What’s In A Name? Richard Williams’ The Thief and the Cobbler project went through many different working titles throughout the thrity-one years it was in production including The Amazing Nasrudin, The Majestic Fool, Golden City, The Thief Who Never Gave Up, Once, and The Cobbler and the Thief. When Fred Calvert stepped in, he renamed it The Princess and the Cobbler when it was released in late 1993 in Australia and South Africa and finally Arabian Knight when an even more heavily edited version was released in the United States in 1995.
During its production, the BBC produced two documentaries about it: Golden City (1969) and Once (1981). In addition, another documentary, Persistence of Vision released in 2012 covers the film but director Richard Williams did not participate in it and so archival clips of his previous interviews were used.
Oscar’s Orchestra. If you think it is a challenge to keep up with the many U.S. animated series, especially all the syndicated ones, then it is even more challenging to keep up with animated series, even successful ones that were produced in the U.K. Oscar’s Orchestra ran from 1994-1996 on the BBC and was syndicated by Summit Media on 110 channels in 47 of the top 50 U.S. markets (primarily Fox and Warner). It was sold to more than 50 countries worldwide.
Basically, in the year 2743, the emperor has banned all the great classic music as well as the instruments needed to play those songs. So in the city of New Vienna, a piano named Oscar (voiced by comedian Dudley Moore) starts a rebellion by gathering other musical instruments to play the great works of Handel, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin. The show was aimed at introducing classical music to children. It was a Collingwood Production, based on an idea by Jan Younghusband
“There’s a move in the States towards quality product that isn’t violent,” said producer Anthony Bouchier. “And I think television stations in the States are in tune with what’s happening. There’s a demand for high-quality, non-violent material.”
Budgie, the Little Helicopter. Budgie, the Little Helicopter was both a children’s book series and animated series created by Sarah Ferguson when she was the Duchess of York. It featured a perky little blue helicopter with a yellow cap and his aviation friends.
The animated show was produced by Fred Wolf Films Dublin and Sleepy Kids Company, and originally aired on British television in 1994 on CITV, then, was aired later on in the United States on Fox Kids. The TV Show ran for 39 episodes. It aired in 70 countries with 135 different merchandising deals worldwide.
In May 1996, it was announced that the Duchess’ earnings from the American rights to “Budgie” had been frozen because its New York agent filed for bankruptcy in a dispute with Sleepy Kids, the company that marketed and distributed the “Budgie” program and merchandise. It was a blow to the Duchess who was going through a divorce from the Duke of York and was thought to have personal debts of over four million dollars.
Budgie, the Helicopter: The Movie was released straight to video in 1997. Nelvana and Dreamworks produced a CGI updated revival called The New Adventures of Budgie, the Little Helicopter.
Dragon’s Lair. Bluth’s Dragon’s Lair video game debuted in June 1983 in a time when arcades were doing poorly and many were on the verge of going out of business. There was concern because of the higher price tag for the game ($4,500…almost double an average game) and the fact that players had to pay fifty cents, not a quarter, to play.
The game ended up being the number one top grossing game beginning late August 1983 and most arcade owners made all their money back on it within the first three to five weeks. General estimates had Dragon’s Lair generating over forty million dollars. The budget for creating the game was just over a million dollars. It featured twenty-two minutes of animation including all the ways Dirk could die but it was publicized that “a good game player can make it through the 38 rooms of the castle in about six minutes”.
The Hollywood Reporter devoted a full page to the game on July 18, 1983. It quoted one arcade owner who stated, “Without a doubt it’s the most popular game here. There is no number two. That one’s just taken over.”
Don Bluth said, “What excites me more than the money is the fact that the people playing this in the arcade are mostly teenaged guys. Those are the kids that, according to statistics, aren’t supposed to like cartoons. Cartoons are for children, right? But teenagers like the detail of this animation. The fact that they can get involved.”
Who’s That Girl? In the movie Bugs Bunny Superstar (1975), there are two brief appearances of a young black woman on the back lot of the old Warner Brothers Studio performing a bellydance for animator Bob Clampett’s home movie camera. The footage appears between the 1946 cartoons Rhapsody Rabbit and Walky Talky Hawky. That young woman is Vivian Dandridge who may have been filmed when she was at the studio doing the voice of So White/Coal Black for Clampett’s Coal Black and the Sebben Dwarfs (1943).
Plot Comes First. Lucasfilm Fan Club Magazine #6 (Winter 1989) featured an interview with animator and producer John Pomeroy about The Land Before Time (1988): “Don (Bluth), Gary (Goldman) and I all believe the plot comes first, the message comes later. If you can infuse something of a spiritual nature into the entertainment, terrific. But, first is the entertainment, and the way to entertain people is with things about themselves that they can laugh at and identify with.”
Harley Quinn. Writer for Batman: The Animated Series Paul Dini was actually inspired to create the character of the Joker’s sidekick Harley Quinn after watching a performance by actress Arleen Sorkin in a fantasy sequence on the Days of Our Lives soap opera where Sorkin wore a jester costume (see video below – thank you John Simpson). The actress later went on to voice the character she inspired, as she and Paul were actually old friends from college. The character became immensely popular and part of the official Batman canon.
Tim Curry was considered to do the voice of the Joker (later done excellently and memorably by Mark Hamill) and Al Pacino was offered the chance to do Harvey Dent’s Two-Face villain.