Joe Barbera and the Birth of Tom and Jerry. Animation legend Joe Barbera in an interview from the Dramalogue July 29-August 4 1993 issue. When I was working as a professional actor in Los Angeles, Dramalogue was pretty much the bible of actors to pick up every Thursday to see all the new listings for work. Surprisingly, this issue featured an interview with animation legend Joe Barbera by Tom Provenzano to tie in with Tom And Jerry: The Movie (1992).
Barbera said, “The whole thing wasn’t working when I was first teamed with Bill (Hanna) at MGM. People seem to think it is just a breeze to take a purple spotted pig and a tall yellow giraffe and make them characters. It doesn’t work. So I leaned toward the most unoriginal idea in the world, a cat and a mouse. Very basic because I know wherever you went, no matter where you ran it – in Somalia or Beruit, you see a cat and a mouse and you know what’s going to happen. A chase. The question is how do you do it?
“They had been doing cat and mouse cartoons all over the place. There was Felix the Cat. Krazy Kat. A whole bunch of cats. Then Mighty Mouse. A whole bunch of mice. So when we started, we got back feedback about what a stupid, unoriginal idea. We were told it was just an old idea. How many can you possibly do? One or two? All this conversation about these two idiots trying to do a new series with an old idea.
“I would lay out the whole thing while I was writing the story. Then I’d turn it over to Bill who would concentrate on getting it out to the animators. We shot all these drawings I did and previewed them before we even started the cartoon. They got the best reaction.
“However, in their infinite wisdom, the head honcho from MGM said, ‘We don’t want to do any more cat and mouse cartoons. Don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket’. Fortunately a distributor in Texas demanded more of the ‘cat and the mouse’ cartoons. The first film we did using the name of Tom and Jerry won an Oscar, the first of seven.
“Oh, we also got complaints at MGM about how unoriginal the name was. Tom and Jerry is a popular Christmas drink.”
Out of the Inkwell Review. “This little inkwell clown has attracted favorable attention because of a number of distinguishing characteristics. His motions, for one thing, are smooth and graceful. He walks, dances and leaps as a human being, as a particularly easy-limbed human being might. No dummy substitutes for the clown when he takes his hazardous journeys.” New York Times newspaper on February 22, 1920 commenting on Max Fleischer’s KoKo the clown who had premiered in 1919. Dave Fleischer was working as a clown at Coney Island and served as the rotoscoped model for the character.
The Ronin. Richard (Cheech) Marin of the comedy team Cheech and Chong in 1982 partnered with Tokyo Movie Shinsha to make an animated feature The Ronin based on the novel of the same name by William Dale Jennings who was also on board to do the script for the film. The film was budgeted at $5,500,000. Half the film would be produced at TMS studios in Tokyo and the other half at facilities that would be set up in Hollywood.
The story was about a boy in medieval Japan who searches to find the person who raped his mother and killed his father. When he finds the man, the boy discovers the criminal has become a saint in the eyes of the world. The producers said the predominant themes of sex and violence would be “ameliorated” to broaden its audience appeal.
“It is our desire to make a film which will reshape the animation medium and reflect the decades of the 80s as Yellow Submarine reflected the decades of the 1960s and as Ralph Bakshi’s work reflected the decade of the 1970s,” stated Marin.
Anti-War Bambi. Some people in 1942 saw Disney’s animated feature Bambi as an anti-war parable and Walt did nothing to discourage that interpretation. In fact, the adaptation of the film that appears in Good Housekeeping magazine November 1942 has old Friend Owl saying, “But one of these days perhaps folks’ll get to understandin’ each other better and that’ll bring peace and contentment for everybody everywhere…” Bambi is renowned for only having about 950 words spoken in the movie. The original version of the script had 10,000 words.
Ron Miller Remembers. “(Walt) sort of let that whole animation department dwindle to the point where you had just enough old animators to take care of a picture at a time,” stated Ron Miller in a June 27,1982 interview in the Los Angeles Times newspaper. “Throughout the 1970s, Disney stuck to safe themes and old studio tradition. We were not reaching a broad audience. I mean, I saw it with my own children. The moment they turned about 14 or 15, I would run a Disney film at home and they’d look and say, ‘Oh, G*d, not that corn again!’”
Roy O. Disney told producer Bill Anderson to close down the animation department shortly after the death of Walt Disney. Anderson said he would not do it unless Roy issued an official memorandum. Roy didn’t and the animated films kept making profits.
The Great Disneyland Escape. According to the May 25, 1993 issue of the National Enquirer newspaper, “Mobbed by teen girls during a Disneyland outing Beverly Hills 90210 hunks Jason Priestley and Ian Ziering resorted to a goofy trick to escape. A park worker ducked the duo into an employees’ only lounge where they donned Pluto and Goofy costumes and then strolled out into the park unbothered.”
No Cats. There were many reasons that “Cats Don’t Dance” (1997) did not get any toys or marketing tie-ins for its release. First, promotional partners had been burned pretty badly by unsold merchandise from Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) and Pocahontas (1995) and were uninterested in an animated film not from Disney and one that had tested poorly in showings done by Turner while the film was still in production and had some flaws that were later fixed.
When Warners got the distribution rights to the film, they decided on a spring break 1997 release which gave less than a year to get major promotional partners on board and producing items. Traditionally, partners need at least a full year to get things in place. Subway was the only one to come on board. The Darla Dimple toy was not widely released as there was a concern that it could be dangerous to young children.