Roger Rabbit Problems. From Los Angeles Times Calendar section June 22, 1998, animator Dave Spafford who drew the piano duel between Donald Duck and Daffy Duck in Who Framed Roger Rabbit said, “Having the camera constantly moving at such a subtle pace was scary at first. But it helped keep the characters alive. If the live actor is standing still and the camera is locked down, the animation can go dead and the seperation between the cartoon character and the actor becomes obvious. But when the camera’s moving, it covers up that separation.
“One other problem that we had was that Bob Hoskins was so good. He stole the show in every shot. If he seemed more animated than the cartoon characters, we’d have really been in trouble. We had to pull out all the stops to compete with him.”
Bakshi Speaks. Animator and director Ralph Bakshi in the November 1982 issue of American Premiere magazine talking about the recent release of his animated feature Hey Good Lookin’ said, “Its strong points are good animation and a story that’s never been told before in that medium. It’s an honest story about the 1950s from a New York point of view – sexual attitudes among kids, what they considered fun, how they spent their time. It’s really a personal film because it’s about New York and New York is not like the rest of the world. It’s inherently tougher, inherently…different. There’s not as much blue sky.”
Actually, there were at least five different versions of the film before this all animated version was released. I remember seeing a sneak preview of the second version sometime in 1976 that combined live action sequences with animation. For instance, the “Crazy” character had a live action dad who was a policeman.
Rikki Tikki Tavi Study. Chuck Jones, interviewed in Business Screen magazine (Aug/Sept 1982) said, “When we were doing Rikki Tikki Tavi, we had to study some film of a cobra striking so that we could be accurate in showing a fight between a mongoose and a cobra. In one clip, the cobra actually struck the camera. Now, apparently, this cobra was eight feet away when he struck the camera and yet there was only one frame between the two positions!
“He traveled eight feet in a twenty-fourth of a second. That’s pretty fast. The cobra draws back a tiny bit – perhaps a thousandth of a second – but it’s enough to warn the mongoose to pull away. This is a case where animation cannot exaggerate the action because when you have only one frame to work with, the only way you could show it would be with strobe lights at a thousand frames a second.”
Tezuka Cameo. In Gold Key’s (also released with the Whitman logo) comic book Underdog #23 (Feb. 1979), there is a multi-page appearance of a beret-wearing caricature of famed animator and director Osamu Tezuka in the six page story “Wedding Bells in Outer Space”. Tezuka’s character sees Underdog’s girlfriend abducted by a flying saucer in the park and tells the superhero. It is a version of Tezuka’s own self-caricature and the figure is even wearing a t-shirt with a “hyotonsugi” (one to Tezuka’s creations) on it. Animator Gary Terry, who moonlighted as a cartoonist for Western Publishing comic books out of the New York office, drew this story.
Smurfy Success. In the September 5, 1982 issue of the Cedar Rapids Gazette newspaper, animation producer Gerald Baldwin talked about the success of Hanna-Barbera’s The Smurfs Saturday morning series, “It came along at the right moment in time, perhaps, when Saturday morning children’s TV was saturated with superheroes and mindless stories. It was the same problem you could say that afflicts prime-time television. The Smurfs simply have the ingredients for good stories – clearly defined, good characters…”
A Ward Kimball Story You Probably Never Heard. In the January 24, 1988 edition of the Los Angeles Times there was a reported story of two light planes that collided the day before over the San Gabriel Valley sending one plummeting into the front yard of animation legend Ward Kimball at 2:13 p.m. shearing a large magnolia tree in two. It crashed three feet from Kimball’s studio. Debris from the plane was scattered throughout the neighborhood including a propeller that crashed through the roof of a house a block away.
The plane struck nose-down killing both people aboard. The other plane was able to make a safe emergency landing at Burbank Airport. Ward and his wife and daughter Kelly were inside the house and were not hurt.
“We heard a loud roar and two seconds later we heard the crash,” said Ward who was 72 year old at the time. “It went nose first and collapsed just like a foam cup.” The Kimballs had lived in the one story house on a two acre lot since 1939.
What’s In A Name? One of my favorite animation books (and still recommended by me today) is Leonard Maltin’s Of Mice and Magic (Plume 1980) especially because of its filmographies. Jerry Beck is credited as a research associate. Jerry did a great deal of research from compiling filmographies, screening cartoons, helping on interviews and more.
I don’t think modern animation fans fully realize how valuable this book was in those pre-internet days. So where did that title come from? Well, for about three years the book was simply referred to as “Leonard’s Cartoon Book”. One night as the deadline was approaching to submit the final manuscript, Jerry Beck told Leonard that they better settle on an official title. Jerry felt an actual cartoon title like “What Makes Daffy Duck?” would be a good choice. Leonard liked something along the lines of “Wabbits and Ducks” but Jerry pointed out that in the Summer of 1974 animation historian Michael Barrier had written an article for the AFI Report titled “Of Mice, Wabbits, Ducks and Men”. Finally, Leonard was going to settle on “Of Mice and Men” even though that was also the title of the John Steinbeck classic novel.
Later that week, Leonard’s wife, Alice was typing up the Famous Studios filmography (She had typed the entire manuscript in those pre-computer days) and, knowing the discussion between Jerry and Leonard, came across the Paramount cartoon release for February 1953, a Herman and Katnip cartoon called “Of Mice and Magic”. The title summed up the duo’s feelings about American animation history and was used. Ironically, the title came from Leonard’s least favorite cartoon studio — but not Jerry’s.