February 6, 2015 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #198


Garfield’s Judgement Day. Even at the height of Garfield the cat’s popularity in the late 1980s, creator Jim Davis couldn’t interest animation studios in his feature length animated script, “Garfield’s Judgement Day”.

The story revolved around the concept of how animals could really talk with humans, but it was just that animals had sworn never to do it. When a major disaster of a huge storm is approaching that only the animals can sense, the animals have a secret meeting to decide if they should break the vow of silence to warn their owners.

Voices were recorded, songs were written and recorded, and the film completely storyboarded but no studio was interested in funding the completion of the film since it was such an atypical Garfield story with a very dark, serious tone.

Disney had shown some initial interest in the project but eventually passed on it, even after Davis did two substantial re-writes of the material.

A documentary titled Happy Birthday Garfield aired on CBS in 1988 that featured a “sneak preview” of the special since reportedly, an estimated fifteen minutes of animation had been completed.

The story was eventually incorporated into a Garfield picture book (image above) of the same name in July 1990.

Animated Features That Never Were. “Little Lulu” was announced as an animated feature in 1979. In 1987, Henry Saperstein proudly announced he was producing an animated feature based on “Godzilla”. TMS had artwork prepared for a “Vampirella” animated feature that never got beyond that stage of development.

Ralph Bakshi Talks Fritz the Cat (1972). In a 2008 interview, animation producer and director Ralph Bakshi stated, “Heavy Traffic is a far greater film than Fritz the Cat. And Coonskin is a far greater film than Fritz the Cat. And American Pop is a far greater film than Fritz the Cat. And Wizards is a far greater film than Fritz the Cat. Fritz the Cat is the least great of my movies. I regret having made Crumb all of that money with that film.

“He made millions of dollars from Fritz. He did his book. He made millions of dollars from the cat, but he still calls me a schmuck! He took the money. He took $60,000. That’s a lot of money in the 60s. That’s upfront money. He took that for the rights. He thought I was going to spend a year of work on Fritz the Cat and make him known as the greatest cartoonist in the world! Well, he got very angry at me, when the director got some credit. Directors always get credit.

“Just because I’m a fan of his work, doesn’t mean I’m going to let him off the hook. If he’s going to point a finger at me, I’m going to point a finger at him.”

The Gremlins Pilot. In the 1990 special edition issue of Bugs Bunny Magazine, it was announced that coming soon would be an animated syndicated series based on Joe Dante’s popular live action film, Gremlins (1984). The cartoon series would have involved Gizmo, the good mogwai, battling against Stripe, the bad mogwai.

Dante has claimed in interviews that what killed the animated series after a pilot was made was the poor reception to the live action sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) that he also directed.


Fearless Ferris and the Misfits. Famed comic book artist Wally Wood had an idea for a science-fiction Saturday morning animated comedy series that would have a team of human, mechanical and alien characters having adventures in outer space and the different worlds they encountered.

He had experimented with this concept about a young spaceman hero named Bucky Ruckus and his diverse crew. He produced a special limited edition holiday comic strip for NEA to syndicate to newspapers entitled “Bucky’s Christmas Caper” that was printed in December 1967.

In one of Wood’s sketchbooks was the idea he called “Boy Gladiators: Star Fighters” with Captain Jeff (a young human boy), Tinker (a robot), Woogy (a creature) and Alf (an alien humanoid).
For the animated series proposal, he took many of these ideas he had experimented with and came up with “Fearless Ferris and the Misfits”. Ferris (“brave…will try anything, cute leader of the bunch” according to Wood’s notes) was a young brunette boy in a costume similar to the superhero Dynamo, the character that Wood had created for T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents.

Ferris didn’t have any powers like the rest of his crew but depended on all kinds of scientific devices that would help him do things like flying.

Wood never seemed to finalize the crew and their names.

At various times he had Glom (“strangest creature in the universe…from Jupiter” who looked like a version of Marvel’s The Thing but with smooth skin), Venus (an attractive blonde female with a pony tail “can walk through walls, from Venus, of course”), Bang Head (“secret weapon…hard nose”), Handy (“friendly Martian, can do four things at once” that looked like a four-handed spider), Ragmop (a space looking child who “can go to the fourth dimension”), The Blur (who moves so fast that people only saw a blur even when he was standing still), Zero (“blank—controls temperature” who was just an outline), Scat (a cat like alien who “can see in the dark”), Miss Fitt (a different version of the Venus character but with brunette hair), I.Q. (a “baby brain…scientific genius”).

“Whenever something develops normal authorities can’t handle” said Wood’s notes, Fearless Ferris and his crew would go into action from their Sky Island floating high in the atmosphere. The various foes would be menacing “Shadows with Eyes”, little aliens inside of giant robots and the huge Devourosaurus.

At the time, this juxtaposition of bizarre funny characters would have been unique and Paramount animation studio was definitely interested.

“After I penciled the presentation from Wood’s character sketches, Wood inked and delivered. And Paramount chose that same month to close down its cartoon studio (Dec. 1, 1967): end of brilliance,” wrote Wood’s friend and assistant at the time, Bhob Stewart.

Fearful that this idea might be stolen as he felt his idea for a sword and sorcery idea was by animation producer Ralph Bakshi for the film Wizards (1977), Wood teamed with Bhob Stewart (as a writer) to produce a three page story featuring similar characters and printed it in Witzend #4 (1968) where the team was called “The Rejects”. More images were posted at Stewart’s Wood-blog, Potrzebie



  • Fearless Ferris and the Misfits is ™ & © Wallace Wood Properties LLC. All Rights Reserved.
    Yours is a nice item. Wood also publish his Misfits creation in multiple issues of Heroes Inc. with the primary change being Ferris looking a bit alien with the new name, IQ. Wood’s mistrust of Ralph Bakshi started a full decade before Wizards. Our late friend, Wood’s long associate, Bhob Stewart said, Wood was eager to publish The Misfits, to keep Ralph Bakshi (who had been at Paramount in NYC) from steeling Wood’s ideas and selling them elsewhere without crediting Wood.
    “Sure, he ripped Wizards off from Vaughn [Bode]. But he ripped Wally Wood off just as much.”
    — Larry Todd, quoted from The Comics Journal, Vol. 5, 2005.

    “Then came Terrytoons, where I wrote a story (no money) for a proposed TV show I called Wee Hawk (Bakshi used the name later in Wizards) and did some presentation drawings, which they paid for… and then Terrytoons folded.”
    -Wallace Wood interview in the Wally Wood Sketchbook (Vanguard).

    • Bakshi still doesn’t get it. As an “I’m-
      Sorry-I-Ripped-Off-A-Lot-Of-Your-Father’s-Stuff In WIZARDS” gift, he presented Mark Bode with a cel from WIZARDS. Isn’t like that giving a person a bullet from the gun used to kill their father? And Ralph presuming to pretend he knows Crumb’s reaction to THE NINE LIVES OF FRITZ THE CAT and saying that Crumb made “millions” on the first FRITZ film is ludicrous.

      I like Ralph’s personal cartooning very much but I hate his microscopic ethics.

    • Not to play devil’s advocate, but the Terrytoons deal might not have been all Bakshi’s fault. Bakshi was gone a full year before Terry’s shut down production.

    • I didn’t know that Bhob Stewart had died.

  • I knew that Saperstein had plans for a animated Godzilla film, but I still don’t know if it was based on the TOHO originals (who he partnered up with during the 60s & 70s), or the Hanna-Barbera cartoon….

    Garfield had some dark moments, such as the TV special “Garfield: His 9 Lives”.

    The Baskhi/Crumb Freud is still going strong today & I don’t blame Wood for worrying about his creation being stolen.

  • “Fritz the Cat is the least great of my movies.”

    Heh, heh! This is the sound of Ralph Bakshi being self-depreciating.

  • Jim, could you please list some sources for your information about “Garfield’s Judgment Day”? I have been fascinated by this theatrical animated feature project for a long time and have been reading what I could find on it online, as well as watched the “Happy Birthday, Garfield” 1988 TV special. And some of what you write doesn’t quite add up to the info I’ve found elsewhere. Particularly, I’d like to compare notes with an article on “Garfield’s Judgment Day” written by John Cawley (a Film Roman employee who worked on Garfield and Friends), which can be read here:

    Note-comparison no. 1:
    “Disney had shown some initial interest in the project but eventually passed on it, even after Davis did two substantial re-writes of the material.”

    Would Disney then have been interested in funding the film, or in doing actual production work? I’m asking because it’s a bit vague, and because Jim Davis already had an animation studio for Garfield in Film Roman. Cawley’s article on “Judgment Day” certainly makes it sound like the plan was for Film Roman to ramp up and make the film, if they could just find a studio which would back them financially and distribute it. Quoting Cawley:

    “Jim Davis, creator of Garfield, wanted to take the tubby tabby to the next step: animated feature. He wrote a script. He and partner Lee Mendelson had it recorded. Songs were written and recorded. All he needed was a studio to back animation production and release the film.”

    Note-comparison no. 2:
    Your mention of Davis’ “two substantial rewrites” of the film sounds a bit vague. According to Cawley, Davis did pitch “Judgment Day” as a television special to CBS after several years of no movie studios being interested – first as an hour-long special, then as a half-hour special; with CBS declining both versions. But that doesn’t sound like the same kind of “rewrites” that you mention. I’m wondering if, instead, you’re confusing this with the two DIFFERENT animated feature scripts that Davis tried to sell after “Judgment Day” went nowhere. Quoting Cawley again:

    “After the failure of JUDGEMENT DAY, Davis wrote a new script. It featured Garfield, Odie and Jon visiting Jon’s family on the farm. A majority of the story dealt with the chickens on the farm. The film focused on the crazy chickens lifestyle. Davis had hoped by going for more of a wacky comedy film, it would attract attention. However, once again, Davis found no one interested in backing the film. Davis began working on a third script. By this time, though, the prime time specials were no longer in production. The Saturday morning series was winding down production. Garfield was percieved, by many, as having past his prime.”

    Rather than re-writes of “Judgment Day”, these were completely new concepts and ideas. (And no studios were interested in funding those, either.)

    Note-comparison no. 3:
    “A documentary titled Happy Birthday Garfield aired on CBS in 1988 that featured a “sneak preview” of the special since reportedly, an estimated fifteen minutes of animation had been completed.”

    It’s true that “Happy Birthday, Garfield” contained a sneak preview of “Garfield ‘s Judgment Day”, but only in the form of filming Lou Rawls and Desiree Goyette as they were recording a song for the movie: No animation from “Judgment Day” was seen. In that light, I’m really curious: where have you heard that 15 minutes of actual animation were completed? There’s no mention of that neither in the special nor in John Cawley’s article. Cawley, in fact, makes it sound like they were waiting for a studio to finance the film before starting the animation. At one point, he mentions how expensive the pre-production had already been:

    “With script, presentation art, even voices recorded, the feature had now cost thousands of dollars.”

    So, again – some sources (and perhaps a double-check) on your information would be very much appreciated. As I said, I’m fascinated by this cancelled Garfield project and love to hear new info about it. That’s why it’s nice to know for sure if the info is correct or not.

  • “TMS had artwork prepared for a “Vampirella” animated feature that never got beyond that stage of development.”

    TMS as in Tokyo Movie Shinsha? Good god, when I think of what they were capable in the good girl art department in the 80s (check out Space Adventure Cobra and Cat’s Eye for examples)… That would truly have been a match made in heaven !

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