ANIMATION ANECDOTES
June 5, 2015 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #215

marvin-600


Duck Dodger Jr. and An Unwelcome Third Dimension. On the Tiny Toons television series, the 1991 episode featuring Plucky Duck as Duck Dodgers Jr. was storyboarded by the talented Mike Kazaleh. Maurice Noble and Wayne Kaatz were also given credit for scripting the episode.

Kazaleh also did the character model sheets, especially when he discovered that Warners only had one model sheet of Marvin the Martian and it was one that animation legend Chuck Jones had drawn in 1980 for the film Duck Dodgers and the Return of the 24 ½ Century.

The layouts for the episode were done by the legendary Maurice Noble but the background artists at Wang Films in Taipei (who were doing multiple projects for different studios) couldn’t believe that Warners wanted the backgrounds flat (as they were in the classic 1953 WB cartoon designed by Noble and featuring the Daffy Duck character) so they used an airbrush to give them more dimension.

The real Duck Dodgers appeared in real three dimensions in the 1996 cartoon, Marvin Martian in the Third Dimension that was shown at the Warner Brothers studio store in Manhattan and Warner Brothers Movie Worlds theme parks in Australia and Germany.

Try, Try Again. Jason Alexander was the voice of Hugo the gargoyle in the Disney animated feature The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996). He had always wanted to be the voice of a Disney character. Previously, he had auditioned for the roles of LeFou and Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast (1991) and both Timon and Pumbaa in The Lion King (1994) but had been turned down.

Frank Thomas Talks Walt. In a 1993 New York Times article, Disney Legend Frank Thomas said, “Walt used to say, ‘I don’t want realism. I want believability’. Walt had great ideas, not of what we could do but of what he thought could be done. If you killed yourself and did a great scene, Walt would say, ‘Yes, but what if we have Pluto get on ice skates, too?’”

beatles-cartoonAnimated Beatles. Premiering on ABC Saturday morning 1965, “The Beatles” animated cartoon series was an instant ratings hit. The voices of the Beatles’ cartoon doppelgangers were supplied by Paul Frees (John and George) and Lance Percival (Paul and Ringo).

Frees recorded his voices in America while Percival did his in England.

“It took about four weeks to animate each film and I enjoyed it immensely,” recalled Chris Cuddington, a series animator at the time. “The characters were easy to draw and the stories were simple and uncomplicated.”
A second series of seven more weeks of new episodes were done in 1967 in a slightly more surreal style to appeal to more than just kids as an audience.

The series was cancelled in 1969 and network executive Fred Silverman told TV Guide magazine, “Kids get tired of shows quickly. They would rather watch new shows than repeats of old ones.”

An Illusion of Life Story. Author Bob Thomas put together a book entitled Walt Disney The Art of Animation released in 1958 as part of the publicity for the newest Disney animated feature Sleeping Beauty (1959) as well as to promote a touring exhibit of Disney animation art also called The Art of Animation.

art-of-animationFor years there had been discussions at the Disney Studio of using art instructor Donald Graham’s notes when he taught at the Disney Studios along with notes from various sessions conducted by top Disney animators to create such a book.

However, Walt was not satisfied with the final result by Thomas.

Walt had learned animation during his time in Kansas City, Missouri through the book Animated Cartoons by E.G. Lutz and he wanted a contemporary version for aspiring animators.

So, he assigned Disney Legend Les Clark to work on one that would be more in depth than the Thomas book. Apparently, Clark got no further than just some notes by his death September 1979.

Clark’s widow claimed that Disney animator Frank Thomas showed up in Clark’s hospital room when he was dying to ask him to turn over his notes on the project. She got mad and kicked Thomas out.

Thomas and fellow Disney animator Ollie Johnston had been working on a similar book that was released in 1981: Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life.

Interviewing Walt. In 1992 I asked Bob Thomas at a NFFC convention how he went about interviewing Walt. Oh, it was easy,” he laughed. “An interview with Walt consisted of you asking questions and Walt talking about anything he wanted whether it related to the question you asked or not.”

mighty-bThe Mighty B! The Mighty B! was an animated series that ran on Nickelodeon for two seasons starting in 2008. The show was inspired by a character comedian Amy Poehler (currently starring as “Joy” in Pixar’s Inside Out) created in her early years in improvisational comedy.

Bessie Higgenbottom, an ambitious nine year old Honeybee girl scout living with her single mom and brother in San Francisco, attempts to earn every Honeybee badge in order to transform herself into a superhero called the Mighty B.
Poehler provided the voice for the character and executive produced the series. She co-created the series with the husband and wife team of Erik Wiese (storyboard artist for four seasons on SpongeBob SquarePants) and Cynthia True (writer for The Fairly OddParents among other shows).

“(Bessie) is like part Animal from The Muppets, part Daffy Duck, part Jimmy Stewart and part Gilda Radner,” Poehler told the Los Angeles Times in 2008. “My dream would be that Bessie would spawn all these open-minded, supremely confident young girls.

“I’m honestly excited about tapping into an audience that isn’t a late-night audience frankly. Saturday Night Live can be so transient. The stuff we do comes and goes. And I’d like to think that Bessie is the kind of character who will hopefully resonate and stick around.

“We really wanted to do something that didn’t pander to a young audience. We liked the idea of treating kids’ situations as if they were very serious adult situations. We didn’t want it to be that ironic or sarcastic. That would be my dream come true if it just made all these kids (who watch it) spaz out even more.”

Poehler admitted that she was only a scout for “about a month. I probably leanred to fold a paper bird and then I was done.”

21 Comments

  • THE MIGHTY B! was, in my opinion, the very best cartoon show that displayed a very strong John K. vibe but clearly “did its own thing”, baby. I really dug it and was sad when it wasn’t picked up for more episodes,

  • In regards to Duck Dodgers Jr, there’s a bit more to the story. According to The Noble Approach (an excellent book I highly recommend), Maurice “proceeded to work in the same manner he always had,” which involved “analyzing the story” and writing notes that would “improve the storytelling visually.” According to David Marshall (the overseas supervisor), what happened was that the background painters at Wang were “jazzed” at what they had, but were specifically told by the producers to not follow any of notes Noble wrote. Eventually, he was then fired by Eddie Fitzgerald, which led him to say “I tried to make a good cartoon, and got fired for it.”

    • That is such a d–k move of the highest order right there, but I really couldn’t blame any of them, that sort of “flat” look really didn’t take off until Ren & Stimpy put it in vogue.

  • “Clark’s widow claimed that Disney animator Frank Thomas showed up in Clark’s hospital room when he was dying to ask him to turn over his notes on the project. She got mad and kicked Thomas out.”

    WOW.

    • “Hard Boiled Eggs And Nuts!?!?!” I can still see Billy Gilbert hanging on to that traction weight while he was dangling out of the hospital window! I guess we now know what other films interest you!

    • People love their anonymity Jim.

  • The series was cancelled in 1969 and network executive Fred Silverman told TV Guide magazine, “Kids get tired of shows quickly. They would rather watch new shows than repeats of old ones.”

    …which I suppose is why The Bugs Bunny Show only lasted 40 years on ABC and CBS. Kids will watch repeats of good shows. Kids won’t watch repeats of crap (a rule which pretty much applies to shows for adults as well).

    • It depends on the animated programming for example: The Simpsons have been around for 25 years and The Flinstones have been around more than 50 years along with Astro Boy (still broadcasting in repeats) and SpongeBob Squarepants, South Park, Dora the Explorer and Pokemon has been around for more than 10 years others like Capital Critters,The Wacky World of Tex Avery (one of the worst animated series that I’ve ever seen to my opinion ) Dave the Barbarian (that should of lasted a few seasons more) Maple Town (Suprising there was another season and the spinoff Palm Town which was never broadcasted here in the USA )and Santo Bugito only lasted for one season and Wolfrock TV & The New Adventures of Beany and Cecil only lasted half a season! Also it depends if a “white hot” international series such as One Piece, Sonic X, Maple Town and Dragon Ball (including DBZ & DBGT) (Japan), Winx Club (Italy) and others depending of the dubbing services for example Saban ruined Maple Town by using footage for a Maple Town toy commercial as part of the opening credits and adding a live action character named “Miss Maple” as the bookends prior to the episode. And Al Khan’s of 4Kids Productions eradication of all things Japanese (Such as turning Rice Balls into Jelly Donuts,sandwiches and a graham cracker and the Japanese Language itself), replacing cigarettes with Lollypops, weapons like guns with weird cockamamie contraptions and many other atrocities.

    • ” And Al Khan’s of 4Kids Productions eradication of all things Japanese (Such as turning Rice Balls into Jelly Donuts,sandwiches and a graham cracker and the Japanese Language itself), replacing cigarettes with Lollypops, weapons like guns with weird cockamamie contraptions and many other atrocities.”

      Not to mention banning the “Safari Zone” episode of “Pokémon” where the park ranger keeps pointing his rifle to the characters.

    • That’s what an executive says when they have no hit tv shows or successful movies. They blame the audience..as in nobody is interested in seeing 2d animated movies anymore. It’s a lame excuse to keep their jobs.

  • Fun Fact on Paul Frees and the Beatles:
    Paul Frees also provided voice work on two other shows featuring two well known US musical acts of the 1970’s The Jackson 5ive (As Barry Gordy in the first episode and other assorted voices) and The Osmonds (As Fuji their Japanese pet dog and as the “World Oldest Groupie”-a Spinster (or in today’s term a Cougar) who literally tries to “stalks” the brothers during their tour around the world.

    Also Paul, George and Ringo did provide their voices in The Simpsons (with the exception of John Lennon who was murdered in December 8, 1980.

    • The Simpson guys were lucky to get George when they did, too bad his appearance amounted nothing more than a set-up to the referenced bit at the end, but none the less, glad he got on there.

    • Supposedlly, when George came to record his lines, he didn’t seem particularly happy, but all sorts of personnel related to The Simpsons were asking him tons of questions related to his time with The Beatles. (I guess most of them were oblivious to just how sore and tiring of a subject that was for him, and with him being as much of an introvert as he was, I imagine that he was feeling drained by all of that direct questioning, too.) It wasn’t until Matt Groening had asked him about recording Wonderwall that he had perked up. Groening presumed that George’s change in mood had to do with the fact that he was being asked about something that he often wasn’t harassed about and that he was being asked about a project that was more dear to his heart.

    • Supposedlly, when George came to record his lines, he didn’t seem particularly happy, but all sorts of personnel related to The Simpsons were asking him tons of questions related to his time with The Beatles. (I guess most of them were oblivious to just how sore and tiring of a subject that was for him, and with him being as much of an introvert as he was, I imagine that he was feeling drained by all of that direct questioning, too.) It wasn’t until Matt Groening had asked him about recording Wonderwall that he had perked up. Groening presumed that George’s change in mood had to do with the fact that he was being asked about something that he often wasn’t harassed about and that he was being asked about a project that was more dear to his heart.

      I’m sure it comes down to what should one keep in mind while talking to a person like George, what sort of questions you’d want to be answered that isn’t the most obvious. If I was in that position, I’d probably would’ve mentioned how much I loved his take on “Got My Mind Set On You” from the late 80’s. Played that 45 over and over to many times.

  • IIRC, The Beatles cartoon broke all viewing records in its debut, not just Saturday AM.

  • Also note that actors provided the Beatles’ speaking voices for “Yellow Submarine”, something that was semi-hushed up during the initial release. I know I assumed they were voicing themselves.

    • All because the real guys declined it for a while before seeing what was coming out of the production and the only consolation for their absence is that bit at the end.

    • From what I have pieced together, the reason why The Beatles didn’t voice themselves in Yellow Submarine is that they were under the assumption that it was going to be of the same quality as the TV series. They regretted not being more involved with the movie once they released that their assumptions were incorrect.

    • Perhaps we’ll hear from Jack Mendelsohn, who scripted the film.

    • That would be nice if he chimes in!

  • In the case of the Beatles, I had not realized they were on until 1969, but by that time they had moved very far away artistically from those cartoon guys singing pleasing pop hits to screaming girls. No doubt getting broadcast rights to new songs just got too expensive for SatAM budgets too.

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