Scarfe Meets Disney. Gerald Scarfe spent years working with Disney on concept art on the Disney animated feature Hercules (1997). He spent an entire year at his home in Chelsea just concoting characters. In June 1997, the sixty-one year old Royal College of Art dropout did nineteen television interviews in just one afternoon about the project. In August, The Museum of the Moving Image had a special exhibition entitled “Gerald Scarfe Meets Walt Disney”.
“They (Disney) were frightened of me at first,” said Scarfe in one of the interviews. “Partly because of my drawings, and partly because they thought I was going to be cross with them for not being able to draw like me. But I felt these people were the top of their world and they might just say ‘Shove off. Who are you?’ to me.
“I’m one of the few happy people to come out of Hollywood. You keep hearing these ghastly stories about what happens over there, but it’s been a delightful three years in which they’ve treated me extremely well and listened to everything I’ve said.
Co-director John Musker was a fan of Scarfe’s work. In 1992, he took his co-director Ron Clements to see a touring Peter Hall production of The Magic Flute that had sets and costumes by Scarfe to convince him they should use Scarfe. As a sick, asthmatic child, Scarfe became a huge Disney fan so he readily agreed to come on board. Scarfe briefly considered basing the main character on a young Paul Newman or Elvis Presley.
“In this mythological world that has been created, (Hercules and Megara) are the only humans,” said Scarfe in another interview. “I knew when I was designing them that they had to be good looking, hunky, pretty. It doesn’t offer a lot for caricature really. Obviously, Meg is not Snow White. She’s a feisty, in some ways cynical girl who has a lot of oomph. The heroine in Disney has certainly evolved over the years. Snow White was just sweeping up the dwarfs’ cottage, really. They don’t do that any more.
“For the villains, I said ‘Go for it. Don’t pull your punches. Make them truly and consistently wicked. Don’t cop out half way through and say they’re really not that evil.’ I think children can take it. My memory is the witch in Snow White, which I was always quoting to the directors.”
Animator Eric Goldberg looking at one of Scarfe’s drawing of Phil with his backside high in the air told the artist, “We’ll never get that in a Disney cartoon.” Scarfe replied, “What? There’s no backsides in Disney cartoons?”
Anesthesia. In July 1997, 20th Century Fox lamented to the Wall Street Journal that Walt Disney owned ABC network refused to accept advertising for the Don Bluth animated feature Anastasia (which Daily Variety had called “Anesthesia”) during The Wonderful World of Disney family hour. Disney and ABC’s explantion was that airing spots for the film during that particular show would cause confusion among the public that it was a Disney feature. Fox executives claimed that the film was different from Disney and is “a very adult story and that’s why kids like it”.
The Lion King Hoopla. In March 1994, two hundred media members gathered at the Disney Studios Stage One that was dressed up with jungle foliage and a live elephant, giraffe, zebra and a baboon (in diapers) for a two hour presentation promoting the newest Disney animated feature The Lion King (1994).
Journalists esponded enthusiastically to behind-the-scenes footage, drawings and rough animated sequences from the film. Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella came out to sing “Hakuna Matata” and introducing backup singers Jeffrey Katzenberg, animators like Andreas Deja and other production people as “the Katzenberg Harlettes”.
Later, Katzenberg brought out a 650 pound lion, Poncho, who seemed more interested in pulling toward the giraffe. Katzenberg sat on a stool with a four week old lion cub on his lap to answer questions, evoking a big “Awwww” from the hardened media. When asked about the recent scandal involving three frames on the laserdisc of Who Framed Roger Rabbit where Jessica is not wearing panties, Katzenberg assured the reporters that on the laserdisc version of The Lion King, if people stop-framed it, the disc would reveal “a few frames where the animals wear clothes”.
BeFuddled. From SPY Magazine November 1993: “Suave, a member of the hard core rap group Onyx, when asked about the group’s fascination with guns (the cover of their debut album features one member with a semi-automatic weapon) stated: ‘We was brought up on guns. It goes all the way back to Elmer Fudd. He was always chasing after Bugs Bunny with a rifle’.”
Burton on Disney. Working at Disney for The Nightmare Before Christmas, Tim Burton told USA Today newspaper in 1993, “(Disney) is a funny place to be. I feel like I’m getting away with something, like when I used to fall asleep in school. But if they can accept my mood swings then I’ll try and accept their obsessive perkiness.”
The First IMDB Movie. Col Needham is the creator of IMDB. His earliest memory is of seeing Walt Disney’s animated classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) at age five with his grandmother, after winning a newspaper coloring competition. “She took me in a taxi to the middle of Manchester, the town in the north of England where I grew up,” Needham said. “I can remember the taxi; I can remember the movie.”
Live Action Baby Huey. In the June 13-15, 1997 edition of The Hollywood Reporter, Harvey Entertainment announced that in collaboration with Emmy winning writer George McGrath (who had worked on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and co-wrote the 1988 film Big Top Pee-wee), they were going to produce a live action television series featuring Baby Huey.
“Baby Huey’s high energy, curiosity and super strength have great appeal to kids and will allow this new live-action TV show to move with the pace and zaniness of a cartoon,” said Harvey vice-president of creative affairs Kerry Broom who added the show would “appeal to the many adults who fondly remember this wonderful classic character”.
No, the series was never made but oddly, a live action ninety-minute direct-to-video film Baby Huey’s Great Easter Adventure (1999) was produced. No, Baby Huey was not done in CGI but as a costumed character similar to the ones at theme parks. Little Audrey and Lotta made appearances as well. The film was directed by Steven (“Flounder” from Animal House) Furst and featured Harvey Korman, Maureen McCormick, Joseph Bologna, David Lander, David Leisure among others.
Here’s the trailer: