June 21, 2013 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #115


A Dissenting View. Here’s another example of why to be wary of critics. In a July 1942 issue of “Time” magazine, its reviewer was not quite impressed by the Fleischer “Superman” cartoon series when he reviewed Superman in the Volcano, the eighth entry in the series: “Some 20,000,000 Supermaniacs can hardly wait for Superman’s ten-minute, one-reel cartoon to appear once a month in more than 7,000 U.S. movie houses…” Artistically, ‘Superman’ shorts are the movie cartoon at their worst. Superman looks and acts like a wooden puppet. So do all his playmates. There is little his creators—the old Fleischer Studios (now Famous Studios, Inc.) at Miami, Fla.—can do to improve their hero—even King Disney can’t animate human beings satisfactorily. But they did manage to give him a new voice recently. His old voice wasn’t manly enough. Now it booms.” By the way, the voice of Superman was not changed to my knowledge but remained Bud Collyer who had performed the role in the Mutual radio series although at least one animator on the series claimed that the Florida weather played havoc with the sound equipment so all the tracks had to be redone in New York.

All Tied Up. When Tom and Jerry: The Movie (1992) was being made, the artists at Film Roman fought for the iconic characters to have the classic look from their 1940s cartoons but Joe Barbera who helped originate the characters stated that he preferred them wearing ties like in their later television appearances.

The Other Captain Marvel. In 1969, in a speech to some college students, Marvel Comics Founder Stan Lee revealed that Marvel Comics’ version of “Captain Marvel” was created because an unnamed animation company was interested in producing a series about the character. They even gave Lee certain guidelines (outer space origin, member of an alien race and so forth) but when the character was finally introduced in the comic books (Marvel Superheroes #12 1967), the animation company changed its mind and dropped the project. Marvel continued to use the character because it helped maintain a trademark on the name.

robinhood73Alex Toth at Disney. While many fans know that legendary artist Alex Toth did several Dell comic books featuring Disney’s live action version of Zorro, Toth also spent about three months at the Disney Studios working on the storyboard for the Disney animated feature, Robin Hood (1971). He wrote about the experience: “I was always dazzled by the corridors’ galleries of art from the past classics. Lovely quality work! But…the current Robin Hood feature just shaping up in story and character models by (Ken) Anderson, sucked! It lacked…difference! Uniqueness reason for being! It just lay there…a dud! Creaky old rehash in too many ways…without fire. No heat! Three years to do a big dud? No. I don’t think so…not for me! (Disney) was a museum to what it was…”

Duh! It’s the Fox! In the movie Making Mr. Right (1987), Sid Raymond appears in a minor role as one of actor Hart Bochner’s show-biz managers. He sings to himself as he prepares a deli sandwich. Raymond was the voice of many Famous Studios animated characters including Baby Huey.

Melendez Meet Buchwald. In 1981, animation legend Bill Melendez, responsible for the animated “Peanuts” specials proposed a series of animated half-hours based on the writings of political humorist Art Buchwald. “If things go easy, I know it’s right,” Melendez stated at the time. “I called Buchwald in Washington and he said, ‘Great’. We met on storyboards. He never asked for money. He was very helpful. But we couldn’t penetrate those network meatheads. What irritates me is when I see the garbage they do put on.”

Did You Know? In 1971, cartoonist Dan O’Neill, later infamous as the leader of the Air Pirates, let his “Odd Bodkins” comic strip characters appear in animated television commercials for Bell Telephone.

Smurf Fan. Beloved creator of the Muppets, Jim Henson, in the early 1980s told an interviewer, “I try to keep up with children’s programming, but I find the whole area of commercial television children’s programming very depressing except for The Smurfs.”

Award Winner. The animated feature Shinbone Alley (not theatrically released until 1971) won the top award, The Golden Phoenix, at the Atlanta Georgia International Film Festival in 1970. It was judged best of more than 1,200 entries in the festival. Eddie Bracken and Carol Channing provided the voices of poetic cockroach Archy and alley cat Mehitabel just as they did on a Columbia Records 1954 concept album that lead to the 1957 Broadway production that lasted only 49 performances before closing.

The Cruella De Vil Effect. In the 1990s, actress Sharon Stone told an interviewer, “I loved Cruella de Vil because she had the best cheekbones!” During that same time, actress Miranda Richardson stated, “When I was five, I had to be carried screaming from the theater that was playing 101 Dalmatians. I was absolutely terrified of Cruella de Vil.”

Just a Farm Boy. Animation director Don Bluth grew up on a Utah farm. “I became very close to some of my animals which I think helped me understand the feelings of animals,” claimed Bluth. “Whenever I’d see a movie, I’d tell my horse all about it.”

mickey_head150Chuck Jones on Mice. Animation director Chuck Jones is always good for an interesting quote like this one: “It’s odd that mice are as endearing in animation as they are terrifying in reality. Nobody’s comfortable with a mouse in the house. Even grown men will run for the hills if there are mice in the house.” Even Walt Disney admitted to a reporter that just about everyone was afraid of a real mouse, including himself, but felt that people would also respond to something small and cute on the screen.

On the Cutting Edge. Gary Dell’Abate, the producer of Howard Stern’s radio show, was quite the collector of animation cels but even he was surprised when he received a “Dennis the Menace” cel signed by artist Hank Ketchum from John Wayne Bobbitt’s lawyers. Bobbitt’s wife had performed a penile amputation on John giving him some limited fame in 1993. In 1993, four VHS tapes were released featuring episodes from the 1986-1988 animated “Dennis the Menace” series. Allegedly, Bobbitt’s lawyers were friends with someone in the animation industry and gave Dell’Abate the cel as a “thank you” for being kind on the Howard Stern show on one of Bobbit’s seven appearances after the incident.


  • “All Tied Up. When Tom and Jerry: The Movie (1992) was being made, the artists at Film Roman fought for the iconic characters to have the classic look from their 1940s cartoons but Joe Barbera who helped originate the characters stated that he preferred them wearing ties like in their later television appearances.”


    “The animated feature Shinbone Alley (not theatrically released until 1971) won the top award, The Golden Phoenix, at the Atlanta Georgia International Film Festival in 1970.”

    I recall seeing a mention of that at the start of the film on some VHS copies of the movie.

  • Raymond also appeared as the husband of Page Morton Black in Chock Full O’ Nuts commercials of the 1960s (Paige’s real-life husband owned the company, and she sang the ad’s jingle). I was always hoping the copy writer would slip a “Duh, that sounds logical!” line into the script for Sid.

    The Joe Barbera story about T&J reminds me of when Lucille Ball was asked on a talk show what her favorite episode of “I Love Lucy” was, and replied it was the one with Dean Martin … which left both the host and the audience puzzled, because no one could remember Dean ever being on the show. Which he wasn’t — the episode she was thinking of was from one of the later seasons (the weak ones) of “The Lucy Show”.. Sometimes, what you think is good and what the guy or gal who created it think is good are two different things.

  • Please keep doing these! I love them! My girlfriend loves them! Heck, these may end up being the glue that keeps our relationship together!

  • Don’t forget the ultimate Gary Dell’Abate anecdote – Gary, on the show one day, was talking about some new animation cel purchases he was interested in, he mistakenly referred to Quick Draw McGraw’s partner, Baba Looey, as Baba Booey. The crew picked up on it, and goofed on him for having an interest in a character without even knowing its name. Gary dismissed it, thinking the ridicule would be over in a day. Little did he realize the name has stuck to this day, where he’s now embraced it, and is often called “Baba Booey”.

  • Speaking of Time Magazine and Superman, I was doing some research once and came across an article in the Sept. 11, 1939 issue about Supes. World War II had just broken out in Europe and the article discussed the problems of how to keep an all-powerful fictional character interesting and relevant when he couldn’t have any effect on real-world events. That is, you couldn’t send Superman to Poland to fight the Germans because Superman didn’t exist in the real world, but you couldn’t ignore the real world in the fictional context of the strip, either, when something like a new world war was going on.
    The article also uses the term “World War II,” which I thought was pretty early for that. I’ve wondered if numbering the world wars like that — World War I and World War II — was a “Time-ism” that caught on. Time was written in an odd “streamlined” prose style in that period and had a lot of strange turns of phrase, and that might have been one of them. It would have been interesting if the first recorded use of “World War II” was in a Time article about Superman, but I think it had been used prior to that. Before there were two of them, the first world war was just called “the World War.” There was talk and speculation in the ’30s about a possible second one, though.
    Anyway, the Time Superman article is here, though the official Time archive wants you to be a paid subscriber to access it. I read it in a public library microfilm years ago.,9171,711787,00.html

  • The Time story on Superman is a little odd. Volcano is not a Famous Studios production, but a full blown Fleischer Superman. (At least on the opening credits). I’m guessing that by the time Volcano actually hit theaters the Fleischer boat had been capsized and the whole industry knew about the transition to Famous Studios. At any rate, I think the Fleischer’s were getting better all the time at animating humans, especially in the underrated Mr. Bug Goes To Town, which continues to gain respect as the years go by. And we all know the look and tone of the Superman and Batman TV animation of the 1990s was inspired by Fleischer’s artists.

    • The studio was officially changed to Famous Studios on May 25, 1942. The Fleischer brothers had already left the studio at the end of 1941. It was of course standard practice at the time for all cartoon studios to release cartoons long after their makers had ledt the studios, so there’s really nothing odd here.

  • Mice are seen generally seen as cute, but rats are not. Well, expect for in Ratatouille that is!

  • I remember the Dan O’Neill spots for the phone company, promoting low long distance rates all day Sunday. They also appeared as print ads in the Sunday comic sections — remember when those were big enough to include advertising, usually in cartoon form?

    “Shinbone Alley” the Broadway show starred Eartha Kitt as Mehitabel; Mel Brooks worked on the libretto. The original album was actually two separate half-hour pieces: “Archy and Mehitabel,” which had Bracken and Channing as the characters and David Wayne as narrator; and “Echoes of Archy,” which was mainly Wayne speaking and singing other selections from the original Marquis books. For Broadway and the movie, most of “Echos” was laced into the “Archy and Mehitabel” story. The movie was much closer to the original LP than the Broadway show; some years back I saw a local stage production that likewise largely dispensed with the Broadway version (aside from combining both parts of the LP).

  • Howard Stern and John Wayne Bobbitt. Two names I never thought I’d ever encounter on “Animation Anecdotes.” If Jodi Arias shows up on the next one, I know the world’s gone mad.

    Audiences at the time seemed to find mice cuter than rats, although Mickey at the time was closer to the size of the latter.

    Oh, and Time was right about the Superman toons.

  • I only discovered quite recently that Irv Spence animated on Tom and Jerry: The Movie. That meant the director worked on the Chuck Jones T&Js of the 60s, while one of the animators had drawn the characters from (almost) the very beginning. I wonder what he animated in the film?

  • How sad that anyone wanted the design of Tom to be changed from the fantastic look of the 1940’s, especially when you consider that Tom was one of the best designed cats of that period of animation. Tom, in the 1940’s, always looked so much better than any other cats in T&J cartoons, and I used to think that H/B should have put more thought into the design of Lightning, the cat that appears in “OLD ROCKIN’ CHAIR TOM”. Being the better mouse-catcher for that cartoon, Lightning should have had a fantastic design, but he looked so ordinary, as I remember him, save for the fact that he zipped about like volts of electricity along the floor and he was red. Tom was the aging mouser, yet I still liked watching him zip about the house, even if he landed smack against the wall or in a heap on the floor after being steam-starched by the fallen hot iron and ironing board!

    Yeah, Mickey Mouse was the size of a rat, but then, almost all mainstay Disney characters were more like anthropomorphized humans in animal costumes. Pluto was the closest thing to an actual animal, because I don’t ever recall him being up on two “legs” with human clothes on his back.

    I guess you can say that about Sniffles, too, more the young human boy than a little mouse, but I still like the short-lived cartoon series, especially the mute but expressive Book Worm character with the frameless spectacles and derby.

  • It all depends on what mice or rats are scary. If you have a pet mouse or rat (usually white), then they’re all right. Also if they’re in a cage or tank. But if there’s a stray mouse or rat (black, brown, or grey) running around in the home, that’s when people panic. And they usually have diseases. Not the cute & cuddly kind in cartoons! 😛

    As for the factoid about Alex Toth, that’s quite an interesting one! 🙂

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