Vegetarian Shaggy. Casey Kasem did the voice of Shaggy Rogers in Scooby-Doo series from 1968-1990. In the 1970s, Kasem became a vegetarian and by the 1980s refused to do any commericals for clients that sold meat, fish, poultry or dairy products. As Kasem remembered, “At Hanna-Barbera, I asked the director at the time if it would be possible to quietly make Shaggy and Scooby vegetarians in the series. The director of the shows at the time, Gordon Hunt, Helen Hunt’s father, said, ‘Sure, Casey, we can do that’. So when Scooby and Shaggy had a pizza, instead of pepperoni, they would put vegetables on it. Instead of a hamburger, they would have an elaborate peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
The One Time Kasem Said “No” To Shaggy. The only time Kasem didn’t provide Shaggy’s voice during this time period was for a couple of Burger King teleivision commercials to promote some toys for the children meals. “I said I couldn’t do it. It was against my conscience to promote something that I myself wouldn’t eat. So I told Hanna-Barbera I couldn’t do it. They were willing to understand, after playing Shaggy for those 300 shows and a couple of moives, that I turned them down on one commercial.”
The Song Never Written. Composer Stephen Schwartz had one regret about working on the animated feature The Prince of Egypt (1998). “I felt strongly and frankly still do to some extent, that since this was a brothers’ story, there ought to be a song for the two brothers somewhere toward the beginning of the film. I thought it should be the second number of the film. I took about three or four passes at it and for various reasons none of them really did what we need them to do. So I never found it.”
When Captain America Throws His Mighty Shield. Often, you never realize what you will stumble across on You Tube. Composer Jack Urbont wrote the lyrics and the music for the infamous Sixties Marvel Superheroes television animated series songs. Recently, I stumbled across a You Tube video where he talks about nothing absolutely nothing about the characters as he sat down with creator Stan Lee to come up with catchy theme songs for the characters. Sitting at a piano, he tells some great anecdotes as well as singing the beloved songs.
Sylvester and Tweety Mystery solved. The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries ran on the Kids WB (and later Cartoon Network) from 1995 to 2002. Animation legend Bob Givens worked on the series and revealed in 1998: “You know what I am doing on the Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries? When we have groups of people in the background, I’m using old guys from the Schlesinger studio. I’m using Schlesinger, Chuck (Jones), (Bob) Clampett, Ken Harris, myself. They’re our stock crowd scene characters. The caricatures were originally done by T. Hee years ago and they were very real, more real than the photograph. And it’s very funny because we know who they are but also because they’re funny characters.”
The Saturday Morning That Might Have Been. In the Spring of 1998, MGM Animation announced it was producing a new television animated series Robocop: Alpha Commando and it did premiere in September 1998. Previously, Robocop: The Animated Series was produced by Marvel in 1988. When the series was announced, MGM also claimed that it had in preparation animated versions of Stargate SG-1, The Outer Limits, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and Tiny Tank. MGM producer Robert Winthrop replied to the question about this aggressive slate of projects with “We’ve been around for five years, but nobody’s heard of us.” At that point MGM had done a Pink Panther series and the All Dogs Go to Heaven television series as well as the straight to video Babes in Toyland animated feature. Also planned were animated home video features for Swiss Family Robinson, The Monkees and Jack the Giant Killer. “These shows are a testament to the diversity that will become the signature of our future in this business,” said Jay Fukuto, senior vice president of MGM Animation.
Never Made Animated Features. In 1998 Universal Pictures confirmed the formation of Universal Pictures Animation and Visual Effects, a new division dedicated to developing and producing fully animated feature films, with a particular focus on CGI. Universal’s approach to feature animation was unique in that they planned to outsource all production work to external companies. Three projects were announced, all of which are in development: Frankenstein, a remake of the classic horror tale by Mary Shelley, Alien Pet Store, with illustrator Keith Graves and producer John Williams, and Miss Spider, based on the popular children’s books by David Kirk.
Universal was close to signing a deal with a leading computer animation studio (ILM) for production of Frankenstein, but no production deals were ever announced. Universal expected to have its first film from this new venture ready for release by summer of 2001. None of these productions were made but several sequels to The Land Before Time and An American Tail were released.
The Universal version of Frankenstein would be set 40 years in the future of the original book. An all CGI animated feature, the film was about a scientist who is hunting down the legendary immortal monster to aid in his research in “improving” modern life forms.
Virtual Bill Clinton. After America tuned in to network TV on January 27, 1998, for one of the most-watched State of the Union addresses in history, MTV viewers were treated to a special called, “The State of Music Videos” hosted by a CGI “Virtual Bill Clinton.” It was created by San Francisco-based Protozoa, using motion-capture technology to animate a CG-rendered character. “Typically, animated characters are expected to be wacky, eye-popping, tongue-wagging cartoons that use extremes of appearances or action to make them entertaining,” said Protozoa’s creative director Steve Rein. However, MTV wanted Virtual Bill to be believable. Animator Steve Rein added that “photo-realistic humans are extremely hard to achieve in CGI, especially when the subject is such a recognizable figure.” Production on “The State of Music Videos” was completed before the media frenzy surrounding Bill Clinton’s alleged affair started, so the special did not include topical jokes on the situation which a Protozoa spokesperson noted “isn’t funny yet.” MTV planned to use Virtual Bill in future broadcasts to respond to current events, live on television.