured episodes of Grape Ape.
Sources Revealed. At the Telluride Film Festival in the mid-1970s, animation legend Chuck Jones quipped after seeing a sampler of his best animation work interspersed with some comedy classics like Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd, “It’s been revealed tonight who I stole from…and how inferior I am to my sources.” The audience disagreed, cheering him loudly.
Those Looney Guys. In a mid 1970s interview, voice artist Mel Blanc commented about the Warners animators, “Oh, they were nuts! I used to just do my voices and then get the hell out. I’d walk into their office and there they’d be, one guy bent over another, both of them wearing German helmets and another ready to hit one of them over the head with an ax! They had to act out the cartoons as they drew them.”
Unmade Barnaby. In 1967, it was announced that Halas and Batchelor were preparing an animated series for an American/British audience based on the popular 1940s Crockett Johnson comic strip, “Barnaby”.
What’s In A Name? Jose Cuahtemoc Melendez began his animation career at Disney in 1938. “This idiot at Disney said what kind of a name is that? We’ll call you ‘Bill’. It’s given me great anonymity. People looking for me look for Bill Melendez. My legal name is still Jose Cuahtemoc — nobody looks for that name. I have a suspicion that that really helped me during the UnAmerican Activities folderol here in Hollywood.” Bill’s work on a series of commercials for the Ford Falcon car which featured the PEANUTS characters convinced Charles Schulz that Bill Melendez was the man to handle the animation of his characters when it came time to do specials. (One of the reasons Schulz agreed to his characters appearing in the Ford Falcon commercials was that he had only driven Ford cars in his life up to that point.)
On a personal note: Over the weekend of July 12-13, I was a speaker at the old movie palace recently restored, the Redford Theater in Detroit, Michigan, entertaining audiences before three screenings of “Mary Poppins” to raise money for the Detroit chapter of “Make A Wish”. Happily, over three thousand dollars were raised to make wishes come true for some children. In addition, Steve Stanchfield, of Thunderbean Animation, who often supplies some animated shorts to run before the films at the theater, dropped by to visit and not only is he an extraordinarily nice and knowledgeable fellow but he has some amazing DVD projects in the works for us all to enjoy in the future. It was great to meet one of my fellow colleagues writing under the Cartoon Research banner – Keep up the good work, Steve!