July 15, 2016 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #271

How to Make an Oswald Cartoon. The production process for the Walter Lantz Oswald the Rabbit cartoon Soft Ball Game (1936) is featured in the short Cartoonland Mysteries, the eighteenth installment of Universal’s Going Places documentary series (1934-1937), narrated by Lowell Thomas and directed by Charles E. Ford. Victor McLeod worked on the story for the cartoon with animation by Manuel Moreno and Bill Mason and music by James Dietrich. The short pops up as an extra on Disc One of the Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume One.

Screaming at Katzenberg. At ConFurence 5 in Irvine, California on January 22, 1994, Tad Stones shared the following story: “Ron Clements is a very quiet person, very quiet. I used to share an office with him. I used to dare him to make a loud noise. He did. Once. But evidently, he lost his temper with Jeffrey Katzenberg, who you’ve got to realize is one of the most powerful people in Hollywood.

disney-aida“They were doing a publicity thing for Aladdin (1992) in France. They were sitting in EuroDisneyland. I think it was at the American hotel. It was a theme restaurant. And Ron starts telling off Jeffrey Katzenberg. While he was doing that, people on stilts were coming by and saying ‘Hi, there, little buddy’ and patting them on the head and everything and midgets on unicycles were also coming by so it was all very Fellini-esque.

“What Ron said was that the whole line of features that they were talking about like Pocahontas, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Aida (the opera that eventually premiered as a Broadway show instead) were about things that he and John didn’t want to work on. We are not the Miramax of animation. We kind of do what mainstream America would like to see so let’s put that kind of entertainment on the screen. Disney’s done quite well with that. It really did shock Jeffrey into realizing that he was pushing animation to an Art House formula. He started asking, ‘Who is the audience for this?’

“John and Ron tried for well over a year to pitch a science-fiction story and finally got a script that Michael Eisner liked a lot but Katzenberg didn’t so it was shelved. They got tired of beating their heads against the wall so they are going to work on a Hercules movie and then try again to go back to a science fiction project.”

Butterfly Personality. At an October 1937 story conference on Bambi, Walt Disney, who paid close attention to even the most insignificant characters, volunteered his thoughts about the butterfly: “We should establish the personality of the butterfly – that while she is beautiful, she is also very vain – like some pretty girls. You visualize her as a certain type and then you find that she is terribly conceited.”

Denis Leary. “Working on A Bug’s Life (1998), now I see bugs and say, ‘Oh, that’s just like Denis Leary’ – SMASH! I have a greater sensitivity as I kill them,” said comedian Denis Leary who voiced the character of Francis, the short-tempered lady bug constantly mistaken for a female. This quote from Entertainment Weekly August 21, 1998.

Chuck Jones on 101 Dalmatians. In 1979, animator and director Chuck Jones joked to the Des Moines Register newspaper about Disney’s animated feature 101 Dalmatians (1961), “If I had done that film, I’d have just one dog who was named Spot because he had just one spot.”

swan-princess-150Swan Princess. “Disney is the intellectual and spiritual founder of the business. But that doesn’t mean it’s only their business. There’s plenty room for more animation,” stated animator and director Richard Rich to the Los Angeles Times on December 21, 1993 as he was finishing up work on The Swan Princess (1994), “One reason we picked Swan Princess is because it’s based on a classic story. We’re not pushing the envelope here. We’re going after the tradtiional audience of parents and children. We know that if we build it right, they will come.”

Rich had pitched the idea for the story when he was working for Disney animation before he left after the release of The Black Cauldron (1985) that he co-directed. Actor John Cleese had the choice to play Zazu in The Lion King (1994) or Jean Bob the frog in this film and he felt that the frog was a more interesting character. He did not do the voice for the sequels.

The film made barely ten million dollars at the box office but was followed by four direct-to-video sequels: The Swan Princess: Escape from Castle Mountain (1997), The Swan Princess: The Mystery of the Enchanted Kingdom (1998), The Swan Princess Christmas (2012) and The Swan Princess: A Royal Family Tale (2014).

zootopia_judy_hoppsJudy Hopps. In Entertainment Weekly March 4, 2016, co-director of Zootopia Byron Howard said, “The initial pitch was a spy called Jack Savage, a James Bond type.”

Actress Ginnifer Goodwin who portrayed policewoman Judy Hopps stated, “We talked about her having cowbody swagger, like a female John Wayne but I dropped everything and tried to make her bouncy and reactive. I jumped around the sound booth.”

Co-director Rich Moore added, “When you put (Judy Hopps) into the hands of a Disney animator, it’s like muscle memory. They know what to do to achieve maximum cute appeal. In fact, we had to pull them back. Sometimes she was a little too cute.”

From Animation to Comic Book. In 1978, The New Fantastic Four produced by the DePatie-Freleng studio debuted on NBC on Saturday morning. Fans were excited because Stan Lee was supposedly supplying stories and Jack Kirby would be doing storyboards.

Fantastic-Four-Herbie-600The 1981 twentieth anniversary issue of the Marvel Fantastic Four comic book (#236) featured a fourteen page story modified from the storyboard that Jack Kirby had done for a Stan Lee scripted episode entitled “The Challenge of Doctor Doom”. That episode was a severely modified version of the story “Prisoners of Dr. Doom” written by Lee and drawn by Kirby for the comic book Fantastic Four #5 with H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot substituted for the Human Torch.

“I had nothing to do with it,” grumbled Kirby in 1982 about the use of his storyboard. “(Marvel) took the roughs I did for DePatie-Freleng and put ten different inkers on it. I didn’t know anything about it until the damn thing was published.” Kirby received no additional remuneration for the re-use of his storyboard.

Inkers for that comic book included Joe Sinnott, Chic Stone, Dick Ayers, George Roussos, Sol Brodsky, Frank Giacoia, Vince Colletta, Al Milgrom, Pablo Marcos and John Byrne.



  • Denis Leary went from preforming the voice of the male ladybug Francis in It’s a Bugs Life to the voice of Diego the Sabertoothed Tiger in the five installments of the Ice Age movies.

  • I’ve got an animation anecdote that I would like to share, since I found it in a 1935 Danish magazine with a Walt Disney interview.
    When he was interviewed in Paris about upcoming projects, he talks about Snow White, and then he mentions about doing a Disney picture over one of La Fontaine’s Fables – The Fox and the Crow, and then he talks about finishing the first Mickey Mouse film in Technicolor

    • I think we would all love to see an English transcription of that 1936 Walt Disney interview if you would care to share it. Even just Walt’s direct quotes would be wonderful along with the name and date of the Danish magazine.

    • As Jim Korkis says, why not share an entire English transcription of the article, if you can, … and, at the very least, offer scans of the entire article (and cover of the magazine) to Jim or Jerry Beck or Didier Ghez so they can post them for one and all to see and study?

    • I did try to make an English transcription of the interview once, but halfway through the translation it became too difficult, since my English is not better. But I did scan the three pages of the Walt Disney interview to Didier, and gave Michael Barrier a brief synopsis of the interview. If you also want the cover of the magazine, then sent me your gmail adress, and I will scan the cover for you.

  • >> “John and Ron tried for well over a year to pitch a science-fiction story and finally got a script that Michael Eisner liked a lot but Katzenberg didn’t so it was shelved. They got tired of beating their heads against the wall so they are going to work on a Hercules movie and then try again to go back to a science fiction project.” <<

    Did John and Ron ever get to do that science-fiction story? If not, do you have any idea what it was about?

    • I have a pretty good idea what that science-fiction story is, and that’s Treasure Planet

    • Unless it’s “Lilo and Stitch”.

    • I would think it was Treasure Planet as well.

  • I know people are not going to believe me, but I remember seeing a part of ‘Cartoonland Mysteries’ in a documentary about Al Capone.

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