Jay Ward Musicology. Supposedly, Stan Worth and Sheldon Allman got together one Sunday afternoon and churned out the memorable theme songs for George of the Jungle, Super Chicken and Tom Slick. Worth was an accomplished singer and musician; Allman was a nightclub performer, game-show theme composer (Let’s Make a Deal) and character actor (he was the unsympathetic veterinarian in Hud and the prison chaplain in the 1967 movie In Cold Blood). Worth liked to tinker with old planes and it was in one of those refurbished old planes that he met his death on September 1, 1980.
“Stan came over to my house,” recalled Allman in a 1997 Los Angeles Times article. “We started at 1 o’clock, and by 4 o’clock we had the three songs.” Allman’s wife came home about that time, making her the first person to hear the now-legendary tunes. Her reaction, according to Allman: “You guys, with all of your talent and all of your training, and this is what you find to put your time in on? Shame on you.” While they worked together on the project, the music was primarily Worth’s and the lyrics primarily Allman. Some of the lyrics were rewritten for the live Disney movie about George of the Jungle based on the animated series but not by Allman who was seventy-three years old at the time.
Little Annie Fanny Animated. In 1972, an unauthorized seven minute silent color carton titled “Little Annie Franny” (and later re-titled “Little Franny Annie”) played at porno movie theaters in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Playboy magazine took swift legal action even though the film had nothing to do with the Kurtzman and Elder comic called “Little Annie Fannie” that appeared in the magazine. However, the ads for the short proclaimed “The Internationally Famous Cartoon Comes Alive on Film” and the accompanying illustration looked a lot like the Playboy character. I don’t know what happened to the film or anything more about it. In 2000, Mainframe Entertainment ( “ReBoot”) was approached by Playboy to create a CGI animated series based on Little Annie Fanny, but no series was produced.
Study Effects. Cy Young was a Chinese-American (born in Hawaii) special effects artist at the Disney Studio from the early 1930s through 1941. Like other experts in their field who worked at Disney, Young would give occasional lectures on his area of expertise to Disney artists. At the end of one such lecture about cartoon effects, he admonished his audience of male artists, “Always study effects, even when you go to the bathroom (to do your business at the urinal), STUDY EFFECTS!” The next day, animator Ward Kimball was gazing out the window of his room as the rain came down. He heard the door open behind him and slowly turned to see that it was Walt Disney. Never at a loss, Ward just smiled and said, “Just studying effects, Walt, just studying effects!”
Rupert and the Frog Boy. In 1970, the day after the Beatles’ break-up, songwriter Paul McCartney obtained the rights to Rupert Bear (who first appeared as a comic strip in 1920) and started work writing a story and music on an animated short that was eventually released in 1984 as Rupert and the Frog Song. McCartney supplied the voices for Rupert and the Boy Frog. Geoff Dunbar supervised the animation. McCartney claimed that the idea came from a particular illustration by Alfred Bestall in the 1958 Rupert Bear Annual that showed a night time concert with a frog conductor with music stand and baton leading a frog chorus on an outcropping of rock just across from him.
McCartney’s original idea was to make a full feature length film about Rupert the Bear with animator Oscar Grillo and preliminary work began in the mid-1970s. The music for that version and McCartney’s narration all recorded on one day in 1978 are locked away in his vaults. One song, “Sea Melody” eventually appeared on Paul McCartney’s 1997 album ‘Standing Stone’. The song ‘Storm’ was also a re-working of another song from the unmade film called “Sea/Cornish Water”. In 1984, the year of its release, it won a UK BAFTA (British Academy Award) for Best Animated Short Film. The film was also released theatrically as an accompaniment to Paul’s feature film “Give my Regards to Broad Street”.
Unmade Animation. In 1980, Steve Nicks of the Fleetwood Mac band had written a children’s story and hoped to turn it into an animated film. It was a love story between a goldfish and a ladybug. A friend told her that it would be “the ‘Doctor Zhivago’ of children’s cartoons”. As a singer, Nicks was acknowledged by “Rolling Stone” magazine as one of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time”. Nicks began her solo career in 1981.
Lost Atlantis. In 1940, production was announced on a sequel to the classic film “The Lost World” to be called “Lost Atlantis”. The film was to be based on a screenplay by Willis O’Brien (the father of King Kong among other credits) and budgeted at an unheard of million dollars. Edward Nassour was involved with the project and the special effects and animation according to the announcement were to be done…not by O’Brien…but by Walter Lantz.
MAD Men. In a 1970 interview, MAD artist Don Martin mentioned that there were negotiations under way to animate his cartoons for a “primarily adult audience”. He didn’t know whether they’d be for theatrical release or television. In 1972, William Gaines stated, “We are right at the moment negotiating a deal to have a MAD television special which would be in part animated. I’m not interested in a regular series on Saturday morning, for example. It would be too much exposure.” There was indeed a twenty-two minute MAD magazine television special produced for ABC in 1974 that never aired. Gaines claimed they couldn’t find a sponsor because the special offended automobile manufacturers. It was co-directed by Chris Ishii, Jimmy Murakami and Gordon Bellamy with animation by Gerard Baldwin, Mark Kausler, Bud Luckey, Dale Case, Johnny Gent, Tex Henson, and Cosmo Anzilotti.