Chuck Down Under. On November 13 1992, animation producer and director Chuck Jones went to Sydney, Australia as a special guest speaker at The Bulletin Black and White Artists’ Awards dinner and he remarked to the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper:
“People talk about the Golden Age of animation, which people like myself and Friz (Freleng) are supposed to represent. But we had no conception of that. We simply had a job to do, to entertain. And that was the attitude of the studio. Whenever we’d show something to Leon Schlesinger, he’d sit in the projection room and shout, ‘Roll the garbage!’ We were a business that eventually became an art. Boy, nobody came around for interviews in the old days.”
The Animated Cerebus. “Cerebus”, an independent comic book featuring a barbarian aardvark, began in 1977 and became a three hundred issue graphic novel ending in 2004. It was written and drawn by the controversial and talented Dave Sim.
”The original idea was to do something like ‘Howard the Duck,’ ” said Sim in a 1992 interview, ”A funny animal in a world of humans. But I didn’t want to do a modern-day one because it would be too close to Howard. So it was either a science-fiction Howard the Duck or a barbarian Howard the Duck. I tried to do ‘Cerebus’ so that it looked like the whole issue was drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith except Cerebus, who I wanted to look like he was drawn by Chuck Jones.
“Because I thought that hadn’t been played with. When they were doing ‘Howard the Duck,’ Howard was always rendered with the same kind of texture as everybody else. I wanted Cerebus to look like an animation cel in the middle of a realistically drawn comic book.”
In the 1980s, Sim sent me a nice letter and some information about a five step program he had designed to perhaps have “Cerebus” become an animated special. The story would detail events happening before the first issue of the comic book so as not to interfere with the continuity already established.
Step One was to produce a portfolio of three highly rendered storyboards of possible segments of the animated film. Step Two was to do additional storyboards. Step Three was to hire an animation studio to animate those ten-minute segments for possible use on cable television or direct sale to the fan market. Step Four was to use those animated segments to get a commitment to back an hour-long Cerebus project. Step Five was to hire an animation studio to do the job.
“If any of the five steps collapsed, I won’t pursue the project any further,” wrote Sim, “My goal is to produce an animation film without a single heart-warming moment. If I had been Don Bluth doing ‘The Secret of Nimh’, I would have done two hours with the Dom DeLuise crow and dropkicked the rest of it into the nearest trash bin. Sort of gives you an idea of where I’m coming from on this.”
Like many such independent projects, this one died fairly early in the development process.
The Bakshi Way. I have always liked Ralph Bakshi because he is so outspoken and passionate. He is always good for a great quote like this one from a 2008 interview:
“I think people are idiots. Look, why do you want to make a movie that’s universally appealing? What do you get out of it? I have an opportunity to scream about things I hate, or things I don’t like, or point fingers at things. That’s what a cartoonist should be about. That’s what the cartoons that I love are about. That’s what I love about cartooning. You can scream, and yell, and point fingers.
“I don’t want to make a family film. That doesn’t mean for a second that I don’t like money, but there’s no reason to make something that appeals to people, only to appeal to them. I did that for twelve years at Terrytoons. It bored the hell out of me. I’m not that kind of artist. I don’t like to collaborate and have people tell me what to do. I don’t want to work in the story department. It just doesn’t pay to spend that kind of time working well with other people. It’s boring. I don’t want his idea. I want my idea. Not that my idea is better, it’s just that it’s my idea.”
The Monty Python Big Foot. On the PBS special The Life of Python (1999), animator Terry Gilliam talked about how he found the iconic gigantic foot for the fabled BBC series Monty Python’s Flying Circus:
“Dead painters, you don’t have to pay them. You can take their artwork. I used to go always to the National Gallery every time I had run out of ideas and for ten to fifteen minutes just walk through.
“And one day, I was walking through and ran across this painting…the original is gigantic, like ten feet tall. And out of the whole painting, the only thing that stuck with me was that little bit down here. And there it is. It’s the big foot. The painter (Bronzino) goes crazy spending years painting this thing and some jerk comes along in the 20th Century and throws everything away except a little bit at the bottom.
“You’re dealing with really great art that people pay millions of dollars for and I’m reducing it to just that (the foot that stomps things in the opening titles of the show) and then squashing something. It says something about life, I think. There’s something very satisfying about doing this.”
Flushed Away. Sam Fell, one of the co-directors of the animated feature Flushed Away (2006), told renowned animation interviewer Bob Miller in 2006 the origin of the film:
“Four and a half years ago we were trying to think of ideas for movies, and we had an idea for a pirate movie that had some rats in it.
“At the time, pirate movies were like death. They didn’t do well at the box office. But we kept the rats. We got rid of the pirates. And then we had several different rat stories. One of them was a gangster rat story. One of them was a posh pet rat who got slushed into an amazing rat city under London. The film was called Ratropolis when it started. It was kind of based of The African Queen (1951), a famous film. We had a mismatched couple on this old boat.”