Raymond Scott’s Motown Secret. Composer Raymond Scott never even watched animated cartoons according to his family but composer Carl Stalling loved Scott’s melodies and incorporated them into the soundtrack of many Warner Brothers cartoons. While Scott’s melodies are amusing, the man himself was apparently a pain-in-the-rear bully who refused to use notated charts, and forced sidemen to learn parts straight off the piano keyboard as played by Scott.
Scott attended technical school as a teenager and he intended to become an engineer, later exploring electronic music and building some of the earliest synthesizers. Most animation fans don’t know that from 1972-1977, He worked for Berry Gordy at Motown as the head of its Electronic Research and Development Division and supposedly built an “automatic composing machine” called the Electronium.
Scott once wrote a composition entitled “Dedicatory Piece to the Crew and Passengers of the First Experimental Rocket Express to the Moon”. He reportedly ran microphones across the hall during his original recording sessions into a tile-lined men’s room to capture the ambient echo and creating a bigger sound.
Sammy Timberg. When Sammy Timberg died on August 26, 1992, his obituary shared that besides being musical director for the Fleischer and Famous Studios he was a classically trained pianist (by the same teacher who taught Aaron Copland and George Gershwin), straight man in his brother Herman’s vaudeville act, and a musical director for the Marx Brothers.
“The music had to be synchronized with the action. I worked with the artists from the first drawings up to the end. I would do maybe forty pictures a year. They were all seven or eight minutes long. It was a challenge. You had to write all kinds of stuff- Serious stuff, crazy stuff. You had to have a wide knowledge of music,” said Sammy Timberg about his work on the cartoons.
He was hired by Harry Cohn, the head of Columbia Pictures, to head Screen Gems’ Studio cartoon branch during the late 1930s. He left that position after four years saying diplomatically, “Harry and I didn’t get along too well.”
The Problem with Rafiki. In an interview in 1994, animator James Baxter discussing his work on Disney’s The Lion King (1994) said, “There were some things in Rafiki’s design that were a little uncomfortable. Sometimes his fur looked too much like a grass skirt. Mandrills don’t have tails but the directors felt Rafiki looked nice with a tail, so now he’s a mutant mandrill. Even in real life mandrills’ faces look a bit unreal so it was a challenge to integrate that blue stripey part of Rafiki’s face into the design so it moves naturally when he speaks.
“When Rafiki appears to Simba and Simba says, ‘Who are you anyway?’ Rafiki answers, ‘The question is, who are you?’ I thought, ‘What can I do to make this odd and quirky?’ I decided to turn Rafiki’s head upside down so as he says ‘you’, his head is horizontal. That’s a bit of acting that came out of me.”
Matthau Salutes Mel Blanc. Actor Walter Matthau was Mel Blanc’s next door neighbor for twenty years. At Blanc’s Memorial Service, Matthau spoke and his remarks were published in Daily Variety for August 10, 1989: “I saw him five times during those twenty years. That’s once every four years. Once he said to me, ‘Hello’. Another time at the eight-year mark, he said, ‘How ya doing?’ He did have an aggressive and defiant side. It was on his personalized license plate with the letters ‘KMIT’ which he explained was an abbreviated version of the Yiddish expression meaning ‘kiss my ass’. He was such a nice man I think he meant it affectionately. So long, Mel. The neighborhood won’t be the same without you.”
Batfink Origin. In 1992, Batfink creator Hal Seeger told writer Hal Lifson the never-before-revealed secret origin of the character with wings of steel and supersonic bat radar. As a boy, Batfink lived with his widowed mother in an old abandoned plutonium mine. Unbeknownst to them, plutonium radiation had endowed the young bat with super powers. Batfink eventually teamed with his boyhood friend, Karate, who had rescued him from a near fatal explosion. Karate’s father rebuilt Batfink’s broken wings and gave him the bullet proof wings that still allowed him to fly.
Seeger told Lifson in a phone interview, “This is the only superhero that can have the likeness of a bat other than Batman. Luckily I made a deal with the DC Comics guys when Batman was only a hit television series, not the mega-million dollar cash cow it has become in the 1990s.”
Bill Clinton Harvey Character. President Bill Clinton talking to a Republican lawmaker in the fall of 1993 was quoted in TIME magazine February 7, 1994 as telling the politician: “I’m a lot like Baby Huey. I’m fat. I’m ugly. But if you push me down, I keep coming back. I just keep coming back.”
Kim Basinger and Cool World. In Moveline magazine for January/February 1994, actress Kim Basinger talked about the Bakshi film Cool World (1992): “That was such a sad experience. Frank Mancuso Jr. showed me what they planned to do with this film and I looked at my agent and said, ‘I want to do this film’. I really loved the idea. It could have been ahead of its time. I thought we were making something special.
“What I heard happened is when the studio saw it there was some deception between the director and the producer and somewhere along the way the animation got screwed up. When the studio saw it, they didn’t understand it and they cut an hour out of it. They lost the story so it turned into a mess. I’ve never seen it.”
Baskhi had originally wanted to cast actress Drew Barrymore in the role that Basinger ended up playing. In an IGN interview posted May 25, 2004, Bakshi said, “Kim Basinger had meetings with the producer and me, and thought it would be great halfway through the picture if she would be able to show this picture in hospitals to sick children.
“I’m dead serious! I said, ‘Kim, I think that’s wonderful, but you’ve got the wrong guy to do that with. Why didn’t you tell me that on the way in? How are you telling me that halfway though the picture?’ And the producer, Frank, was sitting there with Kim probably with her hand up his pants agreeing with her.”