Mort Drucker on Animation. Artist Mort Drucker has been one of my favorite cartoonists for decades, not just because of his work for MAD magazine but his work in DC humor comic books (like The Fox And The Crow – click to enlarge). He also flirted with animation and in 1972 talked about the experience. “A good commercial depends wholly on the animators. They can ruin it or make it successful. It’s very important that a cartoon flows well. There are some animators who try to cut corners and ruin the flow. The finished version looks choppy and the animators do a poor job of copying the artist’s style. My intricate style has to be simplified for television animation. I was working on a Saturday morning cartoon series that fell through for Steve Krantz productions. It was supposed to be about animals. They’re a good and successful outfit but the show was never bought.”
Tom and Jerry Fan. After being driven from Uganda in 1979, dictator Idi Amin disappeared for awhile. However, the stuff he left behind provided some fascinating insights into the man. There were boxes of grenades under his bed, photos showing Ugandans being tortured and starved and one closet was stacked with film reels of Tom and Jerry cartoons.
Bob Carlson. Bob Carlson began his career in animation with the Disney Studio in 1936 by answering an ad in the “Chicago Tribune” newspaper. He stayed at Disney nearly twenty-two years, later forming his own Los Angeles studio that concentrated on commercials. Carlson later worked on Bakshi films like “Coonskin” and “Hey Good Lookin’” as well as working briefly on the character of Weehawk in “Wizards” but his primary energies in 1977 was focused on the Sanrio animated feature “Metamorphoses”. While working on the Bakshi films, Carlson told a reporter, “The animator is much like the conductor of a complex symphony. He must balance all the intricate workings into an artistic unity. I could make just as much money working for another studio doing half as much work and the work would be less demanding. The only thing that Bakshi offers, though, is the chance for creativity.”
John David Wilson. In 1974, producer Steve Krantz’s production company had purchased an option to do an animated feature film based on the Broadway musical, “Grease”. In 1978, the live action version came out with the animated title sequence done by John David Wilson who passed away at the age of 93 this past June 20th, 2013. In 1971 he produced and directed the animated feature “Shinbone Alley” (1972). “The Sonny and Cher” television show didn’t just have animated titles and inserts but sometimes complete animated musical sequences to songs like “Brand New Key” (embed below), “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”, “One Tin Soldier”, “Sweet Gypsy Rose” and others. All of that was supervised by John Wilson who was with Sunwest that produced television commercials. Much of that animation was done in rented space at Bob Clampett’s studio. Wilson also created animated titles for other shows like “Tony Orlando and Dawn”, “Bobby Vinton”, “Shields and Yarnell” and Ken Berry’s “Wow Show”.
Wilson learned his skills under legendary Dave Hand at G.B. Animation Studio in England. In 1950, Wilson took his wife and young son to the U.S. for a job at Disney, where he went on to work on “Peter Pan” (1953), “Lady & the Tramp” (1955) and the Oscar-winning short “Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom” (1953). He also did stints at UPA and Hanna-Barbera on such projects as Mr. Magoo and The Flintstones, respectively. Sonny and Cher supplied their own voices for the New Scooby-Doo Movies “The Secret of Shark Island” (1972). They don’t sing in the episode. Sergio Aragones animated a version of Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem “IF” for one of Cher’s own variety hours and Cher did the narration.
Giant Robots. Late in 1979, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos ordered the removal of all the Japanese cartoon shows about futuristic robots from Philippine television. The presidential palace said Marcos “ordered the immediate cancellation of all robot shows on television because of their harmful effects on children. Complaints reaching the president indicate that these robot shows have become extremely warlike and tend to create a wrong attitude among children toward violence. Poor programming of the television networks has resulted in the robot programs being viewed at a time when children should be studying their lessons and thus hampering their studies.” It was unclear what specific power Marcos used in cancelling the shows, other than his authority to rule by decree under martial law.
Steranko. Artist Jim Steranko, perhaps best known for his work on Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D. comic book with Nick Fury, was briefly going to have an animated series called “Super Agent X” produced at Paramount. “It was one of the presentations I gave them for a series and it was going to be produced but then Paramount cartoon studios (in New York) folded up right at the critical point and the series was just killed, along with many other projects that I had there. I had a number of shows like ‘Johnny and the Genii’. Oh, I don’t know. There were many,” said Steranko who almost converted the “Super Agent X” series into a comic book for Tower (who were publishing T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents).
Here is the first page of the twenty page story Steranko penciled for Tower that never saw print explaining the premise:
“Exordium…The Beginning! Told here for the very first time, the story of the most feared and fantastic spy smasher to ever fight his way through a tangle of menace, mayhem and murder! Springing into action against super criminals with super weapons that could blow the world sky high… Super Agent X uses his extraordinary powers to battle incredible evil when all others fail! Yet this is more than the story of a single agent. It is the saga of a legion of guardians sworn to combat demonic villains, diabolic schemes and deadly ultra-weapons while the fate of the world hangs in the balance! The Project: To create an artificial army with an amazing new element called X-Matter! The Place: The world’s most top secret organization – The X-Complex!”