January 22, 2016 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #246

It’s All Happening At the Zoo. From cartoonist Jack Bradbury’s unpublished autobiography: “The recruiting of new talent to beef up the (Disney animation) staff (in the 1930s) had been going well and an excellent instructor from Chouinard’s Art School in L.A., Don Graham, was hired. Don soon had us trainees in a two hour life sketching class twice a week and at the Griffith Park Zoo two mornings a week sketching live animals.

Jack Bradbury at Disney

Jack Bradbury at Disney

“I was awfully happy to be a part of this, for advanced art training was something I’d not had, but wanted and needed badly. The life classes were held from three to five in the afternoon using nude models, something else I’d never done before, but found most interesting.

“Sketching at the zoo was done from about eight-thirty to noon, when we’d return for lunch. Some January and February mornings were awfully cold at the zoo because it was located in a canyon shaded from the morning sun and sketching was quite difficult until your hands thawed out. It was a surprise to me that California got this cold. When not at the zoo or in life class, we kept very busy working on the current shorts in production.”

10-1China Keeps Transformers. In 1989, The People’s Daily newspaper said that Beijing TV would continue showing episodes of the animated television series The Transformers despite the fact that the previous month twenty members of the National People’s Congress (Chinese legislature) urged a ban on the cartoon stating “the absurd ideological content of The Transformers, especially its promotion of war as something good, will poison the next generation.”

The legislature also said the program was just “disguised advertising” and called for a ban on all Transformer toys. Some items were priced at the equivalent of a Chinese worker’s annual wage and were still hot sellers. The cartoon, in translation, was being shown in Beijing and Shanghai. Shanghai’s Xinmin News said the cartoon was full of “wisdom, enthusiasm and advice to young viewers about the distinction between justice and hegemony, kindness and bellicosity”. Others echoed that the cartoon was helpful for developing a child’s intelligence and imagination.

Canadian Raccoons. Kevin Gillis one of the forces behind the Raccoons animated series told Ottawa’s Downtown Magazine in 1989, “The Raccoons were first conceived when I was working on a cooking series by Bruno Gerussi with a friend by the name of Gary Dumford. In between eating all the leftovers, we dreamed up television ideas. Raccoons was one that was originally conceived as a live-action puppet show shot in the Gatineaus. The Raccoons evolved into an animated series that was eventually picked up by the CBC, the BBC, France’s Antenne 2 and the Disney Channel.”

Tummy_Trouble_posterDon Hahn on Roger Rabbit Shorts. In the Boston-Herald newspaper June 23, 1989, Disney producer Don Hahn said, “All of us had knocked around the idea of doing another (Roger Rabbit) short because the other one (at the beginning of the feature film) had been received so well. I came up with a list of about twenty ideas last fall, most of which could be described in one sentence. Then in December we did three up on storyboards. We pitched those to Steven (Spielberg) and Jeffrey Katzenberg and we went away with the idea that Tummy Trouble would be the first.

“That it was going out with Honey I Shrunk the Kids was determined pretty early on. It really wasn’t appropriate to go out with Dead Poet’s Society or something like that. The idea of having them appear at the end in a live action setting like the first one was driven by the Disney Company that wanted it inextricably linked to the first one. The whole idea of the ending was to keep alive the conceptual twist on the characters that the first film had. Just to remind everybody that they exist in that world. (Producer Frank Marshall directed the live-action ending.)

“Other shorts like Roller Coaster Rabbit, Hare in My Soup and Clean and Oppressed are also under consideration. We’re trying to see if we can develop a Tom and Jerry-like group of characters that could exist in a cartoon series. There has to be something that was similar or familiar for an audience going to see them again. If we took the characters completely out of 1948 and out of that genre of movie, I think it would be a little too jarring.”

6032493tomNew Is Not Always Better. In the June 29,1989 issue of Variety, Gerry Hogan, then president of both Turner Network Television and Turner Entertainment Networks talked about committing to 13 half hours of Tom and Jerry Kids: “We told Joe (Barbera) to take all the time he needed. We’re not going to press him. We really want them to do it right. We have the capability of using product like this over years and years. The reason for creating a new Tom and Jerry Kids instead of updating the original Tom and Jerry characters is an effort to prevent dilution of the more than 300 Tom and Jerry segments currently in syndication. There are a lot of Tom and Jerry cartoons in the can. Tom and Jerry Kids offers more potential for new storylines and fresher characters. For instance, unlike the originals, they will speak.”

The Daredevil That Never Was. Following the success of the animated television series Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (1981), Marvel Productions attempted to sell an animated series based on the character of Daredevil in 1984. ABC was interested but didn’t like any of the proposals (some with contributions from Stan Lee) and writer Mark Evanier was brought in to write a bible and pilot episode for what was to be called Daredevil and Lightning the Superdog. Actually, the dog was not super but alter-ego Matt Murdock’s seeing-eye dog who helped Daredevil much in the style of Lassie. They drove around in a van that had a cannon in the back that could fire Daredevil into the air. ABC picked up the series, announced it in the trade papers and then dropped it before it went into production. In 1999, Fox network was interested in a Daredevil animated series but Marvel decided to delay it until the release of the 2003 Ben Affleck film with the character at which time Fox lost interest in the series.



  • Since Disney now own the rights to Marvel Entertainment I wonder if there’s going to be a animated Daredevil series airing on The Disney Channel or Disney XD in the immediate future?

    Also Tom and Jerry Kids was part of Hanna Barbera’s “Pint Size” version of several of their iconic series which included The Flintstone Kids (The Flinstones), the poorly written (In my opinion) A Pup Named Scooby Doo (Scooby Doo) and the totally forgettable Yo Yogi! (Yogi Bear)((which was considered as on of the stupidest shows that ever air according by parental watchdog group.))

    Luckily The Jetsons weren’t involved as part of the “Pint Size” “”revolution”” (even though there was a sneak preview on how George Jetson and Cosmo Spacely would have looked like as kids in the episode A Jetsons Christmas Carol.)

    • In some ways, Hanna Barbera’s SPACE KIDDETTES (1966) was a “pint-size” version of The Jetsons. It had a stylistic resemblance though it never used any of the Jetsons characters.

    • I remember Arsenio Hall one made fun of Yo Yogi! on his show. (I don’t think he’d seen it, but just that it was a dumb concept.) It wasn’t just kids that thought it was dumb.

    • I wonder how a pint-sized Popeye, Woody Woodpecker, or Tex Avery would have played out.

    • There was already a pint-sized Popeye in a couple of Famous cartoons. And there was a young (and elder) Woody in “Born to Peck”.

  • Field trips to the zoo were a part of Disney Feature Animation in the 1990’s as well. According to a friend who worked as a rough in-betweener, the experienced artists knew to be discreet while sketching in public. The novices would often get spotted by school children and their parents and before long were besieged with requests to draw Ariel, Mickey, Donald, etc., etc. Meanwhile, the old pros could slip away to sketch again another day.

  • Interesting little note about The Raccoons originally being thought of as a puppet show. Several years after the Raccoons, Gillis produced a puppet series for tv in Canada called The Longhouse Tales. While it had really nice looking puppets, I found the host to be bland, and the writing to not be very good. I guess this is why today the show is not very well known, but does make me want to learn more about Kevin Gillis, as I am a puppeteer myself.

  • And people who don’t live out here don’t realize the zoo is nearby the Disney Studios. Even when they were on Hyperion it was still close.

  • I think all the ‘kid’ stuff started with Muppet Babies. Once that was a success, kid everything soon followed! There was even James Bond Jr for crying out loud- Popeye got close with Popeye and Son.

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