November 13, 2015 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #237

the-cat-concerto-movie-poster-1947-1020198053Who’s First? Rhapsody Rabbit was released November 9, 1946 by Warner Brothers and features concert pianist Bugs Bunny’s challenges as he tries to perform Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 on a grand piano while being harassed by a mouse.

The Cat Concerto was released April 26, 1947 by MGM and features concert pianist Tom the Cat’s challenges as he tries to perform Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 on a grand piano while being harassed by Jerry the Mouse.

Pianist Jakob Gimpel, according to his son Peter, did not want to be known as “the guy who played piano for Bugs Bunny” so he is not credited on the Warners’ cartoon. According to Jakob Gimpel’s daybook there is a listing that states: “Thursday, January 31, 1946, at 8:00 AM: “Warner Bros. – 2nd Rhapsody for cartoon.” Studio records list Gimpel recording the music on February 2, 1946 and being paid $250.

According to historian and voice artist Keith Scott, the pianist for The Cat Concerto was Calvin Jackson who recorded Liszt’s Rhapsody No. 2 on April 8, 1946. Peter Gimpel believes the uncredited pianist for the MGM cartoon was Shura Cherkassky, a friend of his father Jakob, who as a prank shared the idea of a cartoon character playing Liszt’s famous composition and being interrupted by a mouse with MGM.

rhapsody-rabbit-mouseOthers have suggested that the uncredited pianist in the MGM cartoon was actually musical director Scott Bradley assisted by John Crown, Head of Piano at University of Southern California. Producer Joe Barbera could not remember who the pianist was other than someone famous. The Cat Concerto won the Academy Award as the Best Animated Short and Rhapsody Rabbit wasn’t even nominated.

While many people have made informed guesses, the mystery remains unsolved as to how the two cartoons are so similar and why both were rushed through production at the same time. Animation historian Thad Komorowski wrote a terrific article about the controversy at this link.

Joe Barbera on Godzilla Voices. From the book “Inside the TV Business (1979) by Paul Klein and Steve Morgenstern, Hanna-Barbera legend Joe Barbera talked about the voices for the 1978 Godzilla animated series: “Yesterday, we were testing voices for Godzilla and Godzooky. You have to see this to believe it because there’s Ted Cassidy, who’s a huge giant of a man, and he’s roaring as Godzilla and then Don Messick is answering him as Godzooky, the small one. We have to get personality and fun into it. Now, we live and die on the pick of the voices. I was trying to get a personality with the little guy and I tried to get some words out of him. Well, he came out sounding like an idiot. So now, we got two actors in a room and they begin to communicate with sounds, and we were getting some laughs out of it.”

Dragons and Dogs. From The New Yorker January 17, 2005 in an article by Margaret Talbot who spent some time at Studio Ghibli is an incident that happened during the making of the animated feature Spirited Away (2001).

spirited-dragons-teeth“Miyazaki goes on to describe (to his young staff) a scene in which his heroine, Chihiro forces open the dragon’s mouth to give it medicine, he says the animators should be thinking, as they draw, of what it’s like to feed a dog a pill, when you tip its head to the side, and ‘the dog clenches its teeth and its gums stick out’. There is note-taking but no sign that this might be a familiar experience.

‘Any of you ever had a dog?’ Miyazaki asks.

‘I had a cat,’ someone volunteers.

‘This is pathetic,’ Miyazaki says. The staff was taken to a field trip that night to a veterinary hospital, videotaping a golden retriever’s gums and teeth, and then returning to the studio to study the video.”

Roy E. Disney Remembers Joe Grant. When Disney Legend Joe Grant passed away on May 6, 2005, Roy E. Disney who had headed Disney Feature Animation from 1983 to 2004 remarked, “I think there was always a gentle sweetness to Joe and his work. There’s a gentility in everything he touched. But there’s also a great sophistication. He was one of the truly great craftsmen of our art, but he always saw his craft as a way to communicate ideas.”

Thurl Ravenscroft Up In The Air. Thurl Ravenscroft did a lot of voice over work in animation from Tony the Tiger to singing the Grinch theme song to several jobs for Disney. However, in his biographies, the following information is never mentioned.

cereal-1During World War II, he became a navigator for the Air Transport Command, flying 150 North Atlantic crossings. On one mission, his crew flew Prime Minister Winston Churchill to Algiers for a conference with Allied military leaders.

After the war, Ravenscroft was in charge of ground training for Trans World Airlines’ (TWA) new international division where he met his future wife, June, a flight attendant for TWA, in 1946. They were married three weeks later and remained married until she passed away in 1999. In 1947, he returned to Hollywood and formed a popular male quartet called the Mellomen.

Ravenscroft was highly religious and recorded the Book of Psalms for the Blind and in 1981 he began narrating annual presentations of “The Glory of Christmas” at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove. When people asked how he made a living, he would say, “Well today I sang like a mouse; I was a horse out in the barn; I was the voice of a coyote.”

Brad Bird on The Incredibles Sequel in 2005. Earlier this year, Brad Bird confirmed that Incredibles 2 was officially in development. Ten years prior, on March 19th, 2005, animator and director Brad Bird talked to the New York Post about the possibility of a sequel to The Incredibles (2004).

“I would say ‘never say never’. But there are good sequels and there are bad sequels. I might be interested if the original filmmakers were involved – and in every case they thought they could improve up on the original and if I had an idea that could take the characters into new places. I don’t think the world needs another Jaws 2. I have no sympathy for any film company interested in doing that kind of sequel.

“My previous film The Iron Giant (1999) was seen wrongly as a left-wing film and some people have misconstrued ‘The Incredibles’ as having a right-wing agenda. Both those analyses are very limited.”


  • “Ravenscroft was highly religious and recorded the Book of Psalms for the Blind and in 1981 he began narrating annual presentations of “The Glory of Christmas” at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove.”

    As a big fan of his VO work, it’d be a real treat to hear these recordings!

    • Thurl appeared on a bunch of Christian-themed albums. “The Glory of Christmas” cast LP isn’t that hard to find, at least in Southern California. Check ebay.

      There’s a particularly good one called “Great Hymns in Story and Song”, in which he narrates the stories of how various popular hymns came to be written. Some of the performances are backed by an a cappella choir.

    • To me, his IS the voice of GOD!

    • Thanks, Eric!

  • On Cat Comcerto they wisely snuck a plug for the live action movie The Harvey Girls starring Judy Garland by having Jerry accompanied by Tom preforming the song from The Harvey Girls, The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe during the concert.

  • From Ravenscroft’s Book of Psalms recording-

    “Psalms 145:3 – GRRRRRREAT is the Lord, and GRRRRRREATly to be praised; and His GRRRRRREATness is unsearchable.

  • To tell you the truth, I never liked RHAPSODY RABBIT. It seemed like one of those occasional shorts the guys did to take Bugs down a peg (TORTOISE BEATS HARE, FALLING HARE, RABBIT TRANSIT, etc.). Too bad it was so far into production because it would have been an opportunity to parody the Tom & Jerry formula. Bugs could have trashed the little smart-aleck mouse that Tom could never do. Instead, we get Bugs as Elmer being pranked by a mouse as Bugs.

    • An inveterate wise guy getting the tables turned on him by a seemingly inferior opponent is a great comic set-up, and I’ve always felt that Rhapsody Rabbit was one oif the funniest WB cartoons of all time. In the scores of times over the descades that I’ve played it to audiences of all ages, it’s never come across to anybody as anything less than a laugh riot. I don’t see any reason that the Bugs Bunny character needs to be locked into never-can-lose scenarios, and if done right it’s not in the least out of character when he falls on his face.

    • Regarding mr pennas comment on Bugs needing to be taken down a peg, pretty good idea compared to how Daffy might be in a decade later

  • I’ve always been partial to Cat Concerto over Rhapsody Rabbit – particularly due to the attention of detail demonstrated in CC. For example: if you look at Tom’s fingers while he is playing the piano intro to Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody #2, he is actually playing the correct notes on the keys, a meticulousness often thrown to the wind in animation.

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