ANIMATION ANECDOTES
December 20, 2013 posted by Jim Korkis

Animation Anecdotes #141

Ann Margrock. Artist Doug Wildey once was assigned in 1963 to draw a cartoon version of actress Ann-Margret to appear in an episode of “The Flintstones” television series. He easily drew the semi-realistic head of the character, Ann Margrock, but due to his life-like drawing style, he could not complete a good enough Flintstones-like version of her body to fit in with the rest of the cartoons characters. That body was left to one of the regular staff artists, who I believe was Dick Bickenbach but could have been Dick Lundy. On the other hand, Hanna-Barbera staff artists had difficulty drawing in Wildey’s style for the series “Jonny Quest”.

Avoiding Ray Disney. One day at the Disney Studio, Ward Kimball was talking with another Disney animator, Murray McClennan (who did some of the animation on the unicorns in “Fantasia” and some scenes of Figaro in “Pinocchio”), when he looked out the window and saw Walt’s older brother, Ray, approaching the animation building. Ray sold insurance and he had had Ward in his sights for some time. Ray was the inspiration for “Honest John” Worthington Foulfellow, the fox character in Disney’s animated feature, “Pinocchio”(1940).

Ward didn’t have time to get to his own room or to escape so he pleaded with McClennan to try to get rid of Ray. There was a good sized armoire in the room and Ward was small enough that he slipped inside without any trouble. Ward was known for his practical jokes and McClennan had been a victim so he decided to have some fun.

He explained to Ray that Ward wasn’t around but invited Ray to wait for him to return. McClennan even ordered coffee from the commissary to be brought to his room for the two of them. Instead of being angry, Ward was actually delighted that he was so well hidden from Ray and that he had to contain himself from making any noise. Finally, even Ray’s patience was at an end and he left and within minutes, Ward came tumbling out of the armoire rolling in laughter.

Hugh Harman’s Elergy. “(After ‘Peace on Earth’ 1939), I remember when I was making another picture for MGM and it was, oh I would say half finished in animation, and its cost was about half completed, sticking to the budget…This was a serious picture. It was a beautiful thing. It was just a recitation of the poem ‘Gray’s Elergy In a Country Churchyard’.

(Korkis Note: Actually ‘Elergy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray about how poverty can be both a blessing and a curse.)

“It’s a beautiful thing. It has a great number of verses. Anyhow, we had that picture about halfway finished when I came down to the studio one morning and the picture had disappeared. It’s a pretty hard thing to have a picture disappear on you…thousands of drawings, you know? Backgrounds, everything, just gone as if they never existed!” recalled animation legend Hugh Harman in an interview at Cinecon 16 in 1980.

Willie the Kid. Thorton Hee, better known as “T. Hee” received the Bob Clampett Animation Award July 31, 1982 as part of the festivities of the 12th Annual Fantasy Faire held at the Griswold Inn in Fullerton, California. Several of the films he worked on were shown and Hee had some interesting comments.

One of the films shown was Willie the Kid (1952), a “Jolly Frolics” for UPA. “Bo Cannon and I went to a school to get an idea for a cartoon using a teacher. We saw a little boy walking very fast up ahead of us. He had his hand up like this (like a cowboy six-shooter). We met with a teacher and told her of our idea about making a cartoon about teachers. She then called in her administrator, a big heavy lady who demanded ‘What do you want?’ We explained and she said, ‘Go see my supervisor’. We left. On the way back to our car, we see this little boy again. ‘He is a cowboy! That’s it!’ I told Bo we’ll do a picture on that…the imaginary adventures of little Willie pretending to be a cowboy and ordinary household objects becoming part of the Western landscape of his mind.”

willi-kid

Whatever Happened to this manuscript? Animation artist Phil DeGuard died November 20, 1982 at the age of 72. He had a long career in animation. He started at the Charles Mintz Studios in 1936 and worked on the Krazy Kat and Scrappy series. After that, he spent some time at Walter Lantz and then around 1946 joined Chuck Jones’ Warner Brothers animation unit. When Jones left to hook up with MGM, DeGuard went along.

In addition, DeGuard wrote a syndicated column about Hollywood gossip. Apparently, he also wrote an autobiography that in 1982 was announced to be published posthumously but it never appeared. Whatever happened to that manuscript? In addition, I am still searching for the Roy “Big Mooseketeer” Williams autobiography that he self published but still keep hitting dead ends.

Chipmunk Day. Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley officially declared October 25, 1982 “Chipmunk Day” in honor of Alvin, Simon and Theodore’s new album released that day, “Chipmunks Go Hollywood” (featuring Chipmunk versions of songs like “Eye of the Tiger”, “9 to 5” and “Fame”). It began with a singing performance at the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital and then costume actors representing the chipmunks appeared on a specially built stage in the parking lot of Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard. There was even a “paw print in cement” ceremony.

Meet the Flintstones. In 1989, actor Jim Belushi said he had read the script for the live action movie “The Flintstones” (1994) and was ready to play the role of Fred whenever the production company was ready to film. Producer Joel Silver had expressed interest in using Belushi but the script by Steven E. da Souza was rejected and the film went through several revisions until it was obtained by Amblin Entertainment. Steven Spielberg was insistent that John Goodman play the role of Fred after working with him in the film “Always” (1989).

The Great Race. One of DePatie-Freleng’s first animated film titles were for the Blake Edwards film The Great Race (1965). The sound design that won an Oscar for that movie was by Treg Brown who had worked on many classic Warner Brothers cartoons and many of the sound effects in the final film were familiar to cartoon buffs.

7 Comments

  • Thank you, thank you. Merry Christmas.

  • DePatie-Freleng got two animated characters out of Blake Edwards’s “Pink Panther” titles. I sometimes wondered if Roland and Ratfink were originally conceived as corresponding cartoon versions of The Great Leslie and Professor Fate from “The Great Race.”

    While not resembling the credit sequence caricatures, Roland did approximate the exaggerated good guy and Ratfink the short-fused villain. The characterizations were pretty fuzzy, however. In the first, Roland was a sort of hippie trying to win over a flower-hating Ratfink. Later toons dropped them into the various settings, sometimes playing with the parody hero/villain thing and sometimes not. Only one toon came anywhere near a road race, and it was near the end of the short-lived series.

    The Pink Panther and The Inspector were distributed by UA, which also handled the Pink Panther features. “The Great Race” was a Warner film. That may have kept us from seeing characters named Leslie and Fate.

    • The connection with Roland and Ratfink may not be quite that strong. Jerry Beck’s own Pink Panther book, which also deals with other De Patie-Freleng theatrical series, includes some early model charts of R & R that show a copyright in the name of Spungbuggy Works, a TV commercial studio of that era. How DFE came to own the characters and make the series I don’t know. Though it certainly could be that whoever it was at Spungbuggy was influenced by the Blake Edwards characters too.

  • Re: the pulling of Gray’s Elegy – so what was going on at MGM in 1939? In that year 12 shorts are listed as abandoned, which must have left a considerable dent in the budget!

    • That is an interest topic in it’s own right that deserves further discussion if or when that will happen. (probably won’t given how many of these people are no longer with us).

  • IMDb lists Ken Mundie (“The Door”) as uncredited title designer for The Great Race. The watercolor style of the drawings is similar to that of “The Door.” Was Mr. Mundie associated with DFE?

  • Re:Ann-Margarock, for a b eloved classic episode, this isn’t one of my favorites unless Fred and Barney are with her (like at the end.)

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