The Birth of Disney Afternoon. Executive vice president of Disney television animation since 1985 at that time Gary Randolph Krisel told Broadcasting and Cable magazine in its November 15, 1993 issue: “Everyone was telling us not to do (Disney Afternoon cartoon block), that we were crazy if we thought we could reshape the viewing habits of the marketplace. The conventional wisdom during the early 1990s was that it was a boys action marketplace, with such shows as G.I. Joe and Transformers dominating the ratings. Our belief and experience with the Disney library product has been that it holds a timeless and universal appeal with both boys and girls, the latter of which had been almost completely ignored in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
“It all pretty much started when I was sitting in (Michael) Eisner’s living room with a dish of Gummi Bears sitting on the coffee table. Eisner remarked that his kids couldn’t stop eating the candy. We started making up this whole myth and legend about this funny-looking candy. The show that developed scored healthy demographic ratings among boys and girls and went on to a four year run (1985-1988) before going into syndication.
“It gave us the confidence to swing for the fences in the potentially lucrative syndication market with DuckTales (1986) with the then-unheard of production cost of $350,000 to $400,000 per episode. The show ranked atop all kids programming, with 7-9 rating averages among key boys and girls demos. By the time we got to our second show with Chip’n’Dale, there was no doubt we could do it in an hour block with DuckTales.”
Breaking Glass. Batman – The Animated Series story editor Paul Dini told interviewer Bob Miller for the Comics Buyer’s Guide #990 (November 6, 1992) “I know, for instance, that they’re (Fox’s Standards and Practices) not going to allow Batman to shove someone’s head through a plate glass window and rub his neck on the broken glass. On the other hand, that may not be something that I want to show, anyway.
“There’s always another way of doing it. He doesn’t have to make every appearance by smashing through a window. We did that in earlier shows, and they asked us to curtail it. But in a later show, I have two characters talking, and offscreen you hear a smash, and they run into the living room, and there’s Batman and there’s a broken plate glass window. So, you know he didn’t open the door and slam it. It’s implied. You learn what they really won’t allow and you write around it.”
Animated Proposals. In US Magazine in January 1994, Abby Terkuhle, executive producer of Liquid Television, MTV’s half hour animation showcase stated, “The success of Beavis and Butt-head has been a driving force for underground animation, and we’re trying to find out what else might work.”
Potential series that he was considering included: The Dangwoods (“your typical white trash trailer-park family”), Grunt Brothers from Danny Antonucci (friendly aliens who don’t quite understand earthly ways “Our hero might fall in love with a lamp. People thought we couldn’t get dumber than Beavis and Butt-head. They were wrong.”), Genie and Junkie (a 1990s slacker who meets a charismatic specter), Big City (a modern rap opera about the adventures of a woman who moves from African to an American metropolis by Ed Bell. “It’s all about family and how you gotta have it and how the African-American community sorely lacks it”), and Rico and Klein (a “beatnik” version of Beavis and Butt-Head). “We like to think that we’ve created a living laboratory for animation,” said Terkuhle. “It’s going to be a huge part of the information stream we keep hearing about – a superhighway to the imagination.”
In development was John R. Dilworth’s Smart Talk with Raisin featuring a creepy snaggle-toothed little girl, her ogreish little brother and her orphaned dog with low self-esteem. “My goal was to take all those unpleasant experiences you remember from childhood and make them really funny,” said Dilworth.
Role Models. When singer Anthony Kiedis (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers musical group) was asked in US Magazine November 1993 who his role models were, he didn’t hesitate to reply, “Beavis and Butt-head because there is no one that I know with a more focused philosophy.”
Where Are the Kids? “It’s Saturday morning: do you know where your children are? According to Nielsen ratings, 600,00 fewer children watch network TV on Saturday mornings this season than last. About 300,000 now watch cable. The rest are unaccounted for,” stated TV Guide in its December 12, 1992 issue.
Disney Legal. “Old Igor Stravinksy, back around 1937, found himself approached by the Disney Studio about using his composition The Rite of Spring in Fantasia (1940). ‘The request was accompanied,’ he wrote in a letter I recently came across, ‘by a gentle warning that if permission were withheld the music would be used anyway (as it was) not copyrighted in the United States’.” Wrote Celia Bardy in SPY magazine November 1992.
Stravinksy did officially grant a right to use the music in 1939. However, in 1947, the composer sold Booney & Hawkes all remaining rights to the music. In 1993, the company sued Disney for use of the music on videotape (released in 1991) claiming that the 1939 license was explicit and that Disney could only use the music in the motion picture theatrical releases. It was “a use neither authorized nor even contemplated by the 1939 license”. Jody Pope, the lawyer for the London based publisher told the press, “(Stravinksy) abhorred what Disney did to this work. The public is deluded into thinking it is a fair rendition of ‘The Rite of Spring’.”
Over 14.2 million copies of the cassette were purchased making it the biggest selling “sell through” VHS up to that time. The United States district court ruled in favor of Boosey & Hawkes in 1996 but the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ruling in 1998.
Comic Book Beck. One of Cartoon Research editor Jerry Beck’s teenage friends (they met in class at John Bowne High School in Flushing, NY) was Murad Gumen, son of Cracked “Mazagine” artist Sururi Gumen.
This led young Murad to using Jerry Beck’s name (and likeness) in various pieces as he began his career as a writer and cartoonist (he later became a staff artist for Disney licensing in New York). Murad first included Beck’s name in a Cracked parody (in Cracked #156, December 1978) of the television series Three’s Company (as “Three’s Crummier”). (“I have a good friend down at the police station! Just ask for Jerry Beck.” “Oh, he’s a detective?” “No, he’s a convict.”)
Murad later used Beck’s name, likeness (at the time, sans glasses), referenced his hobbies (comics and old movies) and named his employer (at the time, United Artists) in a spoof of Battlestar Galactica (the original version). This appeared in Marvel’s Crazy magazine #48, from March 1979, as “Battlestar Galacluster” – where Jerry’s caricature is assigned to explore a nearby planet some “Cyloons” may be occupying.