Two Greatest Disney Animation Scenes. In 1980, renowned writer Ray Bradbury wrote the following for the “The Moving Image” catalog, “I claim that the two finest pieces of film ever made were the final fourteen minutes of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ (1959) where the Prince hacks his way through the thorn forest to attack Maleficent as the Dragon and ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ whose grandiose terrors are the penultimate super-treat ending ‘Fantasia’ (1940), There may be greater feats of animation, choose your own, but I stick to my original bias and excitement.”
Termite Terrace. Warner storyman Michael Maltese told well respected animation historian Joe Adamson in 1971 in describing “Termite Terrace”, the building where the Warner Brothers animation staff worked: “It was fun going to work. The atmosphere! That place looked old, beat-up. It was right out of Dickens, you know? Really, you went in the back rooms, they were dreadful rooms. They had composition board for walls, and we used to put our fists through it, we used to throw darts at it.
“Dave Monahan tried to set fire to it once, just for the hell of it, just to see if it burned. And it wouldn’t burn. We did everything to that studio. And the boss, Leon Schlessinger, passed the checks out once a week and he said, ‘Pew, let me outta here! This looks like a shit house’. But we loved it. To me it was like home. And the Looney Tune bunch was something that will never be duplicated in this business. We wrote cartoons for grown-ups, that was the secret.”
What Would Walt Disney NOT Do? In a phone interview in Summer 1980, animation legend Tex Avery answered some of my questions. “What did I look for when doing a film?” repeated Avery. “That’s quite a question. I don’t know how to answer that. Mainly I looked for a good story, something with laughs in it and something that hadn’t been done before. In the early days, I tried to copy Walt Disney. Then I tried to go as much as possible against Disney. I would look at a film and say, ‘What would Walt NOT do?’ Whenever possible, I always attempted to do that.”
Deja and Gaston. In 1994, Andreas Deja talked about doing the character of Gaston in the Disney animated feature Beauty and the Beast (1991).
“(Gaston) was an interesting character because he looked like a handsome, sympathetic guy, a prince type, but he was the bad guy. So we had to develop something in the opposite way. He has the good looks but he has a vicious personality. Usually when you go to any Disney films, you see the villain and you know he’s the villain from the way he looks.
“But when you see Gaston you think he could be Belle’s future husband. Then he opens his mouth and you discover that he’s a real jerk, but you still don’t know that he’s a villain and capable of killing. So I develop the character into that towards the end of the movie.
“I started more subtle, then got much more outraged. First, I developed his pathetic qualities while he’s singing in the pub, showing that he’s a total male chauvinist. He’s just so damn arrogant and self assured and ridiculous. Later, he becomes angry and then he becomes vicious—a killer. So there was more of a change, like an arc, that was extra fun to do.”
The Linda Ronstadt Kiss. In 1986, singer Linda Ronstadt did a music video of the Disney song “When You Wish Upon a Star”. At the end of the tune, Jiminy Cricket comes to life from a sheet music cover, hops into Ronstadt’s hand and is rewarded with her kiss. Animation legend Mark Henn who did some animation of Jiminy in “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” (1983) drew the fifteen seconds of animation with Kelvin Yasuda doing the effects animation.
Jana of the Jungle. The thirteen episodes of Hanna-Barbera’s Jana of the Jungle animated series first ran from September 8, 1978 – October 28, 1978 as part of The Godzilla Power Hour and then as its own series from November 4, 1978 – December 9, 1978.
B.J. Ward provided the voice for the blonde-haired female Tarzan-like character who was raised in the South American rain forest and searched for her lost father. She resembled the much more famous blonde-haired Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, character created in 1938, who appeared in comic books, films and television.
Animator Will Meugniot recalled, “Hanna-Barbera’s Jana of the Jungle was not only like Sheena but had actually started life as a Sheena cartoon. The Godzilla Power Hour was originally going to feature Godzilla and Sheena in their own half hour segments but a rights issue emerged with Sheena.
“Doug Wildey told me this tale, but if memory serves, the studio had incorrectly assumed Sheena was public domain when they sold the show and when the rights-holders came forth, they were demanding a lot, knowing they had HB over a barrel.
“Doug quickly threw together the Jana pitch and that was it. Wildey had drawn a couple of spectacular 24”x36” Sheena art boards which he kept in his office. It’s a shame that show didn’t get made.”
Artist Don Rico worked on the Jana of the Jungle shows and his wife Michele Hart did some modeling for the main character.
The Baby Blue Whale. While Don Bluth was doing work in 1984 on videogames like Space Ace, he was in discussions with famed screenwriter Robert Towne about a feature described as “an underwater Bambi” entitled The Baby Blue Whale.
From several pages of notes by Towne, Don and his crew began developing a story and boards of an orphaned whale. A merciless whaling captain later menaces the now grown baby and there was discussion of having no dialog to tell the story or perhaps narration from one of the ship’s crew members.
At one point, there were plans to include Jimmy the Sea Turtle (a character akin to Jiminy Cricket or Timothy the Mouse) to help guide the young whale. Several color concept drawings and cels were created.
When Towne stated he would have to write the final script himself, the film stalled. Towne would spend several years working with Jack Nicholson on the Chinatown film sequel The Two Jakes (1990). Finally, frustrated by the delays in the late 1980s, Bluth dropped the idea and gave the project fully to Towne.