Hidden Initials. Matt Groening hid his initials in the hair (M) over Homer Simpson’s ear and the center of the ear (G).
Extinct Jurassic Park. Artist Bill Stout was the production designer and drew all the model sheets for a proposed Jurassic Park animated television series for Universal Cartoon Studios. Work on the series began even before the release of the Spielberg’s live action feature in 1993. Reportedly, Spielberg refused to even look at the finished one-minute demo which featured computer animation by MetroLight.
Natwick and Polo. In a 1989 interview, animation legend Grim Natwick who was turning 99 years old in a week, still had some sharp memories. “We (the Disney animators) used to be invited to Will Rogers’ ranch, now a public park. He held big annual dinners there. He was quite the polo player. Polo was in vogue in those days. It was pretty hard on the riders. There was a Russian kid who came over named Tytla. He had kind of a composite imagination that spawned characters surely resembling the way his grandparents used to look, and he brought that look not only to the Disney dwarfs that he animated but also to Stromboli in Pinocchio.”
Got It Pegged. In 1914, animator Raoul Barre invented the mechanical peg system where you punched holes into paper to correspond with round pegs on a Peg Board. J.R Bray perfected the system, patented it and collected royalties on the system until 1931. In 1932, Max Fleischer added a third (center) hole and changed the shape of the two outer holes to a more oval design. The two advantages to Max’s addition was lessening the chance of tearing the paper when an animator removed a drawing and the oval peg allowed air to escape when the cel was placed over the drawing to be traced. In 1935 in the cartoon Mickey’s Garden Disney introduced a new five hole punch. The last time the five hole punch system was used by Disney was on the Pluto cartoon Cold Turkey (1951).
Talking Dogs. John Pomeroy was the producer and animating director on “All Dogs Go to Heaven” (1989). When he was asked about casting celebrity voices including Dom DeLuise, Charles Nelson Reilly and Burt Reynolds, he replied, “Get the characters; don’t create the characters. It was like doing an old-time radio show. You gave them a script. We gave them the basic premise and they would talk over the pacing and gags two or three times, then delivered the final product. You wouldn’t want to tamper with that. We told the editor to just lay it in the way it is.”
Friz Talks. At the age of 85 in 1990, at a signing at an animation gallery, animation legend Friz Freleng stated, “I guess I did more Bugs than any other character and I did Sylvester and Tweety probably more than I did the others. But I was the only one who used Yosemite Sam against Bugs. Yosemite Sam only played against Bugs Bunny. He never played alone and he was an instant hit. The director controlled the look of the character. Mel Blanc did the voice so the voice was always the same. But the gags and the action were all created by the director himself. And it became consistent because one director referred to the other one and they were guided by what had been done before.”
Coming or Going. To avoid the seven hour line to get into the Soviet exhibit at Expo ’67, animation director Bob Clampett simply walked into the exit and worked his way from the back to the front. According to his son Bob Clampett Jr., “He could be a mischievous fellow. Once he went with mother to a party and happened to notice a girl with a gown cut low in the back and protruding ‘shoulder blades’. He convinced the girl to loan her lipstick, mascara and shoulder blades of a little artistic session. He painted a new set of breasts on the woman’s back and then proceeded to escort her into the party this time backwards with her head turned. Everybody thought that was hilarious—except her husband.”
Termite Terrace. In 1943, animator Shamus Culhane returned to Southern California after two years working at the Max Fleischer studio in Miami, Florida. He ended up having a meeting with producer Leon Schlesinger who promised Culhane that he was going to get some Navy contracts to do some military animation and would have Culhane direct them. (Schlesinger later made those films without Culhane resulting in Culhane quitting Warners and going to Lantz.)
Schlesinger suggested that Culhane join Chuck Jones to get acquainted with the staff while waiting for the military assignment. In 1990, Culhane described what the interior of Termite Terrace looked like in 1943: “When Jones ushered me down the hall, and opened the door to the animation department, I was struck by a miasma not unlike the odor of a slave ship. The place stank of old rusted radiator, overlaid by a stink of rancid oil.
“The floor was composed of splintered ancient pine. Instead of sweeping and mopping, the wood was cleaned by sluicing it with oil. This had been going on for years, and it now smelt like a dead goat.
“Each animator and his assistant were ensconced in a cubicle made of beaver-board. This material had been punctured in several places in order to communicate with each other. Not only orally. Drawings depicting pornographic versions of current events were passed through these holes as well.
“I was amazed that nobody seemed to be unduly distressed by these foul working conditions. It felt and smelled like the sub-basement of an out-house. When I complained, and I certainly did, loud and long, the Jones’ staff looked vaguely embarrassed, as if I were being unreasonable in my diatribe. Especially, when I suggested the matter be put before the Executive Board of the Union.
“In spite of the working conditions, I enjoyed working with Chuck and his group, especially Bobe Cannon who proved to be formidable competition.”
Below: Inki and The Minah Bird – one of the Warner Bros. cartoons Shanus Culhane animated on.