Peter Tytla: The Dumbo Boy. The December 29, 1941 issue of Time Magazine had a review of Disney’s recently released animated feature Dumbo. It included in the review of the film a paragraph focusing on animation legend Bill Tytla’s work and the unique inspiration for the baby Dumbo:“I gave him everything I thought he should have,” said Tytla. “It just happened. I don’t know a damn thing about elephants. It wasn’t that. I was thinking in terms of humans, and I saw a chance to do a character without using any cheap theatrics. Most of the expressions and mannerisms I got from my own kid.
“There’s nothing theatrical about a two year old kid. They’re real and sincere—like when they damn near wet their pants from excitement when you come home at night. I’ve bawled my kid out for pestering me when I’m reading or something, and he doesn’t know what to make of it. He’ll just stand there and maybe grab my hand and cry… I tried to put all those things in Dumbo.”
In the February 2, 1942 issue of Time magazine was the following letter in response to that quote from Bill Tytla’s wife Adrienne Tytla who was a model and an artist:
When I am approached by an eager acquaintance who asks, “Is it true your child resembles an elephant, Mrs. Tytla?” (with the same expressions, incidentally, as the gossiping elephants in Dumbo), I am compelled, like poor Mrs. Jumbo, to waddle off, as I mutter to myself, “A wit, no doubt.”
However, being fully aware of the havoc that can be wrought… on an impressionable small child, I am appealing to you, as a mother, to right this terrible wrong. (Besides, we have no space left in which to store the tons of peanuts that continue to arrive daily.) Therefore I have taken the liberty of sending you a photograph of Peter…(to show he doesn’t look the big-eared baby elephant Dumbo)
However, thank you. Peter has made a terrific hit with the small fry and they even allow him to ride his own tricycle…
La Cañada, Calif.
Little Peter even received fan letters from this publicity. However, it also garnered the attention of Walt Disney himself.
Shortly after her letter appeared, Adrienne was out in the backyard sunbathing in a tiny two-piece bathing suit she had converted so that it was so miniscule it “barely covered the strategic areas” according to her. This was years before the bikini.
The doorbell rang and she went to the front door and was astonished to see Walt Disney. After some small talk including Walt talking with her then three year old son, Peter, Walt turned to Adrienne.
Here is the rest of the story in Adrienne’s own words:
“Walt said, “I was just telling Peter I’d seen his picture in Time magazine. That was a clever letter you wrote. Did you do that on your own?”
“Oh sure. I was on my own from the time I was 15. It never occurs to me to ask anyone permission to do anything.”
He stared right through me. ‘Well maybe it should in the future,’ he said, smiling. ‘Well,’ he welled, ‘I’ve got to be going.'”
I got the message. Not loud, but clear… I never did tell Will about Walt’s unexpected visit. Besides, by then I had already been told by Will there was an unwritten law in the organization that nothing ever was to be released regarding Walt Disney Productions, or its employees, without clearing with the Studio first. Even then permission would probably be denied.”
The Red Pony. Over the decades, several animation studios provided animated sequences for various live action films. However, there is one film that is rarely mentioned when these lists are compiled. The 1949 Republic Pictures live-action film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony a gritty story of a young boy and his pony included animated segments done by UPA including a few sequences of the boy’s fantasies with medieval knights and a circus, scene transitions and vultures flying overhead in a live action scene.
Family Connections. Where did David H. DePatie come from to run an animation studio? David DePatie was the son of Ed DePatie, the long time Warner Brothers executive whose career went back to the earliest days of the studio. David was in charge of the industrial and commercial films and in 1961 when John Burton left, he became the producer for the animation department.
When Warners shut down its animation operation in 1963, DePatie teamed with Warners animator and director Friz Freleng to form DePatie Freleng Enterprises to continue to produce cartoons with the Warners’ characters. They rented the Warner Brothers cartoon building at the back of the gate of the Warner Brothers studio for $500 a month, with everything inside including desks, cameras, paper and anything else left over from the old studio.
How Many Drawings Does It Take? Animation executive David DePatie recalled in an interview that he remembered animation legend Hawley Pratt did close to a hundred different sketches for a potential Pink Panther character before settling on the one that audiences know today. Animation legend Bob Givens has stated that Pratt went through dozens of different designs (some with only the slightest of differences) for the character of Crusty the Crab in the film The Incredible Mr. Limpett (1964).
What’s That Word? Cartoon audiences have been “mis-hearing” words in animated films for decades. One still controversial example is from Bosko’s Picture Show (1933) where many feel that when Bosko, playing a theater organ, sees Dirty Dalton sneaking up on Bosko’s girlfriend Honey on the screen, turns to the audience, and shouts “The dirty f*ck!”
Others argue that the last word is muffled and Bosko is actually saying “The dirty fox!” or “The dirty mug!” The title card that comes up on the screen reads “Dirty Dalton (The Cur!)” When Nickelodeon ran the cartoon, they changed the line to clearly say “The dirty cur!”
The cartoon is also famous for a short clip showing Adolph Hitler with an axe chasing the large nosed comedian Jimmy Durante. Hitler had been elected Chancellor of Germany several months earlier and was well known for his hatred of the Jews. Durante was actually a Roman Catholic.