That Kelly Girl. Selby Kelly applied to the Disney studio by sending in her portfolio and was hired as an artist by mail without having ever actually physically meeting anyone from Disney. When she showed up for work, the offer was withdrawn. She was told that the Disney Company assumed she was a man, since only men were hired as animators so she was offered a job in Ink and Paint Department. In 1968, she was working at the Chuck Jones Studio when her supervisor came in and said that Walt Kelly, the creator of the popular “Pogo” comic strip, was looking for an assistant on “The Pogo Special Birthday Special” that was then in production. Walt Kelly said he remembered her from the Disney days, although he had never known her name. He said the animators would stop work and watch the women from Disney’s Ink and Paint walk to and from lunch, and he said he had noticed Selby because she always wore bright red shoes. Walt and Selby were married in 1972.
Unnatural Mouse. The great actor, Charles Laughton, saw his horror flick “Island of Lost Souls” (1932) banned from being shown in England for twenty-five years because the government censor believed it challenged natural laws. Actress Elsa Lanchester, the bride of Frankenstein’s and Laughton’s wife, huffed, “Of course, it’s against nature. So’s Mickey Mouse.”
Ugly Rumor. As hard as it might be to believe, in July 1971, there was a brief controversy about the animated feature “Fritz the Cat” because “the lead character in the New York animation resembled Terrytoons’ Sourpuss too strongly”.
Alvin’s Secret. The original ending to the song “Alvin’s Harmonica” had Alvin the Chipmunk getting his nose stuck in his instrument. The night before the actual recording of the song, Ross Bagdsarian was singing the song to his family and ad-libbed some “cha-cha-cha” nonsense and his kids fell off their chairs laughing. Bagdsarian immediately changed the ending.
Wahoo. Producer Joe Barbera stated that voice artist Alan Reed, the original voice of Fred Flintstone, was the one to come up with the famous phrase “Yabba-Dabba-Do”. In the original script, the word was “Wahoo” but Reed asked if he could change it and Barbera agreed. By the way, did you know that in the 1980s, Hanna-Barbera once spent about a year trying to set up an archives similar to the one at Disney but the project was dropped?
Animated Vanna White. Performer Vanna White gained fame when at the age of thirty she started appearing on the game show “Wheel of Fortune” in 1982. Just five years later, her manager Ray Manzella was pushing her as the heroine in a proposed Saturday morning cartoon show. “Both Hanna-Barbera and Warners have both made offers which would include all of the toy merchandising…a doll, a Vanna van, Vanna’s dream house and other trappings.” The series was never made.
Jules Feiffer on Animation. Most people would think that writer-artist Jules Feiffer’s sole foray into animation, the Oscar winning short “Munro” (1960), would have made him eager to do more but it actually had the opposite effect because of his later work on plays and live action screenplays like “Popeye” (1980). As Feiffer stated in 1987, “Once you get into the habit of writing about real people and real situations, and get first class actors to do your work, it’s hard to go back to animation.”
The Bullwinkle Twins. One afternoon at lunch, Bill Scott, the original voice of Bullwinkle Moose, was coaching voice artist Frank Welker on how to do the voice of the popular Jay Ward character. A very dignified waiter came up to their table to take their order and Scott proceeded to order his entire meal in the voice of Bullwinkle. The confused waiter, worried that this might be Scott’s actual voice, turned to Welker for his order. Without missing a beat, Walker responded in the voice of Bullwinkle, “I’ll have the same.”
Violent cartoons. In 1969, the National Association for Better Broadcasting (NABB) condemned Popeye, Porky Pig and Superman animated cartoons (in that order) because they “characteristically emphasize the graphic portrayal of violence.”
How to Kill Humor. In 1981, a memo circulated the animation studios involved in Saturday morning animation. In part, the memo stated: “Program Practices at CBS has ruled that a character that has been hit in a fight CAN NOT have (1) eyes at half mast (2) eyes twirling (3) tongue hanging out (4) dazed or hurt look (5) closed eyes (6) circle of stars around head. NO EXPRESSION OF PAIN OR DAZED EXPRESSION! The characters CAN react with frustration or anger at having been foiled again. CAMERA: Do not shoot scenes you find with the ‘no-no’s in them!”
High On the Hog. John Kricfalusi, creator of “Ren and Stimpy”, has tried to develop many different projects over the years. One of those projects was He Hog, a dentist by day and a super swine at all other times. This super-powered pig would according to Kricfalusi have “the world’s greatest superpowers, including x-ray nipples and ultra tastocity (extremely sensitive taste buds). He can lick a trail to the villain’s hideout. He can taste guilt.” The only thing that can neutralize him is “marmalade on his butt.” The antidote? “Toast.”
Knievel. In 1977, Ralph Andrews announced he was preparing a Saturday morning animated series to be based on motorcycle stunt celebrity Evel Knievel, known for his red, white and blue attire. The premise of the series was that Knievel was working for the President of the United States and was assigned to solving young people’s problems. While his stunt career would not be emphasized, Knievel would have had a motorcycle capable of doing superhero-type tricks when necessary. Safety tips on bicycle riding and other subjects would also be shown. However, later in 1977 Knievel was sent to jail for six months for the assault of promoter Shelly Saltman and the nearly thirteen million dollar award for damages caused the stuntman to declare bankruptcy and to fade from the spotlight.
Warner Caricatures. In the Warner Bros. cartoon “Page Miss Glory” (1936) at the end of the cartoon when Abner, the Hickville Hotel bellhop, runs out into the street, he sees a bunch of hicks who are clever caricatures of Tex Avery, Bob Clampett and a few other animators.