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.
In 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.
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.
And 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.
The 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”.
Surprising 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.
Chuck 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.
“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.”