July 1, 2016 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #269

Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends Documentary. I am a huge fan of documentaries on how movies and television shows were made. Spider-Man On The Move was a half hour special written and directed by Arthur Greenwald and co-produced by KDKA in Pittsburgh and KPIX in San Francisco to promote the Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends animated television series in 1981. It was narrated by Stan Lee (“The only problem with comic books is that they don’t move… until NOW!”) and shows how an episode is put together from initial idea to final animation.

SM&HAF225The show was unofficially nicknamed Spider-Friends (Because NBC hoped to capitalize on the success of ABC’s SuperFriends series) and featured Spider-man, Iceman and Firestar. The original concept was to have the trio include the Human Torch (three teenaged guys living together) but the studio was worried about the “flame on” aspect being imitated by children playing with fire and had artist Rick Hoberg design a mutant female known as Firestar who had heat powers. Apparently licensing issues for the Human Torch were also involved in not using Johnny Storm and before chosing the name Firestar, the female character was going to be called Firefly, Heatwave or Starblaze.

June Foray supplied the voice of Aunt May. The story editor and producer of the show, Dennis Marks, did the voice of his favorite Marvel character, the Green Goblin. Artists involved in the series included Larry Houston, Dick Sebast, Will Meugniot and the previously mentioned Rick Hoberg who were all huge Marvel comic book fans. Writers included Don Glut and Christy Marx.

An episode of the series entitled “Along Came Spidey” was briefly shown on television in the Chuck Norris action movie Missing In Action (1984). By the way, Art Vitello was the person responsible for laying out and directing the opening title sequence for Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.

This forgotten piece of animation documentary with segments featuring Dave DePatie, June Foray, Frank Welker and more has been posted on YouTube:

Lorenzo Music

Lorenzo Music

The Voice of the Cat. Lorenzo Music, the voice of the animated Garfield as well as characters in series like The Real Ghostbusters, Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears, Fluppy Dogs and more, told the Los Angeles Times in October 8, 1987, “Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever get so overexposed that no one will want me. But it seems the more you do in this business, the more people call you. I now refuse to have my face directly photographed. Anonymity works for me. That way, I never grow old.” Music passed away in 2001 from cancer and his ashes were scattered at sea.

The Final Terrytoons Mighty Mouse. Many animation fans consider The Reformed Wolf (1954) the last “real” Terrytoons Mighty Mouse cartoon. However, when CBS acquired Terrytoons, they made three more Mighty Mouse cartoons: Outer Space Visitor (1959 directed by Dave Tendlar), The Mysterious Package (1960 where Ralph Bakshi is listed in the credits as an animator) and Cat Alarm (1961 directed by Connie Rasinski).

wile-e-coyote-90That’s the Answer. I once asked Chuck Jones why the Coyote never sued ACME for constantly providing defective equipment and why Wile E. didn’t just use all that money to buy himself a good roadrunner steak dinner instead. Jones laughed and assured me that there was no exchange of money ever involved. He said, “It is just fun for me to imagine that somewhere there is a company that provides, absolutely free, their inventions to coyotes.”

ericStressed Eric. The BBC bought six half hours of an animation series called Stressed Eric by Carl Gorham in 1998 to show during peak time. Colin Rose, head of the animation unit at BBC said the series was bought by Michael Jackson (not the singer but the then head of the BBC2) as “a deliberate attempt to do a British Simpsons”.

The character of forty-year old Eric whose t-shirt mantra was “Don’t Let It Be Morning” was the hyperventilating father of two children (Claire who has allergies and swells up and Brian who is very dense and puts things in his mouth). He has lost his wife to a Buddhist, is in danger of losing his job through chronic inefficiency and has a foreign au pair who spends most of her time drunk or hungover and vomits repeatedly on screen.

streric3The storylines involved sex, an exploding donkey head, a “randy” physician who uses styling mousse and a hair dryer on his crotch and a nativity play in which a child eats baby Jesus’ head.

“Animation allows you to do things that you can’t elsewhere. It just gives you this range of expression, which you can externalize really effectively. For example, the vein that throbs in Eric’s forehead is something we probably couldn’t have achieved outside the animated medium without spending thousands of pounds,” Gorham said in 1998.

The show cost three hundred thousand pounds an episode. The BBC put up one hundred and seventy-five pounds of that amount with the rest coming from worldwide distributors. The show had only three writers including Gorham. The first season was animated by Klasky Csupo and the second season (because of budget concerns) by Varga Studio.

NBC bought the series and some episodes were shown in August 1998. However, NBC replaced the lead character’s voice originally done by Mark Heap with Hank Azaria and changed the storyline to an American living in London. It received overwhelming poor reviews. NBC had paid one million pounds for the first six shows with the option to pay around nine million for a second series of thirteen episodes.

Mountain of Dinosaurs. In 1967 director Rasa Strautmane and writer Arkady Snesarev produced for Russia’s Soyuzmultfilm an interesting ten minute animated short that was actually a cleverly disguised anti-Communism diatribe called Mountain of Dinosaurs (Gora Dinozavrov). The punchline is that due to worsening temperatures, the dinosaur eggs get so thick to protect their charges from the cold that the babies cannot hatch and so end up dying. The talking eggs chant “I must fulfill my duty!” while the hatchlings cry out to see the sun. It is all a metaphor for the Soviet government suppressing the rights of individual citizens using the international image for extinction, the dinosaurs.


  • I managed to see three of the six episodes of the Azaria-version Stressed Eric on NBC before it was abruptly replaced by the sitcom “Working”. The episodes I saw were “Nativity”, “Pony”, and “Hospital”. Supposedly “Sex” also aired in the U.S. but I never saw it. I wish I had kept my recordings. It is now incredibly hard, if not impossible, to find the Azaria versions online. I mean, in retrospect the show wasn’t that great but for historic purposes, it would be nice to have.

  • That’s a rare picture of Lorenzo Music not wearing his sunglasses. Lorenzo also was Carlton the Doorman in Rhoda and had a animated special called Carlton Your Doorman and was one of the original voices in The Real Ghostbusters.

    Cat Alarm the true final Mighty Mouse cartoon animated by Terrytoons was based loosely on the Civil Defense/Cold War craze that happened in the 1950’s/60’s where the citizens of Mouseville created a elaborate “Cat Defense” system which included a electric fence to keep the cats away.

  • Mighty Mouse seems to have become kinda gullible in his old age…

  • I’ve been on a TERRYTOONS kick for a while now, and I like this last MIGHTY MOUSE cartoon. Even the choice of sound effects is better used here, and it even had its original closing, something you don’t often see in prints that still exist on most Terrytoons cartoons. Thanks for posting that.

  • I love that story about Wile E. Coyote and the Acme Company.

  • I wonder if Mountain of Dinosaurs influenced the prologue to 1978’s Watership Down? Compare the animated suns and the overall narrative style.

    Something about that last wave of Terrytoons is so appealing. The backgrounds are especially nice. Too bad there isn’t a series on Cartoon Research devoted only to animation background artists and their techniques. Guys like Johnny Vita are luminaries IMO.

  • Several years ago, humorist Ian Frazier wrote an absolutely hilarious essay titled “Coyote vs. Acme.” It is presented in a deadpan tone as a serious report presented by the Coyote’s attorney. The language closely approximates that of a genuine legal report. It uses example after example from the cartoons of various Acme products malfunctioning for the Coyote, gradually bringing out the hilarious absurdities of the situations.

    I once read the article aloud to one of my classes, when I was working at an all boys school. The boys listened attentively, started giggling and smirking about halfway through the first page, and by the time I got to the end, they were laughing out loud.

    It’s a great piece, and it certainly addresses the question of the Coyote taking legal action against the Acme company.

    (Of course, in some of the cartoons themselves there is an even simpler answer–the Acme company is owned by the Road Runner!)

  • I preferred that solo Spider-Man cartoon from the early eighties that was by the same people who made that lame Amazing Friends version.

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