March 27, 2015 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #205

The Rocket Robin Hood Caper. Producer Steve Krantz had some huge problems with Trillium Productions, part of Al Guest Productions, who Krantz had contracted with to do the animated television series Rocket Robin Hood in Canada.

rocket-robin-hood-250The series was missing deadlines and had poor quality overall but eventually 52 episodes were produced between the years 1966-1969. It dealt with Robin Hood in the year 3000 and his merry men who lived on the New Sherwood Forest Asteroid and did battle with electro-quarterstaffs and similar weapons against the Sheriff of N.O.T.T. (National Outer-space Terrestrial Territories).

Krantz sent Ralph Bakshi to Toronto to fix it. Bakshi hired comic book artists in New York like Gray Morrow, Wally Wood and Jim Steranko to create some layouts to send up to the Canadian studio. The popularity of the series increased and with stronger layouts, the cartoons were being made quicker for at least four thousand dollars cheaper per half hour.

However, both Krantz and Guest were suing each other over various issues. Krantz decided he could make the cartoons in New York so he asked Bakshi (who was commuting every weekend by plane) to pick up some of the production material like model sheets on his next visit and bring them back.

As Bakshi told animation historian Michael Mallory in 2011, “I said goodbye to Guest, and I went to my hotel, and I saw the police are waiting for me, the Canadian Mounties. The word’s out to arrest me because I ‘stole’ Guest’s material!”

Bakshi figured that Guest wanted him arrested to use as leverage against Krantz. Bakshi decided to send his friend and background artist Johnny Vita to the airport with the suitcase full of model sheets and to tell police that Bakshi will be coming there soon so they don’t look for him anywhere else.

Bakshi jumped into a cab and made a mad dash for the border which was over two hours away. Vita was detained at the airport but there wasn’t a warrant out for his arrest. He was detained for two days but eventually let go because there was no warrant.

At the border, Bakshi got out of the cab and saw that the Canadians were not paying attention and he ran for the border. He got to the American side where two military policemen are standing with pointed rifles.

“I get there out of breath,” Bakshi told Mallory “and I said, ‘Will you let me back in my own country? They’re schmucks in Canada!’ The guys broke up and parted.

“When Steve’s lawyers called Guest and told him I was safe back home in this country, he didn’t believe it. I told Guest on the speaker phone that his Canadian Mounties sucked, and that they couldn’t catch anybody from Brooklyn if they wanted to!”

The third season episodes for the series were made in New York at a makeshift animation studio called Ralph’s Spot.

pp-penThe Missing Pen. While we think of some of the people from the Golden Age of Animation as legends, and they were, we often forget they were real people as well with their own foibles and eccentricities. Dino Kotopoulis produced animation work for a variety of studios including Disney, advertising firms, Hanna-Barbera and DePatie-Freleng.

One story he loved telling was working with Friz Freleng who had as fiery a temper as the character of Yosemite Sam. For some reason, Freleng got it into his head that Dino was stealing his pens. Dino kept insisting that he wasn’t. The clash got so heated that one time Dino literally had to break down a locked door to prove to Friz that his pen was in a room where Friz had inadvertently left it himself. Then, having proved his point, Kotopoulis quit.

Snow White Sound Tricks. From Photoplay Magazine (April 1938) from the article “The Amazing Inside Story of How They Made Snow White”:

“In his consternation after being kissed by Snow White, Grumpy tracks out of the mud in which he has fallen. (The Disney Studio) filled a tub full of the real ooze for that and a man got in and slithered around in his bare feet. When Grumpy played the organ, a real organ was decreed too real. How would a dwarf organ sound? Bottles half filled with water and blown into solved it at long last. They had to be kept in an even temperature, too. If the room got cold or warm, they changed tone and key.

“For the hollow wishing-well sequence, which, by the way, was one of the last scenes filmed, though it came at the first of the picture, the echoes were recorded, played through a speaker into an empty room and then re-recorded. All that to get the right effect. When the magic mirror spoke, his eerie voice actually traveled through a long tube, then shattered against a marble slab on which lay the microphone.”

bingo-wardAnd BINGO was his NAME-O. When Card Walker took over as President of Walt Disney Productions after the death of Roy O. Disney in 1971, Disney Legend Ward Kimball fell out of favor with management. Walker and Kimball had distinctly different opinions about things.

Kimball eventually retired in 1973 although he was often called back to lecture and to help on projects like the World of Motion attraction at Epcot.

One of the animated projects Ward was working on when he was pushed to retire was a half hour satirical featurette about a cartoon dog in a real world. The title has been stated as being either “Bingo the Dog” or “Play Now, Work Later”. Master voice artist Stan Freberg had recorded the voice for the Bingo character.

Some production work including animation by Charlie Downs and painted cels are known to exist but Walker shut it all down in mid-production believing it to be “un-Disney”.

Scene 31. Animator and director Burny Mattinson worked as an assistant to Disney Legend Marc Davis on the Disney animated feature Sleeping Beauty (1959) and in 2008 commented on his favorite scene in the film: “Scene 31, Sequence 8 which was the first scene to be made in the picture. It was 43 feet long and the first scene in which Aurora is the forest singing ‘I wonder, I wonder’ picking berries and singing with the birds. It’s memorable to me because it’s the first scene done to see if the animation would work with Eyvind Earle’s backgrounds…and the fact that I had to redo it so many times. Marc took me to a local restaurant and gave me a cake saying ‘Happy 31’ when Walt okayed it for final color!”



  • I remember “Rocket Robin Hood” and “Spider-Man” both suddenly turning from ordinary TV cheap to even cheaper yet weirdly ambitious; guessing that’s when both shows ended up in NY.

    “Rocket Robin Hood” was on a local UHF station; it grabbed my attention because the premise seemed kind of cool and it was the only newish show that wasn’t an obviously dubbed anime. Surprised nobody has rebooted the idea of Robin Hood in space, officially or otherwise.

    • Both shows and other Krantz offerings produced in Canada also managed to skirt the new CRTC laws after 1969 simply for having “Canadian Content”, giving any local station a chance to rerun this to death throughout the next 30 years.

  • Sad Kimball’s dog film didn’t make it out past the fence.

    • I second that, if it was along the same lines as “It’s Tough to Be a Bird.”

    • I’m sure! The dog probably does more than that!


  • I have a cel from this, actually close to the image posted. From what Kimball told me, the real riff was between then Executive Producer Ron Miller (Walt’s Son In Law) and Kimball. Bingo featured a comical section featuring football, a sensitive issue since Miller was an ex Rams football player. Kimball screened his work in progress for the execs at Disney, which included Miller and told me that there were no laughs during the screening and no comments afterwards. The project was shelved shortly after that, with Kimball retiring a bit later. I also heard from a reliable source, that Kimball didn’t go out quietly. In true Kimball fashion, The night he left the studio, he brought in a bunch of live chickens and let them run free on the executive level of the Animation building!

  • Who owns the rights to Rocket Robin Hood today?

  • I knew Dino Kotopoulis when he lived in Toronto. We hung out for some time in Yorkville before he moved to Florida. He was a storyboard artist. I remember he did the Kleenex boxes.. He was so very handsome and talented

    • I’m not exactly sure where the research came from to write the section about Dino Kotopoulis and the “stolen” pens, but it’s almost exactly as I have related it to others and how Dino related it to me in person. In Toronto, I worked for Dino as an animator from 1975 until the early 1980’s, off and on. He came to Canada around 1973 and lived there probably until the mid-1980’s. His first assignment in Toronto (a couple of years before I met him) was a major industrial film for Esso, I believe, which kept many people employed for a year or so. Marlene Weller is quite right, and reminded me, about the Kleenex boxes that had animal designs Dino created. Also, referring to Marlene’s recollection, Dino was indeed a very charasmatic individual. I always thought he was a cross between Telly Savalas and Marlon Brando. The air would come out of a room when he entered it. Indeed, he was remarkably talented and I greatly appreciated and admired, and related to, his artistic work. I just learned of Dino’s death which occurred in 2020 and I was very saddened. Dino put a lot of responsibility and faith into my abilities as a young man when I animated and produced many commercials with him. I shall never forget him.

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