Animated Splits. What is the only project to feature animated versions of Hanna-Barbera’s live action costumed The Banana Splits? The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie, The Banana Splits in Hocus Pocus Park (11/25/72) filmed at Cincinnati’s King’s Island amusement park. The Splits are tour guides who offer to take a little girl named Susie on a tour of the park. Chasing a runaway balloon, the group enters a billboard and is transformed into animated characters as poor Susie is captured by a witch. Two magicians named Hocus and Pocus help the Splits to rescue her. According to TV Guide “The Banana Splits go bananas in Hocus Pocus Park. The Splits fall for the old enchanted balloon trick and wind up in the clutches of a wicked witch and two wacky wizards.”
Animation Influences. In 1999, animation legend Eric Goldberg who had supervised the work on The Carnival of the Animals sequence in Fantasia 2000 told an audience during a lecture that one of his design influences for the sequence was the comic strip B.C. by Johnny Hart. The expression on the flamingo’s face is curiously similar to one of Hart’s cavemen.
Animation That Never Was. In the 1980s, Hanna-Barbera had an exclusive agreement with comedian Eddie Murphy to produce a cartoon starring him for an ABC prime time half hour show. It was never produced.
The Magic of Maurice. At an August 1999 lecture, layout artist Maurice Noble shared some thoughts about his legendary designs. When assigned to design a background, he would immediately borrow materials from the Warner Brothers research library and immerse himself in the pictures for days. Then he would return everything and begin the design. He found that whatever images stuck out in his mind gave the essence of what he wanted. He also discovered that if an idea he developed wasn’t used to save it because it might be right for another cartoon. The example he gave was the giant eyeball in Duck Dodgers in the 24th and ½ Century was originally designed for an earlier cartoon and never used.
Simpsons House. Ever wonder who won the life-size replica of the Simpsons’ family home that was announced in 1997 as part of “The Simpsons House Give Away” sponsored by Fox, Pepsi and the homebuilding company? The contest was part of a promotion for the interactive game “Virtual Springfield” and the season premiere of The Simpsons’ ninth season in 1998.
The contest winner, Barbara Howard, 63-year-old grandmother of thirteen, didn’t want to move from her farm in Richmond, Kentucky to Henderson, Nevada where the house was located. So, she’s opted for the $75,000 that the sponsors offered instead.
Kaufman & Broad built the house at 712 Red Bark Lane in Henderson, Nevada. The estimated worth of the house was $120,000. The contest was announced on July 10, 1997. Contest entries were included on various Pepsi products and 15 million entries were submitted nationally.
The finished 2,200 square foot replica was four bedrooms, two story and painted bright yellow and baby blue on its exterior. It met all building codes, something the animated house wouldn’t be able to do since it had no load bearing walls. The interior featured 1,500 Simpsons related props from corn cob curtains to cans of Duff Beer. In 2001, after most of the details relating to the television series were removed, the house was sold by the builder to another owner.
The Minah Bird. According to Warner Brothers artist Bob Givens in 1998, “When I was doing story, I threw in the Minah Bird based off a bird I had seen in Hawaii two years before. I did a rough of it and then we had a character designer there named Charlie Thorson who did the actual model sheet of it. But I had the original idea in the rough storyboard so he didn’t create it, he just cleaned it up. Other characters I created were The Bookworm, Charlie Dog, the adult ghost from Ghost Wanted (1940), the original model sheets for Sniffles, the Draft Horse, Cecil the Turtle and numerous other characters.”
Origin of Hillbilly Bears. Legendary Hanna-Barbera artist Iwao Takamoto told this story in 1999: “Sometimes a name like The Beverly Hillbillies would start a design. Joe (Barbera) comes up with this great title Hillbilly Bears. Everybody loves it. So he comes in and says he’s going to New York and asks if I can give him a family of bears—a mother, a father, and this time a teenage girl and a little kid brother—which sounds like The Jetsons. Anyway, all I know is that they’re bears and they’re hillbillies. So I do a line up on that and he grabs it and takes it to New York, comes back and says ‘I’m in trouble’. ‘Why?’ and he says ‘Because they loved it. They loved the title, concept and designs. And we got the show. Now I don’t know what the hell to do with it’. So it works like that sometimes.”
Knucklehead Bears. Prior to the death of leader Jerry Garcia, Knucklehead Productions (that provided animation for bands like The Grateful Dead, Blues Traveler, The Rolling Stones, and others) was hard at work on creating a new animated feature called The Dead-Head Bears. After his death, the project was revised and called Bearsville. The basic premise was still the same though: adventures in a village of hippy, pot-smoking bears. In October 1999, it was announced the film would be coming soon. Nick Stavrides was doing the writing and animation supervised by Richard Gamache and Wayne Damage. The bears included Frances, William, Munch Man, Spinner (female), Hacha, Tim, Scratchy, Burny and two raccoons named Chaos and Mayhem.
Where are these films now? Tom and Jerry animator Irv Spence wanted to be a live-action director and producer so he experimented with making his own movies. One of his earliest attempts in the early 1940s was called Rats in Spats, a black-and-white gangster film. Animator Ray Patterson was cast as the lead part in another Spence film entitled Rugged Rangers that also included others of the then MGM crew including Harvey Eisenberg, Tiger West, Eddie Barge, John Borscema, and Mike Lah. Spence had a cameo and his wife, Alice, made the costumes for this parody of Western films. The color film was shot in Big Bear and Red Rock Canyon (near the Mojave Desert) over a period of six weekends.
Note: Jerry Beck is preparing both “Rats In Spats” and “Rugged Rangers” (with audio commentary by Spence and others) for a special Cartoon Research post coming later this year. Stay tuned! In the meantime, here are some intriguing frame grabs (click thumbnails below to enlarge).