“There were striking parallels between Larson and the character of Dr. Dawson,” said Keane. “They’re both kind-spirited and have gentle personalities. We used some of Larson’s mannerisms… even the way Dawson wears his pants pulled-up over his belly. If you can base the character on someone you know, it’s really helpful. When I was drawing Dawson I couldn’t get the grandfatherly respectability I wanted. Then I noticed that I was drawing the pant lines below his belly like a truck driver. And as soon as I drew the line above the belly, like Eric wears his clothers, he turned into a friendly, respectable, gentle looking guy instead of a beer-drinking slob.”
Filmation Features. In 1985, Filmation announced it would produce thirteen animated feature length films beginning with The New Adventures of Pinocchio. They were each budgeted at about six million dollars and would be ninety minutes long. The plan was to release each film theatrically, then to home video, followed by a television release. Filmation claimed that their research showed a strong demand for family entertainment and a shortage of “quality animated product”.
The other planned films included Snow White and the Seven Dwarfelles, The Challenge of Cinderella, Time Machine II: The Man Who Saved the Future, Bambi: Prince of the Forest, 20 Million Leagues Across the Universe, Frankenstein Lives Again!, The Further Adventures of Gulliver, The Son of Sleeping Beauty, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, The Continuing Adventures of The Jungle Book, New Tales of The Arabian Nights and Alice Returns to Wonderland.
Disney sued to halt these productions but Filmation countered that the characters and stories were in public domain. The judge decided in Filmation’s favor but stated that after the films were released, if any part infringed on Disney’s intellectual property, Disney could then sue. So, for the Pinocchio movie, Filmation could use Gepetto who was in the original book but not the name of Jiminy Cricket which was a Disney creation. So Filmation changed the name of the cricket to “G. Willikers” which was another popular exclamation.
Sunshine Porcupine. How many obscure animated specials ARE there out there that people have forgotten or never seen? Sunshine Porcupine (1980) told the story of EasterVille where Farmer Brown raised special chickens that laid eggs for Easter and employed a large colony of rabbits who harvested, painted and delivered the eggs. However, one day, the Energy Wasters arrived and convinced the farmer to substitute robots for the rabbits but those robots used ten times the amount of energy. The poor farmer was also tricked into using lots of applicances he didn’t need and wasting electricity so the business became bankrupct.
An odd little porcupine talked to the sun who helped him come up with plans to give to the farmer to build a solar energy chicken coop. That device was so efficient it helped power the robots as well (once their dials had been re-set to “energy efficient”). The Energy Wasters left EasterVille in search of other places to cause trouble.
Airing on HBO, this animated special was sponsored by the Department of Energy. The special is filled with songs. June Foray and Chuck McCann supply voices. Al Brodax was one of the writers on the script and is credited as producer and also lyricist. It is actually based on a 1979 book of the same name by Dr. Diane Gess (another credited writer for the special) about “Eggville” and the “Ugli-Unks” who steal energy. Ray Pointer worked on this special, by the way.
Lost Mark Kausler Animation. In The Duck Factory (1984) first episode there is pencil test animation of Sir Thanksalot flattened by his sneezing horse. That amusing animation was done by the prolific Mark Kausler who also did animation in other episodes as well. It is at the 16:31 spot on this clip:
Lunch with Chuck Jones. At lunch at the Disney Studio in 1984, animator and producer Chuck Jones who had been invited as a guest was talking with several Disney animators. At one point, Jones’ MGM Tom and Jerry cartoons came up and Jones stated that his problem with that series is that he could never really understand the characters. “What was the point of the cat chasing the mouse? I mean every cartoon was the same thing….the cat chases the mouse. Why?” After Jones left one animator said to another who also attended the session, “He can’t figure out why a cat chases a mouse…but a coyote and a road runner he understands.”
The Raggy Dolls. The Raggy Dolls is a British animated series that ran from 1986 to 1994. Set in Mr. Grimes’ Toy Factory, imperfect dolls are thrown into a reject bin but each week when no one was looking “embark on different adventures where their problem profiles usually save the day”. The series was meant to encourage children to think positively about disabilities and working together. The series lasted 112 episodes and ten books were published.
Characters included Back to Front (a doll with a backward-facing head as a result of the manufacturer putting his head on the wrong-way round), Lucy (Her limbs are inadequately attached with nylon thread with her name being a pun on the word “loose”), and Dotty (accidentally had paint dots spilt on her hair and clothing).
“The Raggy Dolls concept was by Melvyn Jacobson, I was the animator and animation director,” stated Mark Mason who did the work in traditional hand drawn animation for Orchid Productions Limited. “The key members of the production team would throw ideas into the air, and Neil Innes would hone in on some of them and write the scripts. Neil was great. We didn’t meet very often, but he’s a lovely chap. He had the hardest job of all: writing all the scripts, doing all the voices and all the music; all brilliantly.”
Innes was a one time member of the comedy rock group, The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. A talented musician, Innes played keyboards, guitar, bass and did vocals. In the 1970s, his BBC series, The Neil Innes Book of Records featured some animation. Innes also worked with Monty Python on a variety of projects and was “Ron Nasty” of The Rutles.