Scrappy. From Toys and Novelties magazine August 1935, “Scrappy is the brainchild of Charles Mintz, who has the aid of a hundred folk in producing the animated cartoon. All drawings of Scrappy are kept simple, thus youngsters find it easy to copy his likeness. On that premise, Columbia’s alert franchise department scored with an idea to make up cartoon lessons with Scrappy as the chief model.
“Already 5,000 public schools, 1,500 children’s camps and scores of department stores have accepted the idea. A hookup with this promotion is found in paint sets and drawing books featuring Scrappy. Contests are being run to single out proficiency among the young artists. One national magazine group invites children to write letters on ‘Why I Like Scrappy’, give prizes in the form of merchandise featuring the smiling little cartoon character.
“Again, a nationally known chocolate maker recently began to market chocolate cakes under Scrappy’s name, and has begun to distribute a million Scrappy magazines featuring merchandise wearing Scrappy’s license. A back-to-school promotion for fall is expected to produce additional popularity for this young star. Scrappy can plan tie-ups with his films in towns where they are shown, thus helping dealers move their goods. The plan paves the way for local newspaper co-operation and thus provides a three-way smash that insures cash register results.”
For much more about Scrappy – visit Harry McCracken’s delightful Scrappyland blog.
BFG. On December 25th, 1989, ITV in the United Kingdom broadcast an animated film based on the Roald Dahl book about a big friendly giant and produced by Cosgrove Hall Films. It was their first and only full length film. The film was dedicated to animator George Jackson who worked on numerous Cosgrove Hall productions.
In the film, BFG peforms a whizzpop for the queen. Whizzpop was author Roald Dahl’s term in the book for breaking wind.
“We hope it comes over as a funny sequence. We didn’t intend any offense. Whizzpopping is an important part of the book and we felt that if we had left it out on grounds of taste people would have accused us of chickening out,” said producer Brian Cosgrove who also directed the film.
The other challenge was creating an image of Her Royal Majesty. Cosgrove said, “We agreed it was a contemporary story and it needed the real Queen to give it authenticity. We got as close as we could. Our Queen is perhaps a little younger than Her Majesty is now but we hope we have made her a sympathetic character, one who will strike a chord of recognition.” The result was a caricature of Queen Elizabeth voiced by Angela Thorne.
Princess Diana found out about the ninety-minute film when she met a Thames TV executive at a royal premiere. She asked for a video copy and supposedly according to a palace insider, “Di, Charles and the Queen were delighted.”
Cosgrove said, “I painted a watercolour of how we saw (the giant). I got a lovely note back from Dahl saying it was perfect; he was right behind it, and to just get on and do it. Sophie, the little girl who befriends the BFG, was easy. I had read that Dahl based her on his granddaughter, Sophie. At the time she wore John Lennon glasses, so we took it from there.”
Jimmy Stewart. From Los Angeles Times November 21, 1991: Doing the voice of the sheriff Wylie Burp in An American Tail: Fievel Goes West was not necessarily new territory for actor Jimmy Stewart. He had done voice-overs before, most recently for a soup commercial and another for his friend Leonard Firestone and his tire company.
“He would do the sheriff role, he said, with one condition. Spielberg had to be in the studio directing him. It took ten days and it was done at Hollywood’s Interlock Studio. Some lines were recorded at least ten times each session at different speeds and with different phrasings. Spielberg chose the acceptable take and the animators then had to match the action to the voice.”
Alan Menken. From L.A. Life November 15, 1991, composer Alan Menken said, “People come up to me all the time and say, ‘My two year old loves your music’. I want to ask them, ‘Don’t you love it too?’ I stubbornly refuse to think of The Little Mermaid (1989) as a film exclusively for children.
“You look at the basic material. You need to establish time and place. But that doesn’t mean you slavishly pastiche the music of the era. Musicals are an innocent art form. You’re taking emotions and converting them to song, and taking the audience with you in this song.”
Rumble and Growl. In 1998, Canadian-based Cinar Films signed an agreement with Shanghai Animation Film Studio, a subsidiary of Shanghai TV, China’s second largest broadcasting company, to co-produce a 52 ten-minute episode animated series called Rumble and Growl based on a Chinese newspaper strip. Budget for the series was estimated at six and half million dollars.
The Chinese-developed educational series chronicles the adventures of two friends, Rumble and Growl, who are always hungry. In their quest to find food, the pair uncovers scientific wonders and never-before explained natural phenomena. This is the first-ever official Canada-China co-production for an animated series created in China. The series was scheduled to air in 1999 on China’s Shanghai TV.
“We’re confident it’ll be popular internationally,” said Cinar president Ron Weinberg. “It’s a wacky, funny series of stories with great universal characters.”
Birth of Family Guy. Seth MacFarlane, then 24 years old, sold Family Guy to Fox after making an eight minute animated short that he wrote, voiced, produced and animated on his computer without the help of a studio. That unusual beginning was compared to how South Park was sold. MacFarlane had worked for two years for Hanna-Barbera. At one point, Fox discussed having MacFarlane do some shorts for MAD TV.
Twentieth Century Fox TV president Sandy Grushow said, “MacFarlane has an utterly original comic vision as raw as it is fully realized. He represents the next generation of comedy talent and will bring a new edge ot the network sitcom format.” MacFarlane stated, “I have worked very hard to get where I am and I am not about to be intimidated by some stupid Indian curse.”