ANIMATION ANECDOTES
June 20, 2014 posted by Jim Korkis

Animation Anecdotes #167

Colorized Oswald. In 1984, Fred Ladd and Entercolor Technologies Corp. did a colorization test on the Walter Lantz Oswald the Rabbit cartoon The Toy Shoppe (1934). Universal rejected it and any further plans to colorize the Oswald cartoons. How did Fred Ladd get into colorization? ‘We owned the black and white “Gigantor” series and originally tried to develop, in 1967, a feasible way to convert the series to color. Our early experiments were observed in the film laboratory – which we both used – by people at Warner Brothers, and that led to our being requested to set aside “Gigantor” for the moment, and go ahead, instead, with ‘Porky Pig’ and colorizing 78 Looney Tunes cartoons,” recalled Ladd in 2002.

bender-175The Birth of Futurama. Cartoonist Matt Groening described his inspiration for the animated television series Futurama in a 1999 interview: “There’s certain conceptions of the future which I think are more interesting than others. You know, my older brother had a pile of science-fiction magazines and books and I loved those covers. I just thought it would be really cool, as a kid, if those covers could come to life. I love the look of the 1940s and 50s and early 60s. In the 1970s, things got kind of grim and in the 1980s, it was like, dark and drippy. You know pipes were always dripping in (films like) Blade Runner. We decided what we wanted to do was kind of a Jetsons universe with drippy pipes, basically. Our show takes place in the year 3000 and it’s amazing.

“We’ve created a world, I think, more like we think it’s going to be, not how we wish it. For instance, in the future, one of the great things is there’s going to be 5,000 networks, but UPN will still be in last place. The NRA is still around, but they’re now crusading for the right to bear death rays. You know, gadgets don’t work right. I think the fun thing is to create these gadgets. People get around in New York City by pneumatic tubes. I don’t know exactly how the technology works. It’s very fast, but you end up often hitting a brick wall when you come out at the end.”

Hollywood_matadoeWhere’s Speedy Gonzales When You Need Him? A New York Times article dated July 5, 1944 discussing racial sensitivity stated that “The Motion Picture Society for the Americas convinced [Lantz] that the title of this cartoon (originally The Mad Matador) should be changed to The Hollywood Matador (1942) and that he should re-film 200 of the 600 feet in the short to eliminate a number of Mexicans shown without shoes and another comic Mexican shown sleeping blissfully with a sombrero over his face. The fear was that Mexican audiences would resent the implications of national laziness.” It cost Lantz $15,000 to make the changes after the complaint from the Mexican consul.

Gopher Gibberish. In one scene of the Woody Woodpecker cartoon Wicket Wacky (1951), J. Goofer Gopher (“Goofy Gopher”) speaks in what audiences thought was just gibberish. Slowing the track down, phrases such as “Cohen is trying to call off the manager of a certain bank, who happens to be his landlord” or “Hello? What? What number do I want? Well, what numbers have ya got?” can be clearly heard. The second time when the gopher appears, slowing down the track, the phrases “Are you the bank?” or “This is not a telescope? It’s a telephone?” can be heard. The track actually comes from an early comedy monolog, “Cohen on the Telephone”, performed by comedian Joe Hayman and recorded in 1913.

What’s In A Name? Many animation fans have assumed that the title of the first Andy Panda cartoon, Life Begins for Andy Panda (1939), was a take-off on the title of the popular Mickey Rooney live action film, Life Begins for Andy Hardy (1941). However the live action film appeared roughly two years after the cartoon. The title may have been inspired by the 1932 self-help book, Life Begins at 40.

Scoobydoo-200Why Was Scooby Doo a Success? According to Don Messick who did the voice of Scooby Doo from 1972 1969 until his death in 1997, “It’s because he embraces a lot of human foibles. He’s not the perfect dog…in fact, you might say he’s a coward. Yet, with everything he does, he seems to land on his four feet. He comes out of every situation unscathed. I think the audiences…kids and more mature people as well…can identify with Scooby’s character and his imperfections.”

The Harlem Globetrotters Win. Guest stars in The New Scooby Doo Movies made from 1972-1974 had guest stars that generally fell into three categories: Fictional characters like the Addams Family and Batman, Dead like The Three Stooges and Laurel and Hardy, or living celebrities like Jonathan Winters, Don Knotts and Sonny and Cher. The most frequently featured guest stars were The Harlem Globetrotters who appeared in three of the twenty-four movies.

Captain America Never Was. The animated series Captain America scheduled to air in February 1998 on Fox Kids’ Saturday morning lineup never made it to air. It was to be set during Cap’s early days in World War II and plans included the use of Nazis and guns.

“All of us who were developing the show tended to agree that he works as a World War II character,” said producer Will Meugniot in 1998. “We decided we would approach it more like it was Indiana Jones, a period adventure, big stakes, high adventure, one man against the world.”

Fox’s Broadcast Standards and Practices were concerned about the Nazi content and the series was retooled not to feature any Nazis (except for The Red Skull who was not identified as a Nazi) and to include Bucky and a team of commandos outfitted with futuristic technology. Captain America’s real identity was made “Tommy Tompkins” with the name “Steve Rogers” a cover name assigned by the U.S. Army.

It all became moot when Fox and Saban put all production on all Marvel Entertainment shows on hold – although a promo reel was made utilizing some CG elements:

27 Comments

  • Most of the readers here already know that Fred Ladd’s “colorization” technology was to have cheap labor trace the films overseas. They are ghastly mutilations of the original cartoons. Fred should be ashamed of himself not only for butchering so many cartoons, but also the fact that he was still lying about how they did it in 2002.

    • Luckily, those “colorized” WB cartoons have been relegated to the dustbin of history. I remember when you could only see old Looney Tunes cartoons on TV in their ghastly traced form. I believe it was Nickelodeon who was the first to bring back the original BW versions to mainstream TV.

    • Luckily, those “colorized” WB cartoons have been relegated to the dustbin of history. I remember when you could only see old Looney Tunes cartoons on TV in their ghastly traced form. I believe it was Nickelodeon who was the first to bring back the original BW versions to mainstream TV.

      Pretty much, though some of those cartoons were colorized with a computer anyway and they even dug out the redrawns a few times as well. It was a mixed bag.

    • Most of the readers here already know that Fred Ladd’s “colorization” technology was to have cheap labor trace the films overseas. They are ghastly mutilations of the original cartoons. Fred should be ashamed of himself not only for butchering so many cartoons, but also the fact that he was still lying about how they did it in 2002.

      It’s a lie one too many stations had to swallow their pride with as they kept reusing these prints over and over and over. We should only be grateful if most of that is now in the past, yet remnants still pop up on YouTube all the time. You’d think they’d incinerate these things when they had the chance.
      http://www.ebay.com/itm/BETTY-BOOP-ORIGINAL-PRODUCTION-CEL-/221159214605?pt=Collectibles_Animation_Art&hash=item337e1dce0d

    • Don’t exactly understand what lie Ladd is perpetuating; he made it clear in his memoir that these were “colour converted” (i.e. retraced) in some Seoul sweatshop (though he probably gives his operation too much credit for kickstarting the Korean animation industry):
      http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=rubax5GQA7kC&printsec=frontcover (Chapter 8)

    • Don’t exactly understand what lie Ladd is perpetuating; he made it clear in his memoir that these were “colour converted” (i.e. retraced) in some Seoul sweatshop (though he probably gives his operation too much credit for kickstarting the Korean animation industry):
      AWN did as well in this piece from 16 years back (though at the time centered on outsourced productions)…
      http://www.awn.com/mag/issue2.6/2.6pages/2.6vallaskorea.html

    • Please reread Fred’s quote at the top of this page. The word “convert” followed by “experiments… observed in the film laboratory” are designed to make you believe the films were “colorized” through some chemical process. There is no reference to tracing.

    • Please reread Fred’s quote at the top of this page. The word “convert” followed by “experiments… observed in the film laboratory” are designed to make you believe the films were “colorized” through some chemical process. There is no reference to tracing.

      I suppose it does make me wonder what kind of process might that have been, especially in a late 60′s world when that sort of thing would’ve really been very state-of-the-art. Of course I had it in my head what if Gigantor was redrawn in color instead of the Looney Tunes, it certainly would’ve worked better since the animation wasn’t quite as wild to animate.

  • Universal rejected it and any further plans to colorize the Oswald cartoons.

    Good call, Universal. Fifteen-plus years of experience at “colorization” had obviously done nothing to make Ladd’s work the least bit less sloppy, careless and hap-hazard.

    • The end credit already made me laugh with it’s mangling of “It’s A Universal Cartoon”, I guess they couldn’t read the first line too well due to the brightness of some of those prints and they guessed on saying “USA” instead. It was a good call that Universal turned Fred down that time (though Columbia bothered getting some of their B&W’s done by him anyway I believe).

  • Don Messick started doing the voice of Scooby-Doo in 1969, not 1972.

    • Corrected.

  • SCOOBY DOO, WHERE ARE YOU? debuted on CBS in 1969 and Don Messick voiced him from the beginning of the series. Don was a voice artist who always knew how to relate to his audience and not just make up a voice for a character. Your article, Jim, exemplifies that aspect of his knowledge of his trade, which he did so well. Thank you.

  • “Gopher Gibberish” local angle: we had (and I still have it) an original 78 of the Joe Hyman “Cohen on the Telephone.” Listened to it so much when I was a kid I almost had the whole thing memorized. At the time I had no idea about the New York/Yiddish humor angle; it was just a funny guy talking funny. Just like all the old cultural references in WB cartoons that went over my head, but still had me in stitches.

    • At least a cartoon in the early 50′s saw no problem in using a nearly 40 year old recording if only for a sped-up effect.

  • You say “dead” celebrities like the Three Stooges were guests in The New Scooby-Doo Movies. Moe Howard and Larry Fine were still very much alive in 1972 when NSDM was made (Curly Howard, having passed in 1952, was long gone). They both died a few years later in 1975. You’re right about Laurel and Hardy; Hardy had died in 1957 and Stan passed in 1965.

    • Was the “Curly” who appeared in the New Scooby Doo Movies supposed to be the original Curly, or was he identified as “Curly Joe”? (Joe DeRita, the group’s ‘third stooge’ in the 1960s).

      Larry Fine was aware of the group’s appearance with Scooby Doo. A book I have on the Stooges notes that he complained about not being asked to provide Larry’s voice.

    • Larry Fine was aware of the group’s appearance with Scooby Doo. A book I have on the Stooges notes that he complained about not being asked to provide Larry’s voice.

      That was a shame.

    • Jon,
      It was weird. Shaggy identifies him as “Curly Joe” when the trio appears (Indeed, Curly Joe was alive then as well. He didn’t die until 1993) but the character looks like and acts a lot more like the original Curly Howard. Daws Butler, I believe, did “Curly’s” voice.

  • Universal apparently had more taste than Ted Turner, who allowed his B&W Popeye and early Merrie Melodies cartoons to be hand-colored two years later, after he acquired MGM-United Artists. The work may have been a slight step up from the early 1970s efforts (though the first few Popeyes were so bad they didn’t even animate the sliding ship’s doors), but just two years after the time those shorts hit market in 1987-88, the first computer-colored cartoons made it to TV and made the hand-colored efforts look even more embarrassing than they already were.

    • Universal apparently had more taste than Ted Turner,

      Or Columbia (if only they didn’t lose their original negs of these Li’l Abner cartoons to start with but whatever)!
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGAlNInh-44

      who allowed his B&W Popeye and early Merrie Melodies cartoons to be hand-colored two years later, after he acquired MGM-United Artists. The work may have been a slight step up from the early 1970s efforts (though the first few Popeyes were so bad they didn’t even animate the sliding ship’s doors), but just two years after the time those shorts hit market in 1987-88, the first computer-colored cartoons made it to TV and made the hand-colored efforts look even more embarrassing than they already were.

      Sure did, even more amusing is seeing there were 16mm prints made of these for any TV station that still bothered with film chain telecine units. It certainly was not the best route for Mr. Turner to take with these.

    • The irony with Turner is at the same time he was sending the Popeye and the Harman-Ising Merrie Melodies overseas for the crappy colorization work, he was obsessed with the new computer colorization techniques for the live-action MGM/UA archive he acquired (and later, for the RKO films when he got his hands on those).

      Colorization of anything in the 1980s was pretty crude, and even on the computer colorized cartoons Warners did, they really didn’t get the color ‘look’ quite right until the third and final batch of Looney Tunes showed up in 1995. But even computer colorized efforts with slightly off or dull colors would have been better for Turner long-term than giving Fred Ladd and his Korean low-wage painters another shot at ruining about 150 Golden Age cartoons.

    • The irony with Turner is at the same time he was sending the Popeye and the Harman-Ising Merrie Melodies overseas for the crappy colorization work, he was obsessed with the new computer colorization techniques for the live-action MGM/UA archive he acquired (and later, for the RKO films when he got his hands on those).

      That is ironic really. You’d think that wouldn’t seem as costly as having to go the other route and waste people’s time and materials for that stuff.

      Colorization of anything in the 1980s was pretty crude, and even on the computer colorized cartoons Warners did, they really didn’t get the color ‘look’ quite right until the third and final batch of Looney Tunes showed up in 1995. But even computer colorized efforts with slightly off or dull colors would have been better for Turner long-term than giving Fred Ladd and his Korean low-wage painters another shot at ruining about 150 Golden Age cartoons.

      And yet now I think of how it use to be. Hal Roach Studios use to be big into that with colorizing their library as early as ’83, of course their earliest often had colors that stood out due to their luminescence.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZ8D-bnwBK0

  • Re Gopher Gibberish. Here are some more..
    When played backwards (forwards), the antagonist in 1932′s Krazy Kat The Crystal Gazabo says “and ugly!”
    The aliens in 1933′s Willy Whopper Stratos Fear say “Yankee Doodle went to town”, “I’ve (been) … taxi cab … Did you? Ai!”, “1-2-3-4-5-6-7″, as well as actual gibberish just recorded backwards.

  • Interesting that the credit line “A Walter Lantz Cartoon” which I assume was present in the original titles is missing from the color remake. Perhaps at Walter’s insistence?

    • Wouldn’t surprise me if he was against seeing his name on this project.

  • In a print interview from the late 80s Turner’s decision to use hand-coloring instead of computer coloring was explained. Sweatshop tracing (and butchering) the Popeye cartoons cost $750 per minute of colorized animation. Computer coloring at that time cost $1500 per minute. Despite Turner’s noble assertions of making B&W classics appealing to a modern audience with the addition of color, he chose the cheap method and didn’t use clearly superior computer-aided coloring. The worst computer coloring would have at least preserved the original animation and 3D turntable sets that were replaced with poorly painted approximations.

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