ANIMATION ANECDOTES
April 17, 2015 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #208

felix-drinksBy A Waterfall. When Adolph Zukor, president of Famous Players-Lasky, decided to stop producing the Paramount Screen Magazine (which featured the Felix the Cat silent animated cartoons) in 1920 as being too costly, he did not suspect the reaction from producer Pat Sullivan who was making the Felix shorts.

Sullivan panicked because the copyright to Felix the Cat belonged to Famous Players-Lasky. Sullivan was an alcoholic and known for public outbursts after too much to drink. Apparently, he got quite drunk, went to Zukor’s office and urinated on the desk in a seemingly never-ending stream.

A disgusted Zukor demanded that Sullivan leave but a distraught Sullivan broke down into tears that his poor family would suffer without Felix to provide income. To be rid of the out-of-control Sullivan and avoid any future displays, Zukor phoned the company lawyer to transfer the copyright of the character to Sullivan and be done with the matter.

Sullivan had earlier been convicted and served time in prison for the rape of a fourteen year old girl shortly before the introduction of Felix the Cat.

hrpufnstufThe Voice of Lennie. Lennie Weinrib passed away at the age of 71 in 2006. He was a popular character actor, director of low budget teen movies in the 1960s and one of the top voice-over artists providing voices for commercials and television cartoon series.

He was also the voice for the character of H.R. Pufnstuf from the Sid and Marty Krofft produced Saturday morning television show as well as its main writer.

“This guy is one of the all-time great talents between his voices and writing,” said Marty Krofft to the Los Angeles Times on July 2, 2006. “Mel Blanc was the Joe DiMaggio of voices and Lennie was the Ted Williams.

He was the best guy we ever used. His personality was over the top. He was a bigger-than-life character.”
Weinrib told the Los Angeles Times in 1995 that he “made a quarter of a million every year for years. Spent it on Rolls Royces, boats, first editions, guns, knives. Never thought about money. Did about 100 cartoons, Olympia beer, McDonald’s commercials. I was Mr. Pringle of Pringle’s potato chips.”

Desert Island Disney. In a 1993 interview with writer Aljean Harmetz for the New York Times both Disney Legends Frank Thomas and Ward Kimball agreed that if they could take only one Disney animated feature to a desert island, it would be Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).

snow-white-image“As many flaws as there were in that picture, the audience never sees them because they’re so wrapped up in the story,” said Thomas. “Walt said, ‘I think we’ll put in some printed cards’. Flat painted cards had gone out with Charlie Chaplin. But that’s what Walt did. ‘So beautiful even in death that the dwarfs could not find it in their hearts to bury her, so they fashioned a coffin’. And somehow, between the music, and the paintings in the background, it all just worked.”

“We had no idea what was going to happen when people saw it,” said Kimball. “W.C. Fields said that 90 minutes of bright colors would hurt people’s eyes. I was sitting behind Carole Lombard and Clark Gable (at the premiere) and they were laughing like kids. And when the dwarfs came to the bier when Snow White was dead, I began to hear people crying and blowing their noses.”

Chuck Jones on Full Animation. In PUNCH magazine November 29, 1972 Chuck Jones once again commented on the benefits of full animation:

“It’s quite logical that full animation has such universal appeal. Photographs, drawings, paintings and music are all individual art forms that know no language barrier. Animation is a combination of all these on film.

“Without full animation, you have to fill in too much of the story with dialogue and narration. Then you lose the universality that is essential for animated humor. I have the feeling I’m being cheated when I see a stick cartoon with flapping legs and arms walk across the screen, and I’m supposed to accept that as animation. Most of what appears on the screen and television today uses limited animation. It’s simply radio with pictures.”

toth-superAlex Toth Legacy. Comics legend Alex Toth died while sitting at his drawing table in Burbank in May 2006. Paul Levitz who was then president and publisher of DC comics told Variety newspaper, “The work he did (at Hanna-Barbera animation studio) touched more lives than anything else he had done. He found ways to take characters like Superman from their more complicated printed form into a simpler form for animation that still held on to their power and majesty.”

The Real Mater. The character of Mater in Pixar’s Cars franchise seems to be directly connected to comedian Larry the Cable Guy who supplies the voice for the loveable character.

However, the inspiration for the character was real life Douglas “Mater” Keever who was a 48 year old construction superintendent who had never missed a race at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, which was forty miles away from his home.

Doing research at the track, director John Lasseter met Keever in 2001 on “Redneck Hill” (a rise on the infield where hardcore fans set up tents and pop up campers) and determined he was truly the ultimate NASCAR fan.

tow-materIn the Pixar animated feature Cars, Keever did the voice for Albert Hinkey, the motor home race fan, and adlibbed his own lines like ”Well, dip me in axle grease and call me slick”.

Keever’s nickname was “Mater” because as a child he would toss “tuh-maters” at the hogs on his mom’s parents’ farm.

When Lasseter decided to change a flatbed truck to a tow truck, he knew that Keever’s nickname was perfect for the character. Lasseter immediately called him on his cel phone while Keever was in the middle of a job preparing a huge batch of concrete.

Keever was paid for the use of his nickname and for coming out and recording his dialog for the beginning of the film. Lasseter refers to Keever as “the real thing”.

By the way, as Mater stretches out his kinks in the early morning, he moves almost exactly the way the dog Tramp does when audiences first see him beside a railroad car in Lady and the Tramp because it is a favorite Disney-movie moment for Lasseter.

8 Comments

  • Re: “By A Waterfall”

    You can’t make this stuff up.

    • A side of Pat Sullivan I didn’t want to know about!

  • I know Lenny also voiced the wizard Cookie Jarvis, the original spokes character for Ralston’s Cookie Crisp cereal.

  • Another inspiration for Mater was Pixar story artist Joe Ranft, he had a pair of fake teeth and when inserted he would affect a hick accent that would always break John Lasseter up. Ranft recorded the scratch track for Mater, which was later replaced by Larry the Cable Guy.

  • Felix kept on whizzing, kept on whizzing still…

  • I still remember being taken to a kiddie matinee of the PUFNSTUF movie when I was a wee lad, and being annoyed all through it that Pufnstuf had a different voice than he had on the television series. (I just checked the Internet Movie Database and, according to that, Allan Melvin voiced Pufnstuf in the movie.)

    I met a Pufnstuf puppeteer once. Didja know there were actually two Pufnstuf puppets used on the series? The first one, the operator in the costume used his arms and hands as Pufnstuf’s arms and hands. He bobbed his head up and down to make the mouth open and close. (There was a gadget resting on his head that would make Pufnstuf’s mouth move as the puppeteer’s head bobbed.) The second Pufnstuf, the operator used his arms to operate Pufnstuf’s mouth, more like a regular puppet — albeit an oversized one. On this second puppet, Pufnstuf’s arms and hands were stuffed and just hung there. The puppet they used depended on what Pufnstuf had to do from shot to shot.

  • Kinda ironic that Lennie Weinrib voiced McDonald’s characters considering that the Kroffts sued McDonalds for ripping off their PUFNSTUF characters to use in their McDonaldland commercials. I wonder what the Kroffts felt about that, though I guess they realize it was purely professional, as Weinrib continued to work for them.

  • Lennie Weinrib also did a bunch of voices in “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”, particularly some fire truck radio dialogue during the fire escape sequence near the end of the movie.

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