December 11, 2015 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #241


The Secret Origin of Huey, Dewey and Louie. A daily Donald Duck comic strip drawn by Al Taliaferro (who had been assisting Floyd Gottfredson on the Mickey Mouse strip) first appeared in newspapers beginning February 7, 1938. The first Donald Duck Sunday strip appeared December 10, 1939. Bob Karp was the writer of the Donald Duck strips although Taliaferro also contributed gags and ideas including the creation of new characters like Bolivar the St. Bernard dog, Grandma Duck (based on Taliaferro’s mother-in-law) and Huey, Dewey and Louie.

The nephews were sent to temporarily stay with their Uncle Donald on October 17,1937 until their father recovered in the hospital from one of their pranks where they set off a giant firecracker under the chair in which he was sitting. They were later used in a Donald Duck short, Donald’s Nephews (April 15, 1938) and Walt Disney Productions Story Department sent Taliaferro a memo (dated February 5, 1938) and a check.

The memo read: “Inasmuch as we have decided to actually put a story crew to work on “Donald’s Nephews”, we would like to recognize the source from which the original idea of these new characters sprang. Hence, the enclosed check.

Thanks — we hope to make a good story out of this.”


Medium Not Genre. The Christian Science Monitor on March 15, 2005 printed a letter from animator and director Brad Bird responding to their recent article about Hollywood embracing CGI animation. “Animation is not a genre. Whether it’s computer-generated, hand-drawn, claymation, stop-motion, or anything else, animation is a medium, an art form that can tell stories in any genre. Perhaps if the press (as well as film executives and filmmakers themselves) stopped confusing a method of storytelling with a single kind of story, the medium of animation would expand its horizons”.

Barbera’s Tale of Woe. In the book “Inside the TV Business” (1979), producer Joe Barbera shared his tale of woe: “In 1957, my partner (William Hanna) and I started completely from scratch with $4,000 each. You’re going to ask ‘how did you mange that?’ and it’s quite a story but we did. We were lucky. We had been doing Tom and Jerry cartoons for MGM until 1957. I’ll give you my tale of woe on that count.

joebarbera-huck“Bill Hanna and I did every single one of them. We wrote them, produced them, directed them and finally left MGM. They’re still running them. They might make $20 million this year in syndication with the same things that we did, and Bill and I don’t get one dime out of that. It’s like movie stars who see their pictures on the Late Show and they don’t get a dime and they’re starving.”

It never occurred to Barbera that perhaps the artists, musicians and others who worked on those Tom and Jerry cartoons should also be compensated. Of course, it never occurred to him that the creative people working for him in 1979 who had created such “evergreen” stars as Scooby-Doo and The Flintstones that allowed his studio to survive should get any additional compensation. Now, that’s a real tale of woe.

snooper-blabber-colorbookKricfalusi’s Early Influences. From The Onion March 4, 2001 Volume 37, Issue 12, animator and director John Kricfalusi on his cartoon influences: “I loved all cartoons but for some reason there was something about the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons like Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw. They ran those three cartoons every afternoon along with Beany and Cecil. So those were my favorite cartoons at the time.

“I just sat there drawing them all day. And I went out and bought all the coloring books and all the comic books. In the comic books, they’d show you how to draw the characters. They’d have a grid. So I’d do that and that style became ingrained in me.

“When I went to high school and got rebellious like everybody else, I just drew rebellious versions of Hanna-Barbera cartoons. I was a skinny kid, not athletic or anything but I wanted to go to the parties with the football players and stuff. And to make sure I didn’t get my ass kicked, I would have to be the life of the party. So I’d be telling jokes or drawing this strip I called ‘Cave Newts’ that I used to do in high school which was dirty stories with the Flintstones.”

Feeling Old. Kenny Ortega who directed the Disney Channel movie “Descendants” about the kids of classic Disney animated characters ran into a situation early in the filming. “The kids in our cast are as young as fourteen,” said Ortega in Entertainment Weekly (August 7, 2015). “Not all of them had seen the movies these characters are based on. I invited everyone over and we had movie and pizza night and watched the classics. They had to know where Cruella de Vil came from.”

Apparently some adults could have used a refresher course as well in order to get the proper nomenclature. The map in the beginning of the film lists “Skull Island”, the home of King Kong, rather than “Skull Rock” the island shaped like a huge skull where Peter Pan rescued Princess Tiger Lily from Captain Hook.

reluctant-lobbyThe Reluctant Dragon That Never Was. Conference transcripts for the Disney feature The Reluctant Dragon (1941) indicate that Walt considered including in the picture the “Clair de Lune” sequence, conducted by Leopold Stokowski that had been dropped from Fantasia (1940) as well as Benny Goodman, providing the music for a special cartoon sequence about jungle animals dancing to swing music. Walt even suggested Sterling Holloway as the voice of the Reluctant Dragon character. None of these things are in the final film.

Studio documents also indicate that Ub Iwerks directed and animated several miscellaneous animated segments for the film in November 1940, most of which were not used. These included “ghost images” of Donald Duck and Clara Cluck, which were to be double-printed over the live-action scenes of Clarence Nash and Florence Gill performing the voices.

The same documents show that Iwerks also directed the black-and-white sequence featuring Casey Jr. (that never showed up in Dumbo), and that the Donald Duck drawings used as props in the camera sequence showing how Donald walks were made by the Disney comic strip department not the animation department. In the original draft, more footage of the Old Macdonald Duck (1941) short was planned to be used.


  • Great comment about Joe Barbera, he could have learned a little empathy. Of course, he and his partner had much more to do with the success of their TV creations than the MGM management who wanted to end Tom & Jerry after the first cartoon. In addition, their films won 7 Oscars but it was producer Fred Quimby who took the statuettes home, even though he had nothing to do with their creation. According to Barbera’s autobiography he and Bill Hanna had to sneak into Quimbys’ office just to get a photo with their prizes.

  • In the John K. anecdote it should be ‘Cave Nudes’ not ‘Cave Newts’.

  • I don’t want to sound like this is all about me, but as I read about John Kricfalusi’s early days of drawing and finding his style, I had to smile with recognition at my own years drawing and using some of those coloring books with the onion skin sheet that allowed you to trace the characters. I used to do a lot of those, too, and I developed a “style” similar to both the Hanna-Barbera method and the Charles Schultz style. I always remember seeing TV shows that were going inside an animation studio where the artist would sketch his character as a series of geometic designs neatly fitted together, but I never, ever drew a character like that and I wondered whether professionals really approached their drawings like that, especially when they were animating with images in their heads of their characters from all angles…and, boy, would I love to see and hear the missing pieces discussed about Disney features like “FANTASIA” and “DUMBO” and “THE RELUCTANT DRAGON”. Surely, these should have shown up somewhere on the corresponding DVD sets, no? Is there a special feature I’m missing somewhere?

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