Peace on Earth. “(For Peace on Earth 1939) we shot the live action material for it. We shot the live action for the rotoscope on the (MGM) Studio lot. We didn’t shoot it with any sets, you know. We just had a man running or walking or whatever. But the sets were all imaginary,” animation legend Hugh Harman said at Cinecon 16 in 1980. “It won a Parent’s Magazine award. It was nominated for an Academy Award but did not win. Other awards including a citation from the National Congress of Parent-Teachers, I think, and the Catholic Women’s Guild of America gave it a citation and there were others.”
Hamhock Jones. Besides Crusader Rabbit, in 1948, Television Arts Productions (Alex Anderson and Jay Ward) pitched two other series proposals that were turned down by NBC: Dudley Do-Right and Hamhock Jones. Hamhock Jones was a private eye whose arch enemy was a Siamese twin. One twin was good and the other evil. In the proposal a judge had to face the dilemma of how to sentence the evil twin without locking up the good twin.
Rather Be Golfing. Norm Prescott and his long time partner Lou Scheimer, formed Filmation Studios in 1963. In 1982, Prescott unexpectedly announced his immediate retirement. Prescott said that when he was faced with the prospect of renewing his contract as Chairman of the studio, he decided he would rather play golf. He agreed to continue on as consultant for the remaining two years of his current contract and let Scheimer continue to oversee the day-to-day operation of Filmation. Scheimer did some musical work on Filmation series under the pseudonym Erika Lane (the name of his daughter and son). Prescott also did some musical work for Filmation under the pseudonym Jeff Michael (the names of his two sons).
Pirate Jack. In 1982, animation legend Joe Barbera claimed that after the release of “Heidi’s Song” (1982), that the next animated featue would be “Pirate Jack” that Barbera described as “going beyond ‘Yellow Submarine’ (1968)”. Writer Jameson Brewer who was the main scripter on “Heidi’s Song” also did the screenplay for “The Incredible Mr. Limpet” (1964).
Musicana and The Little Broomstick. From the October 26, 1980 issue of the “Los Angeles Times”: “Woolie Reitherman and Mel Shaw, two Disney veterans, are starting work on ‘Musicana’, an ambitious concept mixing jazz, classical music, myths, modern art and more, following the old ‘Fantasia’ format.”
The project which would have “ethnic tales from around the world with the music of the various countries” was officially shut down in 1983. John Lasseter had done work on a version of “The Emperor’s Nightingale” with Mickey Mouse in a key role. (Some of this artwork was later used in a thirty-two page book released by Disney Press in 1992.) One of the bonus features on the “Fantasia / Fantasia 2000” Blu-ray released in 2010 has more details about the project.
Reitherman and Shaw had also being working on another feature idea, “The Little Broomstick” based on a book by Mary Stewart published in 1971. A lonely little English girl named Mary discovers a strange cat and a flying broomstick and ends up in a witch’s coven where she needs to rescue some animals. Shaw did a ton of wonderful pastel sketches for both “Musicana” and “The Little Broomstick”.
Lucille Bliss and Crusader Rabbit. In an interview in the magazine “California Today” in the 1980s, voice artist Lucille Bliss remembered she got paid five dollars to do the voice of Crusader Rabbit in the pilot episode. She says that once NBC picked up the series, she got paid $25-$30 a episode and that when the company moved to Los Angeles, she got $56 with no residual rights. The music that was used to open the show was “Ten Little Indians” which was used because it was in public domain and a recording was obtained from a stock music library. The name “Crusader Rabbit” was coined by Jay Ward who saw the character as a crusading Don Quixote which explains the shield and lance on some artwork of the character.
The Gary Wolf That Never Was. In 1989, Gary Wolf, author of the book “Who Censored Roger Rabbit?” that inspired the lauded feature film, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” was working on two screenplays for the Disney Company. One would be based on the legend behind the then newly opened waterpark in Florida, “Typhoon Lagoon”, and would have been filmed there on location and the other would be an animated feature. When I contacted Wolf earlier this year about these two projects, he replied, “I worked on the Typhoon Lagoon project with Charlie Fink and later on an animated film I proposed entitled ‘The Flying Tigerfish’ with Bruce Morris. I did write two screenplays, but they never got past the preliminary development stage. I honestly don’t know what more I can tell you about them. I have only hazy memories of writing them.”
Out of Focus. In 1982, it was reported that supposedly one of the reasons Don Bluth and others left the Disney Company was that part of “The Fox and the Hound” was shot out of a focus. Apparently, a new technician had his camera out of focus and no one at the Disney Studio caught the mistake until it was too late and decided it was too expensive to re-shoot and that audiences wouldn’t notice.
Clean Cartoon. “The Secret of NIMH” was the only film in 1982 to get a clean bill of health from the U.S. Catholic Conference’s Department of Communication. All other films got an “O” rating for morally objectionable. The film was budgeted at seven million dollars and with 30 months for production. Artists were given various numbers of “shares” in the film, to be paid back to the artists with the film’s profits. Director Don Bluth not only storyboarded the entire film, and created most of the layouts, but he animated a number of scenes like the climactic sword fight between Justin and Jenner.