March 21, 2014 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #154

mickey-and-the-seal-posterStory Behind Mickey and the Seal. “Walt had seen ‘Mickey and the Seal’ storyboards and in his own way raved about it, saying: ‘That is like the old-time shorts; who did it?’ etc.”, stated Disney producer Harry Tytle. “He wanted to know all the details. The story was originally made by Nick George and Bill Berg with the Duck (Donald Duck) in the same situation.”

“After $900 worth of story, Jack Hannah, the Duck director, shelved it because he felt it was not a funny situation. I had disagreed with him, and it occurred to me this was one of the few stories in which the Duck could be supplanted by Mickey and I authorized the expenditure of additional story work to make the change.”

“Nick Nichols (who directed the Mickey shorts) saw the storyboards and was very receptive to them and bought the story. Eric Guerney and Milt Schaffer (the second story team) did very little actual work in shaping (the story) and it is this story that Walt saw.”

Making ‘Em Move. In a “New York Times” article dated December 28, 1930, it explained how work was done at the Fleischer Studios: “The whole thing is quite informal. Any one who is not busy at the moment drops in (Dave Fleischer’s office) and takes a hand in the proceedings. A rough scenario emerges from the discussion. The cartoonists then receive their assignments, each to draw a sequence in the mad narrative.” Fleischer animator Myron Waldman told Fleischer authority G. Michael Dobbs that he would often get scripts without an ending because “they hadn’t though of a gimmick yet”.

What Ho! When “Lady and the Tramp” (1955) was released, Walt told the press that he loved working with an original story. “That was the trouble with ‘Alice in Wonderland’. There we had a classic we couldn’t tamper with. The picture was filled with weird characters you couldn’t get with. Even Alice wasn’t very sympathetic. I wanted to make the White Knight a romantic figure and have him always popping up through the story saying ‘What Ho!’ Alice could have tried to help him out. But I was talked out of it.”

Song of the South Secret. Ed Barge, Ken Muse and Irv Spence did the animation of Jerry Mouse dancing with Gene Kelly in “Anchors Aweigh” (1942). Spence later worked on Tom and Jerry in a water ballet with Esther Williams in “Dangerous When Wet” (1953) and even later the animated Persian characters with Gene Kelly in “Invitation to the Dance” (1956). Spence was later told by other animators that people working on Disney’s “Song of the South” studied his work on the first Technicolor feature combining live action with an animated character. “I was pleased to find out that Walt had his animators secretly watching our Tom and Jerry’s. It was supposed to be a big secret, and they weren’t supposed to let anybody know,” said Spence.

Betty Boop Banned. The last Fleischer cartoon to feature a live action appearance by producer Max Fleischer was “Betty Boop’s Rise to Fame” (1934). Betty Boop’s “Red Hot Mamma” (1934) was banned from being shown in the U.K.

Staying Young. “Animation reminds people of their youth. Nobody wants to grow old. Looking at animation art rings the bell of when they were younger and sitting in front of the television watching the shows that made them smile and laugh,” said Joe Barbera in 1996.

Who’s That Voice? Voice artist Jess Harnell had been working as a “sound alike” singer for Dan Savant who was putting together a soundtrack for the Disneyland attraction “Splash Mountain”. The Disney Company was so impressed with Harnell’s voice work, especially on the character of Br’er Rabbit, that they used him as the voice of Roger Rabbit for several years when original Charles Fleischer was unavailable to do the job.

Just Daddy. “He (Warner Brothers animator and director Chuck Jones) went to work in the morning and came home at night like all other dads. The biggest difference was that he did a job that all of my friends thought was pretty superior to everyone else’s dad. I thought he had the best job of any father I knew, too, until a friend of mine told me her dad owned a bakery. I thought that job was better than my father’s,” stated Linda Jones Clough, daughter of Chuck Jones in 1997.

Lantz on Roger Rabbit. “No I didn’t care for it (“Who Framed Roger Rabbit” 1988) but I’m glad it was made. It was just too fast for me and I couldn’t follow it. I also didn’t like the idea of a rabbit being in love with a human character,” remarked animation legend Walter Lantz.

tex-tinstarTex Tinstar And the Secret of the Safe. On the Disney syndicated television show, “The Shnookums and Meat Funny Cartoon Show” (1995), there were three separate segments. One of them was “Tex Tinstar: Best of the West” parodying cowboy movie cliches. In 1995, writer and creator Bil Kopp explained why there was no woman in the series. “On the ‘Tex Tinstar stuff, I had a character called ‘Monica Betty Lou Sue Veronica’ and she was to be kidnapped from the town of Bonehaead in the first episode, and to be sort of the McGurrin McGuffin throughout the whole story. And Disney hated that. They said, ‘You can’t treat women like that’. Even though I had her kicking the Wrong Riders’ asses the whole time!

“They said, ‘No, you can’t show a woman in jeopardy. She’s got to be able to deal with it’. You know, the whole thing is about cliches, and they’re thowing away one of the most prominent cliches in a Western to the wind. So she turned into a safe and I wrote her out because there was no way to deal with it. When people ask why there is no ‘gal’ in the Old West, I reply that she turned into a safe as some girls will.”

If the series had been renewed for a second season, Kopp intended to have one of the characters finally open the safe and out would step Monica Betty Lou Sue Veronica. However, there would have been a further twist. After passionately kissing Tex, she would unzip her outfit and be revealed as Clem, the unwashed man-mountain of the Wrong Riders.


  • Re: Tex Tinstar: “McGuffin, not “McGurrin.”

  • Walter Lantz said, “…I also didn’t like the idea of a rabbit being in love with a human character…”

    but he DID like the idea of a woodpecker being in LUST with a human character (woody woodpecker in “the mad hatter”, etc).

  • I have no doubt that animators studied Spence’s work on Anchors Aweigh, but that film was released in 1945 not 1942, so “the first Technicolor feature combining live action with an animated character” would be Disney’s The Three Caballeros which premiered in Mexico City in 1944, unless you count Mickey’s brief appearance in Fantasia (1940).

  • Mickey and the Seal is available for purchase on iTunes. I like having cartoons on my iPad where they are handy to watch individually. When I visit my 11 year old niece she always requests my iPad and watches cartoons. Her favorites are “The Great Piggy Bank Robbery”, “Building a Building”, and “Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor.

  • “$900 worth of story” — That just jumped out at me. Besides being a perfect title for something, or a nice putdown of big-budget epic, it gets one thinking.

    Translated from 1948 via an online calculator, that’s supposedly $8,963.42 today (and a bit more spending was done to convert it to Mickey). Was that in the ballpark for most Disney shorts, or an unusually high investment? Any clue of what Warner or MGM would budget for story?

    (I recall reading that Chuck Jones would bring in the Road Runner cartoons a week or so under schedule and divert the saved animator hours to his more ambitious shorts. Time cards were fudged so management wouldn’t know the Road Runners were that cheap or other Jones projects that expensive.)

    • Disney cartoons averaged $45-$50,000 during this period. Not a big chunk of change at all, considering.

  • i know that the “do you find this racist?” is already done by (that) youtuber. If i see another statement that says that about “Song of the South” i’ll just spit up! For the 50th time….the film is NOT (repeat, guys……NOT) “racist!” Jeeeeeeeeeeez, Louise!!!

    • Well thankfully that hasn’t turned up, YET.

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