Happy the Humbug. Many animators tried to create their own comic strip and some were more successful than others. The character “Happy The Humbug” was first developed in 1940 by writer Steve Carlin and artist Myron Waldman for an unpublished children’s book.
Later, they transformed it into a comic strip that was syndicated by the New York Post newspaper from November 17, 1946 to April 3, 1949 as a Sunday only comic strip.
Steve Carlin later created the popular “Rootie Kazootie”. Cartoonist Myron Waldman had worked at the Fleischer and Famous Studios on Popeye, Casper, Superman and others. “Happy the Humbug” had a giraffe’s neck, monkey’s tail and a turtle’s shell on his back.
“(He) became so popular that he started to make personal appearances at theaters and was able to publicize my work at the studio as well as my comic strip,” stated Waldman in 1994.
It was also adapted for radio with 54 episodes and the characters appeared on a 1948 RCA record album “Happy the Humbug Has a Birthday”.
Sandy Claws. Animator and director Art Davis recalled in 1993, “Remember I had written and animated my own cartoons at Screen Gems and I had a feel for writing. Later, at Warner Brothers, I would have liked to have made a move to the story department. There was one time when I wrote a story, and I didn’t seem to be able to get any of the directors interested in doing it. They only wanted material from their writing staff.
“I ended up showing to Warren Foster (a writer in the Friz Freleng unit). Warren was able to convince Friz to make the picture and it turned out pretty well. This cartoon, Sandy Claws (1955) was an Academy Award nominee, and I did receive story credit on screen with Warren, which is a bit ironic since the whole thing was my idea and Warren’s input was solely presenting it to Friz. But that’s the way it went. I didn’t get into the story department, but I was able to contribute ideas from time to time.”
An Angry Walter Lantz. Animation legend Shamus Culhane shared this story after the passing of Walter Lantz in March 1994 just one month shy of his 95th birthday: “One Monday morning in 1925, Frank Paiker, the camera man, and Jimmie Culhane arrived at the J.R. Bray Studio with several injuries.
“Paiker’s fist was in a cast and Culhane was limping on a crutch, obviously unable to run errands or shoot the camera. Walter Lantz accepted all this as a result of Saturday afternoon football with philosophic calmness.
“But when he overheard Paiker and Culhane discussing the possibility that their injuries might interfere with their entering the Golden Gloves Boxing Championships, he flew into a towering rage. In the seven odd years of our working relationship, this was the only time I heard his voice raised in anger.”
Hey, Boo Boo! In the early 1990s, voice artist Don Messick visited Russia and spent some time at the American Embassy. He cheerfully did some of his famous voices but the most requested by the embassy families as well as the Marines stationed there were of Scooby Doo the mystery solving Great Dane, and Boo Boo, the small companion to Yogi Bear. Don always felt that Boo Boo was the intermediary for children in an adult world. His friend Daws Butler said that Boo Boo was beloved because he was the conscience of Yogi Bear.
The Birth of Cel Collecting. Remember when collecting cels was a “hot” and expensive hobby? Some say it all started on Saturday night, December 8, 1984, when Christie’s East Auction House held an event that triggered the collection of animation art sales. That night they offered the collection of John Basmajin, 379 lots (with only 15 lots not selling). A key set up of Mickey Mouse swatting flies from “The Brave Little Tailor” (1938) brought $20,900.Christie’s had been the only auction house willing to take a risk on selling animation art.
John Basmajian joined the Walt Disney Company in 1940 as an animator and then later worked in Disney’s publicity and advertising department. During his years there he amassed a huge collection of celluloids, posters and drawings. During the move from Hyperion to the new Burbank studio, the cels were being washed for reuse (although only one in a hundred were deemed suitable because most were wrinkled or buckled) and the others destroyed. Basmajian and some other employees were allowed to salvage some of the artwork.
Live Reference for The Lion King. Jim Fowler, who at the time was the co-host of the television show “Wild Kingdom” provided a variety of jungle animals including meerkats, baboons and lions for the lengthy drawing sessions arranged for animators on Disney’s animated feature “The Lion King”. By doing so, the artists were able to sketch the animals in a situation less constricting than a zoo.
The Opening of Lion King. Art director Andy Gaskill created the opening sequence to Disney’s animated feature “The Lion King” (1994). “I started to storyboard the opening before they settled on the music,” recalled Gaskill. “That came after. Roger (Allers) and Rob (Minkoff) were looking for some kind of signature piece that was highly visual and would really set the tone and mood for place and environment. Because it is a character-heavy movie, you don’t get many opportunities to capture Africa, like those wide-sweeping cinematic shots of huge roaming animal herds and great flocks of flamingoes.
“It wasn’t something we could do throughout so we thought the opening would be the opportune place. By the time we came to the realization that the film should have the look of a David Lean (who directed “Lawrence of Arabia”), that it should be a huge, panoramic canvas for the drama to unfold—very Cinemascope—unfortunately, it was long past the point where this was a viable option. We did try to do that in this shot to get as much distance, scale and atmosphere as possible. I was very pleased that the opening got the response it did from both the studio hierarchy and the public.”