What’s In a Name? Beaky Buzzard in the Warner Brothers cartoons was known around the studio as the “Snerd Bird” because he was based on (and sounded like) the intellectually challenged Mortimer Snerd ventriloquist dummy, friend of Charlie McCarthy. He first appeared in Bugs Bunny Gets The Boid (1942) where he was called “Killer” and Kent Rogers did his voice. Beaky’s second appearance, The Bashful Buzzard (1945), marked Rogers final voice job before his premature death in July ’44, serving in World War II. There was merchandising of the character and he also appeared in the DELL “Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies” comic book. He appeared in four Warners cartoons, the last two – released in 1950 – the buzzard was voiced by Mel Blanc.
Party Like Its 1933. Actress Marion Davies, the companion of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, threw a Mickey Mouse party at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California, where all the celebrity guests came dressed as Disney characters as well as other cartoon stars of the day. Marion Davies told interviewers that she wanted to “make a motion picture with Mickey”.
Igor Stravinsky on Fantasia. Composer Igor Stravinsky told an interviewer, “In 1937 or 1938, I received a request from the Disney office in America for permission to us ‘Le Sacre’ in a cartoon film. The request was accompanied by a gentle warning that if permission were withheld, the music would be used anyway. (‘Le Sacre’, being Russian, was not copyrighted in the United States). But as owners of the film wished to show it abroad (in the Berne Copyright countries), they offered me $5,000, a sum I was obliged to accept, although, in fact, the ‘percentage’ of a dozen intermediates redued it to about $1,200. I saw the film with George Balanchine in a Hollywood studio at Christmastime 1939. I remember someone offering me a score, and when I said I had my own, the someone said, ‘But it had all changed.’ It was indeed. The order of the piece had been shuffled and the most difficult of them eliminated…although this didn’t help the musical performance, which was execrable. I will say nothing about the visual complement for I do not wish to criticize an unresisting imbecility, but the musical point of view of the film involved a dangerous misunderstanding.”
Mickey the Flying Ace. A prominent and feared Mickey Mouse insignia first appeared around 1937 when German flying Ace, Adolf Galland of the Luftwaffe, painted a homemade version of Mickey on the fuselage of all the fighters he flew. Mickey had a cigar in his mouth and held a pistol in one hand and an axe in the other. When asked why he chose Mickey Mouse, Galland replied, “I like Mickey Mouse. I always have. And I like cigars, but I had to give them up after the war.”
Go to Boop Hell. The 1934 Betty Boop cartoon, “Red Hot Mama” was banned in Great Britain because its depiction of Hell was “unsuitable for public distribution in this country.” Disney’s “The Mad Doctor” (1933) was also banned but not for scenes of Mickey being almost cut in half or Pluto being operated on but because there were skeletons. Skeletons represented the “living undead” and fell under restrictions put in place after 1931 films like the original “Frankenstein” and “Dracula” were shown in United Kingdom cinemas.
Aniscope. In 1981, it was announced that “aniscope” had been invented by Wayne Sterloff as another time saving device in doing animation. Footage was shot of live actors and then separated into individual frames that were blown up, photocopied in color and fed into an image synthesizer. Unlike rotoscope, it was claimed that the process “doesn’t require the laborious hand painting of live action frames”. Using the system Sterloff and his fellow Canadian Neil Wedman produced an eighteen minute surreal science fiction short called “Buzz Wray and His Telephone”. United Artists research and development program expressed some interest. Sterloff and Wedman were preparing a ninety minute film called, believe it or not, “Mars Needs Helen”, using the process. Sterloff went on to be the head of MTV Canada.
Give Cartoon Characters The Finger. During the Actor’s Strike in 1980, comedian Robin Williams performed at a fund raising event at the Hollywood Bowl on September 16. He assumed the identities of Mickey Mouse, Elmer Fudd, Goofy and the Roadrunner. He was seeking union demands for cartoon characters. “First of all, we want more fingers!”
Time Will Tell. After Walter Lantz officially closed up shop, he had a farewell party for his employees on March 10, 1972 at the Toluca Lake Country Club. He presented his workers with Woody Woodpecker watches.
The Case of the Missing Animated Oscar. The most exciting moment at the 1981 Academy Award ceremony was when presenters Alan Arkin and Margot Kidder announced the winner for the Best Animated Short Film. They had been informed that the producer of the winning film, Ferenc Rorusz, was still in Hungary where he was rumored to be encountering Visa problems that prevented him from leaving his homeland.
Ever since the Oscars were embarrassed in 1972 when Marlon Brando sent Sacheen Littlefeather to accept his award, the Academy instituted a policy not to allow anybody except the actual winner to collect the gold statuette.
So Arkin and Kidder were in the process of leaving the stage after the announcement, when a man bounded to the stage of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and accepted the Oscar for “The Fly”. He even made a short acceptance speech and posed for photographers who assumed he was Rofusz. He wasn’t. He was Istvan Dosai, a member of the official Hungarian delegation to the Oscar ceremony.
The delegation came because “Confidence”, another Hungarian movie was nominee in the Best Foreign Language film category. It lost. A spokesman for the Academy said that Dosai had asked Academy officials twice prior to ceremony whether he could accept the Oscar if “The Fly” won and was told he could not.
But in his excitement at seeing a fellow countryman win, he bounded up to the stage anyway, accepted the Oscar and even went to the special Governor’s Ball at the Beverly Hilton where the Oscar stood proudly on his table. An Academy publicist who was assigned to the Hungarian delegation picked up the Oscar from Dosai the following morning and returned it to Academy officials. Ferenc Rofusz’s name was inscribed on the Oscar he won and it was shipped to him.
(Thanks to Keith Scott for additional information)