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?
Mickey 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.
Bob 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 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.”