September 19, 2014 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #180


Seeger’s Koko the Clown. “Out of the inkwell, comes Koko the Clown. He’s so gay and he’s so jolly. He will make you laugh, by golly” went the theme song for Hal Seeger’s version of Koko the Clown. As animator Myron Waldman remembered in 1994, “Hal (Seeger) wanted to produce a new series based on the Fleischer Brothers Classic series ‘Out of the Inkwell’. I did a layout for the pilot episode so he could get backers. One of the changes we made in the series was that I updated Koko’s look and since we couldn’t use Betty Boop and others, we created new characters like the female Koketee and Koko-nut, his dog. We completed over one hundred episodes (in color in 1960-61 with the voice of actor Larry Storch).

“A lot of the work was done from my home studio and the finished work was sent back to Manhattan. I had come full circle. I had done animation on the last Inkwell cartoon produced at Fleischer and now thirty years later, I was directing one of my favorite characters and one of the major influences that pushed me into animation.”

Seven of Them! In 1994 at an art gallery signing, Disney Legend Frank Thomas remembered working on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937) wasn’t always a “happy” experience. “In the beginning, we would walk down the hallways shaking our heads, muttering ‘Seven of them!’ This was the first time we’d ever had to delineate seven distinct individuals at one time,” said Thomas.

“If you had to do even a simple thing like backing the dwarfs up, you had to do each one differently. Now how many ways are there of backing up? You do the first four, and do them great, then you get to Sneezy and you’ve run out of ideas. It got to be a problem.”

The Birth of Filmation. Why did producer Lou Scheimer create Filmation Studios in 1962? According to Scheimer in a 1995 interview, “I didn’t want to find out who was going to fire me next. I figured if I was going to lose another job, it would have to be me firing myself.”

fat-albert225Fat Albert. In 1971, Filmation and comedian Bill Cosby were represented by the same agent which is how they got together in developing a Saturday Morning animated televsion series. “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” ran for twelve (not continuous) years, receiving several Emmy nominations and the prestigious Peabody Award. The character of “Fat” Albert Jackson was voiced by Bill Cosby and is based on Cosby’s childhood friend Albert Robertson. The show was first offered to NBC but was turned down for being too educational.

As producer Lou Scheimer remembered, “Fat Albert was the best show I ever worked on. I’m not talking technically. I’m talking about the quality and depth, and what it did for kids.

“And it was a job getting something like that sold. Bill and I went to CBS with ‘Fat Albert’ but they wanted him to do an evening variety show instead (“The New Bill Cosby Show”). That show only lasted one season. Bill was a terrific guy to work with. As far as content, Fat Albert was my favorite show. It was something worthwhile and appropriate for kids. You can keep it commercial and worthwhile at the same time. That’s the reason for doing an animated series and it’s terrific.”

Bugs’ Buddy, Harry Truman. Bugs Hardaway, who inspired the name of Bugs Bunny and worked on early Woody Woodpecker cartoons, was a veteran of World War I. His unit was the infamous “Wild Irish” Battery D and his military commander was Harry Truman. By the 1940s, Truman became Vice President of the United States but whenever he came to Los Angeles to view a shipyard or some other function, he got together with the “Battery D Boys” including Hardaway for an evening of poker and bourbon.

As animator Milt Schaffer recalled, “I’ll never forget the day we sat in our little story room and it comes over the radio that Roosevelt died and Bugs is just sitting there saying ‘Harry’s the President. Harry’s the President’.”

bully-bugsBully for Eddie. As animation director Chuck Jones remembered, “(Producer Eddie Selzer) came storming into the room where Mike Maltese and I were agonizing over a story idea and yelled, ‘I don’t want any gags about bullfights! They aren’t funny!’ Mike looked at me and I said I never thought bullfights were funny either but since Eddie’s never been right…So out of this came ‘Bully for Bugs’ (1953), one of the best Bugs our unit ever produced.”

The Great Spirit of $17.76 Revolt. Animation legend Bill Melendez loved working at the Disney Studio. As he recalled, “I loved working there and I was very thankful for what I learned. My happiest moments in animation were those first years at Disney. Everything was so stimulating and exciting. It was like, golly, what a way to earn a living!”

However, when he started there in 1938, he earned about $16 a week. Eventually, his pay, like many others, increased to $18. However, with deductions, the take-home amount was only $17.76.

“We were working in what was called The Annex, a big room full of in-betweeners,” remembered Melendez. “We were all fairly new apprentices. One of the guys, Curtis Barnes, had this great sense of humor, so when he looked at the check, he said, ‘Seventeen seventy-six? Holy cats, we’ve got to do something about this!’

“The guys got some red, white and blue decorations and on the next payday, the room was filled with signs saying ‘The Spirit of ‘76’. When the paymaster came in, he was shocked. He didn’t say a word but went to talk to the powers that be. A day or so later, they pinpointed Barnes and fired him.”

Seaman Hook. Many animation fans know that cartoonist Hank Ketcham worked at the Disney Studio and then went on to create the popular “Dennis the Menace” cartoon panel for newspapers. However, in 1943, he was serving in the Navy in Washington, D.C. and was flown to the Walter Lantz studio in Hollywood for six weeks to supervise the production of a seven minute war bond commercial starring Seaman Hook. It was also a reunion of sorts since Lantz had given Ketcham his first animation job in 1938. Ketcham had done the storyboards for several Hook bond selling films – three more were produced by Warner Bros. in 1945.


  • Jim:
    Great post!That’s one Mr.Hook toon I’d never seen before! And I’ve never seen any of the Hal Seeger Out Of the Inkwells before! That anecdote about Bugs Hardaway and Harry Truman was fascinating!Thanks for sharing!

  • There’s a whole folder of material at the Truman Presidential Library on the Hardaway-Truman relationship. One of the interesting bits in it is when Hardaway applied for a government job during the brief Lantz shut-down in the late 40s, and you have Hardaway’s resume showing his career in animation up until that point. I included excerpts from the file in an Apatoons article many years ago.

  • Was that bullfighting story really true? I heard some folks said that Jones was exaggerating that story.

  • Myron had a 16 mm print of the pilot episode which included an appearance by Max. He told me that Max died his hair for the occasion! Myron lent me the print and I had a video copy made.

    • That would be pretty cool to see someday!

    • I remember that episode during the original run. I would like to see it again!

    • Here’s one:

  • I thought Max was awarded legal ownership of the Betty Boop character by then. After all his studio did invent her, and merchandise sold as by ‘The Fleischer Studios’ has been on the market for decades.

  • Here’s a couple of new Animation Anecdotes for you Jim:
    1. In the PBS show, “Raccoon Nation”, it is revealed that Japanese animation is responsible for raccoons over-running the island of Japan and ruining the thousand year old Buddhist temples in Kyoto. “Rascal and Me” was the show that destroyed Japan! The viewers thought the baby raccoon character “Rascal” (featured in the show) was so cute, that they imported quite a few baby raccoons into Japan from No. America for pets. When they found out that the adult raccoons were not tame and bit their owners, the raccoons were released into the “wild”. What the Japanese didn’t know was that the raccoon has no natural predators in Japan, therefore they multiplied rapidly and took over the old temples in Kyoto, which are made of wood. Evidently the raccoons thought that the temples were oddly shaped trees! This is a problem that continues to this day, all brought about by a Japanese TV cartoon!
    2. Charles Martin Smith, “Toad” of “American Graffiti” and director of the new movie “Dolphin Tale 2” is Paul J. Smith’s nephew! Charles Martin Smith is the son of the animator Frank Smith, who worked on the Peanuts specials for Bill Melendez, among many other things. C.M.Smith used to watch his dad animate, and it inspired him to be an actor and director. Paul J. Smith is Frank Smith’s brother, so we have a cartoon connection.
    Two more for your anecdotal amusement,

  • I remember, when I was young, those OUT OF THE INKWELL cartoons running on a local “Cartoon Carnival”-type hodgepodge of mostly second and third string animated efforts. Can’t say that I remember much of anything about them, though.

    A film collector I knew offered to sell me a couple of prints once. I passed. Do remember they were in Warner Television cans. Does Warner own those films, or did they distribute them at one time?

    • So we have KoKo the Clown and Felix the Cat as early animation superstars who came back as second-tier TV toons. Then there was a period where several old theatrical characters were revived in somewhat bigger budgeted Saturday morning shows: Magoo, Mighty Mouse, Tom & Jerry, and Popeye — some of them multiple times by different studios.

      Any others?

    • Checked some 1970s issues of Broadcasting magazine and, yes, the OUT OF THE INKWELL cartoons were being handled by Warner Bros. Television Distribution at that time. There were apparently 100 of them.

    • I noticed an earlier distributor of the series was Seven Arts Associated. Quite possibly this was inherited by Warner Bros. in the ’67 merger. I do wonder if the rights to this are still with them or back with Hal Seeger’s family these days.

      Here’s an episode to share!

    • “Then there was a period where several old theatrical characters were revived in somewhat bigger budgeted Saturday morning shows: Magoo, Mighty Mouse, Tom & Jerry, and Popeye-some of them multiple times by different studios.

      Any others?”

      Baby Huey
      Woody Woodpecker


    • No, this show has not been discussed before in this place. It might someday, I remember it pretty well myself, though not the version on Captain Kangaroo narrated by Bob Keeshan himself, but the original UK edition narrated by Bernard Cribbins that use to air on a few other places like Nickelodeon’s “Pinwheel” series. At present, the current owners of the show is Halifax-based DHX Media.

  • I’d never seen that SEAMAN HOOK cartoon before. I’ll have to recheck the DVD of the complete “PRIVATE S.N.A.F.U.” series to see if that one was stuck on the end there. If not, it certainly would be a nice addition to the forthcoming Blu-ray or at least, the “bonus” disk. Who did the voice of Hook, though. It sure sounded familiar.

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