Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack Hannah was the first Disney animator I ever met and interviewed. I interviewed him several times beginning in 1977 and each time, there was always something new and surprising that he hadn’t previously mentioned. Here is one such anecdote from him: “One interesting thing about doing storyboards is I remember being called in by Wilfred Jackson. I can’t recall whether he had asked for me specifically or just asked for whoever was available but I remember sitting alone in the story room and storyboarding in water color the growing sequence of the beanstalk that was used in Mickey and the Beanstalk (1947). Again, you did whatever needed to be done. I was happy to do it but I don’t think people know that I did it.”
Two Ducksters. It is frustrating that the Disney Company did not adequately document certain things like how many Mousecars and Duckster statuettes were handed out over the years. However, it is known that the first Ducksters were given out in 1952 by Walt Disney. While researching something about Jack Hannah, I looked at the profile for Clarence Nash in The New Yorker magazine December 29,1975 and found this tidbit: “The mantel (in Clarence Nash’s Glendale home) has two identical Donald Duck bronze statuettes on wooden bases. One is from Roy Disney, Walt’s brother and business partner and is inscribed ‘To Clarence Nash, in appreciation of your continuous years of service 1933-1969’. The base of the second statuette bears the printed legend ‘Best personal wishes, Walt Disney 1952’.”
What Makes a Cartoon A Cartoon? From The Onion March 4, 2001 Volume 37, Issue 12, animator and director John Kricfalusi on what makes a cartoon a cartoon: “What makes a cartoon a cartoon is that it can do things that you can’t do in any other medium. Just like any medium. What makes music ‘music’ is melody and rhythm and a million variations on those things – a pleasant melody, normally unless you’re talking about modern music. If you took those out, it wouldn’t be music anymore.
“So in cartoons, what makes it cartoony is that you’re doing things that are impossible to do. You have characters that have strong, personalities, but they can do crazy things. If you watch a Bugs Bunny cartoon, they squash and stretch and make funny expressions, and they do all kinds of things that you laugh at visually.
“You couldn’t do anything like that in the 70s and 80s. It was against the law. They thought you were crazy if you did anything like that. They said, ‘The way you’re drawing the character looks weird!’ Well, it’s supposed to look weird. It’s a cartoon. I swear, all the people in charge of cartoons that had never seen a cartoon before except for the 70s ones.”
Burping Rick. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly July 31, 2015, Justin Roiland, co-creator of Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty and voice of both of those characters, explained why the character of Rick burps so much: “In 2006 or something, I was recording the voices for this short ‘The Real Adventures of Doc and Mharti’. I was having fun doing these really crappy Doc Brown and Marty McFly impressions. During the middle of a line, a burp came out naturally.
“It was just so funny and gross. I was like ‘Well, let’s see if I can do that again for a couple more lines’. Then with ‘Rick and Morty’, Dan (Harmon, the show’s co-creator) was like ‘Hey, Adult Swim wants to do a show. Do you have any ideas?’ I said, ‘Well what about these two voices?’ Right out of the gate the burping was part of it.
“I’m not a big burper. It’s not easy for me to do. Ironically, Sarah (Chalke who voices Rick’s daughter Beth) can burp on command. She’s incredible. I’m so jealous of her. I have to sit there with a low-calorie beer and a bottle of water and wait for it to work its way up. I tell the engineer that records the show ‘Just leave it rolling because I don’t know when this burp is coming!’ It’s a disgusting process.”
Woody’s Singer. Animation history is filled with entertaining but incorrect stories. Walter Lantz loved to tell the story that for Woody Woodpecker’s short Barber of Seville (1944) that a distinguished opera star was hired for the singing and became horrified that it was for an animated character. As voice expert Keith Scott pointed out in Devon Baxter’s post earlier this week, Woody Woodpecker’s singing was done by baritone Lee Sweetland known for his singing work on NBC radio. He sang for Woody in Ski For Two (1944) as well as Barber of Seville. His wife was Sally Mueller (sometimes billed as Sally Sweetland) who was also a professional session soloist and is one of the singers on the Bambi soundtrack. Lee can be heard as the operatic hog-caller in the Disney Silly Symphony Farmyard Symphony (1938).
The Emptiness of Miyazaki. Hayao Miyazaki told film critic Roger Ebert in an article for the September 19,2002 Chicago Sun-Times: “I am 62. I wanted to retire but life isn’t that easy. I wanted to make a movie especially for the daughters of my friends. I opened all the drawers in my head. They were all empty. So I realized I had to make a movie just for ten year olds and Spirited Away (2001) is my answer.“We have a word in Japanese called ‘ma’. Emptiness. It’s there intentionally. (Miyazaki clapped his hands four times.) The time in between my clapping is ‘ma’. If you just have nonstop action with no breathing space at all, it’s just ‘busy-ness’. But if you take a moment, then the tension building in the film can grow into a wider dimension. If you just have constant tension at 80 degrees all the time, you just get numb.
“The people who make the movies are scared of silence so they want to paper and plaster it over. They’re worried the audience will get bored. They might go up and get some popcorn. But just because it’s 80 percent intense all the time doesn’t mean the kids are going to bless you with their concentration. What really matters is the underlying emotions – that you never let go of those.
“What my friends and I have been trying to do since the 1970s is to try and quiet things down a little bit. Don’t just bombard them with noise and distraction. And to follow the path of children’s emotions and feelings as we make a film. If you stay true to joy and astonishment and empathy. You don’t have to have violence. You don’t have to have action. They’ll follow you. This is our principle.”