February 5, 2016 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #248


Tezuka Talks. An excerpt from a letter sent to Bruno Edera by animator and director Osamu Tezuka on November 3, 1979: “I have been a caricaturist for 34 years. Animation is for me what we call a ‘favorite hobby’. At that time, I could not devote myself entirely to animation. During those years, I did have the opportunity of producing several animation works.

astro-boy-vintage“In 1961, I created Mushi Productions which was then the biggest studio (about 500 employees) with TOEI but I had to leave the position of President in 1971 because of an administrative problem. That was how I created Tezuka Productions.

“In spite of the passion I had for American works (including Disney’s), I was not completely satisfied with their “slapstick” approach. Of course, among the feature film works, some were mainly constituted by plots but I was not enough impressed by their musical comedies (or fairy stories). So I was convinced that animation needed from the origin of the story, some construction and staging which are inevitably necessary for live action dramas.

“It needs a constant solidity. That was how I decided to go over these clichés that had been accepted until then in animated films for television. Consequently, thanks to the new ideas that I had elaborated, I started to produce Tesuwan Atom (Astro Boy) for Japanese television. The diversity of the camera angle that you can see is only the staging technique developed at Mushi Productions which has become nowadays common to all the Japanese productions. Thus, the Japanese animated film for television has progressed in an original way, completely different from the United States. Ralph Bakshi told me that he had been stimulated by seeing my staging when he was just starting out. A lot of other people have told me over the years that it influenced them as well.”

Join Don Bluth! In 1989, a flyer announcing “Don Bluth is Looking for Classical Animators” was widely distributed. “We are looking for experienced classical animators who would like to be part of our team in Ireland producing top quality feature length animated films. On being accepted for the position of animator with Sullivan Bluth Studios Ltd. you will be given every assistance to settle into life here in Dublin. Remuneration will be of the highest level. We are prepared to pay for top quality. Your return flight will be paid as will the cost of bringing over your belongings to Ireland. Accommodation will be paid for the first eight weeks and you will be given every help to find suitable residence. All Dogs Go to Heaven, the first of three films to be produced is near completion. Production has commenced on the second film, Rock-A-Doodle, and plans for the third are being finalized.”

A Lantz Animated Feature? According to a trade newspaper advertisement in 1938, exhibitors could expect: “26 Moneymakers from Walter Lantz including 20 Cartune Comedies — 6 Nertzery Rhymes During 1938-39 featuring Little Speedy, ‘Dead End’ Mice, Andy Panda, Jock and Jill, Rinkle Puss. In preparation a full length all-color Cartune Feature. Walter Lantz Productions Released Thru Universal.”

bugs-chevyBugs Bunny Meets Chevy Chase. In the May 1992 issue of Starlog magazine, actor Chevy Chase talked about the possibility of a film directed by Richard Donner entitled Bugs Bunny Meets Chevy Chase. “It was an idea of mine that I threw out on an airplane one day. Dick and a couple of Warner Brothers executives were sitting there and they all said it was a great idea. It’s a lot like Who Framed Roger Rabbit with half animation and half live action that would be about Bugs Bunny and myself. Right now, the ball’s in Dick and Lauren’s (Donner’s producer wife) court. Lauren has supposedly been working on it for quite a while.”

Is That You? In the April 16, 1993 issue of Entertainment Weekly magazine, actress Kathleen Turner talked about reading classics like Goldilocks to the students at her five year old daughter’s private school in Manhattan. “Kids want to know about Jessica Rabbit,” Turner stated. “They say, ‘Was that really you?’”

Jeff Smith and Animation. In the Advance Comics #55 ordering guide for July 1993, cartoonist Jeff Smith of Bone stated, “Well, I don’t have any plans for animating Bone. I have been contacted by some studios but I don’t have any plans for anything like that right now. If the right thing came along. If I thought the right company could do it, I would listen. The Bloom County cartoon with Opus was very well done. (A Wish For Wings That Work 1991) But the costs of animation are so high. The quality level that I would expect would be pretty hard to reach and I’d rather not do it than do it badly.

Bone_Issue_1“So even though I like merchandising, I still think you have to have standards. I did animation as a hobby. I had a little Super-8 camera, and I just did it for fun. I had a friend from elementary school days who was going to OSU with me, and he did this animation with me as a hobby also. We ran into a third guy who was working at the University cinematography department who actually could get his hands on and knew how to operate a real animation camera. And the three of us were like the only people in Ohio at the time who did animation.

“People would say, ‘You do this for a hobby?’ It’s an incredible amount of work! We just decided that there was no one else in Ohio doing it at the time, so we formed a company, and it worked. We did that for about five years, did actual commercials, worked on feature films, worked on Bebe’s Kids (1992) and FernGully (1992) and Rover Dangerfield (1991). These were just movies we worked for hire on. They were all films that went pretty much straight to video, but it was fun and we made a lot of contacts out on the West Coast.”

Jeff Smith co-founded with friends Jim Kammerud and Marty Fuller Character Builders Inc. animation studio in 1986 in Columbus, Ohio. Kammerud later moved to Disney doing animation, directing, character design and storyboarding for several animated projects, primary sequels like The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (2000).


  • There was a genuine look to ASTRO BOY, not only in the camera angles, but also in the way they used black ad white. There is a hint of Fleischer in there, but many plots to the individual episodes are layered. If you think you know how something is going to turn out, you might be mistaken. Sure, it would all right itself in the end, but it would take a curve here and there that you wouldn’t have expected. Those are reasons why I came to enjoy the surreal episodes of ASTRO BOY. It is not just about the battles, although there would eventually be one; nor was it about talking heads, although hearing ASTRO BOY dialogue ws the first time I heard the English-speaking voice-overs struggling to keep up with the faster pace of Japanese speak. In those ways, it was unique.

  • Regarding Walter Lantz’s “Cartune Feature”, Universal may have been impressed with his animated sequence in King Of Jazz (1929) which contains one of the VERY FIRST color animated sequences. On Wikipedia (I KNOW, BUT I FOUND THIS INTERESTING), it was said that Lantz’s animated feature was supposed to star Abbott and Costello, and that even WB was planning to follow the footsteps of Disney and Fleischer in terms of producing animated features. Of course, the box office bomb of Mr. Bug Goes To Town (which desperately needs a Blu-Ray release) discouraged the other non-Disney studios from producing any, at least throughout the 1940’s and early 50s.

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