The Secret Origin of Chip’n’Dale’s Rescue Rangers. I have always been fascinated with how animation projects develop, sometimes evolving into something significantly different than the original concept.
After the continuing success of the animated television series Duck Tales (1987), Disney was seriously considering producing a syndicated television series based on The Rescuers (1977).
However, when Jeffrey Katzenberg green-lit the production of the animated film sequel The Rescuers Down Under (1990), that put a stop to the television version.
Supervising Story Editor Tad Stones and his team, including co-creator Alan Zaslove, took the core premise of small animals as heroes in the world of humans and came up with a program titled “Metro Mice”, a take-off on the title of the live-action detective television series, “Miami Vice”.
The main characters would have been Kit Colby (a mouse wearing an Indiana Jones jacket and hat who was the adventurous leader of the team), Colt Chedderson (a burly Australian kangaroo rat and explosives expert), Gadget (a blonde female mouse who was an inventor), Chirp Sing (an Oriental cricket who loved baseball and martial arts), Camilla (a chameleon and the team secretary) and Eagle Eye (a near-sighted eagle who was the team’s lookout).
Stones talked about the pitch meeting to Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg for that idea with writer John Strike in 2004.
“They went: ‘We love the idea of the show, but your main character doesn’t have it.’ The meeting went on a little longer and we’re saying ‘Duck Tales is a big success, what other Disney characters can we work with?’ You don’t want to do Mickey or Goofy, but there’s Pluto and all that.
“Finally, I said, ‘There’s Chip and Dale.’ Eisner said, ‘Great — put those guys in that show,’ and Jeffrey says ‘home run.’ That’s why Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers got done. It changed our development, because now instead of one hero you have this dynamic, which was well established and gave us lots of stories about how they interacted with other characters.”
Chip inherited Kit Colby’s Indiana Jones attire and love of adventure and Dale, who was to be more lighthearted when it came to danger, was given a Hawaiian shirt—influenced by the then-popular television detective show “Magnum, P.I.” Colt Chedderson transformed into the cheese addicted Monterey Jack. Gadget was retained while the other animal characters were abandoned.
Zipper the housefly inspired by Evinrude the dragonfly in the original animated film The Rescuers was added to perform similar functions such as flight and a power source.
Freleng and the Alice Comedies. The Disney studio was finishing up its commitment to producing the final Alice Comedies in early 1927 before beginning work on Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Animation legend Friz Freleng did bits and pieces of animation on at least nine of the last “Alice Comedies” that he didn’t remember clearly when I talked with him about it.
He did, however, remember a compliment that Walt had given him in front of the rest of the studio on a scene he had animated in “Alice’s Picnic.”
The script had said merely a “mother cat bathing her kittens.” Freleng came up with the personality animation gag of a little kitten crawling out of the tub to escape the bath and hanging on the edge of the tub before dropping down to the ground and being scooped up by the mother and put back into the tub.
“That’s what I want to see in my pictures,” said Walt according to Freleng’s memory. “I want the characters to be somebody. I don’t want them just to be a drawing.”
The Disney Studio was so small that Freleng sat right next to animation legend Ub Iwerks. Freleng remembered Iwerks as a quiet person but very helpful. When Freleng struggled with animating an army tank that had to turn and go off into the distance, Iwerks just took a pencil and drew one tank after another in perfect perspective in less than five minutes as a guide for the aspiring animator.
By March 1927, Freleng was listed on the studio records as a top animator and animated a large amount of footage on the very last of the Alice Comedies called Alice in the Big League.
Richard Williams and A Christmas Carol. The artwork for the half hour special was done in the style of John Leech’s illustrations from the original 1843 print edition of the Charles Dickens story drawn directly onto the cels with a grease pencil (Mars Omnichrom). Then the animator’s drawings on cel were painted (on the back) as usual and photographed against background paintings.
There has never been a commercial DVD release of this version of “A Christmas Carol” which won both the Emmy and the 1972 Academy Award for Best Short Animated Film. It will always be the sole animated production to reap those two awards since by this featurette winning the Oscar, the requirements for submitting shorts were changed so that a previous television airing would disqualify a film.
Terrytoons Sound Tricks. From Photoplay Magazine (September 1930) in an article entitled “Watch ‘Em Move“ by writer Frances Kish is this insight about sound for Terrytoons cartoons:
“Out at the studio where Terry-Toons are made, I learned some of the troubles of a musical director of sound cartoons. Old, familiar tunes are frequently found to be all tied up with the red tape of the copyright law. Foreign rights are especially difficult to obtain. Fees paid for the use of musical compositions, often just a few bars at a time, run into enormous sums.
“There are the most amusing ‘sound props’. At the proper moment in the recording, a resined string is pulled from a small drum-like contraption, and the resulting sound is like the bark of a lusty dog. A big bucket-like affair, on the same principle, produces a lion’s roar.
“When the rooster crows, it’s because someone blew into a thing that looks like a small watering can. A big wooden affair, notched like a modern skyscraper, makes a train whistle. There are ratchets that sound like the best of tom-toms, wind whistles, etc.
“One of the executives of the Terry-Toon Company is an expert ‘meow-er’ and his services are much in demand on the days when recording is done!”