August 21, 2015 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #226

Gigantor Violence. Independent producer Fred Ladd told animation historian Fred Patten, “Gigantor was much harder to produce than were Astro Boy or Kimba. There were no serious changes required between the Japanese Mighty Atom and the American Astro Boy, or between Jungle Emperor and Kimba, the White Lion.

gigantor“Both Astro Boy and Kimba were reformers who advocated peace and tried to avoid fights, so there was little visual action so objectionable that it had to be cut out. What there was was usually brief and could be removed by a deletion of a few seconds footage here and there.

“But Gigantor was much more violent. Jimmy Sparks was a twelve year old kid who carried a real gun! Even though he seldom fired it, he often waved it around dramatically. We had to cut those shots out. There were more episodes which involved military dictators and wars, or criminals shooting at people. And the typical story resolution was for Gigantor to fly in at the last moment and smash something up.”

Katzenberg on Traditional Animation. In 2002, DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg told animation historian Charles Solomon for the “Los Angeles Times” that “I don’ think the (animated) movies have been very good. All of us making 2-D films in the past several years have relied too much on formulaic ideas. There’s a cookie-cutter feeling to these movies. They’re no longer exceptional and surprising.

“We haven’t done a very good job of picking stories and we’ve told the stories in ways we’ve used before. It’s not that the (2-D) technique is flawed. I would argue that hand-drawn animation still much more effectively fulfills the definition of ‘animate’, to bring life to. There is something beautiful and intimate and personal about a line an artist draws by hand, just as a personal handwritten note conveys emotions in ways an e-mail doesn’t.”

Disney_s_lilo_and_stitch_poster_fm_by_edogg8181804-d6m25nqBehind Lilo & Stitch. In June 2002 just as the film was going into general release, co-director Chris Sanders of Disney’s animated feature film “Lilo & Stitch” talked about his feelings behind the film:

“We looked at the simplicity and warmth of films like ‘Dumbo’ and ‘Bambi’ and the way the characters interacted.

“Instead of placing our emphasis on technical marvels, we wanted to slow the world down a bit and focus on character development and relationships

“The scale of story has nothing to do with the feelings inside it. We felt a small story would be a better environment for big feelings and deep feelings.

“It’s harder to connect with a film where the villain is out to destroy the world than with a film where a bully tramples the school project some little kid spent all night working on.

“We wanted this film to draw on emotions that are more personal and believable and thus more powerful.

“We took a risk by making this a real, believable family that had arguments and did strange things. A lot of things that Lilo does are completely illogical and yet very believable.”

Speak Up. Dubbing Hayao Miyazaki’s “Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi” into Spirited Away (2002), Disney animation director Kirk Wise (“Beauty and the Beast”) had to work with writers to not only preserve the meaning of the original lines but each English language line had to have about the same number of syllables to synchronize with the Japanese dialog. An occasional line of dialog sometimes had to be added to explain Japanese cultural references unfamiliar to American audiences.

As Wise told animation historian Charles Solomon in 2002, “We had the writers in the booth with us, so that if an actor had a difficult time fitting a line to the character’s mouth movements, we would do a rewrite on the fly to shave off a syllable or substitute a shorter word for a longer one.

“We had to get the sync to work while making sure the performance sounded natural. It couldn’t sound like the actor was trying to force a lot of words into a very small space. Our editor would sometimes take a single syllable from one take and splice it into the middle of a sentence from another just to get it that much tighter.”

betty-boop-poor-cinderella-sheet-music-1934-2Poor Cinderella. Supplying music for Fleischer’s “Poor Cinderella” (1934) starring a red-headed Betty Boop was Russian musician Phil Spitalny. He was famous for his all-girl orchestra (1934-1954) who would provide music of “sweetness and charm”. This contribution was one of their very earliest jobs and Spitlany’s screen credit on the film is simply “recording”.

The women ranged in age from 17 to 30 and all signed contracts that they would not marry for two years, and then only with six month’s notice. They could not weigh over 122 pounds and wore their hair styled in “long, soft bobs.”

Spitalny had been recording music like “Lullaby from the Leaves” from the Betty Boop series for records with his all-male band for several years before this short.

Violet’s Force Field Sound. Sound effects engineer Randy Thom who worked on the Pixar animated feature “The Incredibles” (2005) remembered in an interview with the “Los Angeles Times” newspaper on February 27, 2005 about how he came up with the sound for Violet’s force field:

“One of the main components is a recording of cosmic rays and radio frequency signals from high-voltage power lines hitting a wire on a mountaintop halfway between Santa Rosa and Mendocino. Very often sounds with exotic pedigrees are not very useful, but this one was an exception.”

And the sound of bullets hitting her force field? “I worked on it off and on for several months and nothing seemed to click until I tried bouncing a huge exercise ball. It had a wonderful ping to it.”

Pop-Woody200No Woody Woodpecker. On January 31, 1940, Universal surrendered all film and merchandising rights to the Lantz cartoons produced in the previous four years to Walter Lantz himself.

Lantz entered into a contract to continue delivering animated shorts to Universal with Lantz now fronting all the production costs and both he and Universal sharing in the profits. Only three films into this new contract, Lantz introduced Woody Woodpecker.

In a 1981 interview with animation historian Joe Adamson, animation legend Walter Lantz reflected on how Woody Woodpecker might not have been born.

“When I sent them (Universal), the first Woody, the head of the shorts cartoons said, ‘Walter, you’re out of your cotton-picking mind. This is the wrongest, wildest, craziest character. He’s ugly and everything. Don’t make him. It’ll never go.’ I said, ‘I’m independent now. It’s my nickel, and I’m taking the chance.’ If they were paying me a salary at the time, there would never have been any Woody Woodpecker.”

Woody’s second appearance in “Woody Woodpecker” (1941)


  • On Woody:

    “This is the wrongest, wildest, craziest character. He’s ugly and everything.”

    So says some pinhead Suit. The only reasonable response to the Suit is “This is perfect! Run with it!”

    Then have Woody peck him in the head. Repeatedly.

    • Sounds like a letter-perfect description of Stitch to me!

  • I really like your column. Do you have any information on the making of Animalympics? Hugo The Hippo? or the stop-motion Wind and The Willows TV series? Thank you for your time.

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