ANIMATION ANECDOTES
January 24, 2014 posted by Jim Korkis

Animation Anecdotes #146

peter-puckPeter Puck. Disney did some odd character creations for a number of commercial clients over the decades – but Peter Puck was the work of Hanna-Barbera. “When I was with NBC in 1973, my boss, Scotty Connell, decided that our intermission features (for NBC’s “NHL Game of the Week”) needed to be more instructional in nature. He called Joe Barbera out at Hanna-Barbera, and said, ‘We need a little animated character to describe hockey’. They asked me to send Hanna-Barbera some of my literature on hockey, some of my books, and describe what an offside is and that sort of thing. Barbera himself gave the character the alliterative name of ‘Peter Puck’,” stated broadcaster Brian McFarlane.

Nine episodes were made over a two year period. The voice work for those episodes was done by Micky Dolenz of “The Monkees” who did voice work for Hanna-Barbera in the 1970s. Later, Ronnie Schell did the voice work. To save having to come up with $200,000 for more segments, McFarlane devised a way of having Peter Puck skip across the screen for 30 seconds and say “I am going to tell you a story from my hockey history book” and then run videotape of archival hockey footage.

Peter was officially retired in 1980. McFarlane also came up with a female companion, Penny Puck, which was just a Peter Puck walkaround costume with a hair bow on top. McFarlane negotiated with Hanna-Barbera in the 1980s to possess the worldwide rights to the character.

Blues Brothers Animated. Recently, actor Dan Aykroyd announced that there were plans to develop an animated “Blues Brothers” television series. However back in 1996, he announced the same thing. “I am very excited about this project, which is going to be funny as well as educational int erms of Blues music and artists who founded Rock’n’Roll,” stated Aykroyd. UPN network had ordered thirteen episodes from Film Roman.

blues-bros“The Blues Brothers classic comic characters are a natural for animation. We known that UPN will be a great partner with Film Roman in enusring the success of the series,” stated producer Phil Roman. “We are also enthusiastic about handling the licensing and merchandising for this project which has already generated tremendous interest from licensees.”

Film Roman was to develop and handle the planned roll-out of merchandise to launch prior to the series. Eight episodes were completed but never aired. The series was cancelled by UPN when a new CEO came on board. Peter Aykroyd (younger brother of Dan) provided the voice for Elwood and James Belushi (younger brother of John) the voice for Jake. The episode titles were “Can’t Buy Me Love”, “Don’t Know Much About History”, “True Lies”, “Strange Death of Betty Smythe”, “Gigolo Jake”, “The People’s Party”, “Piano Movin’ Blues” and “Dancing in the Dark”.

mushu-225Being Mushu. “I began designing Mushu long before we had Eddie (Murphy) as a voice. There were six months where I was designing the character and I’m hearing rumors of this voice and that voice. And, I would have never originally have thought of Eddie Murphy. In the end, it was Michael Eisner himself who picked Eddie Murphy, because Michael Eisner had worked with Eddie at Paramount on films like ‘Trading Places’ (1983). I must admit I have seen all of (Murphy’s) films, in preparing for Mushu and met him a few times, which was really great. But, in the end, I think I put more of myself than Eddie Murphy into the character. When you look at it, you’ll see Eddie Murphy coming through. It all comes down to: no matter how strong your voice talent is, and we have a very strong one here, you get to a point where the character comes alive. At a certain point, it wasn’t Eddie anymore that we were trying to portray, it was Mushu,” said Mushu animator Tom Bancroft in 1997.

Dillin. Comic book artist Dick Dillin, well known for his work on DC’s iconic comic book series “Justice League of America” and “Blackhawk, did storyboards for the animated series Johnny Zero (1962) and The Mighty Hercules (1963).

Nudnik Pilot. Yaramaz Nudnik, an optimistic character who competed against overwhelming odds with disastrous results, was the creation of the legendary animator Gene Deitch. Twelve Nudnik cartoon shorts were produced by Rembrandt Films between 1965-1967 with “Here’s Nudnik” (1965) being nominated for an Oscar.

nudnik150In 1996, after airing Nudnik episodes on their “Toonheads” show, Cartoon Network produced a pilot with a live action Nudnik, who in each episode has his own problems facing the simplest of tasks, and would introduce three cartoons from the Rembrandt Films library including one “Nudnik” cartoon.

“This could mean a major career comeback for all of our characters who have been out of a job so long,” said Adam Snyder, the President of Rembrandt Films and son of William Snyder, founder of Rembrandt Films.

Deitch said, “Nudnik came from me. I’ve always been very clumsy. While at Terrytoons in the mid-’50s, working on a moviola, my tie got threaded into the machine and my teeth almost got knocked out! That kind of stuff was always happening to me, so I got to thinking about a character to whom everything went wrong, I have a very close affinity to Nudnik.”

EEK! Captain Kirk. I enjoyed an animated show that no one talks about these days: Eek! The Cat (1992-1997) from Savage Steve Holland and Bill Kopp with animation by Nelvana. One of the things that Holland was proud about the series was the voice work including actor William (Captain Kirk) Shatner stepping in to voice the role of Santa on the 1993 prime time “Eek! Christmas Special” and also Captain Berzerk in an episode entitled “Eek Space 9” (November 11, 1995).

Holland remembered, “Mr. Shatner had us on the floor when he came in to record because he REALLY wants to make his character exceptional. He literally gets red in the face trying to give us the best character voice he can muster. It’s incredible to watch.” Also in that “Eek Space 9” episode were the voices of actors Gillian Anderson and David Duchovney in character as Scully and Mulder from the popular “X-Files” television series.


6 Comments

  • Peter Puck was brought out of retirement from fall 2009 to early 2012 for CBC’s Hockey Night In Canada pre-game broadcast. I directed a total of 76 episodes, most of them between a minute and 1:45 in length. Peter was a CG character in this incarnation, animated in Maya by Froilan Untalasco and David Diaz, and voiced by Jim Annan. Gary Pearson wrote the scripts and Damian Kearns mixed the sound. The production was done in-house at CBC Toronto. Unlike the original productions, these were for a Canadian audience who knew hockey (skewed somewhat to kids but not entirely), so the stories celebrated the feats of former or current players or were tied into upcoming events (Hockey Day, the Olympics, etc.).
    You can see some of them if you Click Here.

    • Thank you Philips, I was going to mention something about that, having noticed those newer Peter Puck shorts as well (too bad they couldn’t use ‘em down here though I’m sure we’ve plum forgotten that guy ever existed outside the previous generation).

    • In discussing the recent Peter Puck I forgot to give credit to Orin Isaacs for the music.

  • Even though Deitch had left Terrytoons by the time “Foofle’s Train Ride” came out in 1959, that cartoon seems to have been the template for his later Nudnick series.

  • Eek!’s intro recalls Kopp’s animated opening sequence to Holland’s 1985 “Better Off Dead”.

  • I say “sabotaage”.
    (William Shatner recording dialogue for Star Trek: The Animated Series.)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlOTRxt-dIw

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