ANIMATION ANECDOTES
September 13, 2013 posted by Jim Korkis

Animation Anecdotes #127

tijuana_toads200Texas Toads Lawsuit. Alleging they created the cartoon “Texas Toads”, comedians Richard Curtis and Larry Hovis filed a $2,800,000 plagiarism suit in January 1977 against NBC, United Artists and David DePatie. The suit claimed the Saturday morning cartoon characters were adapted from a previously unsaleable series called “Tijuana Toads” that had been labelled unacceptable for television because of the Mexican accents used. Curtis and Hollis alleged they were told they would be hired for voice over work if they could come up with acceptable revisions for the characters, but they weren’t. In addition to damages, the two asked the court to declare that they own the copyright on creation of the cartoon characters.

Caveman Capers. “B.C.: The First Thanksgiving” first aired on television in 1973 and was based on the popular caveman comic strip done by cartoonist Johnny Hart. Five years later, he explained why there hadn’t been a follow-up special yet. “I don’t like the idea of doing it for television every week, because you have to take away from it. I’m of the old school. I like the full animation, like in the old days with the Warner Brothers stuff. That’s what I’d like to do. I think I have a talent for that. I think I have a good feel for sound, which you can’t get on a page. I drive myself crazy trying to get it on a piece of paper.” A second special, “B.C.: A Special Christmas” was produced in 1981.

Basket Weaving and Glass Blowing. In late 1977, at a screening of Filmation’s “Fat Albert” and “Space Academy”, more than half the audience walked out, prompting animation legend Joseph Barbera to remark that he yearned for a return to the old days, so that “when a cat chases a mouse, he doesn’t have to stop and teach him how to blow glass or weave a basket. My wish for Christmas is that they would leave education to the schools and entertainment to us.”

With a Chair and a Whip. Voice artist Paul Frees was well known for being fiery and even he knew it. In a 1978 interview, Frees stated, “Somebody once asked Arthur Rankin of Rankin-Bass, ‘You direct Paul Frees? How do you direct Paul Frees?’ and Arthur smiled wisely and said, ‘With a chair and a whip! How else?’ Well, I’ve never been pugnacious about it but I guess I have always wanted to participate. Being a creative person and a director and writer myself, it was never sufficient for me to sit and have somebody tell me, ‘Do it this way’.”

mercer200Popeye Hates Spinach. In 1977, storyman and voice artist Jack Mercer who most prominently portrayed the gravel-voiced Popeye the Sailor told a reporter, “It was lucky Popeye was a cartoon because I’d have made a pretty poor Popeye in body. I’m only five foot five inches tall and didn’t weight more than a hundred and ten pounds at the time. Besides, I don’t like Popeye’s favorite, spinach. Oh, I can take it with a little vinegar on it but I’d prefer not. I do like hamburgers, just like Wimpy. In fact, it’s about my favorite food. At the start, I not only did Popeye but the voices of several other characters, too, including Popeye’s Pappy and Wimpy.”

Templeton and the Web. Actor Paul Lynde who supplied the voice for the rat Templeton in Hanna-Barbera’s animated feature “Charlotte’s Web” (1973) stated at the release of the film: “He’s so mean. He’s no cardboard villian. If his cousin Mickey Mouse showed up, Templeton would go right for his jugular. I relished playing Templeton. I’ve never played a more colorful character. He’s a very human rat, a very rich character. He claims to be completely selfish, yet he’s called on to help more than anyone else. This creates great suspense.”

Cry for Casper. Tennis star Chris Evert once stated: “My favorite cartoon was Casper the Friendly Ghost but it used to make me cry because everyone always treated him so badly.” Making matters worse, everyone knows that Casper is a dead baby with his ears cut off.

Charity Work. John Cleese did the voice of the villainous cat in “An American Tale 2: Fievel Goes West” and he was shocked by the very small size of his paycheck which he described as “the smallest fee I’ve been paid in ten years.” When they kept pushing him to do publicity for the film, he finally sent back a note that said: “Tell Mr. Spielberg that I always make a point not to publicize my charitable activities.”

Lost Cartoons. Many animated projects never make it beyond development. At one time, the famous Preston Blair (responsible for the design of Red Hot Riding Hood and animator on the Sorcerer Apprentice sequence in “Fantasia”) was involved with a proposal for an animated version of Jackie Gleason’s “Honeymooners” television series and developed some beautiful model sheets of the characters.

honeymooners-drawing

Special Delivery. Special Delivery (1978) won the Oscar for Best Animated Short and was animated by Eunice Macauley and John Weldon. In just over seven minutes, the film recounts what transpired when Ralph ignored his wife’s instructions to clear off the walk just before the mailman arrived. “It began as a story,” commented Ms. Macauley. “John and I had been considering writing short stories. The idea of making a film out of it just gradually happened. We drew it all ourselves, the two of us, and colored each drawing with colored pencils. The backgrounds had to be redrawn each time that way. There are no camera moves in the film. No pans or trucks. We drew all those movements and changes. It gave us an incredible freedom to metamorphose things. It seems to me that in an undertaking by one or two or three persons, or a small group, you can experiment so much more. If you have to keep a whole studio going, there’s a need to go commercial. This is why the film board is so great. It gives people a chance to experiment they wouldn’t get at any other studio in Canada. I will probably never make another film that way.”

10 Comments

  • I remember Blair’s Honeymooners drawings from one of his Walter Foster books. It would have been nice to see his take on the honeymooners, but only if the original cast and writers were involved.

  • Which B.C. special was it that featured voice work by Bob and Ray?

  • Paul Lynde’s performance as Templeton in Hanna-Barbera’s 1973 “Charlotte’s Web” is one of the best in the history of animation. A lot of what he spoke came directly from E.B. White’s book, faithfully adapted into Earl Hamner’s script. But what Lynde did with such lines as “It’s says, ‘CRUNN-Chee” and “It’s worse than Care-a-mel CAN-Dee” are infinitely quotable. I agree wholeheartedly that, unlike Grumpy who is crusty but benign, Templeton is a rotten, greedy, scumbag who had to be bribed and then dragged complaining to any act of assistance he provides. Yet, he’s good as what he does, lives by his own twisted rules and has moments when a better self peeks through, ever so slightly. He’s very real.

    Templeton also gets the biggest laughs and is among the most memorable characters. On the DVD commentary for the 2006 live action/CG version, director Gary Winnick said that test audiences came out of his film stating that they wondered what happened to the “Smorgasbord Song.” Winnick went back and expanded the fair sequence to allow an equivalent effect, but clearly people felt a strong impact from the Sherman Brothers song and Lynde’s performance from 1973.

    I liked it when Templeton ate corn-on-the-cob like a typewriter.

    • I have admired Templeton and completely identified with him since I saw Charlotte’s Web in 1973 as a very young teen and regard him as my faovurite, in fact, along with the Agnes Moorehead*-voiced giddy Goose, those are the only two characters I like about the story..*Moorehead ironically died in 1974, the year following the film’s release.:)

    • PS I liked the typewriter gag too, and only wished he’d done the old “cut a wedge of cake but eat the rest of the cake instead” gag.

  • Joseph Barbara’s quote pretty much sums up as to why American cartoons of the 1970s and 1980s tended to be rather lackluster.

  • Always loved special delivery. Also think it would make a good premise for a feature.
    Hearsay: I once worked with someone who said when they brought the Oscar back to NFB, as a gag some painters painted up the statue as a clown with cel paint, wrecking the finish.

    Blair’s Art Carney is borrowed from Hirschfeld’s Odd Couple broadway caricature, IMO.

    • Interesting story Gerard, I probably would’ve done the same too had I won one!

  • I am very curious to know what the verdict was on the “Texas Toads” lawsuit?

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