Here Comes H.E.R.B.I.E.! “The New Fantastic Four” was an animated series produced by DePatie-Freleng in 1978 based on the Marvel comic book created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby. However, one member of the classic Fantastic Four team was missing in action: The Human Torch, a teenager who could burst into flame and fly.
“First, Universal Studios bought (The Human Torch) for a live action television series of his own, like The Hulk, and planned to use him as a trouble-shooting race-car driver,” explained writer Roy Thomas in a May 1978 interview. “The flames turned out to be a very expensive proposition to create (in live action), though, and then a story started circulating that somebody, somewhere, was worried that kids might start setting themselves on fire to emulate him.
“This story, by the way, has been around since Hanna-Barbera put out the first series of Fantastic Four cartoons (in 1967). Anyway, true or not, this idea is present and I feel that even if the Human Torch had been available, NBC would have felt uncomfortable with him. So, as a replacement, we got H.E.R.B.I.E. the Robot.
“H.E.R.B.I.E. has no origin, and the Torch is never mentioned (in the series). The name is really an abbreviation for something like Humanoid Electronic Robot…that Beats Up indigent Elephants or something. I’m not sure what exactly. In the beginning, he was called Charlie, but someone else had already licensed a robot under that name for merchandising.”
For the record, H.E.R.B.I.E. stood for “Humanoid Experimental Robot, B-type, Integrated Electronics”. Voice legend Frank Welker provided the voice for the character.
The character was conceived by Stan Lee and was originally supposed to be designed by comic artist Dave Cockrum who balked at the assignment so it was given to one of the storyboard artists working at DePatie-Freleng, Jack Kirby who was the co-creator of the Fantastic Four more than a decade earlier. H.E.R.B.I.E. later appeared in Marvel comic books beginning with “Fantastic Four” #209 (August 1979).
Fred Flintstone’s Original Voice. The original voices for Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble were Bill Thompson (Droopy, Mr. Smee, J. Auduborn Woodlore) and Hal Smith. Smith recalled why the role finally went to Alan Reed in the book “The Magic Behind the Voices” by Tim Lawson and Alisa Persons (2004, University Press of Mississippi).
“Bill Thompson was a good actor, but he had something wrong with his throat. He couldn’t sustain that gravel that they wanted in Fred, so Mel [Blanc] and Alan Reed started rehearsing. We had already recorded the first five episodes, and Bill would stop and he’d say, ‘I just can’t keep that gravel.’ Joe Barbera was directing, and he called us in and said, ‘You know, this isn’t working.’ And I said, ‘well, it really isn’t.’ Reed and Blanc re-recorded the five episodes we had already completed.”
Where Do The Stories Come From? Animation legend Friz Freleng never discussed whether he was the inspiration for the Warner character of Yosemite Sam although everyone for decades has always assumed he was. However, that story was started by writer Mike Maltese who in a mischievous mood mentioned that Sam’s temper tantrums amused him because they were reminiscent of Freleng’s outbursts at the studio.
Maltese who created the first official version of the character in the cartoon Hare Trigger (1945) originally considered calling him Texas Tiny, Wyoming Willie, or Denver Dan, but then settled on the final name.
Simpsons Sh*t. In US Weekly magazine in 2003, “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening recalled, “In the early days of ‘The Simpsons’ we honestly didn’t know what we were doing. When we saw the first animation, it was a total disaster. It was really bad. One producer said, ‘This is sh*t’. And an animator said, ‘What do you mean by sh*t?’ And he said, ‘A vile substance which causes disease’.”
Jesus Vs. Frosty. The South Park animated television series actually began with a student film made by two college students who used construction paper cutouts to comment about the battle between the religious and secular aspects of Christmas called “Jesus Vs. Frosty (the Snowman)”. It was also known as the first “Spirit of Christmas” video.
South Park co-creator Trey Parker remembered in Entertainment Weekly magazine (March 13, 2015), “Matt (Stone) and I were at the university of Colorado at Boulder. We would always talk like these little kids and make each other laugh. So we had a year of doing little skits with the voices before we shot anything.
“The film department showed student films at the end of the semester. I was like ‘There should be something Christmassy,’ because these screening were a few days before Christmas. So Matt and I just did this little Jesus and Frosty thing in 1992.
“The audience reaction was huge. It was the fact that there were little-kid voices and cute animation and that they were screaming ‘F*ck!’ People hadn’t seen anything like that before.”
Astro Boy. In an April 6, 2003 article about “Astro Boy” in the “Los Angeles Times” newspaper, producer Fred Ladd said, “In ‘Astro Boy’ no one ever died. If the original episode showed a death, that character was made unconscious in the U.S. version. And it wasn’t just violence that caused problems. One episode that couldn’t be edited enough to get on American TV was called ‘Christ’s Eyeballs’ in which a fugitive hides in a church and scratches a message on the eyes of a statue of Jesus. Cultural differences became a major thing to reckon with.”
Other episodes were not translated into English as well like one where Astro Boy gets injected with drugs (Yellow Horse) while going undercover on an investigation and another that dealt with vivisection. Not to mention the one featuring the bachelor with pictures of naked women on his walls.
Disney Mud Bubbling. For Fantasia (1940), the sound of bubbling mud had to be imitated. Sound effects genius Jimmy Macdonald and musician Paul Smith stood with hoses in their mouth, blowing bubbles into huge tanks of liquid. One tank was full of oil and the others with soapy water.
They’d plunge into the liquid huge plungers eighteen inches across, sometimes plunging softly and sometimes with great effort, sending a shower of soap clear to the ceiling. Occasionally, the soap would reach a hot light, exploding the globe and sending down a shower of glass.
By the way, Macdonald would write a score for sound effects just as if it were a score for music. It was expected that the effect would match the beat right to the frame, 1/24th of a second.