ANIMATION ANECDOTES
May 19, 2017 posted by Jim Korkis

Animation Anecdotes #314

EDITOR’S NOTE: Trying out a new format this week…

Screen Gems Story. John C. “Wally” Walworth Jr. is perhaps best known for creating memorable premiums (sometimes in cereal boxes) for a variety of characters and firms. However, he got his start in animation.

He arrived in Southern California on Friday the 13th, November 1936. He looked up the address of Screen Gems, went in and asked for Harry Bailey. Bailey came out with the head of the in-between department who asked to see Walworth’s samples (Walworth had worked for Audio Productions, owned by Western Electric, in New York and had animated a Kool cigarette commercial).

“I didn’t have any samples. He invited me to come in and make some drawings right there. I begged off since I hadn’t slept in five days (during the train trip from New York). He told me to ‘Get the hell outta here!’ but he gave me some papers and pencils and instructed me to make some drawings over the weekend and bring them in on Monday.

“They hired me on Monday and I got assigned to the in-between department. Animators and assistant animators did not mingle with the in-betweeners who were considered ‘peons’. We, in turn, had nothing to do with those working in the inking and opaquing departments. Most of the fine outling work was done by women who seemed to have more patience than men for the detail-oriented practice. By virtue of my sex, I got out of that one. They didn’t even ask me if I wanted to be an inker.

“I was making a snappy $15.00 a week. I worked very hard improving myself as an animator. At that time Screen Gems would give you $1.25 for dinner money if you stayed late and practiced your drawing skills. Of course, I practiced, but I also sat there and wrote letters to my mother. That was during the work week. I was hired by Screen Gems in late 1936 and stayed until late 1937. By that time I had become an assistant animator.

“Then the rumor went around that new studio called Mayfair Productions was getting ready to open. They were going to make a feature on the comic strip character by Percy Crosby called Skippy. A few other guys and I decided to quit Screen Gems and go with Mayfair. We probably got a couple of dollars more.”

Beauty and the Beast. In a U.K. magazine WHO dated June 29, 1992, some of the voice performers for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991) shared some thoughts about their animated roles:

Paige O’Hara (Belle): “She really is liberated. Belle wants something real and she is willing to hold out for it. I was a bookworm and an odd girl who felt off-beat and didn’t always fit in.”

Robby Benson (Beast): “I thought of him as very tragic and lonesome. People still think I’m 18 (he was 36 when he did the voice of the Beast).”

Angela Lansburry (Mrs. Potts): “My two oldest grandchildren (seven and nine years old) were a little scared of the monster. But there’s always that element in Disney – the children suddenly buried in their parents’ laps.”

David Ogden Stiers (Cogsworth): It’s my suspicion that this movie is going to join Snow White, Fantasia and maybe Cinderella as classics. You do the most exaggerated gestures (in the recording studio). Even your toes clench and curl. He is a punctilious, nagging major-domo who knows how the Beast’s castle should be run but can’t make it happen. Doing my first animated role is another possibility in the arsenal of staying employed.”

Jerry Orbach (Lumiere): I always read my kids bedtime stories at night. I played all the voices, just like every parent does. I did a Maurice Chevalier. You stick out your lower lip and sneer a little bit. The animators ended up giving him the same exaggerated nose as mine. It was really a lot of fun. It’s like an hors d’oeuvre in my oeuvre.”

Richard White (Gaston): “Gaston is so self-indulgent. In thrity years, he’d be fat with heart problems. At first he was really brutish. By the end, girls were swooning over him. (When looking at the antlers) I kept getting sad visions of Bambi.”

Moving Mane. In 1994, supervising cleanup artist Bill Berg shared this anecdote about working on Disney’s The Lion King (1994): “As Mufasa’s spirit appears to Simba, a strong wind blows the trees and grass. But Simba’s mane wasn’t moving enough. Ruben Aquino had to re-animate Simba’s hair so it was blowing too. It’s typical of the kind of detail we look for every day.”

Make Me Laugh. Chuck Jones, interviewed in Business Screen magazine (Aug/Sept 1982) said, “I’ve never made anything for an audience. When I make a special, I make it because it interests me. If you know how to make yourself laugh, you’ll make other people laugh.”

Plympton Talks The Tune. In the Boston Sunday Globe October 4, 1992, animator Bill Plympton talked about his animated feature film The Tune (1992): “It was a labor of love. It was something I’d always wanted to do ever since I was three or four years old and saw films on TV, animation on TV, particularly the Disney stuff. Or films like Song of the South or Pinocchio. I said, ‘Wow, that is amazing. It’s just not possible that anybody could do something like that’. It was a real mystery to me how an animated film was done.

“So I sort of kept in the back of my mind all this desire, but at the same time, I was cartooning all the time. I loved doing cartoons and that was basically what I always wanted to do. It wasn’t until the mid-80s when I started doing my animated short films that the thought occurred to me, ‘If I put all these shorts toger, it’s over an hour long — I’ve done a feature film already and I didn’t even know it’. So I realized that it was possible for one person to do a feature film, and so I called Maureen McElheron who did the music and I said in Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney style, ‘Let’s make a film. We’ll use your music. Write some songs.’

“I sort of patterned it after Yellow Submarine (1968). I love that format, that whimsical kind of plot where the music really holds it together. The music keeps it moving. But I wanted to use American roots music: Delta blues, rockabilly, country western, surfing music – that sort of music that I grew up with. And I’ve never really seen animation used with those styles of music before.”

6 Comments

  • On Beauty and the Beast Gastón (in my opinion) was one of the misunderstood villains in Disney Animated History (before Lotso Huggs from Toy Story 3 took over as most misunderstood villain) . Even though he acted as a cad and a scoundrel he had every single young lady in the village swooning for him (including a trio of triplets) he still wanted to make Belle as his wife. Kind of weird but when i found a Gaston t shirt at the now defunct Disney Villains shop at Disneyland Park at Anaheim California,I was talking to the salesclerk about Gaston being the most misunderstood Disney Villain and she agreed with me! Anyway the real villain was a mysterious character (voiced by the late Tony Jay who would voice the more evil Judge Claude Forillo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame) who índices Gaston to hunt down the mysterious Beast.

  • I havta say…i like the addition of the colors. They make it nicer (& easier) to read. TY

  • I remember being very excited about The Tune, and when I finally saw it, I thought, “Ohhhh, I wish that were better.”

    • In all fairness, its the more accessible of Plympton’s works, if anyone knew him more for his more adult-oriented stuff that came later. We barely get one tiny nude scene and its played for a tiny shock value within a song about different styles of dance.

    • If I remember correctly, I enjoyed Hair High more.

  • Oh, the Tune. My dad had fond memories, when I was a kid, of seeing that in a local art theater… I finally showed it to him again a year ago, he said it was still fun, only it doesn’t always stay the same as in the memories, right? He hadn’t remembered the surf music, and he hates surf music, but he was tickled that he was okay with it when he saw it the first time…

    On a side note, I’m… I’m not down for this format. The colors are distracting and the box lines separate everything, it doesn’t look good, I hope this doesn’t stay. (I hope it didn’t. Let me check.) Makes it hard to read on top of making everything look like the letterbox around a sidebar of text in a book.

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