Mickey’s Friend, Dracula. Actor Bela Lugosi, famed for his portrayal of Dracula, was a fan of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse in particular. He had a photo taken with a Charlotte Clark Mickey Mouse doll on Mickey’s fifth birthday in 1933 at a Hollywood restaurant. In 1935, he had to fill out a press biography for Cameo Pictures Corporation (where he was starring in the film Murder by Television) and one of the questions was his favorite film star. At first, he wrote “none” and then crossed it out and wrote “Mickey Mouse”.
Wish There Was A Time Machine. On September 13, 1929 at the Fox Dome Theater in Ocean Park, California (managed by Harry Woodin who was the originator of the theater Mickey Mouse Clubs in the 1930s), it was announced that at the noon matinee “In Person. Mickey Mouse’s Daddy, the man who originated the world’s most popular sound cartoon character: Walt Disney assisted by Carl Stalling at the piano and U.B. Iwerk (sic), cartoonist. They’ll show you how they do it, and introduce ‘The Mickey Mouse Theme Song’. Mothers and Fathers are urged to attend this program.” Yes, it was a children’s matinee.
Call the ASPCA. In a 1955 interview, Walt Disney recalled that he had told some of his animators in the early days to always observe reality. “I told them, put a kitten on the kitchen floor with a ball of yarn, pour a little molasses here and there, and then watch it. A kitten will think up more cute tricks in five minutes than a gag man could in a lifetime.”
The Reason It Took So Long to Make Disney’s Peter Pan. “I think some people thought it was a ‘sissy’ story, especially with the names of the parents being ‘Darling’ and with Tinker Bell the fairy scattering her pixie dust. I remember there was that feeling even before we considered making the picture, that ‘Peter Pan’ was a story for girls. Even when I was a kid, you’d never read a book like that,” laughed Ward Kimball in a 1992 interview.
Cut Off A Finger, Save a Fortune. “Close study of a Mickey Mouse film will reveal that he wears gloves with but three fingers and a thumb. The missing digit saves Disney several thousand dollars a year in artists’ time.” The Literary Digest October 3, 1936
Waving Hands Hypnotically. In 1969, “Variety” newspaper announced that the makers of “Yellow Submarine” would tackle an animated feature based on the character of Mandrake the Magician, a popular newspaper strip from King Features. Created by Lee Falk, Mandrake just waved his hands hypnotically to win the day.
The Phantom Series. In 1969, “The Phantom” comic strip and comic book artist Bill Lignante was doing layouts for Hanna-Barbera. He spent twenty-six years as a court room artist for ABC Network News (1968-1994) and sixteen years working for Hanna-Barbera on several of the different Scooby-Doo series, Jabberjaw, Challenge of the Superfriends and more. Lignante also worked at Ruby Spears Productions who pitched to the networks an animated series based on Lee Falk’s “The Phantom”. Dan Spiegle and Lignante drew the presentation boards. ABC wanted to buy it but there were some legal complications over the rights.
The Animated Bible. Back in 1969, it was announced that singer Pat Boone and Don Hansen Productions planned to start production within six months on making an animated film of the Bible, to cover both the Old and New Testaments. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were to be the starting segments of the film which was to feature original music and eight hundred speaking parts when finally completed. The picture was to be non-demonimational. “We are not rewriting the Bible. We are going to tell it like it is,” stated Hansen at the time.
The Lost Animation Book. In 1972, Viking Press was going to publish a book by animation historian John Culhane entitled “A History of Animation 1901-1971”. When I talked to John about this at the Disney Institute in 1996, he assured me he had many files boxes filled with research and interviews for the book but questioned whether such a book would be valuable with all the other histories that had been published since he announced his book. What happened to all that reference material and unpublished interviews? Is it still in boxes waiting to be re-discovered by someone? Personally, I’d still like to see John write the book and end the history in 1971.
Inspired by Howard Stern. Mike Judge, creator of “Beavis and Butt-head” was close to burnout on the series in 1995 (the original MTV series lasted from 1993-1997) until Howard Stern inspired him. “Not like you’d think,” claimed Judge. “It’s just that Howard Stern fills five hours a morning just talking. I started to think that rather than coming up with something to say about each video, to have (Beavis and Butt-head) just talking. They are still just 14 years old forever.”
Halloween Tree. “I’m writing a film. It’s going to be a cartoon by Chuck Jones. A wonderful man to work with. It’s a history of Halloween in cartoon form. It’s going to be a heck of a lot of fun and it’s going to be much better than the ‘Great Pumpkin’ show by Charles Schulz. I thought the Great Pumpkin was just dreadful. So mean. It was dreadfully mean, to anticipate the ‘Great Pumpkin’ arriving for a half hour and when it was over my kids sat there, and they were depressed. And so was I. I thought it was dreadful of Mr. Schulz not to know that you can’t build up this kind of need in people to see the Great Pumpkin, and not have him show up one way or another. It’s a shame. I thought he knew better,” stated writer Ray Bradbury in 1967 as he worked on a screenplay for a half hour animated special entitled The Halloween Tree that was never made at the time. Bradbury converted his screenplay into a novel released in 1972. Hanna-Barbera produced a ninety minute animated version in 1993 about four children learning the customs of Halloween and saving their friend with Bradbury narrating which won an Emmy. Bradbury’s 1967 screenplay and the Hanna-Barbera one were published in an “author’s preferred text” of the novel, compiled and edited by Donn Albright, published in 2005.