July 4, 2014 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #169

fritz-albumRobert Crumb on Ralph Bakshi: In 2011, underground comix legend Robert Crumb sat down with Alex Wood, the person who runs Crumb’s official website, to talk about important people in history including some cartoonists. Over four decades later, Crumb is still angry at Ralph Bakshi for the animated feature film Fritz the Cat (1972): “I can tell you that he’s still really pissed off at me for the many times I’ve said in print that I didn’t think Fritz The Cat was a very good movie. I don’t think Bakshi was a creative artist. I think he wanted to be the new king of feature length animated cartoons, like, of hip, adult animated cartoons of the 1970s. But I don’t think his movies were terribly successful at what he tried to do.

“And his Fritz The Cat was just an embarrassment to me, and Bakshi is pissed off and angry at me because I’ve always said this. I’ve read some things later, where he’s just sputtering with rage towards me. He was always an intense man. When he first approached me, he was so intense and hyper, so overpoweringly determined to do this thing that it was very hard for me to deal with him. I could barely cope with it. Finally, I just ran away and let Dana deal with it. It took until, what, 1972? to finally get the contract signed. I just ran away, and Dana actually signed my name, which was good enough for them (laughs).

“Bakshi and Steven Krantz, who was the producer — especially Krantz — were media professionals — hustlers who knew how to roll over me. I was a kid, what did I know? Then I had my lawyers, Stepanian & Rohan, who were also eager to do the film, and they just kind of rolled over me too. They said, ‘C’mon it will be great. It will give you exposure; everybody will see your work.’ They were eager to do a big movie contract. I remember [artist Victor] Moscoso telling me, ‘Robert, if you let this film be made you will regret it for the rest of your life.’ And he was totally, 100% correct (laughs)”.

BlackstarBlackstar. In the 1981 Filmation animated television series, John Blackstar, an astronaut from a future version of Earth, had been swept through a black hole and stranded on the planet Sagar, where magic and sword and sorcery still ruled the day. Thanks to the fabled Starsword, Blackstar was able to battle the evil Overlord. Blackstar was originally intended to be an African-American (hence the name) but CBS felt that sponsors would be frightened away so the character was changed to a deeply-tanned white man leading many to believe he was a Native American.

Toxic Crusader. Murakami-Wolf-Swenson’s 1991 syndicated animated series (only thirteen episdoes) Toxic Crusaders was based on the Toxic Avenger movies made by Lloyd Kaufman’s Troma Films that featured lots of sex and violence. However, television watchdogs were primarily concerned by the word “avenger” since “getting even” was not considered a philosophy to be taught to children. So the main character was re-named the Toxic Crusader.

space_ghost_coast_to_coastSpace Ghost Secret. Actor Herve Villechaize who portrayed Tattoo on the television show Fantasy Island was going to be the live action co-host on Space Ghost: Coast to Coast (1994) but his tragic suicide in 1993 convinced producers to go with totally animated characters. In the earliest days of the show, a Space Ghost costume was worn by Andy Merrill, who helped develop the show and did the voice of the character Brak, to interview the guests but was later abandoned and guests were placed in a dark room with Space Ghost’s voice coming from a speaker phone.

Kasem on Scooby. Casey Kasem, the long time voice for Shaggy Rogers, told Newsweek magazine in 2002 that Scooby is “the star of the show–the Shaquille O’Neal of the show. People love animals more than they love people. Am I right or wrong? They give more love to their pets than they give to people. Scooby is vulnerable and lovable and not brave, and very much like the kids who watch. But like kids, he likes to think that he’s brave.”

Lost Batman. Sometime during Filmation’s run of the animated television series The Adventures of Batman and Robin during 1969-1970, Filmation studio produced five short educational Batman segments for the PBS Sesame Street television show. One segment featured the Joker and another featured the Penguin.

Stalling and Stone. Richard Stone, the supervising music composer for Steven Spielberg Presents Animaniacs, when he was recording for the various Warner Brothers animated television series, used the same Steinway piano that the legendary Warners’ cartoon composer Carl Stalling used. In addition Stone also used the same soundstage. Richard’s other works with Warner Bros. include Tiny Toon Adventures, Taz-Mania, Pinky and the Brain, Freakazoid!, The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries and Histeria!.

woody-drunkMore on Censoring Woody Woodpeceker. In the January 4, 1958 issue of TV Guide, Walter Lantz talked about having to review his earlier cartoons with the Leo Burnett Ad Agency (representing Kellogg’s cereals) before their release to television. “The first thing that happened was the elimination in one swoop of all my films that contained Negro characters. There were eight such pictures. But we never offended or degraded the colored race and they were all top musical cartoons, too. Curiously, a picture showing African Pygmies was found acceptable. The next things that were cut out en masse were all drinking scenes. In a cartoon called Musical Moments from Chopin (1947), for instance, we showed a horse drinking cider out of a bucket and then, somewhat pixilated, trying to walk a tight rope (actually a barn rafter). On TV, you’ll see the tipsy horse on the tightrope but since we cut out the scene showing his drinking the cider, you won’t understand why he’s groggy.”

At that same time, Mousie Come Home (1946) scenes showing a mouse accidentally drinking cider and hiccupping were purged from the episode, but the mouse’s inexplicable reeling about was left in. Cut from Sliphorn King of Polaroo (1945) were shots showing a trombone playing lion taking a swig from a bottle and a penguin mixing a drink in the cocktail shaker. By the way, originally Wally Walrus was cast in the role for the trombone playing lion but I don’t know why it was changed.


  • Have to say, that Batman spot feels more like a parody than anything remotely educational. They did a better one with Superman listing words that begin with his favorite letter, showing them onscreen as he caught a falling plane for the word SAVE, etc.

    My favorites were the psychedelic counting ones, where a woman would sing/talk the number over a jazzy accompaniment while we saw that many morphing objects/critters. Who did those?

    • I don’t who did those, but I do know who sang those. That was Grace Slick from “Jefferson’s Airplane”. I think she did those because the group was interviewed in Henson’s TV documentary “Youth 68”– which was directed by Stone, the “Father of ‘Sesame Street'”.

    • Have to say, that Batman spot feels more like a parody than anything remotely educational.

      That also seemed like an “easy day” for them to get those done too.

  • Jim:
    There was apparently no love lost between R. Crumb and Ralph Bakshi!I If that’s the case,I wonder if we would have ever seen an animated Fritz! And in re:the Walter Lantz interview,the Kellogg’s people were a really nervous lot.Did they treat Hanna-Barbera in the same fashion? Or was a blue colored hound,a smarter-than the average bear and other assorted H-B creastures safer in their minds than a wacky woodpecker a panda,a walrus,etc.?

    • Did they treat Hanna-Barbera in the same fashion? Or was a blue colored hound,a smarter-than the average bear and other assorted H-B creastures safer in their minds than a wacky woodpecker a panda,a walrus,etc.?

      I’m sure with H-B, they were dealing with people that had to produce new cartoons to start with than to go back over 20-30 years of material to see what was safe and what wasn’t. Plus I’m sure they wouldn’t have had any alcohol hanky-panky going on with these characters.

  • 42 years later and crumb is still bitter and angry over that film. he owes a good deal of his fame and his fortune to that film, and he used that fame and fortune to indulge in a life of debauchery. what a jerk.

    • I want to stop myself from using the P-word to describe Crumb here but at times it does seem like that if only because he couldn’t say “NO!” loud enough to prevent his wife from having to sign over the rights to start with. Some artists are like that (of course that’s why we’ll never see Calvin & Hobbes outside their comic boundaries anyway).

  • Re Lantz’s censorship headaches: Back in 1958, when my parents FINALLY broke down and bought their 12-year-old a much-wanted tape recorder, one of the first things I did with it was to cobble together sound movies in our home! I would record the soundtracks of Lantz’s cartoons off of the TV, take the silent 8mm movies of the same films and splice out the title cards, and run the tape along with the projector! This worked really well, but in order to match the two entities in one instance, I had to cut out a gag in one of the films! The gag that was missing from the telecast came during the Andy Panda film, THE WACKY WEED. It was one of the plant example gags in the film’s setup: The tobacco plant is shown spitting tobacco juice into a spittoon. At the time, I innocently thought that the gag was edited out of the telecast to make the film fit into the time frame. But after reading this, I guess it was censored for being in bad taste (no play on words intended)! :-)!

  • Veering a little off-topic, but readers following the recent Toei Animation articles might be interested to know that Warner Archive has just released the English dub of Toei’s “Magic Boy” (1961) to on-demand DVD. Naturally, I have ordered one, and hope this bodes well for the other Toei classics.

    • thanks for the heads up on magic boy. I wonder why it’s not on amazon, and why is a warner brothers release? wasn’t it an mgm film?

    • MAGIC BOY was an MGM release – and Warner Bros. today owns all the pre-1986 MGM movies (like the Wizard of Oz and the Tom & Jerry cartoons). It’s not on Amazon because its a “Warner Archive” release. You can order it here:

    • I’ve ordered several Warner Archive titles from Amazon. Usually takes a few weeks after they debut on WA to be available.

  • Could there be something about booze that was disturbing to either Kellogg’s or to the Leo Burnett Agency?

    The “censorship” of the various Walter Lantz cartoons has been written up before. But another incident comes to mind.

    Early in 1961, Kellogg;s agreed to sponsor “You’re In The Picture”, a comedy-panel-game show emceed by Jackie Gleason. The show premiered on the day that JFK was inaugurated (1/20/61), and the critics were merciless in their drubbing. The next week, Gleason spent the half-hour apologizing for the sow, on a set devoid of everything but a director’s chair, a TV table, and a cup of “coffee”. At one point in the proceedings, Gleason ad-libbed that the coffee was his favorite brand–“Chock Full o’Booze!”
    Kellogg’s dropped sponsorship of “The Jackie Gleason Show” (which became a chat show for its remaining few weeks) there and then.
    Go figure!

    • That’s showbiz I guess they would say (I don’t suppose Mad Men had an episode surrounding such an incident but it seems up their alley though I hardly ever watch it).

    • WK Kellogg, the founder of the company (who was long dead by the time The Gleason Show aired) was a devout Seventh Day Adventist. The church (I can’t speak for Kellogg himself, but the doctrine of the church is well documented) discourages alcohol and tobacco. It is possible that the Kellogg’s company, while a public company, may, at that time, have adhered to the Seventh Day Adventists foundation that the company was based on.

      It’s possible. But, then, I wasn’t there. And I think the line “Chock Full o’ Booze” is hilarious. Besides, if you’re sponsoring a Jackie Gleason show, what do you expect?

  • I noticed that they worked in the Filmaation Superman theme music into that Batman segment…..I haven’t seen those Filmation Batman (and Superman) cartoons since I was a kid, but when I was a kid I watched those cartoons every chance I could. I guess the soundtrack music got burned into my brain…Funny how that works.

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