EDITORS NOTE: Jim Korkis has compiled the best of his Animation Anecdotes into one convenient book that compacts years – decades – of cartoon history in a concise organized form that doesn’t require digging through internet archives. It’s available now through Theme Park Press and on Amazon (via Kindle). As Jim and I go way way back, I thought I’d ask him a few questions about his years of collecting facts and figures about classic cartoons. – Jerry Beck
Jerry: Jim, I am very excited that you finally came out with a book collecting some of your Animation Anecdotes. I consider your column the backbone of this site – the one constant we can depend on each week. Cartoon Research readers love them and I do, too.Jim: Thank YOU, Jerry, for the very kind foreword that you wrote for the book. It’s hard to believe we have both been at this since being columnists for Dave Mruz’s animation fanzine, Mindrot, back in 1977. You wrote your Cartoon Review column and I wrote one with anecdotes called Harlequin.
Jerry: I remember it well. It seems like just yesterday. In fact, it was yesterday. We are still doing these columns today under new names! When did you start labeling your columns “Animation Anecdotes”?
Jim: I didn’t shift the title to Animation Anecdotes until 1986 when I started writing the column for Animation Magazine. My friend and former writing and business partner John Cawley came up with the new title. I wrote that column for roughly a decade.
Jerry: I loved the stuff the two of you wrote together like those animation books, The Encyclopedia of Cartoon Superstars and How to Create Animation. Those are great resources.
Jim: Those were both done for Pioneer Press in 1990 and have long been out-of-print. The publisher wanted me to do an Animation Anecdotes book but it turned out that he lacked integrity. John and I did not see a dime after the books were released and the publisher skipped town. Apparently, he treated his other authors the same way. I’ve learned a lot about publishers over the decades as I am sure you have.
Jerry: I have. Let’s just say, you shouldn’t plan on striking it rich by writing books. Writing a blog is more satisfying. Readers here love your weekly column. Is your new book just a compilation of those anecdotes?
Jim: Actually, I wrote Animation Anecdotes-like columns for a variety of publications like Animato!, The Comics Reader, the ASIFA-Hollywood newsletter and so many others, so the book is filled with some of the best from those long ago issues, some that have appeared here at your site for over a year (with all the corrections and additions that readers have been kind enough to share) as well as some brand new ones.
Jerry: You keep telling me that you love the additions and corrections. That’s what I love about the Cartoon Research website, we can get additional information and updates faster than ever before.
Jim: Absolutely. I have no vanity when it comes to information. It is important to get the accurate information out there even at the expense of stroking my ego. Nobody knows everything and I love it when people correct or add to what I have written or even share their own anecdotes. Cartoon Research is just like those wonderful old animation fanzines only so much better.Jerry: I noticed you organized the book to try to make it easier to find a particular anecdote.
Jim: I love the fact that the column is so eclectic that you might have a story from the Golden Age of Animation, followed by a quote from Ralph Bakshi, followed by a fun fact from an old newspaper and so on. However, that format just didn’t work for a book so I finally divided it up into chapters with one for Disney, Lantz, Bakshi, Hanna-Barbera, etc. Then within each chapter, I had subdivisions so that the Fleischer chapter has a subsection just on Popeye and another on Betty Boop and finally, I have a fairly lengthy multi-page double column index in tiny type in the back. Hopefully, people will be able to locate their favorite stories quickly.
Jerry: I suppose your favorite chapter is the one on Disney.
Jim: That’s a good guess, but actually my favorite chapter is the one on animated films never made. I have always had a great fascination about a studio announcing an animated project, investing time and money on character designs, stories and more and then just abandoning it completely. Whether it was the Dracula animated feature with Frank Frazetta concept art or Disney’s feature on Hiawatha that would include artwork from Native American artists or Walter Lantz wanting to make the animated feature Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves for Universal using caricatures of Abbott and Costello (!!), all of those projects fascinated me and are included in the book.
Jerry: You’ve compiled so much material – will we eventually see a Volume 2?
Jim: Jerry, I have learned a lot from you over the years. One of the things you always say when a DVD/Blu-Ray set comes out is that if we want to see more, we have to “vote with your wallets”. We can’t just wait to see if there might be a remaindered set or a friend gets it for us as a gift. We have to buy it now and encourage our friends to buy it now. Sales on this book will determine if there is a sequel. I certainly have enough material for at least two more sequels. That’s why I am grateful for you giving me this publicity. I hope all those who are reading will do the same at their blogs and twitter accounts and more to just let people know the book exists. Animation fandom is much different today than back in the good ol’ days.
Jerry: So true. I am learning more about that every day with these two sites. The internet, and how we consume information, seems to constantly change. You also have another book that came out at the same time, right?
Jim: Thanks for mentioning that. Yes, The Vault of Walt Volume 3 was released the same week. Once again, it is divided into four sections (Walt, the Disney films, the Disney theme parks, miscellaneous) with two dozen stories. Animation fans will be interested in the chapters on making Lady and the Tramp in CinemaScope, the story behind the computer short Off His Rockers, the Firehouse Five Plus Two, an expanded look at the life of Cliff Edwards, and how Basil of Baker Street saved animation at the Disney Studio.
Jerry: Thank you, Jim, for taking time to answer these questions.
Jim: Thank you, Jerry, for letting people know these books exist. I am currently working on a book to be released in Spring 2015 that is entirely about a Disney animated feature that was abandoned. Until then, I have to sit down and write some more Animation Anecdotes for all the Fridays coming up. I think I make it look seamless but it gets harder and harder each time. I am glad that people enjoy them, and will enjoy the book as well.