July 17, 2015 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #221

Millar was caricatured as a Gremlin in Bob Clampett’s “Russian Rhapsody” (1944)

Millar was caricatured as a Gremlin in Bob Clampett’s “Russian Rhapsody” (1944)

Tubby Millar. Melvin “Tubby” Eugene Millar was born May 6, 1900 in Portis, Kansas. He got his nickname for being “as round as a tub” as a boy and that body shape remained for the rest of his life.

“He drew pictures ever since he was big enough to hold a pencil,” childhood friend Hud Turner told a “Wichita Eagle” newspaper reporter in 1992. Turner, then 92, showed an old high school government textbook in which the margin of nearly every page was jammed with drawings of faces, figures and exaggerated cartoon characters.

In 1931, Millar got a job at Warner Brothers animating Porky Pig (and other Warner characters) and eventually worked as storyman on the cartoons.

His hometown erected a limestone memorial to him in 1992 that states: “In memory of Melvin Tubby Millar, animator for Looney Tunes Porky Pig cartoons and assistant to Friz Freleng, creator of Porky Pig.”

The marker is at the intersection of Market Street (U.S. 281) and 5th Street, on the left when traveling south on Market Street. It includes an image of Porky Pig (with the appropriate Warners’ copyright) on the right hand side.

Millar worked the name of his hometown into several cartoons. For instance, in Porky’s Pet (1936), at the train station there is a poster telling the traveler “When in Portis, Stop at Millar Manor”. In Bingo Crosbyana (1936), a little fly is next to a matchbox labeled “Portis Matches” and a wine bottle says “90 percent Portis”.

Other Warners cartoons written by Millar with “Portis” references include Porky of the North Woods (1936), Porky’s Road Race (1937) , The Case of the Stuttering Pig (1937) and Sniffles and the Bookworm (1939).

Millar died in Burbank, California on December 30, 1980 at the age of eighty.


Bob Clampett On 1970s Cartoons. In a 1974 short interview with the “National Enquirer” newspaper, when asked about the current animated cartoons being produced, animation legend Bob Clampett said, “They leave me with high blood pressure. The new cartoons shown on television are mere cardboard cut-outs without personality. I really believe that’s it’s the prostitution of a wonderful medium. The companies who are churning out these cartoons today only care about meeting network deadlines. They are turning the clock back to the first raw efforts made by cartoonists.”


The Three New Stooges. There is documentation that there were several attempts in the late 1950s and early 1960s to make a series of Three Stooges animated cartoons, based on the live action comedy trio. Friz Freleng was involved in one of the attempts. In 1965, Cambria Studios of “Clutch Cargo” fame produced 156 episodes of “The New Three Stooges” under the supervision of Lee Orgel.

To enhance the series, a live-action wraparound was filmed with the badly aging Moe Howard, Larry Fine and “Curly Joe” DaRita.

As DeRita recalled in the book “The Three Stooges Scrapbook” (1982):

“There were 156 cartoons and we made only 40 live-action segments. So after they ran the whole 40, they’d just start over by using these same introductions on new cartoons. This turned out to be misleading because viewers would say, ‘Oh, I’ve seen this one before.’ and they’d turn off the television. They didn’t know it was a new cartoon.”

Horse Eyebrows. For the animated feature Spirit: Wild Stallion of the Cimarron (2002), James Baxter, supervising animator of the title character told the “Los Angeles Times” newspaper: “Horses are notoriously difficult to draw, and a lot of people know how they look and move, so it’s obvious if you make a mistake. Trying to create some of the actions in the movie and give them enough power was tricky.

“It was a real challenge to give Spirit a face that could display readable emotions. We did some design tricks, shifting his eyes a little further forward on the head, so you can see both eyes more readily which makes his expressions easier to read. And we gave him nice big eyebrows—which horses don’t have.”


The Velocipod Sound. Velocipods were the flying saucers controlled by the evil character Syndrome in the Pixar animated feature The Incredibles (2005) and they chased speedy little Dash through jungles and deserts and even over the ocean.

“I thought about jet airplanes but those sounds get used so often,” recalled Randy Thom who was responsible for sound effects in the film in an interview with the “Los Angeles Times” newspaper on February 27, 2005. “Same for rockets. Besides, these velocipods sometimes hover. Rockets never hover.

“Eventually, I used Formula One race cars. They sound ‘high tech’ which seemed appropriate. Their engines can rev while standing still like hovering. But we had to disguise the sounds so the audience didn’t immediately recognize them and think ‘I’m looking at flying saucers and hearing cars’. So sometimes the drive-bys are played backward.”

Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders

Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders

Storyboard Sobbing. Animation directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois had worked together on Disney’s animated feature Mulan (1998) but it was not until they worked together on Disney’s Lilo & Stich (2002) that they accidentally discovered they both shared a nightmarish secret.

“One night, (animator) Andreas Deja, who animated Lilo, invited the two of us over with some other people,” remembered Sanders. “Suddenly, Dean looks at his watch and said, ‘Oh, it’s nine o’clock. I really should get home and start storyboarding so I can be crying by two o’clock.’ And I said, ‘What? You do that too?’ We start storyboarding the night before the assignment’s due and by about two a.m. we each reach a point where we’re sobbing ‘I can’t do this. It’s impossible!’ When it comes time to storyboard, we both wait until the last second.”

jonny-quest-tvRealistic Jonny Quest. In a 1973 interview, creator Doug Wildey recalled the difficulty in producing the Hanna-Barbera series Jonny Quest (1964): “It’s a matter of educating network people that this stuff doesn’t come cheap and there aren’t too many animators around to do the realistic movements. We had a lot of trouble with that in the beginning of Jonny Quest because the motions were too speeded up. The boats were moving too fast and the people opened doors with speed lines. That type of thing. We couldn’t have that. We had to have realistic motion to a degree to make the thing work in the story. Otherwise the audience wouldn’t buy it.” Maybe it would have been easier if they teamed up Jonny and the gang with Tom and Jerry – oh wait! They just have.


  • Oh, thank CHRIST i had the option to NOT watch the toon Stooge. 60s Popeyes = 60s Stooges! Oy!!!

    • Not a fair comparison. While I admit the Kinney (and Harmon) ones were very poorly made, I thought the ones by the other studios were decent. Heck, the ones by Paramount had better story lines than the ’50’s theatrical cartoons.

  • Tubby Millar also is known as the letterer for the west coast division of the Sangor Shop ran by Jim Davis from c1944 to c1948, which produced comics for Standard-Pines, ACG, and DC and a few others. He like most of the other west coast guys, moonlighted comic book work while continuing to work in the animation buisness.

  • In reading about the ways of producing the sound of the velocipods, I recalled the sound of the rocket speeding through elaborate space in the 1937 HAPPY HARMONIES cartoon, “LITTLE BUCK CHEEZER”, the last Rudy Ising cartoon to feature the constantly dreaming little mouse. That sound, too, was the result of running other sounds together in reverse and, when you think of the primitive means by which sound was recorded for anything back then, it is amazing that such tricks worked out as well as they had. Besides, 1937 was a great year for cartoons at MGM, and I’m sure that many of those titles are used to illustrate the timing of ideas for future cartoons.

  • I feel Bob Clampett’s pain; I mean, people have complained that his “BEANY AND CECIL SHOW” cartoons were limited animation to a fault, but there was so much else there, too, to keep viewers interested. I continued watching constant reruns of “THE BEANY AND CECIL SHOW” because those cartoons were mostly frenetic and had some great parody moments like “CECIL’S COMICAL STRIP” which wasn’t just ained at the kids, and there were oddly designed characters like the Indiscreet Squeet, the Boo Birds and the Dough-Do, an obvious poke at network TV and how it works in general. So it isn’t just the quality of animation that Bob Clampett was upset with in the 1970’s; it was the lack of material that would make all ages laugh. I realize why the changes had to be made, but wow, did I miss those classic toons that made me smile and remember how colorful and surreal animation could truly be.

  • Of course, Tubby Millar COULDN’T have started animating Porky for Schlesinger in 1931. Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising were doing Bosko at that time. “I Haven’t Got A Hat”, July 1st, 1935, was Porky’s first cartoon.

    • Yes, an obvious goof there.

  • In Russian Rhapsody a lot of the people involved in this classic Warner Bros WWII Cartoon were animated as the Gremlins trying to sabotage Adolph Hitler’s airplane along with Melvin “Tubby”Millar, Bob Clampett,Chuck Jones,Friz Freleng, Michael Sasanoff,Leon Schlesinger, Michael Maltese,Carl Stalling,Henry Binder and Ray Katz.
    My favorite gag was Tubby the Gremlin with the tack on his head trying to stab Hitler’s Hiney (And giving a squeaky sounding sobbing noise (provided by Mel Blanc) when he can’t reach his attended target) later he finally got his target with a little help from another Gremlin with a “V for Victory” style haircut and you can hear Hitler shriek like a banshee (also provided by Mel Blanc). I noticed that scene where Tubby the Gremlin was tickled was censored in later showings of Russian Rhapsody.

  • “It was a real challenge to give Spirit a face that could display readable emotions. We did some design tricks, shifting his eyes a little further forward on the head, so you can see both eyes more readily which makes his expressions easier to read. And we gave him nice big eyebrows—which horses don’t have.”

    That’s always going to be the conceit when it comes to designing animals in animation. They normally can’t have the same expressive look we associate ourselves as humans so we compensate for that in drawing them. Just widening the eyes, dialing back the pupils and using eyebrows are some of the subtle touches that tend to make them more appealing in animation they they are in reality I feel.

  • If I recall The New Three Stooges were part of a Trifecta of cartoons that came out of the 1960’s that had classic comedy teams from the 1930’s and 1940’s (with the exception of the Marx Brothers and the Ritz Brothers) that were animated the others were Abbott and Costello (The Abbott and Costello Cartoon Show-Hanna/Barbera) and Laurel and Hardy ( Larry Harmon Production). Of course both The Three Stooges and Laurel and Hardy (The characters not sure if the original actors did the voices) appeared in The Scooby Doo Movies in the 1970’s. And Hanna/ Barbera’s Six Million Dollar Man parody The Robonic Stooges that was part of the Banana Splits wannabe show The Skatebirds ( with Paul Winchell as Moe and Frank Welker straight from Jabberjaws as Curly) What I like of The New Three Stooges was its cool jazz style theme (it wasn’t like the themes that had in the live action versions (Three Blind Mice/ Listen to the Mockingbird) but it was fun to listen to.

    • Bud Abbott did his own voice in the A&C cartoons, and someone else played Lou Costello, who had already passed away.
      In the Laurel & Hardy cartoons, Larry Harmon was the voice of Stan, Jim MacGeorge played Ollie. (MacGeorge also played Stan, in live-action commercials with Chuck McCann as Ollie.)

  • Bud Abbott’s finances were so low from gambling and other debts that the Hanna-Barbera cartoon was a welcome source of income.

    Margaret Kerry, the model for Tinker Bell, was the business partner and wife of the maker of the New Three Stooges and those Synchro Vox cartoons. She appeared in many of the live action Stooge segments. She talks about it all extensively in the 6/23/13 (#326) episode of Stu’s Show.

    Lovely anecdotes as always, Jim!

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