July 8, 2016 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #270


Disney’s Doctor Who? Canadian television producer Sydney Newman who was responsible for initiating the creation of Doctor Who in 1963 once said in an interview that in 1938 he was offered an animator’s job at the Disney studio but that he had to turn it down due to visa complications because he was Canadian.

mermaid-tardisIn 1974, the Doctor Who series was getting a lot of attention in the United States. So, there was a proposal for one of the serials to take place at Disneyland where the Doctor would be tracking down an alien. The premise, of course, was that Disneyland is a pretty alien place of its own, so it would be the perfect place for an alien to hide. Unfortunately, the limited budget for the show killed the idea.

Disney CEO Michael Eisner was actively looking for franchises to purchase and made several attempts to buy the rights to Doctor Who and its video library. Preliminary plans were drawn up for a walk through attraction at Disneyland’s Tomorrowland that would have taken guests through the inside of the TARDIS. There were also discussions for a film with an elaborate official announcement of the new Doctor to be made at a special press conference in Tomorrowland. Unfortunately, negotiations stalled and Disney looked for other options.

(Disney/Dr. Who Logo by Stephen Byrne; Mermaid art by Karen Hallion)

The Drunk Pinocchios. Disney’s classic animated feature film Pinocchio (1940) premiered in New York City on February 7, 1940 at the Center Theatre, part of the Rockefeller Center complex. Cels from the film were on exhibition in the lobby and also available for sale at three local art galleries.

For the opening, the RKO publicity department hired eleven little people and clothed each of them in identical Pinocchio costumes. They were placed atop the platform walkway on the marquee surrounding the entrance to the theater. They were told to interact with the crowd down below by waving, dancing and similar activities.


At lunchtime, food and some beer were hoisted up to the performers. In the warmth of the afternoon and affected by the alcohol, they started to remove parts of their itchy costumes. By three o’clock that afternoon, they were all completely naked, loudly belching, peeing and shouting obscenities at the crowd gathered below. Some were involved in a boisterous crap game to alleviate their boredom.

Despite fervent pleas to put back on their costumes and to climb down, they all adamantly refused the requests. The local police arrived and climbed up ladders to reach them, covered them in pillow cases and carried them back down to the street.

GW233H175And That Man Was… In 1982, thanks to the kindness of animator Dave Bennett, I got a chance to visit the North Hollywood Studio of Rick Reinert Productions where they were doing some work on some Disney projects. In addition, I got a chance to see the pilot for a never-sold series called This Is The Story. It was a half hour and hosted by an animated caricature of actor Andy Griffith (who also supplied the voice). The show would consist of two stories and at the end of the story would be the punch line “…and this boy turned out to be…Jim Thorpe” or “…and this kindly old man was really Saint Nicholas and even today…” One thing that stuck out for me was that in Dave’s office he had an original sketch by one of my favorite artists, Wallace Tripp, who wrote and illustrated one of my favorite books, Wurst Seller and I wish he had done a dozen more in the same style.

PEBBLES-dollThe Birth of Pebbles. Animation legend Joe Barbera told an interviewer in 1992: “I remember sitting in my chair getting a call from New York about us planning about Wilma having a baby in The Flintstones. No one had had a baby in cartoons ever before. The guy on the other end of the phone asked, ‘What is it?’ I replied, ‘It’s a boy, a chip off the old block, Fred Jr.’ Dejected, the guy said, ‘Too bad. We had the Ideal Toy people interested and if it was a girl, we could really clean up’. I quickly said, ‘It is a girl!’ Just that quickly, Pebbles, another little chip off the block was born… boy dolls apparently weren’t selling”.

homer-headSurprising Matt Groening. In TV Guide magazine (November 23-December 6, 2015), it was revealed that when the series sold the cable rights to FXX in 2013 for $750 million, the deal included a twelve day marathon of 522 episodes (current total at end of 2015 was 581). “I can only handle a certain amount of Simpsons information. Every time there’s a new episode, an old one drops out of my brain. That marathon was an astounding experience like watching a show I’d never seen before!,” stated creator Matt Groening.

chuck100Chuck Jones Says. In 1979 in a November interview with the Des Moines Register newspaper, animator and director Chuck Jones in response to being compared to some silent comedy filmmakers replied, “Talent is a gift so one doesn’t compare oneself with others. I am proud of my talents but you have to be humble in the face of the challenges you are facing. Still, you don’t have to crawl around pulling at your forelock to demonstrate how humble you are.

“I am glad I chose animation as a profession. It’s a job that you’re able to do as long as you can hold your pencil and your brain’s working. The brain works as long as it’s exercised. It’s kind of nice.”

The Feline Phantom. In the original premise for the syndicated animated series Defenders of the Earth (1986), Flash Gordon had a daughter and the Phantom had a son. Q5 a consulting firm suggested that Marvel Productions give Flash Gordon the son because children would be more accepting of the main hero having an offspring of the same sex and having the Phantom who was the “more feline” character to have a daughter.

defenders-of-earth“I was impressed,” said Margaret Loesch, president and chief executive officer of Marvel Productions at the time. “We really needed someone from the outside with a fresh perspective, and they were very, very good.”

Q5 said that their role was not to dictate but to provide information about the target audience that writers can use to become more creative. Their recommendations, they said at the time, encourage writers to include sophisticated material or humor that might appeal to older target audiences provided that younger ones can still understand and relate to the story.

President Thomas J. Heinz of Q5 said, “What we provide our clients is an increased probability of success if they’re willing to do their homework and utilize this wonderful resource.”


  • Dr. Who fans everywhere are sighing with relief that Disney didn’t get their hands on the show.

    • Oh I’m sure. Thank goodness the Beeb kept that good ‘n tight!

  • The Pinoke story, alone, was worth my going to my computer. Astounding!!!

    • Certainly a bad idea on RKO’s part.

    • Reminds me of the stories regarding the off-screen behavior of the Munchkins in “The Wizard of Oz.”

  • Well, I, for one, am sorry that they decided to stop further releases of seaosns of “THE SIMPSONS” on DVD. Okay, they may have run out of “heads” for special packaging, but that certainly wouldn’t have stopped me enjoying the episodes. Maybe they disliked having to do extensive commentaries? I don’t know. Again, I would have just enjoyed the episodes.

    Regarding DEFENDERS OF THE EARTH, I’m only aware of this series thanks to a release of a variety of cartoons in one package that also included some King Features classics like BEETLE BAILEY or SNUFFY SMITH. I think the package also included the remaining KRAZY KAT cartoons that weren’t already released in that previous two disk set a few years back. It was enjoyable and I wonder if the set is still available today. I think the set was ut together by the same company that gave us the complete COOL MCCOOL, another DVD set I was looking for but failed to find.

  • What I’m hoping is that FXX gets the rights to broadcast The Simpson Shorts that aired on The Tracy Ullman Show. These crazy comical animated shorts predates the Original Simpson series (currently airing on YouTube) and shows a side of the Simpsons that will never be seen including Homer calling Bart a “Smart@$$” Lisa sassing Homer and calling him by his first name and how Lisa got into much trouble almost like Bart and Maggie talking in baby talk!

    • Yep, this is the Simpsons I loved the first time I saw them!

  • I’d love to see some of that pilot, This Is The Story, starring Andy Griffith! Sounds interesting…

    • Anything Rick Reinert-related is gold. It’s a shame he gets no love at all.

  • I had heard that Hanna-Barbera wanted to do a Doctor Who cartoon in 1980 but they couldn’t get clearance. So H-B wound up doing “The Fonz & The Happy days Gang.”

    • And we know what happened to that series! 😉

  • Well, at least Fred Flintstone Jr. lives on in the original Little Golden Book predating the broadcast of the series:

  • Owing to the originator of the premise, This is the Story should’ve been re-titled “Paul Harveytoons”.

    • I was also thinking of “The Rest of the Story,” though Paul Harvey got the idea from Bill Stern, whose “Sports Newsreel” radio show featured similar stories with surprise endings (though many of them were partly or wholly BS).

  • Disney’s Doctor Who: Keep Calm and Buy Tie-In Merch.

    • Hey, at least Warner Bros. didn’t try to buy “Doctor Who”. That would’ve been a lot worse in my opinion.

  • I remember just learning who the Phantom was when Defenders of the Earth came out. So when I saw the Phantom had a daughter (he has a son and daughter in the comicstrip), who was going to be the next Phantom, I was wonder who screwed up the whole concept of the Phantom. As many of you may know, the mantle of the Phantom passes from Father to son so it appears that the Phantom is immortal- The Ghost Who Walks. Having the Phantom turn into a woman destroys that illusion. I’m some what happy to see it was the morons at Q5 who came up with that. And nice to know they helped Hollywood shoot down the chance of a female hero ‘lead’ by changing Flash’s daughter to a boy. Did that company ever do any good?

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