Tom Sito And Tummy Trouble. In the Los Angeles Times July 27, 1989, animator Tom Sito who worked on the weasels in the animated feature and the flying needles sequence in the short (Tummy Trouble 1989) talked about working on the short, “We really had a two-fold job to do (on Tummy Trouble). We wanted to show the audience that it was the same old Roger they enjoyed in the first film with no compromise in quality or taste, but we also wanted to delve into his character more deeply.
“On the feature, the live action had been shot before we began the animation which presented unique demands of staging and timing. If Eddie Valiant hit a weasel and the weasel fell and hit a table, Bob Hoskins would do the gesture and the prop table would collapse. We had to match our animation to those actions and try to make the scene look spontaneous. On the short, we didn’t have those restrictions so it was more open in terms of your ability to create jokes and play with the timing.
“I’d like to work on the other (Roger Rabbit short) cartoons. Roger Rabbit is such a fun character to throw around and do things with. When animators get a good character, they act like parking lot attendants when they get a hold of a Porsche.”
Floating Boop. Betty Boop motored through Pasadena during the January 1991 Rose Parade in her thirty-five foot long hot yellow convertible. It was from the City of Carson and entitled “Fun on the Move” and won the Governor’s Trophy for “best depiction of life in California”. According to the press release read while the float passed the reviewing stands, “Betty’s figure was patterned after Mae West”. Her head rotated flirtatiously during the trip, powered by a 16-year-old boy pedaling a bicycle chain underneath. There were four live people on the float, two from the Make a Wish Foundation and two representing the City of Carson. The license plate on the car was a vanity plate reading “B. Boop”.
We All Miss Jay Ward. When Jay Ward was asked if when he referred to Moosylvania as the 52nd state if he was deferring to Puerto Rico’s claim to become the 51st. “Land O’ Goshen, no,” replied Ward. “We’ve always considered Puerto Rico to be a state but we figure Texas might want to join up.” According to Ward, winter in Moosylvania lasts over eleven months, the state flower is the Moosylvanian Flytrap (“the only plant to belch”) and the favorite sport is farkling, “a cross between pinochle, Russian roulette, and lacrosse with perhaps a pinch of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre thrown in.” One of the many things not in my collection is a copy of the Secret Handbooks of the Moosylvania Swamp Rat Patrol that was available from Old London Foods, makers of Corn Doodles, Cheez Doodle and Dipsy Doodles.
Birth of An American Tail. In the L.A. Daily News, David Kirschner who came up with the concept for the story that later developed in An American Tail (1986) shared the following story about his struggles on getting the idea made. He said that he carted a steamer trunk filled with clay figurines of Feivel Mousekewitz and his family to the Malibu home of Steven Spielberg to pitch the story. The idea had already been nixed by Disney’s Jeffrey Katzenberg.
Kirschner recalled, “He said, ‘Who would want to see a film about a Jewish mouse?’ Kirschner made an emotional pitch to Spielberg (“my wife, who was behind Steven was crying”) and Spielberg signed on. After the film went on to great success, “Katzenberg sent me a note saying, ‘I guess now we know who would want to see a film about a Jewish mouse’.”
Charitable Work. Writer and actor John Cleese voiced the villain Cat R. Wahl in An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991). He shared his memories of the experience with writer Kim “Howard” Johnson in the book Life Before and After Monty Python (St. Martins Press 1993). John Lithgow was originally going to play the role before Cleese signed on, after Cleese turned down the role of Cogsworth the clock in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991).
Cleese would later also turn down the role of Zazu The Lion King (1994) for the role of Jean-Bob the frog in The Swan Princess (1994) because the character was inspired by his French taunter character in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975).
“I met one of the producers (for An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, 1991) at the Italian Oscars when I got my award (for A Fish Called Wanda, 1988). He mentioned this animated film coming up and would I do a voice. I said, ‘Sure, ask me closer to the time’. I enjoyed the first An American Tail (1986) and so I was very pleased to do it. I said, ‘Sure, a couple of days in the studio should be great fun’. I love sound studios anyway – there’s none of the hassle and boredom and time wasting you get in television.
“The only shock was the size of the fee, which was probably the smallest fee I’ve been paid in ten years. But I decided to do it anyway. Apparently, Spielberg is famous for his tight-fistedness but it’s the smallest fee I can remember earning in recorded history. I was a little bit ticked because I was asked about doing publicity and I said I was busy and couldn’t help. Then I got another more official request. I sent back a message saying: ‘Tell Mr. Spielberg that I always make it a point not to publicize my charitable activities’.”
Stranger Than Fiction. Rapper Ice-T told SPY magazine in its January 1994 issue that as a kid, “I watched cartoons like Winky Dink, where you had to get a special screen to stick on your TV and when Winky Dink got stuck in a hole, you’d have to draw him a rope. It had a song, “Winky Dink and you, Winky Dink and me, always have a lot of fun together!” Winky Dink, man! Winky Dink was some O.G. (Original Gangster). That was back in the days of Gigantor, Kimba the White Lion and Space Ghost. Eighth Man from the eighth dimension had this great theme song too.”