October 25, 2013 posted by

Animation Anecdotes # 133

bela-mickeyMickey’s Friend, Dracula. Actor Bela Lugosi, famed for his portrayal of Dracula, was a fan of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse in particular. He had a photo taken with a Charlotte Clark Mickey Mouse doll on Mickey’s fifth birthday in 1933 at a Hollywood restaurant. In 1935, he had to fill out a press biography for Cameo Pictures Corporation (where he was starring in the film Murder by Television) and one of the questions was his favorite film star. At first, he wrote “none” and then crossed it out and wrote “Mickey Mouse”.

Wish There Was A Time Machine. On September 13, 1929 at the Fox Dome Theater in Ocean Park, California (managed by Harry Woodin who was the originator of the theater Mickey Mouse Clubs in the 1930s), it was announced that at the noon matinee “In Person. Mickey Mouse’s Daddy, the man who originated the world’s most popular sound cartoon character: Walt Disney assisted by Carl Stalling at the piano and U.B. Iwerk (sic), cartoonist. They’ll show you how they do it, and introduce ‘The Mickey Mouse Theme Song’. Mothers and Fathers are urged to attend this program.” Yes, it was a children’s matinee.

Call the ASPCA. In a 1955 interview, Walt Disney recalled that he had told some of his animators in the early days to always observe reality. “I told them, put a kitten on the kitchen floor with a ball of yarn, pour a little molasses here and there, and then watch it. A kitten will think up more cute tricks in five minutes than a gag man could in a lifetime.”

The Reason It Took So Long to Make Disney’s Peter Pan. “I think some people thought it was a ‘sissy’ story, especially with the names of the parents being ‘Darling’ and with Tinker Bell the fairy scattering her pixie dust. I remember there was that feeling even before we considered making the picture, that ‘Peter Pan’ was a story for girls. Even when I was a kid, you’d never read a book like that,” laughed Ward Kimball in a 1992 interview.

mickey_gloveCut Off A Finger, Save a Fortune. “Close study of a Mickey Mouse film will reveal that he wears gloves with but three fingers and a thumb. The missing digit saves Disney several thousand dollars a year in artists’ time.” The Literary Digest October 3, 1936

Waving Hands Hypnotically. In 1969, “Variety” newspaper announced that the makers of “Yellow Submarine” would tackle an animated feature based on the character of Mandrake the Magician, a popular newspaper strip from King Features. Created by Lee Falk, Mandrake just waved his hands hypnotically to win the day.

The Phantom Series. In 1969, “The Phantom” comic strip and comic book artist Bill Lignante was doing layouts for Hanna-Barbera. He spent twenty-six years as a court room artist for ABC Network News (1968-1994) and sixteen years working for Hanna-Barbera on several of the different Scooby-Doo series, Jabberjaw, Challenge of the Superfriends and more. Lignante also worked at Ruby Spears Productions who pitched to the networks an animated series based on Lee Falk’s “The Phantom”. Dan Spiegle and Lignante drew the presentation boards. ABC wanted to buy it but there were some legal complications over the rights.

The Animated Bible. Back in 1969, it was announced that singer Pat Boone and Don Hansen Productions planned to start production within six months on making an animated film of the Bible, to cover both the Old and New Testaments. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were to be the starting segments of the film which was to feature original music and eight hundred speaking parts when finally completed. The picture was to be non-demonimational. “We are not rewriting the Bible. We are going to tell it like it is,” stated Hansen at the time.

culhane_snoopsThe Lost Animation Book. In 1972, Viking Press was going to publish a book by animation historian John Culhane entitled “A History of Animation 1901-1971”. When I talked to John about this at the Disney Institute in 1996, he assured me he had many files boxes filled with research and interviews for the book but questioned whether such a book would be valuable with all the other histories that had been published since he announced his book. What happened to all that reference material and unpublished interviews? Is it still in boxes waiting to be re-discovered by someone? Personally, I’d still like to see John write the book and end the history in 1971.

Inspired by Howard Stern. Mike Judge, creator of “Beavis and Butt-head” was close to burnout on the series in 1995 (the original MTV series lasted from 1993-1997) until Howard Stern inspired him. “Not like you’d think,” claimed Judge. “It’s just that Howard Stern fills five hours a morning just talking. I started to think that rather than coming up with something to say about each video, to have (Beavis and Butt-head) just talking. They are still just 14 years old forever.”

Halloween Tree. “I’m writing a film. It’s going to be a cartoon by Chuck Jones. A wonderful man to work with. It’s a history of Halloween in cartoon form. It’s going to be a heck of a lot of fun and it’s going to be much better than the ‘Great Pumpkin’ show by Charles Schulz. I thought the Great Pumpkin was just dreadful. So mean. It was dreadfully mean, to anticipate the ‘Great Pumpkin’ arriving for a half hour and when it was over my kids sat there, and they were depressed. And so was I. I thought it was dreadful of Mr. Schulz not to know that you can’t build up this kind of need in people to see the Great Pumpkin, and not have him show up one way or another. It’s a shame. I thought he knew better,” stated writer Ray Bradbury in 1967 as he worked on a screenplay for a half hour animated special entitled The Halloween Tree that was never made at the time. Bradbury converted his screenplay into a novel released in 1972. Hanna-Barbera produced a ninety minute animated version in 1993 about four children learning the customs of Halloween and saving their friend with Bradbury narrating which won an Emmy. Bradbury’s 1967 screenplay and the Hanna-Barbera one were published in an “author’s preferred text” of the novel, compiled and edited by Donn Albright, published in 2005.


  • Among Bill Lignante’s courtroom assignments as a sketch artist was the Charles Manson trial. Years later, his drawings were used to illustrate a book about Manson titled THE GARBAGE PEOPLE and long after that, a series of trading cards published by Eclipse!

    • I’m genuinely surprised that no one has commented: “‘THE GARBAGE PEOPLE’? Wasn’t that about Andy Heyward, Robbie London and DIC?”

    • I’m genuinely surprised that no one has commented: “‘THE GARBAGE PEOPLE’? Wasn’t that about Andy Heyward, Robbie London and DIC?”

      Wish I made that statement, sure sounds like they were!

  • I love Ray Bradbury’s writing and admired the man to a great extent, but heaven knows he wasn’t perfect. Though I have to admit I was unaware of the pedigree of The Halloween Tree and have to wonder now if it’s worth watching.

    Is there any way we ordinary animation fans can help encourage John Culhane to either finish that book or allow someone else access to his research materials? I’m sure there’s much to be learned from what he’s collected, and I would love to see it.

    • Though I have to admit I was unaware of the pedigree of The Halloween Tree and have to wonder now if it’s worth watching.

      Who knows. Aside from the DVD version of the special you can get from the Warner Archive, there was an LD release back in the 90’s that also had a commentary track from Bradbury himself.

    • Jody & Chris, “The Halloween Tree” is airing on Boomerang Saturday morning.

    • Top Cat James (mind if I call you TC?), thanks for the heads-up; I’ll be sure to set my timer to record it!

    • mind if I call you TC?

      Providing its with dignity. 😉

    • To Top Cat James, actually, but there’s not “reply” button for him..
      I expected that Top Cat song reference in response to “call you TC”! I ONLY do it with dignity!:)

  • That is THE most bizarre rendering of Donald Duck I’ve ever seen.

    • I’m glad we aren’t seeing the whole thing, it’s pretty creepy (Google it, but NSFW)!

  • Hi! Sorry if this is off-topic but I have a question for Jerry Beck: What’s the name of the classical music piece that’s associated with firemen that plays in the Gabby cartoon ”Fire Cheese” (1941) and the Screen Song ”The Big Flame Up” (1949)?

    • Sorry. I know which piece you mean, but I don’t have the cue sheets for those specific cartoons. I’ll leave it to my colleague Alex Rannie to tell us.

    • It’s the overture to “The Merry Wives of Windsor” by Otto Nicolai. “Fire Cheese” tosses in snippets of the Light Cavalry Overture, “It’s a Hap-Hap-Happy Day,” and “Over the Waves” (among other titles) for good measure. Pun only slightly intended.

  • Ward Kimball’s opinion of “Peter Pan” makes me wonder if that’s why in Disney’s rendition, Peter Pan is not only male (as opposed the the traditional female in drag), but is also pursued by Wendy, Princess Tiger Lily and a flock of mermaids to boot.

    • Peter’s got kind-of a Little Tuff Guy personality in the Disney version, too.

  • I’ve always said that, if you watch a little kitten doing anything to quell its curiosity, you can come up with a few interesting cartoons. Hey, I’m sure that Chuck Jones came up with “FEED THE KITTY” just from watching a dog becoming acquainted with a little kitten. No need for a human to intrude on the situation–just follow and watch.

  • “Close study of a Mickey Mouse film will reveal that he wears gloves with but three fingers and a thumb. The missing digit saves Disney several thousand dollars a year in artists’ time.” The Literary Digest October 3, 1936

    By today’s standards such consolidation may not be necessary but we insist!

  • First of all, fantastic website! It’s great to see an intelligent and detailed discussion of classic and overlooked animation history.

    That proposed Bill Lignante Phantom series for Ruby Spear sounds very promising. I suppose it would have been done in a similar style to Thundarr the Barbarian. Is there any concept art floating around? I’m guessing ABC had to pass because Marvel had the rights to the Phantom locked up for their 1986 Defenders of the Earth series.

    Anyway, it would be great to hear about more action series like this one.

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