The Foray Voice. I love and respect June Foray dearly but I always bristle a little when I hear her say that her first animation voice work was for Disney’s animated feature Cinderella (1950). She has told the story so often that I am sure she believes it to be the truth just as other voice-over artists like Mel Blanc told similar inaccuracies about their careers repeatedly over the years. Old issues of Radio Life magazine state that she did voices for cartoons in the 1940s..
One of the earliest was probably The Unbearable Bear (1942) for Chuck Jones where she did the voice of Mrs. Bear. Her mechanically sped up voice can be heard in Walter Lantz’s final Oswald the Rabbit cartoon, The Egg Cracker Suite (1943). I am sure she did others that are as yet undiscovered but as other researchers well know, finding documentation or any kind of confirmation is quite a challenge.
Animated Hawley Pratt. In the Warner cartoon Ain’t She Tweet (1952), the on-screen mailman was a caricature of Friz Freleng’s layout man, Hawley Pratt. Freleng directed this cartoon and Pratt did layouts for it. Pratt directed Señorella and the Glass Huarache (1964), the last Looney Tunes cartoon released by Warners when it originally shut down the department. Pratt also did the layouts for this Cinderella tale set in Mexico.
Royston Stork. In the Warners’ cartoon Baby Bottleneck (1946) there is a reference to “Royston Stork”. Stork was a real person and was a friend of Bob Clampett who directed the cartoon. They had first met in an acting class being taught by movie character actor J. Farrell MacDonald who had appeared in over three hundred films and passed away in 1952.
If It Was Good The First Time. John McLeish was not only the narrator for Warners’ The Dover Boys at Pimento University (1942) but also did some character designs. Then, when he was at Screen Gems, McLeish wrote and voiced a Columbia short cartoon entitled The Rocky Road to Ruin (1943) with a similar storyline of a stalwart hero battling a melodramatic villain for the pure heroine in an angular artistic design. The working title for the cartoon was From Rags to Rags. By the way, in the 2015 ABC television series Agent Carter, a brief segment of the public domain The Dover Boys cartoon is used as part of a subliminal messaging tool to train young girls in the Soviet Black Widow secret agent program.
(Embed Thanks to Thad K.)
Toshio Suzuki on Miyazaki. Studio Ghibli’s president and animation producer Toshio Suzuki has always likened his job at the studio to running a small business where animation legend Hayao Miyazaki is a father figure.
Before Ghibli, he was the chief editor of the animation magazine Animage. He got involved with the production of the 1984 film Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind and by 1989 had moved to Studio Ghibli where he became the public spokesman as Miyazaki withdrew from the spotlight to concentrate on his work.Suzuki told a reporter for a Japanese newspaper The Daily Yomiuri in November 2004, “We have about 180 people working here, with their average age being relatively young. In circumstances like this, you’re bound to see some guy falling for some female colleague.
“One time, Miya-san summoned a couple who he’d heard were living together. He told them that they should get married and to do so at the studio. But the young woman said, ‘I respect you, Mr. Miyazaki, and I know you’re in charge here but please don’t interfere with our private lives’. Upon hearing that, Miya-san looked down, totally crestfallen, as if a daughter had disobeyed her father.
“Miya-san believes you should work at improving your memory. If it’s a text that you find interesting, Miya-san will say, ‘Don’t copy it. Memorize it. If you forget it later, that means the text wasn’t important in the first place.’ He applies the same principle to images. You have to memorize them, down to the smallest detail.
“In contrast, Miya-san has little recollection of the past. He doesn’t remember things that happen in his daily life. What he remembers is always related to his imagery and creations. It’s just amazing.
“We never made and will never make a movie catering to foreign audiences. We operate here in Japan – or in Koganei, to be perfectly precise. It’s nice to see our work recognized outside Japan. But we must not forget that we make movies here in Koganei – a town we know as well as the back of our hand –and for the people living in this area.”
The Real Origin of the Madagascar Penguins. DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg had a high concept of a “Hard Day’s Night” style of movie but starring animated penguins. Producer Mireille Soria and director Eric Darnell began developing this faux ‘”rockumentary” about four penguins that made great music together and the tragic effects of fame on the group. The filmmakers used an early Beatles press conference to create a one minute clip with some endearing penguins.
Filmmaker Tom McGrath had been working for a year on a half on an animated movie of his own featuring penguins for a small independent production company but it was a more realistic story. The project fell through and McGrath went to DreamWorks where he saw the snippets of various projects including the penguins as the Beatles.
He hit it off with Eric Darnell but as soon as he signed on, the project was put on hiatus because while DreamWorks got music clearances from three of the Beatles, George Harrison (and later his estate) refused.
A few months later, McGrath became a storyboard artist on “Madagascar” (2005) and added a scene with penguins with a prisoner of war sensibility and it was a hit. McGrath got moved from story artist to co-director.
Katzenberg Celebrates the Differences. At a media conference in New York in March 2005, Jeffrey Katzenberg, then the Chief Executive of DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., said “The single greatest fiction about animated films is the possible glut of movies that are looming. It’s not as though all of these movies are the same. It’s not like they’re all James Bond movies… they couldn’t be more distinctive.”
Katzenberg was the guy who when he discovered that Finding Nemo was in development wanted his studio to do a fish film, when he heard that both Disney and Warners were developing films about animals escaping from a zoo wanted a similar film and of course produced ANTZ just before the release of A Bug’s Life.