March 14, 2014 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #153

cabin300Bedroom Story. According to legend, while Walter Lantz was on his honeymoon at a cabin at Sherwood Lake in California, his marital bliss was interrupted repeatedly by an annoying woodpecker. At the worst of times as Lantz tried to get intimate with his wife, the bird would tap away on the roof, searching for acorns hidden under the roof shingles.

In interviews, Lantz would continue to embellish the story, at one time even claiming that he “threw rocks at the bird and he would not go away. I was going to shoot him, but my wife told me there was a law against it”. The legend continues that upon returning to the studio, Lantz regaled his staff with his amorous misadventures.

knockknock2It was decided to incorporate Lantz’s experience in a new Andy Panda cartoon entitled Knock Knock (November 1940). Lantz told several variations of that story for decades (even claiming in one version that the woodpecker made holes in the roof so the rain leaked through on them while they were in bed).

Gracie was married to cowboy star Tom Keene and divorced him in 1940 and married Lantz shortly thereafter. The first time she provided the voice for Woody Woodpecker was the animated segment in the live action film “Destination Moon” (1950).

The Davis Liquor Store. In 1949 when Art Davis’ animation unit was cut at Warners, according to Chuck Jones, Davis opened a liquor store but had to sell it after a series of robberies. Fortunately, Friz Freleng offered Davis an animating position in Freleng’s unit. When interviewed in 1997, Davis said he got rid of the liquor store after about a year because it “was not much of a money-maker”. At one point, later in his career, Davis was a story editor on “The Flintstones”.

A Small Voice. “When I introduced a new character for his first appearance, “Porky’s Naughty Nephew” (1938), I asked Bernice (Hansell) in to do the voice. The thing that struck me about her was the great incredulity of her appearance as to her voice. A middle-aged bleached blonde with that pure baby voice. In fact, as I recall, her normal speaking voice was very little removed from the voice she did for me on the sound track,” Bob Clampett 1972.

honey-bunny-175Lola Bunny. There are a lot of challenges in the feature “Space Jam” (1996) but animation co-director Tony Cervone remembered that one of them was the look for Bugs’ girlfriend, Lola. “Every time we would draw a female rabbit it just looked like Bugs Bunny in drag. There was some dangerous ground to be tread. I think we did some things to her color-wise that wouldn’t have been done in the old days. With the Looney Tunes, we were working with some screen legends, and you have to be serious about that.”

Whatever happened to Honey Bunny, designed by Robert McKimson, who never officially appeared in any animated film but was used on promotional material and merchandise? She debuted in the “Bugs Bunny” #108 Gold Key comic book (November 1966). Originally, she was going to star in “Space Jam” until the animators decided to come up with a new but similar character. Names that were considered were Bunni Bunny, Lola Buni, Lola Rabbit, and Daisy Lou.

Gorilla For Sale. “What I liked doing was to take something established and create a humorous idea out of it. We would build something around a familiar setup and give it a new twist. The idea of Magilla Gorilla was when I’d go by a pet store and see the puppies and kittens for sale. It occurred to me that it might be funny if there was a baby gorilla for sale. What happens when the gorilla grows up to be four-hundred pounds and the pet store doesn’t sell him? Now,he’s huge!” said Joe Barbera in 1996.

Farting Fire. In the pilot episode for “South Park”, “Cartman Gets An Anal Probe”, the boys have to get out of school to rescue little Ike from space aliens. In the original that was submitted to Comedy Central, the Chef gives the kids hot tamales and they force Carman to eat all of them, causing him to start farting fire. Comedy Central thought that went a little too far so the scene was re-edited so that the fire farts are the result of an alien probe that pops out of Cartman’s rear end. Chef pulls the fire alarm and tells the kids “now’s your chance to get out of school”. Matt Stone who does the voice of Kenny McCormick (“They’ve killed Kenny!”) on “South Park” originally created the muffled sound of Kenny’s voice by talking into the crook of his elbow.

Fleischer Facts. When the Fleischer Studio moved to Miami, director Dave Fleischer went through a very messy divorce which was embarrassing to his older brother Max. One long time employee told Fleischer authority G. Michael Dobbs that some Miami churches were calling for a boycott of Fleischer cartoons because of that divorce. Why did Fleischer Studios become Famous Studio when Paramount took over? Because Paramount named the animation studio after its music publishing division, Famous Music.

mickey-ollieMickey and Ollie. “My first job at the studio was inbetweener on Mickey Mouse for Mickey’s Garden (1935). I did that for three months, then they started giving me the cleanups to do. I fortunately got on with Fred Moore, who was the top animator at the studio. I learned a heck of a lot about animation, and how to approach problems in animation, so I owe that man a lot. I loved Fred Moore’s drawings of Mickey. He was the greatest Mickey man,” stated Disney Legend Ollie Johnston at an art gallery signing in 1995.

“My first picture doing some animation was The Brave Little Tailor (1938). I did Mickey on that. Not all of him, obivously, but I did some. I avoided the duck whenever I could. I didn’t like working on him. I liked Donald, but I didn’t care about drawing him. It wasn’t enough of a challenge to me. Mickey had more in depth to his personality. The duck was a simpler statement.”


  • The South Park pilot is also notable for being entirely animated with construction paper cut-outs; the show switched to CGI after that.

    Here’s the original pilot, with the hot tamale scene:

    • The “revised” version always did felt kinda off the way it was but I can see how they had to go about it in order to change the storyline a bit. The original pilot also had a bigger role for Pip than what was eventually aired (one moment where he introduced himself to the kids in the cafeteria was later used in another first season episode).

  • Isn’t it “Bernice Hansen”?

    • Thanks to Don Yowp’s research, years of error concerning Ms. Berneice Edna “Giggles” Hansell’s name is now cleared up. Read This:

    • Wow, super interesting, Jerry! Thanks for the explanation.

    • You do learn new things each day, glad we managed to find this info out before it was too late.

  • “Legend” is being polite.
    Lantz and Grace Staffor were married on Friday, August 29, 1941 at the home of Rev. Carl F. Schmidt in Reno. Schmidt’s two daughters were the only witnesses, according to the Reno Evening Gazette. Woody had been on screen for months by then.
    Gracie joined the facade in later years, lovingly detailing her supposed involvement in the honeymoon/woodpecker event. If she was there, she and Lantz were getting jiggy in a honeymoon rehearsal because they weren’t married.
    Lantz’ original story of the woodpecker creation in the mid-40s didn’t mention Gracie or a honeymoon, and may have been closer to the truth.
    Never mentioned in any of these tales is the fact Bugs Hardaway developed a similar heckler at Warners, brought the idea with him to Lantz and put him in a Panda story.

  • Another great Animation Ancesotes!

    I remember Joe Barbera answering that same question on that documentary back in the mid 1960s when they were making Magilla Gorilla. It can be found here:

  • I once asked Walter point-blank if the story about the woodpecker and the cabin was true. “John, as God is my witness, that story is 100% true. It really happened,” he asserted. Then he added, “Now, that story Gracie tells about me listening to her unlabeled audition tape for Woody’s voice, and how I chose her to be the new voice for Woody without knowing it was her? I have no idea where she came up with that one!”

  • Interesting to see Johnston say that he thought Mickey had “more depth to his personality” than Donald. While Donald is kind of one-dimensional, it’s usually Mickey that most say lacks genuine personality.

    • Actually, the mouse does have personality. It’s just they had trouble showing it as time went on as Mickey became a role-model that people looked up too. They didn’t have trouble with him comic strip but that was a different media and that didn’t have as much limitations unlike animated cartoons.

  • So it was Dave Fleischer’s infidelity that lead to Max signing over his studio to Paramount. I heard about that on the Max Fleischer documentary on Popeye Volume 2, but a much-needed elaboration was much more appropriate. I don’t know what’s worse: Paramount never giving them another chance; Neither Max or Dave reconciling their differences; Seymour Kneitel being unable and/or unwilling to keep the cartoons funny after Jim Tyer, Bill Tytla, and Otto Messmer left; or being a cut/copy/paste of other studios’ trends. (To be fair, their animation had improved in some ways.)

  • It is interesting to hear that Bernice Hansell’s real voice wasn’t far removed from that which she incorporates into her many characters, because I used to think that both female voices that you hear in “LITTLE CHEEZER” (the title character and that of his mother) actually belonged to Ms. Hansell. There are even Warner Brothers cartoons in which those same two voices are heard and that is what brought me to that conclusion.

  • I wish whatever interviews there are of Art Davis, they could be produced in full.

  • I’ve read Mr. Lantz’s fairy tale about the honeymoon before. My hunch: He didn’t want to give credit where credit was due. I think that Joseph Benson “Ben” or “Bugs” Hardaway created Woody Woodpecker – and nobody else.

    If you haven’t seen it lately, take a look at the cartoon “Knock Knock” (1940), Woody’s debut. I watched it a few months ago, and noticed that there are some gags in there that look a _lot_ like the ones in Hardaway’s “Porky’s Hare Hunt” (1938), which, in turn, was inspired by Avery’s earlier “Porky’s Duck Hunt” (1937). In “Knock Knock,” Woody acts a lot like “Daffy Duck in a rabbit suit” in a woodpecker suit.

    • It is basically Hardaway basically redoing the same material with a different species.

  • Re “Famous Studio,” and “Famous Music,” I believe that “Famous Players” was also the name of one of the predecessor companies to Paramount, so they probably kept some rights to use the word in corporate names in the industry.

  • Adolph Zukor’s production company was Famous Players, which, along with (Jesse) Lasky and a few smaller companies all distributed through Paramount in the teens. A series of mergers led to Famous Players-Lasky Corp. (with Paramount still the name of the distribution company) which became Paramount Famous Lasky Corp. which, eventually, became Paramount Pictures. Lasky was forced out, but Zukor stayed on forever, which is probably why the “Famous” name lasted so long.

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