July 18, 2014 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #171

Animated Stooge. “During the era in which the Three Stooges made a cameo in ‘Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’, head stooge Moe Howard had a company that I thought could help us,” stated Disney producer Harry Tytle. “Always on the look-out for potentially expensive scenes to animate with cheaper alternatives, I was anticipating a section of ‘101 Dalmatians’ where there were extensive automobiles chasing through the countryside.

“I had discovered that Moe Howard had a company that had licked this problem. Ub Iwerks and I, along with other technical people, went to see Moe’s process. Unfortunately, Ub decided we wouldn’t be able to use the technique, but I got a kick out of making the visit.”

In the film The Three Stooges in Orbit (1962), a method was featured using live footage appearing to be animation and it was first called called “Cinemagic,” It was developed by comic book artist Norman Maurer, Moe’s son-in-law, who first used it in the 1959 low-budget sci-fi film The Angry Red Planet (below). This process was later known as “Colormation” and “Animascope”.

“The animation process my dad invented filmed live actors dressed in special costumes and makeup, and through a patented chemical process, turned the frames into realistic animation,” stated Jeffrey Scott, the son of Norman Maurer.

For the Disney animated film, animators created a white model of the car, with bold black lines, before recording it and running the footage through the Xerox process. When Cruella is seen driving her car from a snow ditch, a sand-like substance was used for it to drive through.

Bakshi the Thief of Books. At the age of 15, after discovering Gene Byrnes’ “Complete Guide to Cartooning” (originally published by Grosset and Dunlap in 1950) at the public library, Bakshi took up cartooning to document his experiences and create fantasy-influenced artwork. He stole a copy of the book and learned every lesson in it.

Get Out of the House! Cartoonist Craig Yoe shared the following information with me. Often it is a challenge to clear a theater in order to clean it and bring in a new audience. A theater owner told animation producer Paul Terry, “We run the feature and then we put on a Terrytoon and that drives the people out of the house.”

Good Answer. It seemed like Mickey Mouse was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow since his cartoons and merchandise made so much money. A reporter for “Men Only” magazine in November 1951 asked Walt “What has Mickey made over a quarter of a century?” Walt quipped, “Me!”

Jessica Sparkles. Costume Designer Joanna Johnston in Entertainment Weekly magazine from Feb. 15, 2013 who designed costumes for both live and animated characters in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1988) stated: “It was too expensive to animate Jessica Rabbit in sequins for the whole movie. The compromise was that she wear sequins on stage and satin the rest of the time. At my young age, I was really upset that she wasn’t going to be in sequins all the way through.”

abu-ben-boogie-sheet-smallAnimation Censorship. In the January 4, 1958 issue of TV Guide, Walter Lantz was interviewed about censorship to his older cartoons before they could be seen on television.

The animated short Abou Ben Boogie (1944) was completely rejected because of a little harem girl wiggling her hips. That particular rejection upset Lantz because the cartoon contained an expensive musical score written by Don Ray and Gene Paul who had such hit tunes as “Mr. Five-by-Five” and “Cow Cow Boogie”.

Also it was decided at the time that cartoon human beings can kiss animals but animals couldn’t kiss human beings.

At the end of Knock Knock (1940) where Woody has a nervous breakdown and is taken away by woodpeckers in white coats was cut. “It’s the one time where editing damaged a picture. We lost the whole ending and the viewer is left up in the air,” fumed Lantz.

When Lantz and the Leo Burnett agency eventually made their edits and re-dubbing, the cartoons were sent over to Thomas Kersey, manager of ABC-TV continuity acceptance in Hollywood.

“I didn’t change a single frame of what they gave me,” he said. “But in television, there are 50 million continuity acceptance editors. You can’t please everybody. The best I can do is try to use common sense.”

Disney-RobinHoodFoxy Bluth. In an interview with animation historian John Cawley, Don Bluth commented “I drew with great excitement, thinking how good it was to work on a Disney feature. When ‘Robin Hood’ (1973) was completed I decided it did not look the greatest of films. The heart wasn’t in it. It had technique, the characters were well drawn, the Xerox process retained the fine lines so I could see all of the self indulgence of the animators, each one saying ‘Look how great I am,’ but the story itself had no soul.”

On “The Fox and the Hound” Cliff Nordberg died while the film was in production. Several scenes of animation were stolen during a midnight break- in and had to be re-animated by rotoscoping the original pencil tests. Scenes that Don Bluth worked on included the barn sequence with the widow milking the cow and playing with Tod as well as the scene where she grabs the hunter’s gun and shoots it. Though Don and his crew did substantial work on the film, he (and those who left the Disney Studio with him) had their names taken off the project at their request.

land-before-time-poster2Stout’s Little Dinosaur. “The Land Before Time” (1988) was based upon artist Bill Stout’s award-winning children’s book with a very, very similar storyline, The Little Blue Brontosaurus (1984)…but not officially.

“I didn’t work on that film (“The Land Before Time”) but I did do some of the film’s advertising art. I wish that Lucas and Spielberg had honorably acquired the rights — but they didn’t,” wrote Stout. “A producer friend of mine saw a copy of The Little Blue Brontosaurus on Kathleen Kennedy’s desk when ‘The Land Before Time’ was in development. I was pretty close to Kathy, Steven and George at the time.

“I don’t know why they did this…Were they expecting me to sue them? I know from working with them that they keep a contingency fund on each film to deal with situations like this. I was very disappointed in them. Not only was I cheated, but their production of ‘The Land Before Time’ torpedoed my dinosaur film with Jim Henson.”


  • I sure can sympathize with Walter Lantz on cartoon censorship.It’s really odd that TV censors weren’t particularly worried about violence(i.e.The Untouchables,westerns with lots of shootouts,for adults and kiddies to see,other cartoons,etc.) but when it came to that dreaded three letter word S-E-X,they’d throw a fit! As for the Moe Howard owned animation process,it looks to me like Ub could have missed the boat on that chance,which he didn’t often do. Love the 101 Dalmation sequence!

  • Just as a matter on interest I found Norman Maurer’s patent

    Very clever. Hard to believe this is the same guy who dreamed up the Robonic Stooges.

  • I don’t know if I’m seeing things or not! In the car chase, whether intentionally or by accident, it looks to me like they used the same animation gag twice! I refer to the shot where the three pups duck down in the dresser drawer and the drawer seems to obligingly close for them. Shortly afterward, the same drawer is shown open again and the pups again disappear and the drawer closes again! It looks to me like a mistake repeat of the same footage! But maybe it was done that way deliberately for some reason. I should have thought that eagle-eyed Walt would have caught that while he was checking the continuity! But maybe–just maybe–it slipped by him! (Hey, nobody’s perfect!) :-)! (I ought to get my paws(!) on the live-action version, to see how the studio staged this climactic scene!

  • That “Colormation” space film test is reeeallly weird! Sort of a head-on collision between “Jonny Quest” and “Clutch Cargo!” Any idea who the voice/live-action actors are in either clip?

  • The Colormation clip is pretty neat. They look like Steve Canyon characters come to life. Putting cheekbone lines on the actors and outlining their lips makes then look cartoony enough to pass as drawings. Too bad this wasn’t used much – it had potential.

    But the claim made in the Animascope test that this could be used for any type of character – um, no.

  • Such gimmicks as “Animascope” and “Colormation” are just two of the endleas attempts over the years to produce fake animation. Cheaper, Crummier, and Deader. The point was missed that humans simply don’t move like cartoon characters. Cartoons are exaggerations not only in styling but mainly in movement. Dressing human actors in “cartoon suits” will alway look distractingly weird, and will alway lack the snap and vigor of true drawn animation. OK, they got us on cheap, and they have no regrets about screwing viewers.

    • You are right about the way things move in cartoons! This principle is called “cartoon physics,” and is most clearly demonstrated in the Wiley E. Coyote/Road Runner nature documentaries. Often, Wiley runs over the edge of a cliff and continues to run on air, not realizing there is nothing under his hind paws until he looks down. Then he plummets thousands of feet to his doom.

      Hollywood is not a place for brains, and they long ago realized it is much easier to add conventional physics to cartoons than it is to add cartoon physics to consensus reality. This really didn’t work well until computers came along, and now they can draw and paint so much faster than we can! And they work for sub-union wages, too!

  • I left out the word “charm.” Animascope had the charm of a morgue occupant. Gene

  • If the Animascope clips are examples of bad animation then they’re excellent filmmaking, and are far more interesting than the post-Kricfalusi post-Pixar creative limbo today’s animators have made for themselves.

  • I was 8 when this film came out, and of course my parents wouldn’t let me go see it, because of my nightmares… another story, there. So I finally got to watch it on Roku, 62 years later! This was made on a budget of $200K? It looks it! The lush vegetation looks nothing like the Mars we know and love, but I do believe NASA has really missed a golden opportunity to introduce us to alien life-forms by not revealing the existence of the Batratspidercrab creatures! Yeah, they looks monstrous, but hey, like killer whales, you may not like their table manners, but they’re very intelligent…

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