Educational Animation. In 1990, Congress passed a landmark law requiring TV stations to upgrade their children’s programming and that owners of local stations must prove to the FCC that they’re serving the “educational and informational needs” of young viewers or risk losing their licenses. However, that law didn’t slow down these stations who creatively filed applications for license renewal with these actual entries revealed in Newsweek magazine November 30,1992:
• Bucky O’Hare: “Good-doer Bucky fights off the evil toads from aboard his ship. Issues of social consciousness and responsibility are central themes to the program.”
• Chip’n’Dale Rescue Rangers: “The Rescue Rangers stop Chedderhead Charlie from an evil plot. The rewards of team efforts are the focus in this episode.”
• Yo, Yogi!: “Snag learns that he can capture the bank-robbing cockroach more successfully by using his head, rather than his muscles.”
Peggy Charren, founder of Action for Children’s Television is quoted as saying, “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. It’s like arguing that Attack of the Killer Tomatoes teaches the value of eating vegetables”. Judy Price head of children’s programming for CBS responded, “If broccoli is the only thing on a kid’s plate, that doesn’t mean he going to eat it. Who’s to say what’s appropriate for our young? How can you have rules about something that’s subjective? And with all respect to Peggy Charren, who elected her to represent the values of this nation’s parents?”
Under the Sea on Saturday Morning. The Little Mermaid animated television series premiered with the animated prime time special called “A Whale of a Tale” (1992) that was never re-broadcast and then the show was moved to Saturday mornings the very next day on CBS from 1992 to 1994. Reruns were later shown on The Disney Channel beginning October 1995.
Disney television animation president Gary Krisel is the one who proposed adapting the Disney animated feature film The Little Mermaid (1989) into a television series. In the Los Angeles Times for September 10th, 1992, he said: “I don’t think there’s been a tradition of not adapting the features to television. The opportunity didn’t present itself before now because of limits on the animation process and other factors. Ariel is a unique character with contemporayr sensibilities. No stronger girl character has been created in the last twenty years.”
Animators who worked on the original feature film were vocal, but kept their anonymity for fear of impacting their jobs, that they were upset that their work was being trivialized by limited animation and foreign animation studios.
No Seuss for Disney. Actor and clown Bill Irwin came to visit Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss) at his house while Irwin was performing at the La Jolla Playhouse. He was seeking Geisel’s permission to play the role in a production of Cat In the Hat that Disney was proposing as a television special. Geisel said that he admired Irwin’s talent but had absolutely no interest in ever working with Disney. Geisel’s wife, Helen Palmer, had during the 1940s written some children’s books for Disney including Donald Duck Sees South America.
Kimball on The Three Cabelleros. In the Boston Sunday Globe July 12, 1992, animator Ward Kimball talked about the The Three Cabelleros (1944) sequence where the characters sing the title song: “I think it’s my best animation because it was the most imaginative, and broke a lot of rules, shocked everyone here (at Disney). I did what I did out of desperation. They decided they’d have a song about the title in the picture and they handed me the acetate on which they had recorded the whole thing. I was pretty disgusted with the deal. ‘What am I supposed to do here? What’s it tie into? It’s just a song.’
“I spent a whole week grousing about it, sitting in my room, listening to it. Then all of a sudden, I got belligerent and decided to do exactly everything the song was saying. For every descriptive passage, I had it just happen. They ran out of the side of the frame and then came back in from the top.
“The director didn’t want to show it to Walt. He was afraid of what I had done. I kind of like it because I was getting revenge on these people who had dropped it in my lap. When the director had to run his section of animation for Walt, it included the song I had animated. Everyone kind of laughed seeing all this stuff.
“Walt thought it was great. The director turned to him and said, ‘Well, of course, we’re going to change things.’ And Walt said, ‘What the hell are you talking about? Don’t you recognize something that’s OK when you see it?’ And he turned and said, ‘OK for inking and painting.’ To this day, I think it’s the best sequence I’ve ever done.”
The Wellingtons. Not to tread on my friend Greg Ehrbar’s territory but most people know the musical group The Wellingtons (George Patterson, Kirby Johnson and Ed Wade) from their recording of the theme song for the 1965 television series Gilligan’s Island. In one episode they popped up as the singing group The Mosquitoes. However before that gig, when they performed at the Disneyland Hotel, Walt Disney was sitting in the front row and signed them for his record label. They sang “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” and later the sound track title song for the Disney live action film Savage Sam (1963) as well as the theme song for the television show The Wonderful World of Color among other Disney tunes including an album with Annette Funicello.
William Hanna. In the U.K. 1961 Picture Show Annual, animation producer William Hanna said, “My partner (Joe Barbera) and I got along together so well all these years that by now we seem to be like identical twins, knowing each other’s thoughts and blending our ideas together. My first cartoon job was with Harman-Ising where my duties were to clean cartoon frames, sweep up the place, run errands and inspire bosses with story ideas.”
Jim Backus. In the U.K. 1961 Picture Show Annual, actor Jim Backus talked about his cartoon alter ego Mr. Magoo: “He’ a pompous little business man, rather the equivalent of England’s Colonel Blimp. I do the voice first then the film is made later. I can record anywhere, sometimes even in my bedroom. My own name carries little weight with people but I only have to say ‘Mr. Magoo speaking’ and that achieves the effect.”