Synchro-Vox. Animation fans are familiar with “Synchro-Vox” used on Cambria Studios shows like “Clutch Cargo” and “Space Angel”. Basically, talking human lips superimposed over a cartoon image of a face. Cambria also used the same technique on twelve television commercials for Dove Tissues that ran only on the East Coast around 1959. (Earlier, “Clutch Cargo”, producer Dick Brown had used the system on a 1955 commercial of the Quaker Oats man who talked.) Each commercial ended with a cliff-hanger.
Cambria also used the system for two sample episodes based on the famous comic strip “Moon Mullins” by cartoonist Frank Williard that Cambria hoped would become a series. It also produced a pilot for “Doc Potts” using Synchro-Vox. Another series that would have utilized the technique but never got off the drawing board was “Duke Danger” created and designed by artist Doug Wildey who shortly thereafter designed “The Adventures of Jonny Quest” for Hanna-Barbera.
Those Stupid Americans. Nickelodeon objected to a “Duckula” episode entitled Mississippi Duck which Cosgrove Hall had specially targeted to the American market. Nick executives claimed the average American viewer wasn’t capable of picking up on steamboat jokes and Tom Sawyer references.
The Real Natasha. Actress Sally Kellerman portrayed the role of Natasha Fatale in the live action film Boris and Natasha (1992) stated that “Mr. (Jay) Ward (the producer of “Rocky and Bullwinkle”) was something of a recluse but there was a Bullwinkle shop in Los Angeles (Korkis Note: The Dudley Do-Right Emporium on Sunset Boulevard) and I was researching my Natasha part so I went in there one day anonymously to look around, and a woman waited on me who turned out to be Mrs. Ward. When I finished shopping, ego took over and I introduced myself. Mrs. Ward said, ‘Oh, but you are Natasha! My husband must meet you.’ Then she got out Mr. Ward, and he came out and was polite when she said I was to be Natasha but he was certainly not enthusiastic.” While the film came out in 1992 and Ward passed away in 1989, the “Los Angeles Times” newspaper for September 25, 1988 announced the film was beginning production so that is how this meeting took place.
Walt’s Secret. “That was the secret of Walt,” said Disney Legend Ward Kimball in a mid-1970s interview. “He didn’t do the stuff with his tongue-in-cheek. When he did Flowers and Trees (1932) which had a tragic ending, he was sincere. He believed in it. And when he did Snow White (1937), he was completely serious. And to this day, the picture makes people cry when Snow White dies. The new generation sits there sobbing in their Kleenex. And this is something that’s very hard to do with a cartoon because after all you are exaggerating and caricaturing and the tendency is to do a put-on. Not Walt! I think that was his secret.”
Oy Vey! When “An American Tail” was released in 1986, there were several promotional tie-ins. One of the most visible was with McDonalds’s where if you bought McDonald’s gift certificates you could get a free “American Tail” Christmas stocking. The only trouble was that the animated film was about a Jewish mouse. McDonald’s quickly withdrew the offer and substituted story books which misspelled Feivel’s name.
The Black Cauldron. Author Lloyd Alexander was interviewed by Scholastic Inc. before he passed away in 2007 and one of the questions the students asked was his feeling about Disney’s animated feature “The Black Cauldron” (1985) based on his books. Alexander replied: “First, I have to say, there is no resemblance between the movie and the book. Having said that, the movie in itself, purely as a movie, I found to be very enjoyable. I had fun watching it. What I would hope is that anyone who sees the movie would certainly enjoy it, but I’d also hope that they’d actually read the book. The book is quite different. It’s a very powerful, very moving story, and I think people would find a lot more depth in the book. There is a very good possibility of other movies. Disney, again, is interested in an animated movie of ‘Time Cat’. This could happen in the next several years. Time Cat should be a lot of fun as an animated movie – I just hope I’m around to see it.” Time Cat is about Gareth a talking cat who can visit nine different points of history (his nine lives, basically).
Thumbelina Thoughts. The live action reference actors for Don Bluth’s Thumbelina (1994) were Bluth animator Chris Derochie for Prince Cornelius and actress Angeline Ball (from “MyGirl2” and “The Commitments”) as Thumbelina. The voice of Thumbelina was actress Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel in The Little Mermaid. Gary Imhoff did the voice of the Prince. When animators pointed out to Don that Thumbelina was becoming a much stronger character than the Prince, Don told them to soften her personality so it was more realistic that she would marry the Prince at the end.
John Musker Doesn’t Clean Up. Animation director John Musker told writer Jim Fanning in 1992 that just as he was hired at the Disney Studio, he was pushed into a role he hadn’t been prepared to do. “Pete’s Dragon (1977) was behind schedule and they were pressing everybody into doing clean-up on it so Brad Bird and I took a clean-up test. We both flunked the test. They hated our clean-up so much they said ‘you better stay just doing the rough stuff because you’re so bad at clean-up’. People thought we threw the test, that I had deliberately done poorly. But, no, I just wasn’t any good at it. So as it turned out, we did go to work on Small One (1978). I wasn’t credited on the film. I got mad about that because I think they said you had to have a hundred feet of animation. I had like sixty feet of animation. I worked with Cliff Nordberg on the auctioneer character. I did the kind of shots that Cliff didn’t want to do. The auctioneer was kind of Tony from Lady and the Tramp (1955) with a different mustache.”