February 7, 2014 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #148

Origin of Christopher Crumpet. Thornton Hee (“T. Hee”) was responsible for “Christopher Crumpet” (1953) a UPA short about a little boy who turns into a chicken whenever he doesn’t get what he wants. In 1982, Hee recalled the cartoon, “The story was invented by my son, who was about five years old. He came to me one day and said he wanted a gorilla. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘There is a kid at school who wants to beat me up and I need one to beat him up!’ I did the storyboard in one day. The whole thing. Bobe (Cannon) was away at the time and I decided I wanted to do the whole thing by myself. I was going to animate it myself. Bobe came back and said, ‘You can’t do that. I’m the director and you’re the designer.” I said ‘I wrote, it. I designed the characters. I did the storyboard’. And then I turned into a chicken right in front of Bobe’s eyes. ‘Okay’ said Bobe.” In the final film, both Robert (Bobe) Cannon and Hee are credited with the story and Cannon is credited as the director. The film was nominated for an Academy Award. A sequel, “Christopher Crumpet’s Playmate” (1955) was also co-written by Cannon and Hee and directed by Cannon.

Wet and Wild. When Disney was making the classic animated feature, “Pinocchio” (1940), the studio had to solve the problem of how to make Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket sound as if they were underwater when they talked during their search for Gepetto. Dick Jones who voiced Pinocchio nearly drowned when he tried to read his lines lying on his back while a director poured water in his mouth. (After several similar experiments, they determined they could put a filter on the microphone to muffle the sound so it sounded like talking underwater.)

small-one200The Rat’s Nest. During the making of “The Small One” (1978), Disney Legend Eric Larson was removed as director and replaced by Don Bluth. It divided the animators in to two different camps. The stuff designed by Glen Keane with Eric were thrown out and new stuff was designed by John Pomeroy. Eric supporters like John Musker, Brad Bird, Jerry Rees, and Bill Kroyer were in a suite of rooms at the Disney Studio that Bluth dubbed “The Rat’s Nest”. Andy Gaskill air-brushed a sign that said “Rat’s Nest” and hung it on the door of the rooms and the animators took it as a perverse badge of honor. Bluth felt these animators were giving him a hard time and complaining and undercutting what he was trying to get on the screen. “Bluth felt he was carrying the true flame of animation, and he still feels that. But we didn’t agree with it,” stated animator and director John Musker.

Cartoons Were Different Then. In “School Days” (1932) Flip the Frog is late for school so he crawls under the desks to try to escape the notice of the prissy old maid schoolteacher. In the process, he gooses all the kids and ends up with a little girl’s upside down panties on his head that she indignantly grabs back. Or what about “Bosko’s Holiday” (1931) at the seven minute mark where a frisky white dog really licks the rear end of Honey and she immediately assumes it was her boyfriend Bosko who did it?

submariner-200Sub-Mariner Cartoons. Since Grantray-Lawrence did not have enough Sub-Mariner comic book stories to convert to animation for their series “The Marvel Superheroes” since the character did not get his own series until mid-1965, artists Doug Wildey, Sparky Moore and other staffers did sketches for new stories that could be used in a similar fashion to the existing Marvel comic book panels. Jerry Grandenetti did at least one original storyboard for the Sub-Mariner that ended up never being used. The studio even tried to adapt some of the Sub-Mariner adventures that appeared in “The Fantastic Four” comic book but without the fabulous foursome because they had been licensed to Hanna-Barbera for a Saturday morning series. Grantray-Lawrence substituted the original X-Men with Professor Xavier for the Fantastic Four but called them “Allies for Peace”. The Hanna-Barbera version had to convert the flesh-colored Prince Namor into the blue-skinned Prince Triton of Pacifica. Oddly, Lady Dorma (Namor’s girlfriend) and Attuma (Namor’s enemy) were able to keep their same names in both the Grantray-Lawrence and Hanna-Barbera versions.

Walter Lantz on Bill Nolan. “We credit Bill (Nolan) with what we called ‘rubber hose animation’ and he also created the pan. You show a character standing in one spot and just move his legs like he’s on a treadmill. But rather than a treadmill, we’d have a long sheet of paper with a background on it. Every time you move the drawing, you move the pan. Bill discovered that by moving that background you could make the character look like he was moving,” Woody Woodpecker’s father, Walter Lantz told writer John Province in 1994.

jackmrcer200Mercer’s Popeye. When Hanna-Barbera’s “The All New Popeye Hour” debuted on CBS Saturday Morning September 1978 (with the addition of little thirty second segments known as “Popeye’s Health and Safety Tips” which ranged from not taking drugs to the dangers of overeating), Jack Mercer, the original voice of Popeye was still on board. “My voice work for the new cartoons is more or less a sideline now,” stated Mercer at the time. “My main job is writing the scripts and doing the story boards for the shows. The difficulty is cutting down on the violence. Popeye never did hurt anyone unless it was absolutely necessary. But the silly part of it is, the old violent shows are still being seen on television all over the country and nobody objects. I’ve recorded the opening song for the new shows. And instead of using the old beat whistle to punctuate ‘I’m Popeye the Sailor Man. Toot. Toot’, I do the whistle myself.”

Future Tense. Annoyed that director Dave Fleischer at the Flesicher Studio would come around the end of every day and flip through his drawings, animator Myron Waldman one day put out a stack of blank paper. Dave casually picked it up and flipped through it several times and then angrily asked what the heck all of that was. “Oh,” replied Waldman calmly, “that’s tomorrow’s work!”


  • I have a friend who has a large collection of articles and clippings related to classic animation, among which is a letter submitted to TV Guide by a woman upset by the violence in those new Popeye cartoons and wondering why they can’t just have Popeye and Bluto learn that it’s more fun to cooperate and be friends.

    Now there’s a formula for hilarity.

  • Yes, cartoons were indeed different in the early 1930’s, and I thank you, Jim Korkis for pointing that out, because, while I remember a few instances, I don’t think that many such examples were shown regularly on TV, either back in the 1960’s or now. I am glad that, on the third FORBIDDEN HOLLYWOOD set of DVD’s around pre-Code movies, they included cartoons that mostly came from that bawdy period, but examples such as you’ve given here were not included. I wonder if Nickelodeon aired “BOSKO’S HOLIDAY” uncut. And, perhaps, most folks really thought nothing of such antics in early cartoons because, of course, the characters were never drawn anatomically correct, and the characters were little cute animals. I don’t suppose that, even if the Code were never devised, Hugh Harman could get away with the gag you described in “BOSKO’S HOLIDAY” if Honey were the fully realized human that she became. The closest thing that Harman came to that kind of humor (and it isn’t really suggestive at all) is the bit at the beginning of “THE OLD HOUSE” where the wind blows so hard that the fierceness doubles Honey over so that her bright pink dress flows up over her head; nothing more than that, though. I rather liked the fact that cartoons could get “nasty” sometimes, especially since some cartoons depicted the times in which people were living. Hooray for LOONEY TUNES and FLIP THE FROG.

    • And, perhaps, most folks really thought nothing of such antics in early cartoons because, of course, the characters were never drawn anatomically correct, and the characters were little cute animals.

      That’s always the conceit isn’t it? It certainly worked.


  • Grantray-Lawrence substituted the original X-Men with Professor Xavier for the Fantastic Four but called them “Allies for Peace”.

    The episode you’re referring to is Doctor Doom’s Day which adapts Fantastic Four Annual No. 3 by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. The X-Men aren’t substituted for the Fantastic Four in the cartoon. They have roughly the same dialogue and appear the same way in the original comic. Rather, the Fantastic Four are omitted from the televised story. Long live the King!

    • Late, but hopefully helpful: In addition to the Annual, this episode also adapts FF #6 by Kirby & Lee from September 1962.

  • It is one of the wonders of Cartoon Research, that T. Hee’s real name was T. Hee.

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