August 28, 2015 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #227


The Real Origin of Foghorn Leghorn. Most people believe that Warners’ overbearing Foghorn Leghorn character was inspired by Kenny Delmar’s Southern politician Senator Claghorn on the Fred Allen radio show. However, as voice expert Keith Scott has pointed out, the first cartoon featuring the character was recorded on January 13, 1945, a full tenth months before the debut of Senator Claghorn on the radio.

So the inspiration for the character was more accurately based on a character in several Los Angeles radio shows called “The Sheriff” voiced by Jack Clifford. The Sheriff would yell obnoxiously, talk over other people and repeat what he had just said beginning with “I say…” and “Pay attention, boy…”

By the release of the second Foghorn Leghorn cartoon (and he wasn’t called Foghorn Leghorn until his third appearance) Crowing Pains (July 1947), the Sheriff was long a forgotten character while the Senator Claghorn character who was first heard on radio on October 5, 1945 had become well known and popular. So elements of that character were now incorporated into the rooster.

By the way, Keith has also pointed out that the character of Miss Prissy, the lovesick hen, was lifted from a dizzy rich woman character who appeared on “The Milton Berle Show” radio show played by actress Pert Kelton who would always answer “Yeeeesss….”

Ralph Bakshi on Animation. Here is an excerpt from an interview I did with Ralph Bakshi in 1978 as the basis for an article in “The Comics Journal” magazine. He was just weeks away from releasing his animated feature The Lord of the Rings: “I love the medium (of animation) very much and when it starts to work, it’s fantastic. I’m now interested in building an animation company and I’m certainly amazed at the belief these younger guys had in me that we could do it. The crew is young. The crew loves it. If the crew loves it, it’s usually a great sign. They aren’t older animators trying to snow me for jobs next year.

“I think we’ve achieved real illustration as opposed to cartoons. Artistically, we can do anything we want. Maybe Frankenstein. Who knows? I’d like to see ten animated features a year. Ten live action films fail a month but if one animated film fails, there is the belief that it failed because it was animated.”

Always Check Your Sources. In a 2009 interview promoting her role as Ginormica/Susan Murphy in DreamWorks animated feature Monsters Vs. Aliens (2009), actress Reese Witherspoon said, “I had never really done voiceover work before.” That statement was only true if you ignored that she had voiced the role of Debbie in two episodes on “King of the Hill” (2000), Greta Wolfcastle on “The Simpsons” (2002) and Serena in the animated feature “Trumpet of the Swan” (2001).

genndyCartoon Kid. Animator and director Genndy Tartakovsky recalled in an interview in “The New Yorker” magazine (May 27, 2002), “In Russia, TV was very limited. There were a lot of news programs and one cartoon called, well, I guess a translation is something like “Wait Till I Get You Now”. It involved a wolf who chased a rabbit. A chain-smoking wolf with a gruff voice, and a cute little rabbit. It was a Road Runner type of thing, but hard and really uncomfortably violent. The wolf was like a real man getting hurt.” (NOTE: See Nu Pogodi! – Jim)

Once he came to America, each day before leaving for school, he would watch cartoons and on Saturdays, he would get up early, study the listings in the paper and plan a schedule for the morning, trying to watch as many cartoons as he could.

“Imagine you’re a high school kid and you get drunk on Friday nights or whatever high school kids do… only Saturday morning I would wake up early and watch cartoons. With a hangover. When I watched them, I wasn’t tired. I was very excited. I remember at sixteen sneaking off to watch animated film like ‘The Jungle Book’ (1967) sitting in a theater full of kids and being much bigger than everyone else.”

Hirschfeld and Gertie the Dinosaur. Artist Al Hirschfeld was an admirer of Gertie the Dinosaur as evidenced by this quote from “The New York Times” on January 30, 1938: “In the first animated cartoon ever made, Winsor McCay, through inventive drawing and magical line, took the papier mache dinosaur out of the museum and made it again walk the surface of the earth.”

Jesus Vs. Santa. Animation directors Trey Parker and Matt Stone first met Fox executive Brian Graden in 1993 at a screening of their independent live action film “Cannibal! The Musical”. They showed him a short they had made in college with construction paper cutouts of Jesus battling Frosty the Snowman.

Here is how the second “Spirit of Christmas” video called “Jesus Vs. Santa” about the battle between the religious and secular aspects of Christmas with the prototype kids of “South Park” happened.

As Parker remembered in an interview for Entertainment Weekly magazine (March 13, 2015): “Brian totally loved it and he’s like ‘Can I send this as my Christmas card to everyone?’ So he sent it to his friends. Then the next year Brian said, ‘Can you make another one?’

“He gave us, like $2,000. We were so stoked. The damn thing took a week of no sleep to make five minutes worth. We didn’t even put our names on it.

“Brian’s friends loved it so much that they were copying VHS-to-VHS and then giving it to friends. Months went by. We were at a party and these guys were like ‘You guys have got to see this!’ They made everyone gather around the tv and played ‘The Spirit of Christmas’.

“Matt and I are like ‘Dude, we made that’. And they’re like ‘No, we know the guys that made this and they just got a meeting with MTV’.

“We are like, ‘What?!’ Brian went to MTV and said, ‘No, no, these are the guys who made it’. It was the most surreal thing. We were at bars trying to pick up girls and being like, ‘We’re the guys that made The Spirit of Christmas’. We were kind of little rock stars.

“People would have these VHS copies where you could barely see the picture because it had been copied 400 times. Still to this day, every stranger that walks up to me usually says, ‘I have your original tape’.”


  • Regarding “The Real Origin of Foghorn Leghorn” and The Sheriff / Senator Claghorn influence…

    We Looney Tune & Merrie Melodie “junkees”, more often than not, also wind up as Jack Benny Program “junkies” as well. So many existing late 30s through early 50s radio broadcasts have Mel Blanc creating characters long before their screen appearances… including French characters resembling Pepe Le Pew and Mexican characters resembling Speedy Gonzales, not to mention all of the vocal mannerisms of Frank Nelson and others repeated in cartoons. For example, one episode broadcast late in the series run (12-5-54) has Bea Benaderet and Mel Blanc talking just like Betty and Barney Rubble almost six years ahead of time.

    • JLewis is quite correct. And Mel’s voices and accents found their way into the other shows he did, especially the Judy Canova Show.
      Blue Monday Jamboree, featuring the sheriff character, was never heard in the first place by people in the East or Midwest. It was the big variety show of its day for West Coast radio listeners. Before the mid-’30s, broadcasting from the West Coast to the East was almost never done because of the cost of reversing the AT&T lines. That meant live West Coast shows were generally heard only in the West, so many people wouldn’t have been familiar with the sheriff. But Claghorn became a national sensation when he hit the national airwaves with Fred Allen. Between that and the similarity of the name, everyone associates the rooster with him. Kenny Delmar mentioned in the post-radio years, he had to get permission from Warners to use the voice.

    • Poor Kenny. On Jack Benny’s, he was mostly stuck as a Lucky Strikes announcer. It was on the show hosted by Benny’s “rival” that he enjoyed his biggest fame… only to be out-shown by a rooster.

    • Would the Senator in “Rebel Rabbit” (I demands… I say I demands a price on Bugs Bunny’s head!) be closer to the actual Senator Claghorn character? It seems like the puns and wordplay (Eye! Ball! Eyeball! Almost had a joke there, son!) didn’t turn up in Foghorn’s shorts until the Claghorn character hit it big.

    • Senator Claghorn was popular enough to get his own movie: “It’s a Joke, Son,” with Delmar repeating the role onscreen. (The film’s costume designer was Oleg Cassini, destined for greater things.)

    • Listening to the earliest Foghorn cartoons, the familiar voice characterization wasn’t quite “there” yet. Both the pitch and the delivery were noticeably different. I’m not familiar with the sheriff character from the Blue Monday show, but it’s likely these first cartoons were more influenced by him. It’s undeniable though that when the “Senator” hit it big, Mel Blanc adjusted the character’s voice so it sounded EXACTLY like Kenny Delmar. (Delmar doubled as Fred Allen’s announcer, and on one show, introduced himself in the opening “…and when I’m not blowing my own Claghorn, I’m Kenny Delmar!”)
      The Total Television Productions book touches on Delmar’s frustration with Foghorn Leghorn, and he must have been delighted to perform the Senator’s voice for them as “The Hunter.”

  • “The Spirit of Christmas” was the “Bambi Meets Godzilla” of the 90’s, in terms of it’s massive duplication. In much the way there had been countless 16mm and Super 8mm dupes of Marv Newland’s celebrated short, the same could be said for the low-res Quicktime files and VHS tapes that were sent around of Stone/Parker’s festive yuletide treat.

  • “Ten live action films fail a month but if one animated film fails, there is the belief that it failed because it was animated.”

    Kinda eerie how Bakshi’s comment is pretty much the attitude of modern studios, especially when it comes to 2D animation. “It didn’t do gangbusters, it must be because it’s hand-drawn and not CG.” Clueless.

  • On one of the later “Allen’s Alley” segments, Fred Allen made a side remark about how someone “must be pulling the Senator’s leghorn.”

  • I actually was amazed that the very first season of “SOUTH PARK” didn’t contain any notable extras, like this “JESUS VS. SANTA” film…and what is this “CANNIBALS, THE MUSICAL”? I’d heard interviews with Parker and Stone on rock radio programs, but I really wonder how much they enjoy animation history. I’ve seen bits and pieces that kind of seem like they might be a back-handed tribute to some classic animated cartoons. It would be kinda fun to hear their list of favorite classic toons, if their interest goes back as far as we fans often discuss here.

    • Surprised you haven’t heard of “Cannibal! The Musical”. It was a little effort Trey Parker did while he was finishing up his studies at the Univ. of Colorado in Boulder. He made a film that in itself is based on the famous tale of Alfred Packer who was accused of cannibalism, the first account of its kinda in this country. The movie itself, while comedic, yet gory in places, is played as a straight-up musical with some catchy songs.!_The_Musical

      I’d heard interviews with Parker and Stone on rock radio programs, but I really wonder how much they enjoy animation history. I’ve seen bits and pieces that kind of seem like they might be a back-handed tribute to some classic animated cartoons. It would be kinda fun to hear their list of favorite classic toons, if their interest goes back as far as we fans often discuss here.

      Typically, I would say they’re not really animators, only brilliant filmmakers/writers/producers. Animation wasn’t their forte other than something they fell into, especially for Trey as he produced several such films during his college years like “American History”.

      Much of their output is typically live-action with a few animated sprinkles here or there.

    • “Cannibal! The Musical” was a live-action film based on the Alferd Packer incident. And yes, it was a musical. (The Braniff Airways logo that closed early “South Park” episodes was accompanied by a few bars of “Spadoinkle Day,” a song from “Cannibal!”)

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