ANIMATION ANECDOTES
January 3, 2014 posted by Jim Korkis

Animation Anecdotes #143

The Musical Flintstones. In 1988, The Screaming Blue Messiahs, a punk/new wave rock group, released a single titled “I Wanna Be A Flintstone” (peaking at number 28 on the charts). The music video which ran on MTV featured cartoon clips from the Hanna-Barbera series intercut with scenes of the real band. Another punk rock group, The Dickies, produced Bowling With Bedrock Barney. In the 1985 film documentary Bring on the Night, singer Sting sings the Flintstones theme song – and in Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), comedian John Candy led a busload of passengers in the chorus of that famous theme song.

Credit Where Credit Is Due. In animation, sometimes the official credits are incorrect. Jack Hannah only worked on the Hare-cules Hare segments for the animated “Beany and Cecil” but received credit for working on the entire series. Tim Bugard Burgard storyboarded sections of three different episodes of “The Simpsons” but only received onscreen credit for one episode. In the UPA “Dick Tracy” television series, voice artist Mel Blanc did the voice of Mexican stereotype detective Go Go Gomez but only for the pilot episode. Legendary Paul Frees did the voice on the one hundred or so other cartoons yet only Blanc is often credited with doing the voice of the character. Sometimes Clarence “Ducky” Nash who did the voice of Donald Duck gets credit for doing the similar voice for Hanna-Barbera’s Little Quacker (actually Red Coffee) and Yakky Doodle (actually Jimmy Weldon).

Princess Voices. Actress Jodi Benson, who supplied the voice of the mermaid Ariel in Disney’s animated feature “The Little Mermaid” and its sequel and other related projects, also voiced three other animated princesses: Princess Arabella in “Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect” (1990) and Princess Tula in Hanna-Barbera’s “The Pirates of Dark Water” (1991-1993). Thumbelina with Benson’s voice becomes a fairy princess at the end of the Bluth animated film of the same name. Supposedly the producers of that 1994 film “Thumbelina” generated positive ratings during test screenings by playing the Walt Disney Pictures logo at the beginning, making viewers think they were watching a Disney movie. However, once it was released, it did poorly at the box office and was the only animated feature film to ever win a “Razzie” award, for worst song “Marry the Mole”.

Supervisor? Director! I once asked Warner Brothers director Bob Clampett in the late 1970s, why some of the early Warner cartoons used the term “supervisor” instead of a director credit. Clampett told me, “Leon Schlesinger called his directors ‘supervisors’ which I believe he took from Irving Thalberg, who called his key filmmakers at MGM ‘supervisors’. I think Leon was smart enough to know that if he called people ‘supervisor’ that the audience would think that the supervisor was just the bookkeeper or the pencil lead dispenser. So when Leon went to the racetrack, they’d say, ‘Hey, that was a great cartoon you drew last night, Leon’. And he’d just smile. Sometimes even people in the business didn’t know who was doing what. It has only been in recent years that some of these talented people have started to get credit for their work.”

Unique Wedding Vows. John Hubley had a long and varied career in animation, from work at Disney to time spent at UPA to work as an award-winning animator. Reportedly, when he married Faith, their wedding vows included the stipulation that they would always make at least one independent film a year and that they would always have dinner with their children.

Gene Kelly Inspiration. Singer and dancer Paula Abdul claimed to know every one of Gene Kelly’s movies by heart, and said she used his 1945 film “Anchors Aweigh” where he dances with an animated Jerry the Mouse as her inspiration for her “Opposites Attract” video in which she danced with an animated cool cat. The video, with animation directed by Chris Bailey (Runaway Brain, Kim Possible) is embed below.

Father or Mother? “The thing I wanted to do in ‘Luxo, Jr.’ was make the characters and story the most important thing, not the fact that it was done in computer graphics,” animator and director John Lasseter told writer Harry McCracken in 1990. “After the film show, Jim Blinn, who’s one of the pioneers in this (computer animation) field, came running up to me and said, ‘John, I have to ask you a question.’ And I thought, ‘I don’t know anything about these algorithms. I know he’s going to ask me about the shadow algorithms or something like that’. And he asked me, ‘John, was the parent lamp a mother or a father?’ Here’s one of the real brains in computer graphics was concerned more about whether the parent lamp was a mother or a father. That question keeps coming up. I always envisioned it as a father, but it’s based greatly on my mother. To me, if it was a mother lamp, she would never let the baby jump on that ball. But the dad is like, ‘Go ahead, jump on it, fall off and break your bulb. You’ll learn a lesson’.”

No Monkeying Around. When director Doug Wildey was involved with the Saturday morning animated series “Return to the Planet of the Apes” (1975), he ran up against NBC’s “Emulative Clause”. Basically, the clause stated that something from an animated series needed to be eliminated if a six year old child could physically emulate what he sees on the cartoon.

Wildey discovered that the network would not allow him to equip the war-like military apes with machine guns or knives or clubs or pistols or hand grenades because of the fear that a six year old child might be able to emulate the action. (The network did relent somewhat by allowing rifles to be strapped to ape soldiers’ backs but only if they were never used.)

Finally, in desperation Wildey asked if it would be okay to use Howitzers. The network agreed that they could not think of a way a six year old could operate a Howitzer so Wildey loaded the series with the weapon and said at the time, “we had them on cassions following jeeps and we had them blowing away mountain tops and we had Howitzers going all the time because the Emulative Clause stopped at a Howitzer.” A Howitzer is a big gun with a short barrel used by the army to fire a shell over a short distance. It can fire higher than a cannon and lower than a mortar.

return-planet-apes

12 Comments

  • Ah, legalese. Completely and utterly stupid until the rule protects me or the loophole works in my favor. Then it’s totes awesome.

    I know when I was five or six, I thought long and hard about the possibility of immediate recovery from everything from the Stooges’ eye-pokes to the occasional good hard KLUDDD!! to the skull–after all, TV wouldn’t lie to me! (At that age I was also pretty certain I was going to be Batman when I grew up and started mapping out potential Batcave locations around Lubbock, Texas.) Instead of trying desperately to get more bullets flying on TV, perhaps Wildey should’ve considered reimagining the violent Planet of the Apes series rather than simply assuming its violence would be “okay” in cartoon form.

    …Rrrrghh! What happened to you, Don Bluth? I still watch The Secret of NIMH and dream of what might have been.

    • “Instead of trying desperately to get more bullets flying on TV, perhaps Wildey should’ve considered reimagining the violent Planet of the Apes series rather than simply assuming its violence would be “okay” in cartoon form.”

      I suppose I do sorta wonder where else they could’ve taken it otherwise if it had to be sanitized to some extent (at least it wasn’t banana creme pies). I’m kinda glad he got away with the Howitzers at all. That sounds like something I’d pull just to screw the network around.

      “…Rrrrghh! What happened to you, Don Bluth? I still watch The Secret of NIMH and dream of what might have been.

      That is a shame really. We still think of what it could’ve been had he not fell victim to pleasing studio heads with ‘safe’ and sure material.

  • Very interesting to get the inside scoop from Wildey on the censorship restrictions he encountered. I knew that the networks placed draconian restrictions on any kind of action in cartoons during the 70s, but didn’t realize things had gotten that ridiculous. That helps explain why the 70s were such a desolate wasteland for action cartoons.

    Ironically, Wildey’s Jonny Quest played constantly in reruns on TV in the 70s, nearly every episode of which involved a few violent deaths (albeit not graphic). NBC even put Jonny Quest in its regular Saturday morning lineup from 1979-81. I guess kids were pining for the “anything goes” 60s.

  • The Simpson’s storyboard artist’s name is spelled Tim Burgard, not Tim Bugard.

    • Noted – and corrected above. Thanks, Tom.

  • Don’t forget Weird Al Yankovic’s “Bedrock Anthem”, which featured sound snippets of Alan Reed and Mel Blanc in the song and Flintstones clips in the video.

  • George Jones’ “The King Is Gone (So Are You)” contained mentions of Fred and the repeated usage of “Yabba Dabba Doo” in its lyrics. Jones mentioned in interviews at the time that he had to obtain permission from Hanna-Barbera to release the song.

  • If Clarence Nash is credited with working at MGM, it’s not an “official credit.” It’s a case of fanbois going on-line and making up their own history through half-baked guesswork. Databases and Pedias listing animation credits are especially rife with misinformation.
    Red Coffey or Coffee (he seems to have used both spellings; it wasn’t his real name anyway) was never credited on screen at MGM but he was mentioned on three at least separate occasions in ‘Variety’ as being signed to do the duck voice in a cartoon about to be made.

  • I was wonder which cartoons Jack Hannah directed for “Beany and Cecil”. Thanks, Jim!

  • Thanks for posting that Screaming Blue Messiahs vid. Me being among the original MTV generation, that brought back some fond memories for me. Incidentally, Bowling With Bedrock Barney wasn’t the only song with a reference / homage to a Hanna-Barbera cartoon The Dickies performed. The band is best remembered for their cover version of the theme from “The Banana Splits”.
    Interesting to find out that Chris Bailey was the man directing the Paula Abdul video that introduced the world to MC Skat Kat. Yet it’s easy to tell that most of the actual animation on that video was done by the renowned Darryl Van Citters. I know some of you here may already be familiar with Bailey’s background, but I just discovered myself through IMDb.com that before working on that music video, he’d worked on the animated feature “Starchaser: The Legend Of Orin”, credited as a “computer animation planner”, which I suppose meant he would simultaneously render the layouts by computer while working out the order of action from the storyboards, as well as managing character modeling and rendering. I’ve never actually seen it, but I do remember seeing at least two of the trailers for it. And from what I remember seeing in those trailers, with it’s spectacular, groundbreaking, state-of the-art CGI animation and effects, it was quite an impressive feature for it’s time.

    • Btw, here are a couple of things related to the Paula Abdul anecdote that I feel are worth posting here. After the success of the “Opposites Attract” music video, Virgin/EMI decided to mass market the MC Skat Kat name and character as an individual entity. An album was released, and to promote it, a music video was produced, complete with a guest appearance by Mrs. Abdul. Qualitywise, this is the better of the only two versions posted on YouTube:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quTlKAjWaPM

      A second video was produced but never completed due in most part to the fact that the album wasn’t even bringing in one red cent for the label. All that remains of this forsaken project are live action shots interlaced with unrendered animatics. Still, it’s interesting to see how all the elements come together just to imagine how the final product would look had it been completed.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cAzSPVE6GQ

    • “Interesting to find out that Chris Bailey was the man directing the Paula Abdul video that introduced the world to MC Skat Kat. Yet it’s easy to tell that most of the actual animation on that video was done by the renowned Darryl Van Citters. I know some of you here may already be familiar with Bailey’s background, but I just discovered myself through IMDb.com that before working on that music video, he’d worked on the animated feature “Starchaser: The Legend Of Orin”, credited as a “computer animation planner”, which I suppose meant he would simultaneously render the layouts by computer while working out the order of action from the storyboards, as well as managing character modeling and rendering. I’ve never actually seen it, but I do remember seeing at least two of the trailers for it. And from what I remember seeing in those trailers, with it’s spectacular, groundbreaking, state-of the-art CGI animation and effects, it was quite an impressive feature for it’s time.”

      Well it’s up on YouTube if you’re curious (watch it if you can, these things don’t stick around for long)….
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GB3cVB87_oc

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