April 3, 2015 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #206

aesops-fablesPaul Terry on Animation. Paul Terry, who first came to attention with his series of Aesop Fables cartoons in the silent film era that even inspired Walt Disney, told Harry Boyle of the Associated Press in an interview dated July 13, 1951: “I had to out-Aesop Aesop himself. Aesop told 220 fables originally. But I eventually put out 240 more—460 altogether. Sometimes I wonder if Aesop is waiting for me, to give me plenty for what I did to his stories. There is no sense in accumulating money. Only people who are afraid try to accumulate money. I have more faith in the pictures I make than in dollars. The dollars I make are no good to me until I turn them into another picture.”

Terry’s advice to kids who wanted to be animators? “There’ll always be room for the top ones. But it’ll always be tough for the ones who don’t grow mentally. This trouble comes if they are too clever too young. They peter out and don’t develop. Anyone can learn to draw, but to succeed—growth must be endless. Every day is a miracle to me. Life has been good. The world is better than it was, and it is still getting better. And that’s no Aesop fable.”

lantz-office-225The Wisdom of Walter. In 1993 at Walter Lantz’s birthday party hosted by the UCLA Animation Workshop, the legendary animation producer was asked what he felt was the greatest technological accomplishment in animation from his decades long career in the genre. His reply? The videotape recorder! He felt the introduction of that machine allowed people to build an animation library of cartoons that most people had not seen in decades as well as studios opening up their vaults to supply material. He also felt that it encouraged the creation of new animation that could be released on videotape.

The Nancy Factor. In 2006 in interviews about the Pixar animated feature Cars, director John Lasseter claimed that the success of his films was due to his wife or what he called the Nancy Factor. “I love racing, and I’ve always loved cars. But my wife warned me that I better make my movie for her, for my nieces and for all the other people who don’t like racing and couldn’t care less about cars. I looked at her in shock and said, ‘There are people like that?’

“I was joking, of course, because I knew she was right. So, throughout the making of this movie, we had what we called the Nancy Factor. Simply put, it means that we tried to make a movie that appeals to everyone. It’s a movie with an emotional story, and for those who love racing as much as I do, we also got those details right.”

cars-hudsonPaul Newman and Cars. Voices for some of the “drive on” parts in the Pixar animated feature Cars (2006) were real drivers including Mario Andretti, Richard Petty (and his wife Lynda), Daryll Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Schumacher who Lasseter got through the film’s association with Ferrari.

Of course, another driver who provided a voice was also an Oscar winning actor, Paul Newman. The Doc Hudson character played by Newman was based on real-life NASCAR pioneer Herb Thomas, who drove Hudson Hornets to Grand National championships in 1951 and 1953.

“He’s an amazing actor but was also very passionate about getting the racing right,” said Lasseter. “He really appreciated the dedication I had to make sure the details were correct. We’d fly across the country to New York to record him. We only had four hours with him and spent most of the time just talking about racing.”

Celebrity Animated Voices. Voice actor Henry Corden (who spent over twenty-five years as the voice of Fred Flintstone after he took over from Alan Reed in 1977) told interviewer Joseph Bevilacqua in 1999: “If they were doing a half-hour Flintstones show today, they’d still go with me. But for a motion picture, even an animated one, they’d go with a celebrity to play Fred, because they need to sell the picture. I hate it but I understand it.”

It was rumored that actor Bruce Willis could tell his readings for the animated featured Over the Hedge (2006) were substandard and requested that his lines be read to him in the way the directors wanted and Willis mimicked the performances.

Frank Thomas and Ward Kimball - with  Ilene Woods, the voice of Cinderella - in 2001

Frank Thomas and Ward Kimball – with Ilene Woods, the voice of Cinderella – in 2001

Inside the Audience’s Heart. When writer Aljean Harmetz interviewed Disney animators Frank Thomas and Ward Kimball for an article in the July 4, 1993 edition of the New York Times, she got an insight into how the two animators worked differently at the Disney Studios.

“There were only a few of us who wanted to reach inside the audience’s heart. Ward didn’t want to do that. He wanted to astound,” stated Thomas.

Ward replied, “Reaching ‘inside the audience’s heart’ is hindsight nonsense. Old Wardie got into audience’s hearts his own way. He made them laugh.”

Live Action Brad Bird. Animation writer and director Brad Bird was supposed to make his live action feature directorial debut in September 1993 on New Line Cinema’s comedy Brothers In Crime. It was the story of a fifteen year old boy who convinces his eight year old brother, whom he can’t stand, that he’s really adopted. Once the youngster is back with what he thinks are his “real” parents, the older brother has to kidnap him and get him back to his real home before their parents return from their vacation. The screenplay was written by Seth Flicker and budgeted at eight million dollars. By the way, did you know that Bird was one of the writers on the live action feature film Batteries Not Included (1987)?

A Different Canvas. In 1993, producer David Kirschner talked about his latest film Once Upon a Forest (1993) with writer Bob Thomas of the Associated Press: “Disney is the Monet of animation. No one does the fables and the classics better than Disney does. Those films were the inspiration of my childhood and my adult life as well. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for other artists in the salon, for young Cezanne or Pissarro to paint on a different canvas.” In the interview Kirschner mentioned that he first took his An American Tail (1986) project to Disney but “they didn’t seem interested in a Jewish immigrant mouse. They already had a mouse.”


  • Boy, would I love to sincerely believe that Paul Terry felt as he felt about his cartoons; maybe he did, and 20th Century Fox just didn’t allow him the budget that he wanted to really do an amazing job at animating. I like what his studio has accomplished over the decades, including my memories of seeing some of the AESSOP’S FABLES then being shown on 1960’s local TV (WABC) as part of that often-talked-about (by me) “EARLY BIRD CARTOON SHOW”. But he did get locked into a kind of creative rut. I’ll tell ya, though, it is a rut that I’d give anything to see full, multi-volume collections of right now, fully restored. But, okay, there are always gems in the mix and, as far as Disney being the quintessential, well, I still say that no one artist typifies animation in the golden age. I always felt it was the entertainment industry’s fault for giving Disney so much power so that other animators cannot be recognized on their own merits and talents, but that’s not slamming Disney. I just feel that there is always so much more o the history. Warner Brothers, to me, will always be for adults with all their references in cartoons to live action pictures or lampoons of the way Hollywood looked at the world.

  • It could have been that 20 years or so of dealing with Fox’s short subject department made Paul Terry cynical, even bitter. Fox, at least in the sound era, was never known for their in-house short subjects (Lew Lehr’s Dribble-Puss Parade, anyone?) I recall reading a comment from one of the “March of Time” principals that echoed one of Terry’s own; that Fox sold shorts “like so many feet of ribbon,” and that no one at Fox cared for the “March…” as they had at RKO. Really, Terrytoons were easily the best short product Fox had!
    Terry jumped to Fox as Educational Pictures was about to enter a disastrous merger with Grand National Films; had he stayed with Educational, his company would probably not have survived. Educational, whose comedies and musicals were usually nothing to shout about, affiliated with Fox after an earlier failed attempt to enter the feature market by acquiring World Wide and Tiffany Pictures, had cost them their independent exchange system. Again, Fox sold ’em like ribbon.
    Every studio made gems and clinkers; the fanboy hyperventilating over Warner Bros. cartoons is to me little different from the deification of Disney “back in the day.” I can only agree that animators deserve to be judged on their merits, and that goes for Paul Terry, Walter Lantz, and the other “Rodney Dangerfields” of the medium.

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