Joe Dante’s Grim Experience. In a 2007 interview, movie director Joe Dante said, “The theatrical cartoons that Warners produced after 1960, which I remember having to suffer through at the movies, were just abominable. They weren’t funny, they were badly animated, they were sub-television level and almost everything they’ve done since is just a pale shadow of what the great cartoons were.
“I can tell you from experience that the people currently running Warner Bros have no interest or understanding of that period or those characters. I was making a movie for them with those characters (Looney Tunes: Back in Action 2003) and they did not want to know about those characters. They didn’t want to know why Bugs Bunny shouldn’t do hip-hop. It was a pretty grim experience all around.”
The Little Prince That Never Was. Most animation fans are familiar with the fact that moviemaker Orson Welles approached the Disney Studio in the early 1940s about a combination live-action and animation production of the novella “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Welles had written a script and was intending to both narrate and play the role of the Aviator and had already auditioned some child actors for the title role.
However at a lunch meeting at the Disney studio, Welles was so enthralling in recounting the story to the Disney artists that Walt excused himself and told Jackson Leighter, a business partner of Welles, “Jack, there is not room on this lot for two geniuses!”
Welles supposedly temporarily abandoned the project because “the technical problems of the mixture of animation and live-action proved too formidable without Disney’s help”.
However, animation producer Hugh Harman (who at the time had his own studio set-up in Beverly Hills at the old Iwerks facility) longed to make an animated feature and hooked up with Welles. In 1943, Welles showed up daily for several months at Harman’s studio where Mel Shaw designed a complete color storyboard for the film.
Supposedly, on the strength of having Welles involved, Harman believed he had the financing and distribution set up but Welles became ill and had to go to Florida to recuperate. During that time the project died along with several other of Welles projects.
In the book “Enchanted Drawings” by Charles Solomon is a color character layout drawing done by Welles himself for the proposed film. Harman insisted, as late as the 1960s, that Welles had bumped into Mrs. Harman in Beverly Hills and was eager to re-open the project with United Artists backing.
Cutting the T-Rex. Producer Gary Goldman recalled in 2003 interview a situation on The Land Before Time (1988) animated feature.
“There were difficulties on The Land Before Time mainly because Steven (Spielberg) wasn’t always around because he was on location for ‘Empire of the Sun’. We would sometimes receive his comments two or three weeks late and we would have had to proceed with animation to stay on schedule.
“Our biggest surprise was when (Spielberg and George Lucas) became alarmed at the content of the ‘Rex Attacking the Children’ sequence. This sequence had been approved in storyboard with exactly the same staging and timing. However, once animated, it became very intense and both filmmakers were very concerned about the ‘fright level’.
“They said that it scared the sh*t out of them. Could we imagine what it would do to the younger audience members? They’d run to the lobby and be afraid to come back into the theater. They would have nightmares for weeks.
“Steven met with us and his editor the next day and cut nineteen scenes from the sequence. Mostly, closeups of Rex, chomping at the kids or at the camera. They were right. It would have scared the heck out of the four to eight year olds. But, for us, it was a terrific blow to our egos.
“As for the animators, they were very upset, as that sequence really sold the viciousness of the Rex and the flow of the continuity was almost musical. After the cuts, the sequence felt choppy.”
Jack Bradbury and Walt Kelly. Animator Dave Bennett introduced me to animator and comic book artist Jack Bradbury while we were all standing in line to get into the San Diego Comic Con one year. Bradbury started at Disney and went on to work at Warner Brothers for Friz Freleng and ended up working in comic books.
Bradbury wrote in a 1996 letter:
“In 1934, I went to Disney’s from Seattle and worked there until the strike of ’41. After several years of apprenticeship and assisting, I went on to animate on ‘Ferdinand the Bull’ (1936). Walt Kelly and I worked side by side, he just making a transitional change from the story department into animation. Later at the time of the strike, I became a striker and Kelly quit the studio and went east to work for Western Publishing. While there he created Pogo and the rest is history. Pogo, to my mind, was one of the very best strips of all time…until he got too deeply into politics.”
I’m Late. Songwriters Bob Hilliard and Sammy Fain contributed songs to Disney’s animated feature Alice in Wonderland (1951). As Fain recalled, “The original version (of the song “I’m Late”) was somewhat different, not as hurried. We had played it for Walt and he liked it.
But that night I kept thinking about it and finally wrote out a second version. The next day I got in to see Walt and played if for him and he was delighted. There are few studios I know of where you could get in to see the top man and have him change his mind on a song.”
Disney’s Rotten Tomatoes. In the Disney short The Practical Pig (1939), Walt and his gang thought they could get a good laugh out of pelting the Big Bad Wolf with overripe tomatoes, a standard gag. They tried dropping wet sponges, wash cloths, and, of course, tomatoes, but failed to achieve the desired sound effect.
Somehow they arrived at the noise they wanted by punching a leather cushion, making a breathing sound into a microphone and adding a raspberry…and then playing all the combined sounds backwards!