November 15, 2013 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #136

Clarence Nash Is Not Mel Blanc. In 1977 when I talked with him, Clarence Nash was not happy. “Everybody thinks Mel Blanc is Donald Duck! He’s not. I’m Donald Duck. We’ve had some problems with people who say they’re the ‘original donald Duck’ and we’ve even had some problems with them at the Disney Studio in the past. Every once in a while, we hear that I died and we get Christmas cards saying they’re sorry I passed away during the year.” Nash passed away in February 1985. When I was researching my book, “Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South”, I learned that Nash, who was an accomplished bird call imitator, did the bird whistles for Mr. Bluebird on Uncle Remus’ shoulder.

There Is A Difference. When Mae Questel, the voice of Betty Boop and Olive Oyl, appeared on the Johnny Carson “Tonight Show” in 1968, Carson was fascinated that she also did animal voices in cartoons. He asked her, “How would you do a rhinoceros?” Mae responded with a straight face, “Male or female?” Carson was speechless.

Gulliver’s Troubles. Max Flesicher had pitched an animated Popeye feature to Paramount as early as 1935 but Paramount was extremely budget-minded. They decided to test the waters with three two-reel Technicolor Popeye featurettes in1936 (Sindbad the Sailor), 1937 (Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves), and 1939 (Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp). In fact, the first pitch for Fleischer’s “Gulliver’s Travels” (1939) animated feature would have featured Popeye in the lead (and later a live action Bing Crosby taking the role of Gulliver was considered). One of the major challenges with the “Gulliver’s Travels” feature was it was green-lit when the Fleischers were in the process of relocating to Florida and the staff was split between New York and Miami, with the Miami studio being unable to get the necessary help they needed when something like a camera broke down.


The Tolkien Battle. Lawyers representing Saul Zaentz’s Fantasy Films and Tolkien’s estate filed suit to prevent Rankin-Bass’ The Return of the King (1980) from being televised, charging Rankin-Bass with copyright violations.

An angry Ralph Bakshi stated, “They’re (Rankin-Bass) not going to stop us from doing The Lord of the Rings and they won’t stop us from doing The Hobbit. Anyone who saw their version of The Hobbit know it has nothing to do with the quality and style of our feature. My life isn’t going to be altered by what Rankin-Bass choses to do badly.”

Jules Bass replied, “I liked Bakshi’s version. There were some interesting and exciting sequences. But I don’t see any problem or confusion with our doing The Return of the King. There were six versions of “A Christmas Carol’ on the air last December (1979). People take each on its own terms. If Bakshi does a sequel in two or three years, it will just be his version.”

The suit went to court but was settled “amicably” although no specifics were released. Rankin-Bass’ The Return of the King aired May 1980. Orson Bean was the voice of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins with John Huston doing the voice of Gandalf.

falaDog Gone. President Franklin Roosevelt had a dog named “Fala” who was a favorite with the American public. Bob Clampett was preparing a cartoon that would feature the popular canine (“For He’s A Jolly Good Fala”) in 1945 when President Roosevelt died and the project was abandoned. Chuck Jones’ cartoon, Fresh Airedale (1945) had to undergo some last minute emergency revisions as well to remodel the dog character to look less like “Fala”.

Chuck Jones on June Foray. In 1995, animation director Chuck Jones told the press, “June Foray is not just a ‘voice’ which so many, many members of the ‘voice-over’ trade proudly and sadly are. June steps into a role with all the devotion of an Olivier or a Helen Hayes. She expends the necessary effort to find out not what character is but “who” she (or he) is… the most demanding of the acting art… the uniqueness of the particular individual.”

Giving Disney the Business. ”We’re businessmen. Walt Disney’s an artist. With us, the idea with shorts is to hit ’em and run. With us, Disney is more of a Rembrandt,” stated Warner Bros. producer Leon Schlessinger in “Time” Magazine dated December 27, 1937.

bogle-felixThe Origin of Joe Barbera. Jack Bogle, the artist who ghosted the “Felix the Cat” dailies from 1927-1931, claimed that he gave Joe Barbera his first job as an animator at the Van Bueren Studios at about fifteen dollars a week salary.

What Almost Happened. Animation Legend Joe Barbera’s official studio biography in 1975 had two interesting quotes. Apparently, while working in New York, Barbera wrote a letter to Walt Disney requesting a job. Disney answered, writing he would interview Barbera on his next trip to New York. “He never did,” said Barbera. “And in a way, I’m delighted he didn’t. I probably would have become a devoted member of his staff and still be with Disney Studios today.”

To me, another quote in that same authorized biography was equally interesting about what happened when Barbera was teamed with Bill Hanna at MGM and developed their first short. “We asked ourselves what would be a normal conflict between characters provoking comedy while retaining a basic situation from which we could continue to generate fresh plots and stories. We almost decided on a dog and a fox before we hit on the idea of using a cat and a mouse.” That cat and mouse became Tom and Jerry.

The King Was a Girl. Cammie King’s acting career only spanned four years when she was a child before chicken pox and her mother put an end to her cinematic dreams. She appeared in three films: “Gone With the Wind” (1939) as the ill-fated daughter of Rhett and Scarlett, “Blondie Meets the Boss” (1939) and “Bambi”(1942) as the voice of the doe Faline. Her stepfather was Herbert Kalmus (the co-creator of Technicolor) and her father-in-law from her second marriage (Judd Conlon) was a musical arranger for many Disney films including “Alice in Wonderland” (1951) and “Peter Pan” (1953). She told fans that she “peaked when I was five years old.”


  • That cartoon by Jack Bogle of Felix the Cat is very like one drawn by Pat Sullivan in the 1920s on an envelope, reprinted in Vane Lindesay’s “The Inked-In Image: A Social and Historical Survey of Australian Comic Art” (Melbourne, Heinemann, 1970). Sullivan was an Australian cartoonist who moved to New York and started an animation studio. Although he did not create or draw his studio’s Felix the Cat animated cartoons, he liked to claim that he did, and he trained himself so he could whip off a quick sketch of Felix to demonstrate to his fans around the world that he was the Felix artist. Sullivan liked to take leisurely trips around the world, claiming that he drew all of the Felix animated cartoons personally, while his staff back in New York did the real work.

    • Fred, my great uncle was Jack Bogle and he always talked about how he was the real Felix artist but someone else would get the credit. I never understood this as a kid and thus thought it pretty unfair, but it never seemed to faze him. From what I knew of him he was a happy-go-lucky kind of guy with a fun-loving attitude about life. Over the years I have come to find out about his involvement in all sorts of important projects (e.g. Disney’s Snow White) for which he will never be known for. But he will always be a star to me!

  • Do anything from “For He’s A Jolly Good Fala” survive? Like storyboards or voice tracks?

  • Awright-

    Loved the Fala story, Jim K.

  • Clarence Nash came to my school when I was in 5th or 6th grade, 1971 or 1972, and did a school assembly presentation. It was a Catholic grade school, St. Joseph’s in Roseburg, Oregon and there was one classroom for every grade from 1st through 6th; not a big school in a small town. It was fascinating. He, of course, did Donald Duck, talked about working for Walt Disney and did some of the other voices he had done.

  • I was always under the impression that “Fresh Airedale” WAS “For He’s a Jolly Good Fala”, just re-worked a tad. Isn’t the dog that gets saved at the end supposed to be Fala?

    • “For He’s a Jolly Good Fala” must have been reworked considerably to turn it into “Fresh Airedale”, since Fala was a very well-known black Scottish terrier, and airedales don’t look much like Scottish terriers.

    • As Brandon Pierce correctly points out, the “Fala” dog in Chuck Jones’s “Fresh Airedale” is the terrier that Shep (supposedly) saves at the end of the cartoon. The last-minute changes made to the cartoon involved changing the terrier into a national dog show winner instead of the president’s dog (explaining his status as the nation’s “No. 1 dog”) and changing the dog’s place of residence. As far as I know, no changes were made in the dog character itself (how much remodeling can you do in a black Scottish terrier, anyway?).

      Also, “For He’s a Jolly Good Fala” and “Fresh Airedale” were always two distinct cartoons, though a cartoon begun by Bob Clampett and finished by Chuck Jones would certainly be something to treasure!

  • Regarding Jim’s first story, well, Daffy Duck, who Mel Blanc did get to voice and immortalize, became Warner’s later black-feathered answer hgradually then ra;pidly in the mid-late 50s to Donald Duck in personality and luck department (actually, the early fifties’s rabbit/duck hunting trilogy with Elmer and Bugs would also develop toward that but then Daffy was not yet just a bunch of yelling like in parts of “Duck Amuck” & “Showbiz Bugs”. Fun fact. In 1974 my brother and I watched this (we were kids then and he unintentionally called Daffy Duck, Donald, since that’s what Daffy was becoming..).

  • I remember that Nash clip above! It was from the Disneyland Fantasyland episode entitled “A Day in the Life of Donald Duck.” Donald is reading his fan mail and a writer complains that she can’t understand a word he’s saying! Insulted, Donald picks up the phone and tells his secretary to, “Send my voice in here!” She replies, “Your *voice*? Oh! You mean Clarence Nash! I’ll send him right in!” Instantly, Clarence walks cheerily through the doorway. Almost immediaely, they get into an argument about Donald’s speech impedimen!! Hilarious!

    For several years, I had a little segment on Central New York radio on another man’s program of old-time radio shows. I played rare recordings from my 78 rpm record collection. In December, 1984, I did an episode in which I played some early Donald Duck records in commemoration of Clarence Nash’s 80th birthday, which I announced, of course. I sent him a copy of the broadcast. In January, I received a thrilling thank-you letter–a full page on Donald Duck 50th Anniversary stationery–hand written by Mr. Nash himself! It must have been one of the last letters he wrote, becuse I believe he died a month or less later! I was so glad to make that man happy! :-)!

  • Hi. Sorry if this is a bit off the Topic Trail, but I wasn’t sure where to put this. There’s this ebay auction for a very unusual Disney Courvoisier cel, ending tomorrow, Jan. 9, 2014. This is should be of interest to collectors and those interested in obscure corners of Disney history. The cel is from the late WW2 era Disney industrial training film, a of character called Shrink from Control and Prevention of Distortion in Arc Welding (1945). One of the odder Disney cels I’ve seen– and I’ve seen a lot. Here’s the link:
    (And it’s going for under $200!) I wonder who animated him? (Since he only appears for about a minute, I’ll bet it was basically a one-animator job.) I’m not sure why Disney would have sold cels from an industrial film (other than that it is visually interesting).. By the way, I have no financial connection to this seller. I think it is not getting much attention because the seller does not have the best of titles, and it is not listed under “Animation Art”. I would plop in a bid myself, but do not have room for it in my collection. Just a little heads-up for Disney collectors, history fans, and other assorted lookie-loos. *<|:)

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