March 20, 2015 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #204

trolley-troublesFriz Freleng and Oswald the Rabbit. Animation legend Friz Freleng worked on the first theatrical released Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon, Trolley Troubles.

In Trolley Troubles, Freleng was given the scene to animate where Oswald pulls off his “lucky” rabbit’s foot to rub it as the trolley careens out of control up and down the hilly countryside.

In the days before storyboards, the description of the action was typed out but not illustrated except for the establishing shot. A frustrated Freleng went to Walt to ask how to stage the scene.

When the foot was removed, should Freleng show the bone or what? Should it screw off like a table leg or just pop off? According to Freleng, Walt was very dismissive and just said, “Oh, you know what to do,” and left.

“At that point,” Freleng told me, “I knew he didn’t know what to do either and was bullying me to come up with something that would work.” (In the final animation, the leg quickly pops off and pops back on.)

Freleng worked on several other Oswald cartoons. In June 1927, Walt split his animators into two teams to help meet the deadlines of producing the series. One team led by Hugh Harman and Ham Hamiliton would work on one cartoon while another team headed by Ub Iwerks and Friz Freleng would work on a different cartoon at the same time. Freleng co-directed “The Banker’s Daughter” and “Rickety Gin”.

An interesting side note is that when Freleng produced the Warner Brothers compilation film, Friz Freleng’s Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie, (1981) it had a section satirizing the Academy Awards—the famous gold statuettes are called “The Oswalds.”

The Shadow Knows: Snow White Dies at Three O’Clock. From Photoplay Magazine (April 1938) from the article “The Amazing Inside Story of How They Made Snow White”:

“(Snow White) was full of shadows. Shadows from the candles of the dwarfs, from the lanterns, from the sun. Each had to plotted realistically, not only as to perspective and form but also as to actual direction. The shadow of the Huntsman, for example, when he bent over Snow White had to be charted as of three o’clock in the afternoon. Not one person in a thousand could tell where it should be—but if it were off, they’d know!”

Happily N’Ever After. Happily N’Ever After was a computer animated feature released in 2006 about what happens when the wizard (voiced by comedian George Carlin over the phone while he was performing in Las Vegas in his final film role) controlling all the fairy tale stories takes a vacation and his two assistants mess up the happy endings.

It actually started out as a traditionally animated feature with work by talents like Nancy Beiman and Tahsin Ozgur.

Some rough animation was already completed before the producers decided to mimic Disney and DreamWorks and do it all in CGI. The animation work was given to IDT Entertainment (described by its CEO Morris Berger as “Pixar on steroids”) and the work was immediately found to be unacceptable.

The animation was farmed out to five studios in different countries and Yvette Kaplan (the co-director of the Beavis and Butthead feature) was brought in to re-edit the film.

Marc Davis Advice. Animator and director Burny Mattinson worked with the Disney Nine Old Men on many of the classic Disney animated feature films and at one time was an assistant to Disney Legend Marc Davis. As he recalled, “Marc had a professionalism that was so wonderful. He was very calm and I think there is a side of Marc that I’ve always loved which was his little chortle. It was so endearing and made him fun to be around. Regarding animation, one of the things he told me was ‘Animation was 75% thinking and 25% execution’ and I’ve always used that throughout my years in animation.”

purple-malicifantPurple Maleficent. Animator and director Burny Mattinson was Marc Davis’ assistant on the Disney animated feature film Sleeping Beauty (1959) and in 2008, he discussed the character of Maleficent: “Actually the clean-up work was done by a whole unit of assistant animators. Dale Barnhart and Art Stevens were part of this unit who were both animators. I did the rough animation work behind Marc.

“Maleficient was different in size and shape than the good fairies. The three fairies were very loose and fluid and Maleficient was very controlled. Maleficent was never conceived with the color purple in the beginning. It was actually Eyvind Earle’s decision to change the color red to pruple in her garments to fit into his background palettes.

“There’s a lot of green in Eyvind’s backgrounds—especially in the forest and the castle, and as purple is the opposite of green, it’s a complementary color which is the best choice to work with. But the reasons for the heavy use of purple in other characters—Ursula, for example, she’s in the greenish-bluish sea—the purple was again a complementary color choice. But, overall, purple is just a great color.”

Satrapi’s Favorite Animated Film. Marjane Satrapi, the co-director of the animated movie Persepolis (2007) based on her autobiographical graphic novel of the same name about the difficulties faced by a young girl growing up in Iran, stated in 2007 that “My favorite animated film is Disney’s The Jungle Book (1967). It’s one of the best animated films ever. I saw it when I was small at a cinema in Tehran.”

Clampett Said. “I feel about my cartoons the way I feel about my children. I want to see them do well, to be liked. It’s wonderful to see the enjoyment and laughter the characters create even today,” said animation producer Bob Clampett in The Vancouver Sun newspaper August 1979.

Drum Roll. The Terrytoons cartoon, Drum Roll (1961), might seem like just another Hector Heathcote cartoon about the misadventures of the character as an overenthusiastic drummer boy during the American Revolution. However, the cartoon won a first prize Bronze Lion award as an educational television film for children 8 to 14 at the Venice Children’s Film Festival in Italy that year. It was directed by David Tenlar and written by Eli Bauer.


  • I remember reading Friz Freleng’s story about “Trolley Troubles” in J. B. Kaufman’s book “Walt in Wonderland.”

    • Yes, “Walt in Wonderland” (by both Kaufman and Russell Merritt) should be in every Disney or animation fan’s library. Freleng told this story over and over including a similar version in the book “Animation: The Art of Friz Freleng” (1994) by Freleng and David Weber. My personal experience was that Freleng had a handful of stories like this one that he loved to tell (with only very slight variations) but if you asked him about something else he would explode like Yosemite Sam. I remember one time I asked him whether any celebrities were upset about their caricatures in his cartoons and he snapped, “I never met any damn celebrities” and then shortly afterwards, he went on to tell his familiar story about walking to work on the MGM lot pass all these actors in full costume for “Wizard of Oz”. When I was much younger, I even asked if he was the inspiration for the character of Yosemite Sam and I was met with a cold quiet glare and moved on to my next question which was about the Pink Panther. Despite the fact that Freleng often told this story, I suspected that many readers of this site might be unfamiliar with it.

  • I’ve never really understood the “Rabbit’s Foot Dilemma” story. It strikes me as odd that Freling and Disney wouldn’t know how to handle a stock dismemberment gag especially as they’d been ubiquitous in cartoons for years and were especially common in the Felix series.

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