The Story of Animalympics. From the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, January 25, 1980: “It was in 1976 that Steven Lisberger, while watching the Summer Olympics on television, conceived the idea of a playful parody with animal characters in a musical fantasy employing the finest methods of animation. He applied for, and received an American Film Institute grant for $10,000 to initiate ‘Animalympics’ (which produced a seven minute short), which wound up costing more than two million dollars (the lion’s share covered by NBC for both a Winter Games and a Summer Games special). It took up to 80 production people a little over a year to translate Lisberger’s fantasy onto celluloid.”
In the article Lisberger states, “We felt more confident in our first major project sticking to the classic methods. We tried to get the quality of Warner Brothers and Disney from years ago. It was more of an updating process, but there’s no Xeroxing, as they do in nearly all animated features today because of the expense. In our movie, all 50,000 individual cels are hand-drawn and hand-inked.
“Animalympics isn’t sickengly cute. It has universal appeal and is an ‘up’ film, but it’s still hip enough for older people. I’ve been told that children may not get some of the jokes. I take that as a compliment. Those old Warners cartoons were over my head as a kid, too, and now I appreciate them even more because I realize just how good they really were.
“If there are no Olympics this year, it looks like we’ll be providing our own version animal-style. No one could have anticipated this. It’s as though our cartoon had turned into reality and reality into a cartoon. How people will view our movie will proably change now. Hopefully, they’ll say, ‘If animals are capable of having an Olympics, why not people?’”
President Jimmy Carter’s boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics resulted in NBC cancelling the one hour Animalympics: Summer Games (the half hour Animalympics: Winter Games did run on February 1, 1980) along with cancelling its Olympic coverage. No other television station wanted the special so the summer version was never completed. U.S. theatrical distributors were generally uninterested in the proposed movie that was to be edited together from the two specials primarily because of the strong American influence in the movie. Most of the announced merchandising tie-ins never materialized either. Lisberger’s studio was forced into bankruptcy.
The film did have a limited, and somewhat unsuccessful, European release and was shown on HBO and Showtime in 1984 (and later the Disney Channel with some references to drinking, smoking, excessive sedative usage and implied possible suicide eliminated). Lisberger went on to co-write and direct Disney’s Tron (1982). Among those who worked on Animalympics were Roger Allers, Bill Kroyer and Brad Bird.
The Robin Williams Disney Song. In a 1993 issue of Entertainment Weekly, actor Robin Williams was still upset that his paycheck for doing the voice of the Genie in Aladdin (1992) was a paltry one hundred thousand dollars despite the film making over one billion dollars and that he was “misled” by Jeffrey Katzenberg about the use of his voice-over in merchandising and advertising. He told reporter Cindy Pearlman that he had penned a song to the tune of “It’s A Small World”: “It’s a land of points you’ll never see/ It’s all profit going just to me/ We will keep all the bucks/ You will go for the yucks/ It’s our world after all.” Disney had no public comment on the dispute or the tune. Supposedly, there was an x-rated line in place of “yucks” that Robin often used.
Which is Which? In the Los Angeles Times June 22,1997, actor Tate Donovan who did the voice for the lead character in Hercules (1997), shared, “I had never heard of (co-directors John Musker and Ron Clement). It’s like a very weird secret society. I mean, for starters, who ever heard of two directors? I worked with them for two and half years and until I forced myself to memorize their names the other day, I couldn’t tell which one was Ron and which one was John. I lived in constant fear that they might become seperated at some point and I would be expected to know which was which.”
Popeye Poached. In Daily Variety July 21, 1997, it was announced that Japan’s Supreme Court had ruled on July 17 that copyright protection for Popeye is no longer valid in that country since the fifty year term of protection had expired. The reason according to presiding judge Masao Fujii was that Popeye has not changed significantly in his appearance since he first appeared in 1929. The copyright suit was brought by King Features Syndicate against an Osaka company that used Popeye on neckties without permission of King Features. There had been a series of previous disputes brought by foreign businesses against Japan’s copyright laws. The judge did add that Popeye was still protected under trademark law and ruled that the Osaka company had no right to use the character because of that fact.
Don’t Ask. When Nickelodeon picked up the animated series CatDog in August 1997 for a planned debut in 1998, Albie Hecht, senior vice-president of worldwide productions and development for Nickelodeon told Daily Variety on August 14, 1997, “Don’t ask me how they go to the bathroom. The character really plays off of kids’ sympathies since they have the worst of both worlds. Both dogs and cats hate them. They are true outcasts.”
Marvel Action Hour. Electronic Media magazine for March 7,1994 anounced that Genesis Entertainment and Marvel Entertainment planned to use Marvel’s vast universe of superheroes to create a new weekday block of children’s action cartoons, adjacent to the Fox Children’s Network and Disney Afternoon blocks.
It would be called the Marvel Action Hour with new half hour episodes of the Fantastic Four and Iron Man run on the weekend. It was already cleared in 87 markets with 73 percent coverage.
“What we’d like to do is take one of the series from weekly, roll it into a strip, and then introduce a new one of the Marvel characters into that hour weekend block,” said Genesis President Wayne Lepoff.
“For instance, The Fantastic Four would go to strip and Silver Surfer would become a weekly, and then the next year Iron Man would go to strip and another character would fall into his weekend block.”
Marvel and Genesis became producer-distributor partners in 1993 when Marvel owenr and financier Ron Perelman brought Genesis into his fold. Their first project together was the series Biker Mice From Mars.