Once Upon a Forest. Once Upon a Forest (1993) began in Wales as an idea for a television series with environmental undertones. Mark Young and co-writer Kelly Ward at first felt there wasn’t enough there to make an animated series. Young went on to other things.
“I saw a blurb in the paper about an animation writing class and I thought it would be a fun little hobby,” stated Young who ended up being invited to pitch a The Jetsons pilot to Joe Barbera himself and ending up being offered a job. “It was twice the money for just sitting in a room and writing.”
He moved over to MGM where he and Ward began trying to punch up the script they had been working on in Wales and ended up writing their own music for the pilot. They had renamed the project “The Endangered” and a new executive at the studio looked at the project and offered them twelve million to expand it into an animated feature.
Young told the Newport News-Hampton Virginia Daily Press on May 8, 1993: “It took us about three years off and on. The story still holds. It has a lot of integrity. It’s a sweet little film. We didn’t want to hit kids over the head with environmental messages. We’re not dyed-in-the-wool environmentalists, but we are concerned.
“The story is about a wood mouse, a hedgehog and a mole that set off to find special herbs to heal a young badger whose eyes and lungs were burned by noxious fumes from a chemical spill. They encounter a choir-leading crested grebe, whose voice was dubbed by Ben Vereen, and other characters along the way. Actress Glenn Close recorded a voice for the film but her part wound up on the cutting room floor. That’s something to put on my resume: the only guy to cut Glenn Close.”
Consummate Actor Mel Blanc. Noel Blanc was interviewed about his dad, voice artist Mel Blanc, in a June 1993 issue of Antique & Collectables magazine. “My dad was an incredible Stanislavski method actor. He was the Actors’ Studio personified. When he became a character in his voice, his whole countenance, his whole body changed. You could take still photos of him doing Bugs, Porky, Daffy, Sylvester, Tweety and just from the still photos you could tell what character he was doing because his body became that character. It was very wild. He was a consummate actor.
“I was just going through some of his old things and came across a photo of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello that they signed ‘To my favorite actor, Mel Blanc’. They all considered him to be the consummate actor. Around the house, my dad was just a regular dad. He could have been a shoe salesman from Des Moines.”
Disney Goes To War. At the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France in 1989, the Disney Company allowed six of its anti-Nazi films to be shown for the first time in over forty years. Only one thousand people were able to see the one-time screening but the festival officials received more than three thousand requests, mostly from professionals to attend the event.
“It is absolutely acceptable to present these films from the war period to professionals, to people able to appreciate this type of animation in its context but it wouldn’t be right to reproduce them on cassettes or to edit them for the public. That would not reflect the spirit of Disney today. Walt Disney has always had a progressive image, and one must situate these clips in their right context,” said Disney Studio senior vice president Peter Schneider.
The Secret To Success. Former Disney CEO Ron Miller was a witness in the trial of stockholder lawsuits accusing Disney and its directors of paying “greenmail” in 1984 to Saul Steinberg. Miller got a laugh from the jury when his own attorney asked him how he got his first job at the company and he replied, “I married Walt’s daughter.”
Going Bonkers! Bob Taylor, supervising producer of Disney’s Bonkers! animated television series where an out-of-work Toon character, Bonkers D. Bobcat, joins the Hollywood Police Department’s Toon Division headed by human detective Lucky Piquel told the media in 1993: “Bonkers! is really about what happens when two worlds collide. The Toon world and the human world each have a different set of rules, different behaviors and different looks.
“Bonkers brings a Toon’s childlike enthusiasm to everything he does. He’s a naïve ‘wanna be’ whereas Piquel is a ‘used to be’ or ‘thought he’d be’. Piquel is the original ‘poor soul’.”
Actually, Bonkers was created so that Disney could have a Roger Rabbit type of character that it owned completely without having to worry about approval or sharing the profits with Steven Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment. Voice artist Jim Cummings did the voice of both Bonkers and Piquel. Instead of combining live action and animation, it was less expensive to do it all in animation.
Disney publicity stated that this was an advantage and that “humans are rendered in simple greyed hues while Toons are drawn with bright primaries and no shadow colors, giving them a more two-dimensional look. This effect makes the humans appear muted while the Toons seem to jump off the screen”.
Burton on Strong Animated Women. One of Tim Burton’s favorite characters in The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) was the rag doll Sally. Burton told Adweek magazine in October 1993, “I get so tired, especially in animated movies lately where they try to make the woman strong which I find paternalistic. Why not let characters be what they are and whatever strength that comes out is really what is there? It’s nice to see a character like Sally who’s in love with somebody and is not diminished by just showing that kind of emotion.”
Nightmare Animation. Supervising animator Eric Leighton on The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) told USA Today in 1993 that a circus clown was hired to work with the animators on movement. The idea “was to get the animators to free up their bodies and learn to express themselves through mime and then transfer that skill into the puppets. In addition, to capture the elegant movements needed for Jack, we watched tapes of Fred Astaire and Tommy Tune”. A masseuse came weekly to rub sore backs, cramped necks and arching shoulders. An on-set ping pong table and punching bag helped keep hands and wrists limber.