August 26, 2016 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #277

Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters

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.”

animalympics-celsIn 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?’”

Animalympics250President 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.

genie-mikeThe 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.

hercules-headWhich 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_8mmboxPopeye 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.


  • I remembered Animalimpics with the voices of Harry Shearer and the late Gilda Radner doing the voice overs and 10cc doing the musical score for the film, yes the version I saw was the full length feature that covered the winter and summer games of the Animalimpics.

    Also the original version of Catdog (or a original concept of Catdog) was in fact created by Bob Clampett for the animated WB short Porky in Waxkyland.

  • Most of the announced merchandising tie-ins never materialized either. Lisberger’s studio was forced into bankruptcy.

    I know of at least one tie-in…. a lunchbox!

    • And don’t forget kids clothing such as t shirts (a second cousin of mine once had a t shirt based on one of the character Barbra Walbers (a parody or Barbra Walters voiced by the late Gilda Radner) ).

    • Apart from the ‘original soundtrack’ on vinyl, the only other promotional piece of merchandise connected to “Animalympics” I own was a paperback book about the actual games they were parodying. “The Animalympics Guide to the Olympics” features lots of black-and-white images from the feature film (and possibly a few stills of scenes that didn’t make the final cut), while explaining about some of the real life sporting events from the Olympiad…

  • I’d forgotten about “ANIMALYMPICS”. I guess it saw official release on VHS, but it would be fun to have this on DVD. Who did the music? I immediately recognized the voices of Harry Shearer and Gilda Radner as Baba Wawa.

    • Graham Gouldman of the English rock band 10cc wrote the score to Animalimpics.

    • “Animalympics” may have had a forgotten commercial release, but early furry fan Mark Merlino edited his own VHS “movie” from the two TV specials that was more complete than the official version (and better, in my opinion), and that was shown to death during the first decade of furry fandom on video monitors at furry special interest tables at s-f conventions and comics conventions, furry room parties, and the first furry conventions.

    • I wish I could get a copy of Merlino’s version; while Animalympics is not a great movie, or even a very good one, it is interesting, with some very nice animation during some scenes.

    • Oh I would’ve loved to have seen that edit! This movie can’t be ignored when it comes to the fandom it help spurred.

  • “Don’t ask me how they go to the bathroom.”

    Why not? It’s a perfectly valid question.

    • Some questions are best left unanswered, it’s a lot more interesting not to question every biological function of a animated character left unsaid.

  • Wasn’t an animated Robocop part of the Marvel Action Hour? Or was it in another show?

    • The animated Robocop aired in 1988 as part of a syndicated block title Marvel Action Universe.

    • Thanks… I knew it was something with “Marvel” in the title.

  • Anamalympics was released on DVD in Germany, with both German and English audio tracks. Mind you, it’s in PAL format (a 25p progressive transfer, which you could convert back to 24 if you’re of that ilk). You can find it on Amazon.

    • The only other saving grace of that release is it’s ACTUAL stereo soundtrack, of which most US releases lack! After hearing this version, you never want to go back!
      Oh look, someone uploaded that on YouTube too!

      The German dub is something else though. After hearing it, you feel like whoever distributed this over there thought it wasn’t ‘funny’ enough so they kept throwing in extra cartoony sound effects, especially during the song segments. It’s just so unnecessary.

    • Also included on the DVD (and thankfully only subtitled in German you can remove easily) is a half-hour of Steven Lisberger chilling out on some outdoor patio or wherever this was recorded at as he tells the story of the making of this film. It’s pretty in-depth.

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