ANIMATION ANECDOTES
October 11, 2013 posted by Jim Korkis

Animation Anecdotes #131

caveman-inki

The Fourth Dimension. Chuck Jones directed five cartoons for Warner Brothers that featured a little African boy named Inki trying to capture an elusive Mynah Bird. “Those cartoons really baffled Walt Disney,” remembered Jones. “They baffled me, for that matter. I just made them because I thought they were funny. I wasn’t even sure they were funny. Walt Disney would run them for his staff and say, ‘What’s so funny about these?’ If he’d brought me over, I couldn’t have told him. They were really fourth dimensional pictures, and I don’t understand the fourth dimension.”

Smart Kids. A survey of American children during the Great Depression uncovered that many kids thought Mickey was a dog or a cat, even though his last name was “Mouse”. A 1935 “Time” magazine article stated: “Anyway, a current survey shows that children don’t think of Mickey as a mouse. A good many of them were asked whether Mickey Mouse is a dog or a cat. Almost half of the tots answered brightly, ‘A cat.’”

Starting at the Bottom. Sometimes in animation, someone has to quite literally start at the bottom. Talented actress Sherri Stoner is well known as the live action reference model for both Ariel the mermaid in Disney’s The Little Mermaid and as Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. She was also a story editor on “Tiny Toon Adventures”. Like any actress just staring in the business, sometimes the films that are offered are not always “A” List. An early movie role she would probably like to forget is “Reform School Girls” (1986) where she sacrificed for her art with a brief topless scene lying on her stomach and getting branded on her rear end on the restroom floor by some bad girls. Where is Plucky Duck when you really need him?

hitler200Mickey Mouse Fan. In Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister’s diary entry for December 22, 1937, Joseph Goebbels wrote “I am giving the Fuhrer… 18 Mickey Mouse films (as a Christmas gift). He is very excited about it. He is very happy about these treasures which will hopefully bring him much fun and relaxation.” The reason for this gift was that it is documented that during July 1937 in Hitler’s private screening room, the Fuhrer watched five Mickey Mouse cartoons and laughed loudly. Yes, this is the same Adolf Hitler that tried unsuccessfully to ban Mickey Mouse in Germany in 1937 because he noticed young Germans (and even some of his own staff) wearing Mickey Mouse pins and emblems. He tried again with greater success in 1941 to ban Mickey.

Barney RubSpeaks. Voice artist Mel Blanc was very adamant that he never did “impersonations” like other voice artists. Blanc claimed he always tried to create an original voice for the character. “I don’t impersonate at all, although I can. To me, that’s like stealing from somebody,” emphasized Blanc. “They wanted me to imitate Art Carney (from the television series “The Honeymooners”) for the Barney Rubble voice. I said, ‘No, I won’t imitate him. I’ll give you similar characteristics, low and nasal, but I won’t use his voice’. They accepted that and I think it worked much better.”

Hairy Problem. Animator Andreas Deja who was responsible for the villain Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast” (1991) had no problem finding inspiration for the character in Los Angeles. “Just go to the gyms, the restaurants, the parking lots. They’re everywhere, looking in the mirror, in love with themselves,” stated Deja. The most difficult part about drawing Gaston, who boasts in song that “Every last inch of me’s covered with hair,” was keeping Gaston’s chest hair consistent from one cel to the next. The solution? Computers, which later were used for a similar problem with the ornate carpet design in ALADDIN.

courageouscatBob Kane on Animation. Bob Kane, the “official” creator of Batman who was known to rely heavily on the talents of others, discussed in 1970 his love of animation. “I’ve been more interested in animated cartoons lately. I started a thing years ago called ‘Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse’ (1960) for television. It’s really a miniature Batman and Robin. They drive a Catmobile. Then I had another animated series called ‘Cool McCool’ on NBC. It was sort of an animted ‘Get Smart’. So I’m more into animation and television field now. I’d like to do my own show, called ‘The Bob Kane Show’, which would be a half hour children’s show.”

Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. Over the decades, there have been a handful of attempts to adapt the underground comic book antics of Gilbert Shelton’s Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers characters. In 1977, InterGalactic Productions of San Francisco announced its intention to film an animated hand drawn feature entitled “Gone With the Weed – An American Classic” featuring the trio. It was never made. In 2006, a clay animation feature entitled “Grass Roots” was started by director Dave Borthwick and cinematographer Dave Alex Riddett but remains in pre-production limbo.

Momma Mother’s Day. In early 1977, Bill Melendez and Mell Lazarus (cartoonist-writer of the comic strip “Momma” that debuted in 1970 and has been running for over four decades) announced plans to co-produce an animated special based on the daily strip for Mother’s Day. Unfortunately, it was never made.

Merry Magoo. In 1977, as their Christmas card, Jim Backus and his wife Henny sent out celluloids of animated legend Mr. Magoo from the then new series, “What’s New, Mr. Magoo” with a handwritten holiday message.

lantz_head175Lantz Quote. In May 1977, Walter Lantz signed another six year contract with Universal. He had already been under contract for forty-eight years at that point. The press announced that the Lantz cartoons were distributed by Universal in seventy-two countries. At the time, Lantz said, “Cartoon characters never die. They never bleed. They get blown up or run over and the next scene there they are, hale and hearty. That’s part of their magic, their fantasy. These so-called critics say kids can’t separate fantasy from reality. They’re looking at things they, as adults, consider harmful to the child. The critics don’t look at cartoons through the eyes of a child. I always considered our type of humor as being slapstick, not violent. I feel I’ve produced cartoons that can be seen for the next hundred years. They’re like the old fairy tales. When you go to a theater, an audience always applauds and laughs at the cartoons.”

22 Comments

  • …and yet for me, Ms. Stoner is dear for Slappy Squirrel.

  • While I would love to see a Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers movie, the only way it’s ever going to be finished is if it’s made by non-stoners. “Fun” fact: The FFFB have appeared in one completed film project: “Up in Flames,” a crappy late-’70s porn film featuring assorted (unauthorized) characters from underground comics.

    The finished part of “Grass Roots” is on YouTube. The pacing is excruciating, maaaaaaaaan.

    Mickey Cat? C’mon, they’re little kids. They’re answering according to what they want the world to be. You say, “Is Mickey a cat?” and they yell “YES!” because they like kitties.

    • “While I would love to see a Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers movie, the only way it’s ever going to be finished is if it’s made by non-stoners.”

      That’s true, sometimes inspiration has to come from ‘artificial’ sources.

    • What if it’s made by Sherri Stoner?

    • The ultimate stoner film: the film-makers were so stoned they never actually made the film!

  • Jones. IYIYI. Does anybody really believe A baffled Disney got a room full of staffers together to try and understand the mysterious genius of Jones?

    • A couple of Disney folk said Walt would occasionally screen the competition’s cartoons to his staff to help them avoid doing that “Schlesinger shit.” Whether an Inki was ever screened, I do not know.

    • I’ve often been accused of doing “that Schlesinger shit.”

  • I’ve heard of those Inki cartoons but have never seen one of them. I assume they’ve been locked away in whatever vault Warner uses to store the couple of hundred cartoons they own that fall short of today’s standards of political correctness.

    • Ah, “political correctness”–the sing-song of every white boy angry that Those People can use the N-word but he can’t without getting a dirty look, and it’s the worst injustice in the history of anything, ever.

    • There were five Inki cartoons. None has been released on home video by WHV, and I expect they won’t be unless WHV decides to release the Censored Eleven. I’m not holding my breath.

      However, four were released by Turner/MGM-UA: three on VHS and four on the Golden Age of Looney Tunes laserdiscs. Video quality is just fair as the films were not remastered and the media are weak compared to DVD, but I’ve seen all of these video titles for sale on ebay and elsewhere. (I have the Golden Age LDs and, incredibly, a working player.)

      The Little Lion Hunter (1939)
      > GAOLT Vol 2
      > Turner Viddy-Oh VHS “I Taw A Putty Tat”
      > Turner VHS “The Best of Bugs Bunny and Friends”

      Inki and the Lion (1941)
      > GAOLT Vol 3
      > Turner Viddy-Oh VHS “I Taw A Putty Tat”

      Inki and the Minah Bird (1943)
      > GAOLT Vol 3

      Inki at the Circus (1947)
      > GAOLT Vol 1
      > Turner Viddy-Oh VHS “I Taw A Putty Tat”

      There may be indie and bootleg releases as well, but they tend to be awful.

      As far as I know, “Caveman Inki” (1950) has never been released on any official home video.

    • “Caveman Inki” is the best one I recall; the prehistoric setting possibly a conscious move to finesse Inki away from the Hollywood stereotype (even though he was really a parody of the stereotype). The one other human — a bored schlep stirring a stew in a fun running gag — is white and certainly no more advanced than Inki, chef’s hat over leopard skin notwithstanding.

      “Inki at the Circus”, if I recall, presented him caged like an animal in what seems to be an American circus, surrounded by posters proclaiming him a terrifying savage. While Jones is obviously building sympathy for the clearly harmless child Inki, it’s a troubling image and concept for a light cartoon short: a stereotypical African native treated, however unjustly, as an animal. That’s probably the diciest one of the bunch.

      The Mynah Bird is definitely a less-is-more character. He’s at his cryptic best when sullenly skip/walking through the chaos, confounding bigger characters by simply ignoring them. When he actually does anything or even acknowledges the world around him (except for the closing gag), he becomes more ordinary.

    • ““Caveman Inki” is the best one I recall; the prehistoric setting possibly a conscious move to finesse Inki away from the Hollywood stereotype (even though he was really a parody of the stereotype). The one other human — a bored schlep stirring a stew in a fun running gag — is white and certainly no more advanced than Inki, chef’s hat over leopard skin notwithstanding.”

      That one got a lot of airplay in the 80′s through the usual syndication rounds.

      ““Inki at the Circus”, if I recall, presented him caged like an animal in what seems to be an American circus, surrounded by posters proclaiming him a terrifying savage. While Jones is obviously building sympathy for the clearly harmless child Inki, it’s a troubling image and concept for a light cartoon short: a stereotypical African native treated, however unjustly, as an animal. That’s probably the diciest one of the bunch.”

      I watched it some years back and had those thoughts as well even though they obviously don’t go into it too far for a 6-7 minute short than there needed to be of the kid, dog and bird having hi-jinks under the big top.

      “The Mynah Bird is definitely a less-is-more character. He’s at his cryptic best when sullenly skip/walking through the chaos, confounding bigger characters by simply ignoring them. When he actually does anything or even acknowledges the world around him (except for the closing gag), he becomes more ordinary.”

      Certainly.

  • And while I’m babbling, you have to love the Bob Kane quotes. He basically says he did two ripoffs (one from his own nominal creation), and feels this qualifies him for a name-above-the-title show.

    • I’m sure they all had high ambitions. I feel sorry that show never came to pass myself. :-(

  • Mel’s original voice for Barney was a higher pitched nasal, east coast sorta thing. After his car accident, Daws Butler took over and did a higher pitched Ed Norton. He raised the pitch so as not to sound too much like Yogi Bear, who was also based on Ed Norton. When Mel came back to the show he had the challenge to keep the integrity of what Daws did while also adding his own twist. So, he basically did a lower pitched version of what does brought to the character. This is why Barney had 3 voices early on in The Flintstones.

    • Thanks for the info! I remember the original Barney voice, but I didn’t know that Daws was instrumental in the change. I figured it was a simple evolution, as when Dan Catellaneta took Homer Simpson’s voice from a Walter Matthau copy to the more familiar sound.

      Regardless of the Ed Norton connection, the voice we know best is easier on the ears and more sympathetic than the original version.

    • Regardless of the Ed Norton connection, the voice we know best is easier on the ears and more sympathetic than the original version.

      Call me a idiot then for loving the first version of Barney’s voice anyway. That’s the voice I loved.

    • Is it just me, or are both Blanc Barney voices heard in the episode, “The Prowler?”

  • Inki and The Minah Bird is on youtube and an excerpt of caveman inki. Take away the main characters big lips and there’s really nothing that could be interpreted as racially offensive about this character……He’s just another funny Looney Tunes character….Having said that though, I do a agree with the earlier post that by and large, a lot of people who cry about political correctness are just white folks, who feel it’s a grave injustice that they can’t use the “N” word.

    • Inki and the Minah Bird also made the rounds on home video for many years thanks to it’s Public Domain status for a while. Having read of Chuck looking back at these films as “Fourth Dimensional Pictures” and not understanding them, I wonder if you could put this up there with the TV series Seinfeld in that regard of being about ‘nothing’ as it’s premise, perhaps I’m thinking too hard on it.

      Take away the main characters big lips and there’s really nothing that could be interpreted as racially offensive about this character……

      I would say the same for this ad touting an ice cream treat sold in cinemas years back (if not also for the blackface bit that also happens).
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMJ5tqPNz-g

      Having said that though, I do a agree with the earlier post that by and large, a lot of people who cry about political correctness are just white folks, who feel it’s a grave injustice that they can’t use the “N” word.

      That’s all it takes really.

  • Chris, about that ice cream ad you’ve posted, I think it might be in the best interest of the readership of this site to find out more information on who produced it. If I had to take a guess, I’d say it was an independent studio who must have hired artists from Paramount’s Famous Studios and UPA.

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