October 18, 2013 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #132


On the Wall. In the Warners Brother cartoon My Little Duckaroo (1954), some newspapers are seen lining the walls in the backgrounds for Nasty Canasta’s cabin. They are from the April 19, 1947 issue of The New Yorker. Page 87, to be exact, the start of a short story A Case of Congestion by Evelyn Eaton.

Daws Butler Remembered by Stan Freberg. “You have to realize that Hanna-Barbera worked backward from characterizations that Daws (Butler) created to come up with Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear. He was those characters long before they ever hit the screen. Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear were walking, talking, visual adptations of what he did for years. The fact that he doesn’t crave publicity in a business that feeds on it says a lot about him as a man. You cannot dislike Daws. You can get a feel for him the characters he created. They are warm and compassionate. He is an incredibly talented man, whose humor is both subtle and profound,” claimed the amazing Stan Freberg, a long time friend and collaborator with Butler, in a 1978 interview.

Jumbo. In 1978, Zelimir Matko, then chief of Zagreb Films, announced he was going to produce an animated feature entitled “Jumbo” about the great Barnum and Bailey pachyderm “including his sex life”. British animator Bob Godfrey was listed as co-director. The film was never made because shortly after the announcement, one of the backers passed away. Godfrey passed away in 2013 and his one unfulfilled ambition was to make an animated feature.

Dr. Seuss. Theodor Geisel (“Dr. Seuss”) claimed to an interviewer in 1979 that he never watched any of the animated television specials based on his work. “And I don’t read any of my books after they come out. If I did, I’d start re-analyzing.”

What Makes Animators Great? What makes animators like Grim Natwick, Ken Harris or Art Babbitt so great? Animator Richard Williams in 1979 was quick to answer, “They knew how to draw, that’s why. And I don’t mean Bugs Bunny. Natwick went to Austria in the beginning and learned from Gustav Klimt. I went crazy when I first saw the drawings of Ego Schiele. He drew like an animator. So did Edgar Degas. You see, animation is the science of drawing movement, the craft of movement. Degas knew it. An animator should be able to draw like a Degas. Animation is slow. It’s cold patience. It’s not speed. Fast is funny. Fast is cartoons. If the object is to make people laugh, okay, that’s for the cartoonists. My own favorite cartoons are Chuck Jones’ Road Runners.”

cobbler-celWilliams Masterpiece. In 1978, Richard Williams’ legendary “The Thief and the Cobbler” had only a few minutes of finished footage plus another hour of rough artwork as well as scores of stored reels at the Soho facility filled with abandoned conceptions representing years of work. Williams who stated that everything else he had ever done had just been rehearsal for this epic film, declared, “I wanted to redefine the animation medium. And it took us years to get ready. Everything has existed to produce this one picture.” I know that Roy E. Disney when he was alive was an advocate to have Williams director’s cut restored and released. Did that project die with Roy?

Math Trouble. Lou Scheimer of Filmation in 1979 was defending his cartoons to TV Guide’s Ellen Torgerson by saying, “It’s a stupid charge that animation isn’t as good as it used to be. Kids don’t count the number of drawings.”

Geographically Attractive. Animation historian Joe Adamson once explained that the reason that Paramount used the Schlesinger Studio to do the animation in their film “Alice in Wonderland” (1933) (the walrus and the carpenter sequence) and not the Fleischer Studio where they already had a relationship was that the Fleischers were on the East Coast and Paramount felt that the Warner Brothers facilities on the West Coast were more convenient.

The Tears of Hanna. An animator once told me that when animation legend Bill Hanna completed the short “To Spring” (1936) for Harman-Ising, he was so disappointed in his work on it that he cried.

Gould on Tracy. Chester Gould, creator of the “Dick Tracy” comic strip had some strong feelings about the early 1960s UPA series. “I didn’t like that. That was made on a format I came up with and supervised the initial episode. But we were catering to very small fry and I think we would have been smarter to have taken a more serious view of the thing and played it more or less straight, like the strip.”

Chuck Jones Tribute. The Sunday episode of the “Rick O’Shay” comic strip for September 23, 1979 featured gunfighter Hipshot Perrcussion riding into New Mexico territory when suddenly two clouds of dust pass by him quickly. The reader gets a quick glimpse of a coyote chasing a roadrunner as Hipshot muses, “That crazy coyote ain’t never gonna catch that ol’ roadrunner…” as he dismount in front of the Acme Saloon, “C. Jones Prop.” At the time the strip was written by Marian Dern. In 1978, Jones’ wife Dorothy died; three years later, he married Marian Dern. Dern had worked in several capacities including assistant to the producer on several Jones’ half hour specials starting in 1973.

Guest Starring Mickey Mouse. Mickey Mouse was so popular in the 1930s that excerpts from Mickey Mouse cartoons appeared in movies from other studios. A short clip from Mickey Mouse’s “Ye Olden Days” (1933) is seen at the beginning of the Fox Films, “My Lips Betray” (1933). Republic Pictures Corporation film “Michael O’Halloran” (1937) features an excerpt from “Puppy Love” (1933). In the famous Paramount’s “Sullivan’s Travels” (1941) is an excerpt from “Playful Pluto” (1934) that convinces Joel McCrea’s character of the importance of laughter during the Great Depression.

Mickey Monkey. The actor playing Mickey Mouse in the 1934 Laurel and Hardy film version of Babes in Toyland (also known as “March of the Wooden Soldiers” after 1948) was a capuchin monkey in a Mickey Mouse costume and mask. See embed below. The New York Times review of the film December 13, 1934 identifies the character as Mickey Mouse. Walt Disney was friends with both producer Hal Roach and stars Laurel and Hardy.


  • Hal Roach also got permission to use “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” for scenes involving the three little pigs (played by little people).

    Early on, “Mickey” chucks a brick at the fiddle-playing cat, which audiences must have recognized as a reference to Krazy Kat. This cat, however, doesn’t like bricks.

    Think Roach was still around when Disney did his own “Babes in Toyland” with two comic characters modeled on Laurel and Hardy. Sort of a neat turnabout.

    • Boy, was Roach “still around” when Disney remade “Babes in Toyland!” Hal Roach didn’t die until November of 1992–nine months after his 100th birthday!

  • About the Butler-Freberg quote: And of course, both of ’em worked on Time for Beany in ’49, produced by the Bob Clampett.

  • those (Mickey) scene in “Babes” always fascinated me, to this day. You (sorta) KNOW it’s a “monkey inside” (from his movements), but it’s astounding that he could actually “move” inside there….much less be “directed!” A great film!!

  • Mickey is also featured in MGM’s “Hollywood Party” (ca. 1934), just before the animated “Hot Chocolate Soldiers” segment.

  • Paramount must have been satisfied with the Schlesinger studio’s for ALICE IN WONDERLAND since they also used the studio for the “Rippling Rhythm” sequence in THE BIG BROADCAST OF 1938.

  • Damn, I never noticed that My Little Duckaroo had the background lined with magazine page. That’s something.

    • Of all the times I watched it, I could make out it was a newspaper or magazine article the clipped up to make that wall pattern in the cartoon but simply didn’t know where they would’ve gotten it from.

    • The big question is why? Was it deliberate or accidental that the print shows? I rather think it was accidental, but who can say?

    • The big question is why? Was it deliberate or accidental that the print shows? I rather think it was accidental, but who can say?

      Sometimes it’s a design aesthetic that is used in these cases, possibly they wanted to convey the cheap, ramshackle look of that shack the guys were in.

  • Re: Dick Tracy

    Joe Staton and Mike Curtis, who are responsible for the current incarnation of the “Dick Tracy” comic strip, wanted to have Tracy’s “associates” from the UPA cartoons make a cameo appearance in the comic strip, but were not allowed to do so because of rights issues.

    • Oh well, not like I wanted to see what Go Go Gomez or an anthropomorphic Hemlock Holmes would look like in that strip, but it would’ve been nice!

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  • I remember watching that Dick Tracy cartoon when I was a kid. This was when the live action Disney movie came out.

    I can see why Gould didn’t like it. I only saw one episode where Dick Tracy actually did anything besides sit at his desk and order his ethnic stereotype subordinates around (while always covering his mouth while talking into his watch so the animators wouldn’t have to animate his lip movements). In this episode I think he got trapped in a safe or something and had to be rescued by Joe Jitsu.

  • Dr. Seuss. Theodor Geisel (“Dr. Seuss”) claimed to an interviewer in 1979 that he never watched any of the animated television specials based on his work. “And I don’t read any of my books after they come out. If I did, I’d start re-analyzing.”

    I suffer from that too with my work.

  • It looks like that Mickey-costumed monkey footage was shown in reverse.

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