ANIMATION ANECDOTES
February 14, 2015 posted by Jim Korkis

In His Own Words: Dave Bennett on Disney’s “Orange Bird”

The little Florida Orange Bird was developed as part of a commercial sponsorship agreement between the Disney Company and the Florida Orange Growers in 1967. The bird was to be “the friendly face of Florida sunshine and fresh squeezed Florida orange juice”. He was designed by Disney artist C. Robert “Bob” Moore who often undertook such assignments.

orangebird-lpFor those growing up in Florida, the bird was a familiar and beloved mascot and there was lots of merchandise from banks to key chains to sipper cups and more. The contract expired in 1986 and the bird disappeared quietly. His close association with spokeswoman Anita Bryant who was embroiled in some controversy had sullied his value.

Because of his huge popularity in Japan, the Disney Company recently revived the character on merchandise.

Foods and Fun: A Nutrition Adventure (1980) was a twelve minute animated short for the Walt Disney Educational Media department that starred the Florida Orange Bird.

The film was actually produced and animated by Rick Reinert Productions.

Rick Reinert Productions was a small, independent animation studio in the North Hollywood area that was very active throughout the 1980s.

In 1981, Reinert Productions was responsible for animating the educational film Winnie the Pooh Discovers the Seasons for Walt Disney Educational Media. Disney was so impressed with their work that they were given the assignment to produce and animate the next theatrically released Winnie the Pooh animated featurette, Winnie the Pooh and A Day for Eeyore (1983).

Reinert also did a lot of work for ABC and their Saturday morning cartoons including interstitials and half-hour specials. These specials included the Captain O.G. Readmore specials like Jack and the Beanstalk (1985) O.G. Readmore Meets Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1986) and Puss In Boots (1988). One of my personal favorites was the half-hour adaptation of the Art Buchwald story of leopards, The Bollo Caper (1985).

As always, my friend, the extremely talented Dave Bennett was very gracious and generous when I asked him back in 2010 to share some of his memories working on that one and only Orange Bird animated short:

rick-reinert-logo“Rick Reinert Productions had been doing educational filmstrip art for Disney with their classic cartoon characters for over a year while we were still located in Cleveland, Ohio. Disney liked working with us—but soon got very tired of traveling to Ohio, and said that they would be happy to continue using our skills IF we moved to Los Angeles! We packed our bags immediately!

“We were out in Los Angeles for about a year doing several filmstrips a month when Disney asked us if we could do a film.

“‘Sure! That’s what we do best!’ we said.

“So they gave us that low-key Orange Bird project as more-or-less a ‘test’ to see if we could handle the higher profile Winnie the Pooh Discovers the Seasons film that they had waiting in the wings for us.

“There were no Orange Bird model sheets. We cobbled together a few pieces of publicity art, and Ennis McNulty augmented that with some really cute poses. Rick designed the Toucan and the other birds, I designed a squirrel and the Owl, and Ennis designed the human family and the Orange Bird’s house, I think.

“I wasn’t invited to any of the voice sessions — that was Rick’s domain. But I knew June [Foray] and Hal [Smith] from other projects we had worked on … and Hal would be our Winnie the Pooh in two subsequent films! I was young and full of energy and everything was exciting for a boy from Ohio! I didn’t really animate any of the characters—just did a lot of extensive character layouts that were given to the animators.

OrangeBird-225“We were such a small shop that all of us wore a lot of hats but my duties included character and prop design, storyboarding, track editing and reading, timing out the exposure sheets for the animators, layout, assistant animating, shooting pencil tests on the 16mm Oxberry in our back room, checking, cel
painting and going to the red carpet premiere. (That last one is just my silly joke!)

“I never heard anything about our film—good or bad—once we turned it over to Disney. We did several Orange Bird filmstrips, though, that co-starred that Toucan and a Parrot lady with a pearl necklace (Macaw) that I remember designing. The stories were mysteries centered around food and nutrition!

“This was all done in our tiny little studio in the crook of an on-ramp to the Ventura Freeway. We were three miles west of the Disney Studios in North Hollywood. The animators who worked on this film were kind of a motley assemblage of Hanna-Barbera moonlighters, Disney young bucks, guys Rick knew from his Tom and Jerry days, and a few fellows I knew from working on Raggedy Ann and Andy!”

The animated short narrated by Rex Allen told the tale of the Orange Bird, who could not speak or sing but could only produce images over his head in a puff of orange smoke like a thought balloon but with a picture.

He is sad and a nearsighted Dr. Owl gives him advice to get a good night’s sleep, a balanced diet (grain, protein, calcium, fruit/vegetables) and exercise. The bird does so and flies to the Everglades where he befriends a family at the beach. The father does not want to take the bird home with them despite the protests of his two children but changes his mind when he is saved from going out to fish on an unsafe pier by the little bird.

There is a family picnic on the beach where the family sings about the joys of a balanced diet while the Orange Bird makes a sandwich. The narrator intones, “And this is how our story ends…Orange Bird has found his friends.”

Credits

Directed by Rick Reinert
Animation Directors: Ennis McNulty, Dave Bennett
Original Story: Vince Jefferds
Film Script: Vince Jefferds, Cal Howard, Gregg Crosby
Voices: Rex Allen (narrator), June Foray, Ilene Latter, Hal Smith (Foray and Smith do multiple different voices.)
Animators: Irv Anderson, Bob Bemiller, Frankie Gonzales, Jeff Hall, Dan Haskett, Bill Kroyer, Manny Perez, Joe Roman, Tim Walker, Phil Young
Assistant Animators: Susan Kroyer, Sammie Lanham, Jack Parr, Kevin Petrikllak, Joanna Romersa, Darrell Rooney, Bob Treat, Bob Tyler
Backgrounds: Rick Reinert
Ink and Paint: Bev Chiara, Gretchen Blumenstein, Kathy Hric, Animation Camera Services
Music: Will Schaffer
Camera: Ted Bemiller and Sons Camera
Story Editor: Bob Huber
Production Manager: Sharyn Timmons

Special Thanks to Mark Kausler for locating a print of this rare short, Jerry Beck for transferring it and Mike Kazaleh for uploading it for us to share on this post.

15 Comments

  • Dave Bennett should be a household name. I am a huge fan of his work.

    • It find it odd Reinert isn’t one either, I love his illustrated work.

    • I agree Dave Bennett should be a household name! He gave me my first job in animation, so I’m in his debt. He is also remarkably talented and very humble …too humble about his talent. He animated the Keebler elves for years…great stuff!

  • Whenever I think of Reinert Productions, the first thing I remember are dozens of late 60’s-early 70’s PSA’s for the American Medical Association and American Dental Association; all featuring characters with enormous heads. They were everywhere on TV back then, but tough to find on You Tube now.

  • The Florida orange juice commercials I remember (including those with Orange Bird) used a jingle called “Come To The Florida Sunshine Tree,” also sung by Anita Bryant, but which was not the same as the “Little Orange Bird” song. I haven’t been able to learn if he wrote it (though he probably did) but the “Sunshine Tree” jingle was produced and arranged by Tupper Saussy, a pop/jazz musician of some note in the 60’s (he and his group had a hit single, “Morning Girl” under the name The Neon Philharmonic.)
    Saussy spent the last half of his life in and out of prison and involved in sketchy ultra-right-wing politics. He died in 2007.

  • Not even from Florida myself but everyone nationally back then were aware of the Orange Bird commercials, Disney world attraction, records, and even some merchandise (Disneyland had some, plugging the OTHER Disney park…).

  • Fantastic post, Jim! Thanks to you for the new information on this, and to Mike Kazaleh/Mark Kausler and Jerry for letting us view the entire animated short. I’ve mentioned elsewhere, that had Walt Disney Animation been shut down for good in the mid-1980s, it was very likely they would have outsourced any future animation needs to Rick Reinert Productions. Interesting to think how different things might have turned out.

    Jeff: “The Orange Bird Song” was written by Richard and Robert Sherman for the record album which Jim posted the rear cover art in today’s post (with the figure of Anita Bryant)—you can listen to the tune at a post on my site. Here’s a link:

    A Rare Citrus Treat

    • Fantastic post, Jim! Thanks to you for the new information on this, and to Mike Kazaleh/Mark Kausler and Jerry for letting us view the entire animated short.

      It’s nice to see these things again. (though I never did see this film)

      I’ve mentioned elsewhere, that had Walt Disney Animation been shut down for good in the mid-1980s, it was very likely they would have outsourced any future animation needs to Rick Reinert Productions. Interesting to think how different things might have turned out.
      I bet, Rick would be quite a happy man to this day. I’d love to write a letter to him if I ever get to do so, at least thanking him for all he gave my childhood, and perhaps ask for a little sketch of O. G. Readmore if possible!

      Jeff: “The Orange Bird Song” was written by Richard and Robert Sherman for the record album which Jim posted the rear cover art in today’s post (with the figure of Anita Bryant)—you can listen to the tune at a post on my site. Here’s a link:

      Thanks for this too!

    • Well, yes; I did mention in my original post that “The Orange Bird Song” (“Little orange bird…in the sunshine tree”) and “Come To The Florida Sunshine Tree” (“…for fresh frozen orange juice, naturally”) were two different songs. I haven’t been able to track down who wrote the second one, whether it was the Shermans or Saussy or Somebody Else. Any info anyone could share would, I’m sure, be welcomed.

  • I love Reinert’s retro 1940s-era background here. It gives the entire film a more classic animation look compared to what had become standard by 1980, even in efforts using characters from the 40s.

    • It’s nice to think he didn’t mind doing the backgrounds himself. He had a lot on his plate as it was.

  • “His close association with spokeswoman Anita Bryant who was embroiled in some controversy had sullied his value.”
    In other words, Anita Bryant’s anti gay campaign, including legislation to prevent anyone who is gay to be allowed to be a teacher.

    • That’s ironic, considering that Walt Disney fired Tommy Kirk because he was homosexual.

  • I can’t help but be curious about Rick Reinert, who was defined in Jeff Lenburg’s “Who’s Who In Animated Cartoons” book as an “[E]xalted animator and founder of Rick Reinert Productions, one of the most creative independent studios on the West Coast”, but seems to have disappeared off the face of the Earth sometime during the 90s. I’m well aware that he was contracted to do “Winnie The Pooh And A Day For Eeyore” for Disney, as well as a few others, and then did PSAs and specials involving the character of Cap’n O.G. Readmore, some specials based around the Precious Moments license, and a Christian special involving some pastel colored animals known as The Kingdom Chums. Aside from that, though, I can’t find much else about the man or what became of him.

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