Should Have Listened To Roy O. Disney. Disney executive Roy O. Disney saw the problems that the Disney Company would have over the Winnie the Pooh property as early as January 1967. Disney had acquired certain rights to the character in 1961 and made a featurette, Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree released in 1966.
“A.A. Milne has certainly and completely balled up his rights to Winnie the Pooh in America. If we were to do anything with Winnie the Pooh, (Stephen) Slesinger is in a beautiful spot to either hold us up for an outrageous price or sit back and reap the rewards of our work and investment.
“If we were to buy Milne’s rights, we would still have to answer to (Ernest) Shepard (the book illustrator) and Slesinger would still have the rights to exploit its characters and stories on radio and television. All of the rights granted to Slesinger are sole and exclusive and non-transferable.”
In truth, there was an over two decade messy and convoluted legal battle between Slesinger and Disney beginning in 1991 over Pooh’s rights and royalties. In 1996, Disney paid the Milne Trust $750,000 to cover royalties on computer software. In 2001, Disney bought the Milne Trust for $350 million dollars especially since the Pooh characters were among the most lucrative Disney properties at the time.
A federal judge ruled in 2009 that the Slesinger family had transferred all its Pooh rights to Disney. In December 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington upheld a decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that blocked Stephen Slesinger Inc.’s challenges to Disney’s control of the trademark for the Hundred Acre Wood clan.
Don’t Over-Oswald. In an August 1938 memo from William Scully and A.J. Sharick in the UCLA Walter Lantz Collection, the head of sales at Universal announced that the decision had been made to stop using the name “Oswald Cartoon” and to replace it with “Cartune Comedy”. The memo stated, “although Oswald will appear from time to time in various of the cartoons, Lantz is, in this new billing, meeting our various protests against over-Oswalding the cartoon series.”
By this time, animator and director Manuel Moreno at the request of Lantz to try to match Disney characters had redesigned Oswald (starting in “Lost Sheep” December 1935) into a soft, cute, white rabbit that didn’t add a personality but took away his wild humor.
Spy Jam. In 1999, Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone came up with a concept for a feature film that was a James Bond spoof and would have animated versions of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck assisting a second-rate live-action spy set in the real world.
Both Jackie Chan and Eddie Murphy expressed interest in playing the spy character. Chan said in 2001, “My managers are negotiating. I like cartoons. It would be very, very fun.”
The project was tentatively known as “Spy Jam” (a follow up on the 1996 “Space Jam”), “Spy Jinx” and other titles.
Warners was boarding a few scenes for this film as well as another feature called “Digi Toons” where the Looney Toons get fired and are replaced by CGI characters but those characters run amok. It is up to Bugs and the gang to save the day.
Warner Bros. was also apparently developing “Race Jam”, a NASCAR themed spin-off to feature the animated Warners characters mixed with live action.
None of the projects developed any further. Recently, Warners announced it was considering “Space Jam 2” with basketball star LeBron James.
Pinocchio Expert. In early January 1963 after the launch of Tezuka’s “Mighty Atom” cartoon series on Japanese television, there was an immediate attempt to try and sell the cartoon to U.S. television as well. NBC was aware that Fred Ladd, an independent producer who specialized in dubbing foreign films into English, was currently busy on a theatrical feature entitled “Pinocchio in Outer Space” (1965). The Japanese salesmen had pitched Mighty Atom/Astro Boy to NBC as a “futuristic Pinocchio”. So NBC consulted with Ladd, not just because of his track record dubbing foreign films, but because they considered him a “Pinocchio expert” as well.
The Sam Simon Script Method. In 2002, animation director Milt Gray commented on the “Sam Simon” method of writing scripts for “The Simpsons” television series: “It is common practice to produce more footage on each show than what actually gets on the air. In most shows, this extra footage amounts to extra frames added to most scenes, frames that can be trimmed out. But on ‘The Simpsons’ about two full minutes of extra material gets produced per show, and each scene is timed very tight, with no extra frames.
“As a result, about two minutes of really good finished scenes and sequences are cut from each show. The extra material that was cut was the stuff that gave the rest of the humor a sharper edge. I don’t think this material was censored; it was edited for time.” It was later determined that for the first few seasons that extra footage was just thrown away and not saved.
Lilo & Stitch. Dean DeBlois, the co-director of “Lilo &Stitch” with Chris Sanders, said about the film in a 2002 interview, “We tried to shelter the film from the levels of reinterpretation that normally occur during the process so that it could have a consistent voice—for better or worse. We wanted all the characters in (“Lilo & Stitch”) in that kind of gray zone without archetypical heroes and villains.
“The first thing Thomas Schumacher (chief of Disney feature animation at the time) said was, ‘I love the damaged nature of this character (Lilo)’ and from that point on, he was a champion of it and protected it and created an environment where we knew we were safe to experiment. We hope this film opens the door to less conventional story lines and gutsier storytelling with less financial risk, because we’ve proven it can be done.”
All Aboard! The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, in its museum in Grand Central Station in New York, showed a continuous loop of the Warner cartoon “Porky’s Railroad” (1937) as an example of Americans thinking of “streamlined trains”.