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.
For 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 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.
“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.”
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.