Mighty’s Benefit Plan. The episode Mighty’s Benefit Plan (Season 1, Episode 12 of Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures) featuring Elvy and the Tree Weasels (a parody of Alvin and the Chipmunks) is filled with hidden surprises.
Jim Reardon (later of The Simpsons, Wall-E and Wreck-It Ralph) wrote the script with John Kricfalusi but the initial idea came from animator Bob Jaques’ adventures working layout on The Chipmunk Adventure (1987). The caricature of a human girl dancing was Ralph Bakshi’s assistant Janelle Pranksy and designed by Lynne Naylor.
The popular breakfast cereal, Cheerios, was featured in The Chipmunk Movie and was on cereal packages to promote the film. In the cartoon, the cereal is labeled “Ohoorids” (Oh! Horrid!) because when John Kricfalusi was working at a TV studio in Canada, the cereal boxes on kitchen sets had to be altered to avoid copyright and trademark problems and Cheerios became “Ohorrids”.
Mashy the Pup was based on the actual dog belonging to the Bagdassarians. Janice Karman (Bagdassarin) loved her dog so much that the canine was caricatured as the evil Claudia’s pampered pooch in The Chipmunk Adventure. Sadly, the dog really was run over by a car midway through the production of the film.
“There were a couple of scenes that we wrote and actually animated that were too much for even Ralph (Bakshi), and he cut them out for fear that the network would come after us and kill us – this was 1987. I put them back in for retrospectives,” Kricfalusi told Martin “Dr. Toon” Goodman in September 2004.
Bakshi Speaks About Animation Direction. 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 “I began working in animation because that’s where I got my first job as a director. And I stuck. I wanted to be able to have the same leverage that live-action directors have. I wanted to be able to treat many different subjects in animation. For some reason, that had never been tried in the medium. Some films worked and some didn’t, which proves that animation can be as fickle and as wonderful as live action.
“I do not draw my movies. In directing animated films, the creative judgments – what to make and how to do it – don’t change from live-action films. Instead of hiring actors, I choose animators. Where a live-action director talks to his actors who give a performance, I talk to my animators who draw the characters. Art direction is much more severe in animation. I probably get much more involved in that than live-action directors. But I direct actors in a recording studio in order to get the correct attitudes in the voices of the characters. The problem of pacing, character development, story development, shooting and editing are the same in animation and live action.”
Ken Harris and Richard Williams. Chuck Jones, interviewed in Business Screen magazine (Aug/Sept 1982) said, “Ken Harris was a brilliant comic animator, very unusual. His stuff would always be funnier than what I had described to him. He was a very kind and gentle person but he did broad animation. Richard Williams used him a lot, too. I think Dick Williams has a problem because he can’t make up his mind what he wants to be – whether he wants to be a director, an animator or a clean-up man. Yes, he even cleans up drawings! But I admire him tremendously. I think he should clarify his relationship to his projects. He should clearly be the director and not try to animate or clean up people’s drawings. Rather, he should try and provide whatever they need to allow them to clean up their own drawings.”
Katzenberg on Computer Animation. From the Boston Ledger newspaper Jan. 30-Feb 5, 1988, Jeffrey Katzenberg, then Chairman of the motion picture and television division of the Disney Company, said, “Computer animation will bring the cost down. It does take some of the process and make it much more efficient. Not the pure creative process of it. It really takes the process that is just labor intensive that just takes time. It is to give us a greater believablity without driving animators insane.
“It’s not likely computer animation will ever be the mainstay for characterization and it’s meant only to blend in with hand-drawn creations, not stand apart from them. However, it will undoubtedly be used more and more for inanimate objects or for filling colors or jobs of that ilk. It is a tool and it will be three to four years before computer animation is up to its full capabilities.”
Penny on Pee-wee. From the Los Angeles Times June 29, 1988. Why were the clay animation “Penny” cartoons on Pee-wee’s Playhouse televsion series? “As I’m the host of the show and I’m a boy, I wanted to do a regular feature for girls that would be partially feminist in scope,” said producer-performer Paul Reubens.
“We came up with the idea of having real little girls talk and then we edit and storyboard the results. I’m very pleased with that section because it’s totally a children’s piece. When Penny says things like ‘kids should have rights too’ it comes directly from a child’s perspective.”
Smurf Anvil. From the Wall Street Journal for December 23, 1982, Smurf creator Peyo (Pierre Culliford) was interviewed and said about the popular animated series: “The thing that most surprised me when working with Americans is the extraordinary degree of censorship they impose on their creations. I thought the U.S. was a country of complete freedom, but it isn’t true. Americans live in constant fear of what people will say and of minority groups.”
Peyo was not allowed to use nasty black Smurfs as he had in one of his published albums. “The Americans told me black Smurfs were out of the question but they liked the TV scenario so we had to turn them into purple Smurfs.” Smurfette couldn’t be the nagging little girl sent by Gargamel to sow discontent among the little people because it was considered sexist so she became “the Smurf’s friend” according to Peyo.
Having the moralizing Smurf get hit on the head with a croquet mallet had to be eliminated. “That couldn’t be shown on TV because the little spectator could very well go into his father’s garage, take a hammer and hit his kid sister on the head with it. I was told I could have the Smurf hit by an anvil because there’s less of a chance that a boy will find an anvil in his father’s garage.”