ANIMATION ANECDOTES
July 13, 2018 posted by Jim Korkis

Animation Anecdotes #371

Hare Jordan. In the January 28th, 1992 Los Angeles Times, the Nike “Hare Jordan” Super Bowl commercial was profiled. The commercial cost nearly one million dollars, excluding Michael Jordan’s salary or about four times the cost of a typical commercial. The campaign was created by Jim Riswold, co-creative director of the Wieden and Kennedy agency. Riswold said he had been a Bugs Bunny fan since he was a kid. “I don’t even consider Bugs an animated character,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, he exists.”

Warners went to great lengths to protect Bugs’ image. One scene the agency wanted in the ad was to have Bugs Bunny handing out sticks of dynamite disguised as hot dogs but Warners rejected it. The live action was rehearsed with cutouts in place of the animated figures which were added in later “with over 3,000 separate illustrations hand drawn by about 25 artists”.


As Well Known As Mickey Mouse. In L.A. Life December 15th, 1991, “According to a report from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, ‘Old Joe’ (the cartoon camel representing Camel cigarettes) is as recognizable to six year olds as Mickey Mouse. Since the ‘Old Joe’ campaign began in 1988, the proportion of smokers under 18 who smoke Camels has risen from less than one percent to 32.8 percent.”

This Mickey Mouse cigarette case from the 1930s has nothing to do with the above – but its certainly a rare collectible.


Stop Motion Vampires. From Newsday April 16, 1996, animator and producer Henry Selick talking about his film James and The Giant Peach (1996) said. “(Being a stop motion animator) is not the easiest thing you could do with your life. It’s probably about as hard as brain surgery and it’s only creating fantasies but we get a kick out of it. I’ve often thought of a Twilight Zone episode where somebody’s working on a Pillsbury Doughboy that’s been around for thirty years always looking perfect while the animator grows old. They can be a little like vampires.”


Death of Littlefoot’s Mother. Lucasfilm Fan Club Magazine #6 (Winter 1989) featured an interview with animator and producer John Pomeroy about The Land Before Time (1988): “A lot of research went into the mother dying sequence. We considering eliminating the whole sequence but that produces a lot more problems when you’re trying to show a small boy going through his rites of passage to manhood. You must eliminate the parent in that cycle.

“Psychologists were approached and shown the film. They gave their professional opinions of how the sequence could best be depicted. On their advice, we ended up adding another sequence with the Rooter character. He is a mole-like reptile that Littlefoot falls into company with just after his mother’s death. That sequence softens the blow, showing that death is a reality that Littlefoot and the audience, have to deal with.”


Not His Life’s Work. In 1989, animator and producer Richard Williams talked to U.K. reporter Mary Riddel about his work on his still in production animated feature The Thief and the Cobbler which at the time had roughly thirteen minutes of completed animation and he “reckoned” that it would take another three years to complete: “I’m pleased with it. I love it. And I wanted to make one really good thing in my life. I didn’t set out with the idea of it being a life’s work. Always we’d start work and then have to stop when we ran out of money. So it was back to the dog food adverts or a Pink Panther film.

“If I’d never started it, I would have been rich. But I wouldn’t have had the motivation to make the money in the first place. You see, all I do is work. I draw all day and at night I play the cornet in a Dixieland jazz band.”


Live Action Remakes. In The Hollywood Reporter for November 6, 1996, Stephen Herek who directed the live action version of Disney’s 101 Dalmatians (1996) said, “It actually was Joe Roth’s (Walt Disney Studios chairman) idea to take some of the classic versions of the animated hits they have and make them into live action movies. I know he wants to make the live-action department here at Disney as strong as the animation department. I think he felt people love these movies so much, why not make them into live-action. I’ve known Joe since The Three Musketeers (1993). He approached me and asked if I would helm the ship. We talked about it at length because, quite honestly, after (directing) Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995) a movie like 101 Dalmatians was not in my plans.”


This Week’s Capitol Critters Anecdote. In the January 1992 Los Angeles Times, it was reported that producer Steve Bochco (co-creator of Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law) had originally come up with a concept called “Aristocritters” about mice and cats in the White House witnessing the behind-the-scene machinations of government. It developed into the Hanna-Barbera prime time series Capitol Critters.

“I think that Steven had an edgier show in mind in the beginning, a much harder edge, until we realized it was impossible to do topical humor because the product comes out fourteen or fifteen months after the script is written,” said co-producer Nat Mauldin. “Animation is such a time-consuming, labor-intensive process that it is impossible to come out cutting edge.”

In one early episode, the rat Jamnet is in the Oval Office stealing presidential mints when he picks up the President’s red phone and says, “Yo, Gorby, I pushed the wrong button by mistake. So I’d stay inside if I was you. OK, pal?” When his friend Max urges him to leave, Jamnet says, “Wait, I wanna razz him about that red thing on his head.”

But the Soviet Union dissolved in the time it took to animate the episode, so new lines had to be dubbed that say, “Boris, hang tough. I’m sending over a couple of pizzas. If they aren’t there in 30 minutes you got ‘em free.” Then Jamnet says to Max, “I’ll betcha he waits up for ‘em, too!”

“You have no idea of hard it is to go back in and loop new lines,” said Mauldin. “We have to avoid making last minute changes at all costs, because it costs a lot of money to do.

“When I got the series pilot back from being animated overseas, I was really upset. For instance, there was a scene with a tour bus and the only thing that was animated on the tour bus was the tires, using two frames cycled back and forth and I said, ‘What the hell is this?!’ I got a lot of those shots when they sent me the pilot. I wanted to make sure that these guys understood that this was not a show for Saturday morning. This was a prime-time show. I don’t think they understood the concept of prime time at first.”

7 Comments

  • “Warners went to great lengths to protect Bugs’ image. One scene the agency wanted in the ad was to have Bugs Bunny handing out sticks of dynamite disguised as hot dogs but Warners rejected it.”

    But handing out dynamite hot dogs IS Bugs’ image!

  • Almost forgot about that funny commercial; the 1990’s were the last hurrah for the beloved characters, given the death of Mel Blanc. Moreover, this was the era of Tiny Toon Adventures and its offshoots Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, and Taz-Mania. Space Jam was probably the pinnacle of this period.

  • “I wanted to make sure that these guys understood that this was not a show for Saturday morning. This was a prime-time show. I don’t think they understood the concept of prime time at first.”

    And yet Capitol Critters not only flopped by the time it premiered on ABC, but had 6 episodes unaired. I haven’t seen the show itself, but do I think It had an interesting concept, only it was poorly executed.

    • You haven’t seen it, yet you know it was poorly executed?!

  • I admit to seeing Capitol Critters. Yes, it’s a flawed (and dated) show, but I did enjoy what I did see. Speaking of prime time, am I the only person who thinks that Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM) should have aired on prime time?

  • Wait, wasn’t Capitol Critters actually produced by Hanna-Barbera? Didn’t they invent the entire concept of prime time cartoons!? I know, nobody who worked there at the time of Capitol Critters would have been around from back in the Flinstone era but the Flintstones also used limited animation. And so did Non-H-B cartoons that were aimed at adults, like Rocky and Friends and Roger Ramjet. If limited animation was good enough for those classics, it certainly should have been good enough for Capitol Critters! I actually liked Capitol Critters though. I may have been the only person who watched all of the episodes when they first aired. Nobody watched that ABC “I Love Saturday Night” block besides me. It was ABC’s attempt to get a Saturday Night block that was as popular as their Friday night TGIF line up. They even moved Perfect Strangers to that night to boost “I Love Saturday Night” but the move just ended up kiling Perfect Strangers ratings instead. The entire line up must have only lasted about two months.

  • “Animation is such a time-consuming, labor-intensive process that it is impossible to come out cutting edge.”
    South Park, “Hold my beer.”

    I remember those early 90’s nights. With the hit of the Simpsons, ABC gave so Capitol Critters, CBS gave us Family Dog and Fish Police. All of which were pretty awful. We had high hopes with Family Dog (because the Amazing Stories episode was so good) and Fish Police (based on a successful comicbook and it looked good)- but I don’t remember anyone thinking Capitol Critters was going to be any good. It just looked like a throw back to typical cartoons people were tired of.

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