December 18, 2015 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #242

How An Animation Career Changed. From the book “Inside the TV Business (1979) by Paul Klein and Steve Morgenstern, Hanna-Barbera legend Joe Barbera talked about how an animation career changed with the shift to television animation:

Bill-hanna-and-joe-barbera200“When we were doing motion picture cartoons, we worked a full year. It was a steady job. Disney was steady. Warner’s was steady. People who were being trained were super people. Suddenly, it all stopped, because they stopped making theatrical cartoons and started going into television which was seasonal. So for eighteen or twenty years, we had almost no new talent.

“When people came into our studio, they’d see our staff with seeing-eye dogs, in wheelchairs. We couldn’t train anybody, because if a young aspiring artist walked in the door, we would say ‘terrific but we’ve got to tell you that you only have a six month job and then we have to lay you off.’ We used to fire everybody just before Christmas.”

Frank Tashlin Goes To Disney. As Frank Tashlin remembered being at Disney: “At that time, Max Fleischer came out with the second animated feature, Gulliver’s Travels (1939), and I remember meeting with Walt (Disney) and he said, ‘we can do better than that with our second-string animators’.

clock-cleaners-tiny“One of the reasons I wanted to go to Disney’s was to help the cause of the union. We couldn’t crack them. I was able to make some inroads over there, and finally we went on strike and they had to join the union. When I left Leon’s (Schlessinger/Warners), I was making a hundred and fifty a week, and when I got into Disney’s I was making fifty. But it was worth it for what I wanted to do.

Pinocchio (1940) was being worked on when I was there. I went to some gag meetings, I know, but I don’t remember if I made a contribution. Disney made some brilliant cartoons. I think two of the finest examples of great cartoon stories was Moose Hunters (1937) and Clock Cleaners (1937). Roy Williams came up with the idea for Clock Cleaners. Here were three different characters and they all had their own stories but they were all interwoven.

“They said that Walt had once worked as a waiter, and it taught him humility, and he said everyone should have a little dose of humility. That was the story. I don’t know the truth of it. When you went to Walt’s, no matter where you came from, you had to learn what they called humility. Which meant that your chevrons had to be ripped off you and the drums rolled.”

peanuts-poster-tinyIt’s Meghan Trainor, Charlie Brown. In Entertainment Weekly (August 7, 2015), there was a brief article about singer Meghan “All About the Bass” Trainor writing the song “Better When I’m Dancin’” for the animated feature The Peanuts Movie. Director Steve Martino asked her to create a song about confidence.

When Trainor began suffering vocal troubles on tour earlier in 2015, she found her inspiration for the tune. “I feel better when I’m on stage, dancing and distracted,” she explained. “So that’s what I wrote about: feeling better when you’re dancing and forgetting about everything else.”

Benchley Bust. In the Disney feature The Reluctant Dragon (1941), comedian Robert Benchley wanders into a room at the Disney Studio that includes maquettes including ones for Aunt Sarah, Si, and Am from Lady and the Tramp (1955) and Captain Hook and Tinker Bell from Peter Pan (1953). While both films were in development at the time, they would not be completed until the early 1950s because of the war. In addition, there are maquettes of the black centaurette and Chernabog from Fantasia (1940) and Jiminy Cricket and a cuckoo clock from Pinocchio (1940).

Click To Enlarge

Click To Enlarge

As a gag at the end of the segment, Benchley is given a maquette of himself, basically a head bust. Many years later it was purchased by Warner Brothers cartoon director Chuck Jones.

When a hardcover book was released by Joe Grant and Dick Huemer of their original story Baby Weems for the film, it included “A Foreword and a Protest” by Robert Benchley where the humorist argued that the image of Baby Weems was not based on his baby picture.

Green Is The New Red. Australian animator Cam Ford who worked on Yellow Submarine (1968) was also a unit director on the television animated series Lone Ranger (1966). His friend Chis Miles was doing backgrounds. Ford told Luke Menichelli, “We particularly liked the bold graphic design of the project, which used a background technique consisting of heavily drawn black chinagraph overlays on cel, under which torn Pantone colored paper was positioned.

“The more roughly torn the paper, the better the whole thing looked! One time, Chris made a bet with another background artist that he could style a whole episode – set entirely in an arid sun-bleached desert – using only tones of green. Even the hot blazing sun was a lemon-green. On film, it was a brilliant success!”


robots-tinyMarketing Robots. Director Chris Wedge on the commentary track for the Fox CGI animated feature Robots (2005) stated that in the scene with Fender and Rodney attempting to get past Tim, voice actor Robin Williams recorded it eight different times using eight different accents including as a Polish valet.

The production budget for the film was approximately $73 million but no less than $100 million in promotional partnerships were lined up in connection with the film including Burger King, Kellogg’s, Verizon,, AOL, Wal-Mart and more including the U.S. Postal Service where three billion “Robots” cancellation stamps were on America’s mail. There was even a Robots flavored ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery. However, there was no product placement in the actual film itself.

Coonskin II. In the Los Angeles Times, April 24, 2005, director and producer Ralph Bakshi claimed, “I had a meeting last week with the Wu-Tang Clan. They want to do Coonskin II – seriously. Rappers love it because Coonskin (1975) had a very early form of rap. I called it shouting because I read in black history that slaves used to shout their frustration. Quentin Tarantino did thirty minutes at Cannes on Coonskin.”

“I never saw myself as an animation director. I was a film director who was making movies in animation.”


  • Yeesh, exaggerate much, Mr. Barbera?

  • Confidentially, has any animated film by Blue Sky even had product placements?

  • Listening to the “COONSKIN” trailer, it almost sounds as if this could have been directed by Bob Clampett! Ah, in a perfect world, I’d love to own a DVD/Blu-ray set of all those earliest Bakshi films, “FRITZ THE CAT”, “HEAVY TRAFFIC”, “COONSKIN”–all those renderings of underground cartoons that I used to enjoy reading, and it sounds like all the right voices were used for the film!! So sad, though, that Max Fleischer’s work was considered by *ANYONE* to be inferior. Fleischer animation was a style, a very interesting technique that sometimes blended so nicely with live action in some of the eeriest ways. For Disney to make such a statement about Fleischer’s work is like saying that a lemon is so much better than a cherry. How could you compare? In fact, if the Fleischer/Famous artists were able to show off their techniques more within the framework of their cartoons, I think that the Fleischer/Famous Studios would have truly done something original! But we can’t invent history, so…

  • The 60’s “Lone Ranger” was a great looking show that really stood out from the rest of the Saturday-morning pack. The “look” of it was (to me) reminiscent of woodcut illustrations with their heavy, dark, jagged lines; it gave the show a really “Western” feeling. They may have borrowed some from the (uncredited) DePatie-Freleng title sequence from “The Wild Wild West,” but they took it further.

    • They seemed to have borrowed a bit more from “The Wild Wild West” – the villain Tiny Tom was probably inspired by Dr. Loveless.

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