September 5, 2014 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #178


Who Was That Masked Man? The first Lone Ranger animated television series ran on CBS from September 10, 1966, to September 6, 1969. It was produced by Format Films and included work by Art Babbit and Bill Tytla as directors and Virgil Ross as an animator. Much of the work was produced in England and Australia. The opening theme song of the William Tell Overture was recorded in London with a forty piece orchestra including members from both The London Philharmonic and London Symphony orchestras.

“The thing we brought to The Lone Ranger,” said producer Herb Klynn, “was a totally new graphic.” Multi-layered montaged backgrounds featuring shapes of luminous color held together by cels featuring illustrations that used grease pencils on the acetate instead of ink to get strong compelling black lines was used.

“Creative talent cannot be contained,” stated Klynn. “It must be allowed to breathe, to try new avenues…you have to experiment and go through a creative evolutionary process. That’s what we did. We were a team, a family with no boundaries.”

Why Woody Woodpecker Was Successful. “There’s a little of Woody in everybody,” said animation legend Walter Lantz in 1992. “(My wife and voice of Woody) Gracie did so much for the character. She gave Woody something that no one else could—a lot of heart.

“I wanted to make the kind of pictures that appealed to all ages. I didn’t depend on a lot of dialogue. Gags were more important—the things that real people would want to do if only they had the nerve. Woody along with Mickey and Bugs will go on forever.”

Translating Eddie Murphy. In a 1993 interview, Gumby’s creator Art Clokey said, “I think Eddie Murphy expressed it best when he said, ‘I’m Gumby, damnit!’ Which means Gumby’s okay, I’m okay. I identify with Gumby, so I must be okay too. That’s what I think Eddie was expressing. I’m Gumby, damnit!’ You can’t put ‘em down. There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m Gumby!”

Mel Blanc

Mel Blanc

Porky the Boy Scout. Warner animator and director Norm McCabe said in 1992, “Porky (Pig) was someone I was never crazy about. He was always trying to be the good guy. It was like trying to do a cartoon about a boy scout. I never really cared for those spot gag cartoons (“Porky’s Snooze Reel”, “Who’s Who in the Zoo”). The story guys really loved them, though. They never had to worry about relating the scenes. It was just one joke after another. I liked the cartoons I did with Daffy (Duck). I liked his attitude… a real wise guy and a great actor.”

Stan Freberg

Stan Freberg

Difficult Mel Blanc. In 1993, voice artist Stan Freberg who had been teamed with legendary voice artist Mel Blanc for Warner Brothers cartoons featuring the two mice Hubie and Bertie as well as the Goofy Gophers and the dogs Chester and Spike recalled, “I had tremendous respect for Mel. He had this incredible voice box. He could do things that nobody else could. But when I first came to Warner Brothers, I think he resented them bringing in another voice artist.

“He was very possessive about what he did and he often wouldn’t let me get close enough to the microphone when we were recording. Treg Brown (film editor and sound effects wizard) would have to say, ‘Do it again, guys, and Stan, get closer to the mike.’ Later on, after I had great success as a Capitol recording artist, Mel gained new respect for me and things became less difficult.”

Frank Thomas and the Snow White Premiere. Disney Legend Frank Thomas told an interviewer in 1993, “When we went to the preview showing (of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in December 1937), we were just floored by the reception. We thought, at best, it would be like ‘The Drunkard’ where everybody hissed and booed the villain. We thought the audience would take it that way. We hoped they wouldn’t but we couldn’t believe that they would believe in this whole thing as completely as they did.”

Frank Thomas

Frank Thomas

Live Action Reference. When Disney Legend Frank Thomas was asked in 1993 why use live action reference models in animation after his statement in his 1981 book “Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life” that “no matter how good they are, actors can seldom give you what you want. You can talk to them and get them thoroughly immersed in the character, but when they do the action, it’s not what you have in the back of your mind”, Thomas took a moment and replied:

“It gets you much closer. If you’re starting from scratch without any help, you have an awful time digging out that kernel in the back of your mind. If you have something that’s nearly there that reminds you specifically of what’s missing, it’s a much easier step to come closer to that dream which is seldom if rarely achieved.

“That’s why an artist is driven to drink and everything else because he cannot capture that thing that is in his mind. I think it would be a tedious, terrible job to try to do it all by yourself without any help.”

Big Bucks. It was reported that in 1924, Walter Lantz was the highest paid employee in the field of animation, making $250 a week for his work on series like Dinky Doodle and Col. Heeza Liar.

Jay Ward Laughs. Voice artist June Foray in a 1993 interview remembered Jay Ward as “a jovial, avuncular young man who knew precisely what he wanted. He laughed easily. When I met him (in 1958), he was ready to face the world with all his mordant humor. I did so many characters for Jay. We had wonderful writers. They wrote jokes that made them laugh and made Jay Ward laugh. Whatever was funny, that was it—no condescension. They used big words all the time. It was not written for children.”

High Design. On the Warner cartoon “High Note” (1960), designer Maurice Noble cut up theatrical gels into various shapes and devised a way of suspending them in front of the camera lens to create overlaps of color and a distinctively different series of background. “Sometimes I would just come up with ideas that had never been tried before,” said Noble in a 1992 interview. Noble said that he designed and painted all the backgrounds in “Duck Amuck” (1953).


  • I didn’t see voice credits. I think I recognize Allen Swift in there. But the lead voices, The Lone Ranger and Tonto, are weak – far below the great radio serial actors. Oddly, this is a serial I never saw on TV. I’m impressed by the graphic design; strong, and way ahead of the usual stuff of the time.

    • Gee, Gene, I have to disagree —

      The voice work in this series is excellent — even superior to the original radio performances, in my opinion. Michael Rye as the Ranger, Sheb Menken as Tonto, with Marvin Miller providing the dramatic opening narration, along other character voices, are joined by other vocal greats such as Henry Corden, Hans Conried, Agnes Moorehead, Vic Perrin, and Howard Morris (That’s right! Your Munroe!) As far as I can tell, Allen Swift (who’s marvelous!) didn’t do any work on the show —

      Also of special note (besides the great writing), is the brilliant musical score composed by Vic Schoen, who wrote an incredible amount of “modular”cues that can dropped in throughout to support the appropriate action, in the way Hoyt Curtain’s amazing score was used for Jonny Quest (the Lone Ranger’s BG music is second only to Quest, I think).

      Schoen composed music for the biggest names in show business, including Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, to name only a few —

      I absolutely love this show, and have been inspired by it to create something in the same vein; a straight, animated action-adventure series that’s not snarky in any way, (a REAL rarity in these days), the sincerity of which should give it a refreshing quality that separates it from the rest of the field (I’m hoping!)

  • You can’t miss Marvin Miller in the opening of the Lone Ranger.

    Arguably, Woody’s biggest popularity came immediately after the release of “The Woody Woodpecker Song.” It clogged the music charts. Gracie Lantz had nothing to do with it.

  • How pointless, to make an animated Lone Ranger, at least one in the same tone as the live action TV show we were still used to seeing at the time. Walter may think Woody, and Bugs, & Mickey would go on forever, but it’s only Bugs that is still a viable cartoon star. How many kids today have seen a real Mickey Mouse cartoon? And of course much fewer have seen Woody Woodpecker. You can see Bugs in Looney Tunes packages of Cartoon Network & Boomerang, and new cartoons of varying success. Mickey is this sort of nebulous creature kids are kind of aware of, and I don’t see Woody on any television in the States.

    • “Walter may think Woody, and Bugs, & Mickey would go on forever, but it’s only Bugs that is still a viable cartoon star.”

      Um… what?

      I can see your point to an extent as far as Woody Woodpecker goes… though I think if that theatrical feature by Bill Kopp gets produced and is successful, some of that could change for Woody… but Mickey Mouse? Over the last year and a half, Disney has both revived him in a fresh and funny TV cartoon series (which recently got a second season) as well as in the acclaimed, Oscar-nominated theatrical short “Get a Horse”. Mickey is certainly a viable cartoon star these days.

    • Mesterius, you may be right in the very recent exposure of Mickey Mouse, but for the past few decades he really hasn’t been on children’s radar, at least as a ‘viable cartoon star’. It’s hard to imagine Disney making as successful a feature out its characters as Space Jams was for Warner Brothers. And Woody would need some serious rehabilitation. He’s far below the underexposed, but still very famous, Popeye.

    • Disney packaged and repackaged the post-“Treasures” short subject restorations on inexpensive DVDs for several years, my kids still love them, and also know Mickey from “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” on Disney Jr. He’s as present and famous for younger generations as he has been for many years.

  • Always the best feature of the week…thanks!

  • Far from being “pointless’, “The Lone Ranger” cartoon show was one of the most interesting Saturday morning shows on the air at that time. I’ve never forgotten it. The animation quality was noticeably better than most of the other Saturday morning shows, and the stories were very well done. As a kid, I distinctly remember the “Ghost Riders” episode and how unique the “glowing” effect was for TV animation at that time. And the Lone Ranger live-action series was no longer on the air in ’66, so this show introduced The Lone Ranger” to a whole new generation of kids, which was the very point.

    Context is everything. It’s important to remember when assessing shows like this that they were broadcast when TV animation was very cheaply produced, the animation on most shows was very primitive, and these shows didn’t exist in a 1000 channel universe, so the options for animated entertainment (and TV entertainment in general) were EXTREMELY limited. For us kids in the sixties, this show stood head-and-shoulders above the rest.

  • Whatever value the graphic design of the Lone Ranger cartoon show had, was mostly due to the talents of Gary Lund and Walt Peregoy, two great hands at story sketch and background painting. The character animation was hampered by footage requirements, the personalities of the Ranger and Tonto feel pinched. Compare it with the acting of Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels in the TV series. Clayton Moore defined the Ranger, not only in voice but in body attitudes. Just to see Moore in the saddle astride Silver shows a character with confidence, grace and complete mastery of his role as a champion of justice. Jay Silverheels as Tonto was an innocent in many ways, but very savvy in horsemanship and the ways of the trail. Although the friendship of an Indian and an Anglo seems ludicrous to us today, their work together as a team was remarkable and an essential part of every story they were in. The cartoon Lone Ranger never even came close to that feel. Imagine Bill Tytla saddled with THIS sway-backed horse! The Lone Ranger is a part of the innocence of the early United States, when western expansion and manifest destiny were considered the rights of all Americans. He is no longer a part of our cynical, digital age. In spite of the $250 million dollar Johnny Depp disaster, I believe the essential element of the Ranger’s creed, Justice, will always mean something. Therefore the Lone Ranger will never really die. Hi-YO SILVER, AWAY!

    • I was glad to come across your comment about Gary Lund’s contribution to the animated Lone Ranger series.. Gary was (and is) a talented artist whom my husband (Ken Sobol) and I got to know when both were hired by Herb Klynn to work on the Lone Ranger series. . . . [Oh, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now. ] Ken, who got his writing chops on that show, went on to a successful and varied writing career in Canadian television, including several animated programs for Nelvana (later Corus).

  • CPI calculator says $250.00 a week in 1924 equates to about $3,500.00 per week today. How much are top animators paid today?

  • I’m hard pressed to think of another cartoon series that had TWO MINUTE (!) opening credits. We don’t even see any animation until the 1:25 mark.

    • A contender with no equals perhaps (though I do know some foreign examples but I feel that would undermine the brilliance of Format Films’ trailblazing pace).

  • Hey, I was at the age where the cartoon was my first exposure to the Lone Ranger, young enough that I just remember having seen it and a few of the characters (Tiny Tom, anyone?). Only seeing this episode do I realize how this was a great example of great storytelling overcoming limited animation–I just bet they had a small collection of cycles of LR and Tonto riding their horses, but at east they could re-film them over different backgrounds.
    I think we know why the opening ran long: to shorten the time for the episodes so less animation was needed to fill the show’s running time (that and extra time to replace with a sponsorship message).

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