September 11, 2015 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #229


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.”

Orson Welles

Orson Welles

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.

land_before_time“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.”

The-practical-pig-movie-poster-1939-1020197993I’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!


  • No tomatoes thrown at wolf. 🙁

    • They seem to be using this when the two pigs in the pie sneeze and the pie “splorts” on the little wolves.

      By the way, I had a picturebook translated to Bulgarian based on this film as a kid. I didn’t seen this particular film until much later, but the lie detector scenes were definitely amusing. I don’t know how official the book was, but it was good.

    • Maybe it’s actually describing the ketchup squirted onto the pigs’ faces? The sound effects sound similar to what is described in the article.

  • Too bad Walt could not briefly share the stage. Letting others shine enhances our own light. Guess Walt never knew that.

    • Walt may have been concerned that Welles at his creative peak just might have made a better animated feature than what had been done at Disney so far, which his ego could not abide.

  • I recall Eric Goldberg had a story about a writer hired for Looney Tunes Back In Action that asked about Bugs, “Does he have to say, ‘What’s Up Doc?’ ?”

  • But thank God Dante & Goldberg were involved. It could have been much worse.

  • I listened to the surreal paintings sequence featuring the LOONEY TUNES stars; what can I say? It feels so out of place without the usual talent involved, right down to the scoring–I wonder what Carl Stalling would have done with a sequence like that, but animation scoring in general has changed and, whether those at Warner Brothers want to hear it or not, the characters are of their time and, if you don’t want to look at it that way, at least own up to the fact that they have a vast history and it should be celebrated completely. Even in its mirror of Disney, the Warner Brothers animated cartoon has always been in a class by itself–to me, never boring! I feel Joe Dante’s pain.

    • Actually, the clip above, from the Louvre museum sequence of Looney Tunes: Back In Action, was not only one of the highlights of the film but it was the closest to the actual spirit of the original studio and the characters. I love that it works as a stand alone “cartoon” on its own in excerpted form. Bravo Eric Goldberg and the crew!

  • Even though I feel the way I do about Warner Brothers cartoons, I rather liked “NORMAN NORMAL” and I wish that they had started a whole new generation of perhaps subversive animated cartoons to mirror *THAT* time! Boy, society was certain ripe for parody as much later on as they were in the truly golden age of LOONEY TUNES, but I stand by my comments above.

    • Me too, I loved Norman Normal – but didn’t see the Looney film in question..

  • So “Looney Tunes” is the singular form?

  • While he explicitly said “after 1960”, I feel like Dante was referring to the DePatie-Freleng/Seven Arts era, which is widely regarded as inferior to the previous eras- and I agree, aside from a few exceptions that are guilty pleasures.

    • Yeah, there were some good cartoons done right before the original studios shut down in 1963 such as Pepe’s own venture in the Louvre in his final cartoon.

  • After reading the first article I have MUCH more respect for Joe Dante. I’d always thought that the overabundance over hip hop ‘tude, and the 1960s versions of the characters used, was okayed by HIM! Now I know otherwise.

    • What do you mean by the ’60’s version of the characters? I don’t think Daffy was an evil jerk in that movie. Plus, what hip-hop ‘tude? I didn’t see much in that either.

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