February 24, 2017 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #302


Blanc Memorial Ad. When voice artist Mel Blanc passed away July 10,1989, Warner Brothers bought double-truck ads (two facing pages) in both Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter that ran on July 13, 1989. Warners ran an extra hundred copies to distribute but the color illustration of characters like Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck and other WB character voiced by Blanc with their heads respectfully bowed near a standing microphone and the word “Speechless” proved even more popular than anticipated.

Both trade papers received multiple requests for unstapled copies to frame. Director of marketing at the time Lynne Segall said, “Both papers pretty much sold out. I’ve worked here for ten years and it was certainly one of the more tasteful memorial ads that ever ran. It definitely had an impact.” Kathleen Helppie, the vice president of Warners animation, had artists Darrell Van Citters and Chris Buck do the now famous ad.

jeffery-katzenberg-70sKatzenberg on Roger Rabbit. From Los Angeles Times Calendar section June 22, 1998, Jeffrey Katzenberg, chairman of Walt Disney Studios talked about the release of Who Framed Roger Rabbit: “This was one of the most difficult, time-consuming and challenging projects ever to come across our desks. Although we hope to do more with the technique, we haven’t really had the time to catch our breaths and understand just what it is that’s been done.

“But whether Roger Rabbit proves a success or a failure on the marketplace, I think it has been a pioneering effort by this company – one that defines the type of venture Walt Disney himself was famous for. We like to think this film is at the center of the grandest tradition of innovation in technology and storytelling that we inherited from him.”

chuck100A Blank Sheet of Paper. Chuck Jones, interviewed in Business Screen magazine (Aug/Sept 1982) said, “The only weapon I have is this: a blank sheet of paper. When I finish a film – Boom! – there’s that damn blank thing staring at me again. Our tools are a flurry of drawings and a pencil. The rest is just additional stuff – ink, paint, backgrounds – all of that. They contribute to the film but they’re not what makes the film.”

bill_melendez550Melendez On Peanuts. From Woman’s Day magazine February 1968, animator and director Bill Melendez said, “I was doing some work for the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency and they asked me if I was willing to do the Peanuts animation for the Ford commercial. That’s when I got together with Sparky (Charles Schulz’s nickname) the first time. He’s very sensitive about how his material is handled. He got the notion that only I can do it. I’d like to do every bit of the animation myself but it would take me forever. By spreading out the work load we can produce a half hour Peanuts special in about five months.”

Over Melendez’s drawing board was an original comic strip in which Charlie Brown, giving street directions, refers to “Melendez Boulevard”. The black moustache Snoopy uses to disguise himself in the film He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown (1968) bears a strong resemblance to the one worn by Melendez. “Sparky likes to bait me,” laughed Melendez.

jean-vanderpyl175Wilma Flintstone Speaks. In the L.A. Daily News for May 9, 1994, actress Jean Vander Pyl, the voice of Wilma Flintstone, talked about what it was like doing the popular Hanna-Barbera animated series, “All four of us had worked in radio together in the very beginning so we were all friends. Bea (Benaderet) being one of the best. We just had so much fun in the studio. The guys would tell jokes. Some they would let the girls hear and some they wouldn’t. In those days, they were gentlemen.

“You didn’t talk that way in front of ladies… say those naughty words! It was so casual and such fun. Joe (Barbera) would call me up and say, ‘Jean, I got a little character. Do you think you have a voice for this?’ And then I’d give one and he’d say, ‘Oh, that’s good. Come in tomorrow morning’.”

Vander Pyl was paid $15,000 when she taped the last episode of original run of The Flintstones. “We were paid for six runnings of each show. Nobody ever dreamed in the early days of TV that any show would last longer than that.”

friz_freleng_motion_picturesFreleng’s Star. Friz Freleng got his star (the 1,962 one awarded) on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame on August 20, 1992, one day before his 86th birthday. It is located at 7000 Hollywood Blvd. in front of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. This location is not as random as some placements. The hotel is where Freleng and his wife Lily had their wedding reception sixty years earlier.

At the time of the installation, an Associated Press reporter asked if it were true that he was the inspiration for Yosemite Sam. “I have the same temperament,” Freleng told the reporter. “I’m small, and I used to have a red mustache.”

magoo-beerMagoo Controversy. Henry G. Saperstein, President of UPA Pictures Inc. wrote a fiery letter to the Los Angeles Times that was published October 25, 1993 in response to an article by Rob Wishart,”A Word to Disney: Pass Up Rights to ‘Mr. Magoo,’ ” in the L.A. Times Calendar section October 16, 1993:

“Mr. Magoo is myopic, but so is 52% of the U.S. Wishart ‘sees’ Magoo as a pathetic buffoon. Yet, Magoo films have been honored by the motion picture academy, the New York Museum of Modern Art, the Kennedy Center, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and many others. He’s been a very successful spokesman for GE, RCA, Timex, Blue Shield, NutraSweet, the U.S. Treasury, the U.S. Navy, the American Cancer Society, the National Safety Council and the American Heart Association.”

Some Things Never Change. In 1991, Warners got in trouble be re-releasing theatrically an old Bugs Bunny cartoon entitled A Lad And His Lamp (1948) about Bugs’ involvement with a genie and Mad Man Hassan. Warners responded in a publicity statement reported in Variety (February 25, 1991) that it was “simply a classic cartoon, produced 43 years ago, satirizing a classic children’s fairy tale, intended – as all our cartoons are – only as good-natured fun”.

However, radio personality Casey Kasem (the voice of Shaggy in the Scooby-Doo series) who was of Arab descent and an activist for improving the image of Arabs led the vocal protest and denounced the cartoon as “perpetuating Arab stereotypes and could dehumanize the populace as a whole” as he told the Los Angeles Times on February 25, 1991. “It was never intended to be a racist cartoon,” stated Vivian Boyer a Warners Brothers executive.


  • On Mister Magoo, I recall that when the Mister Magoo movie came out the “P.C.Thugs” were accusing Disney of making fun of the “sight challenged ” people but didn’t know that Mister Magoo was around for years and won a Oscar for the animated cartoon When Magoo Flew.

    And on Casey Kasem guess he never seen nor mention the animated series The Arabian Knights which was about a group of heroic Persians who resided in which is now Baghdad Iraq by the Evil Bakaar the Black Sultan ousting Prince Turhan the true ruler of Baghdad. Turhan with his allies Fariik the Magician,Raseem the Strongman,Bez the Transformer (who can transform to any beast),Princess Nida of El-Rabaal who’s a master of disguise and Zazuum the little donkey where if someone pulls his tail he goes into total berserk mode and turns into a destructive tornado. And there was nothing negative nor stereotyping on the series and how the people of ancient Persia and Arabia were portrayed.

  • Well, the joke’s on Saperstein, because Disney’s “Magoo” was attacked for being disrespectful to the blind and got yanked from the screen after two weeks.

    Also, Kasem left the cast of “The Transformers” because of an episode he deemed offensive; the villains were Arab-like terrorists from the nation of Carbombya (“Population: 4,000 people, 10,000 camels”).

  • I remember seeing that “Speechless” tribute framed and for sale at my area mall not long after Blanc’s death.

    Regarding Snoopy’s mustache, I’d seen somewhere that that might have also been a nod to Vince Guaraldi and his impressive ‘stache.

  • I can not can not can NOT ever see “A Lad” being a “racist” film. I wonder what ever became of “humor!” If we can’t make fun on our own selves…….jeez. Plus this film was on NETWORK tv for decades!!!!!

    • Rather than be upset regarding this particular BUGS BUNNY cartoon which, I agree, satirizes a fantasy tale much older than the cartoon itself, I’d like to know what line was cut from the cartoon following Hassan’s exclamation “I got the lamp! I got the lamp!!” I guess that Warner Brothers never kept records on such things, but, knowing how these cartoons were created to amuse a much, much wider audience than little children, I become very curious as to the jokes that were left out!

      Yes, please, please, let us remember that these cartoons were *NOT* meant for kids, despite the fact that they ended up on local American airwaves, some in their uncensored glory. Most racial caricatures were there to more satirize the way Hollywood portrayed different people when tales such as these were made into major motion pictures; I was hoping that putting such seemingly controversial cartoons as special features on certain films with a similar theme would have proven my point, but no one went quite that far.

      I did like the NIGHT AT THE MOVIES collections from Warner Brothers, though, and I hope we come to the day when this tradition can be continued, especially when it comes to the FORBIDDEN HOLLYWOOD series which uncovered some amazing films. I thought that the series would go further and uncover cartoons deemed controversial as well, but, alas…

  • When I check out “A-LAD-IN HIS LAMP”, I can’t help but remember it more for Jim Backus’ terrific portrayal of the smug genie, and I come away remembering more the lines he spoke–“Three cheers and a tiger for me!!”, “Oh, Heavens to Gimbles, no!!”–I wished his voice over talents were more widely used at Warner Brothers. In the age of “SOUTH PARK” in which everything and everyone is satirized unmercifully, I don’t know why we look at older cartoons as being “controversial” at all!!

  • Always enjoyed the genie in A Lad and His Lamp. I think it was Jim Backus speaking as the genie. If it was, great hearing two voice legends..Backus and Mel Blanc in the same cartoon.

    • And it wasn’t the only time they worked together. Backus played the character Hartley Benson on The Mel Blanc Show on radio right about the same time this short was produced.

    • Ironically it wasn’t among the 12 banned Bugs Bunny cartoono from 2000 or 2001’s June Bugs marathon. Wished it has been released on DVD.

  • Who’s more widely and fondly remembered, Bugs Bunny or Casey Kasem?

    [ drop microphone ]

    • Good one!

  • I still get choked up seeing the Mel Blanc tribute. He influenced my youth as much as any non family member could. Well, in addition to the great animators!

  • I have to smile at Melendez’s humility in this item, which is consistent with everything I’ve read about him.
    He could have acknowledged that Schultz was paying him tribute – which is probably more the way Schultz thought of it – but he characterized it as “baiting”. Very subtle, good humored humility.

  • Jim Backus did a character called Hubert Updike the third on The Alan Young Show on radio, probably prior to his Hartley Benson character on Mel Blanc’s show. Updike used a lot of phrases like “Heavens To Gimbles”, and the whole stuffy demeanor of the Genie’s personality was clearly inspired by the narcissistic Updike.

    • Of course, Hubert became Thurston Howell III when Jim Backus was on “Gilligan’s Island.” Sherwood Schwartz, and his brother Al, were writers on the Alan Young show.

    • Thurston Howell III also had an inspiration in Tyler Fitzgerald, the boozy millionaire played by Backus in “It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World,” which went into release shortly before Schwartz did the initial “Gilligan” pilot.

  • Bugs: “Cut it out! You’ll wrinkle the mateeerial!”
    A variation on a line, “Hmmm, nice piece of material!”, used several times in cartoons by Bob Clampett (The Timid Toreador, Eatin’ on the Cuff, etc.). Was this some radio comic’s catch phrase? It’s odd, but funny.

    • Perhaps a reference to Frank Nelson’s salesman/floorwalker character on Jack Benny’s show?

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