October 6, 2017 posted by Jim Korkis

Animation Anecdotes #332

Elwy and the Tree Weasels. In the Los Angeles Times Calendar section for August 9, 1992 animator and director John Kricfalusi talked about the Mighty Mouse episode, Elwy and the Tree Weasels (aka Mighty’s Benefit Plan), “It was sick and twisted and evil the way they were making these pseudo-chipmunk characters so real. David Seville was now like their father instead of their manager. I wanted to know what a full-grown adult male was doing living with three lower life forms, forcing them to sing and go to school and wear human clothing.

“We were just a bunch of animators who finally got their chance to do whatever they wanted so we went crazy. We were constantly writing Mighty Mouse out of the stories, trying to come up with new characters. Working for the networks is like working for the Inquistion. You’re a heretic if you have any ideas. You are not allowed to think if you’re an artist working for a network.”

Bebe’s Kids. Comedian Robin Harris worked twice as hard and ate twice as much as he probably should have and passed away in August 1990 of a heart attack at the age of 35. He had appeared in HBO comedy specials and finished a film by brothers Reginald and Warrington Hudlin called House Party.

There was an option for another Hudlin film about the comedy routine of Harris taking his girlfriend and her son to Disneyland and finding the girlfriend bringing along three obnoxious kids she had agreed to babysit for her friend Bebe. Work was underway when Harris passed away.

“We didn’t want the vision of Robin Harris to pass away,” said Reginald Hudlin, “but we couldn’t imagine anyone playing the part of him in a movie.”

Harris’ surviving family, his widow and mother agreed to allow the comedy bit to be made in animation with a voice impressionist (Faizon Love). In the movie, Bebe’s Kids (1992) the amusement park is changed to the generic “Fun World” and there is a brief live action glimpse of Harris doing his act in the beginning of the film.

An especially adamant friend of Harris’ came to the Hudlin office to complain that no one could effectively mimic Harris, Warrington Hudlin said, “Faizon was behind the door and he started speaking in Robin’s voice. This guy jumped ten feet. He thought a ghost had come in.”

Jeffrey Katzenberg Talks Disney Animation. From the Boston Globe November 25, 1992 Jeffrey Katzenberg, then chairman of the Disney Studio said,

“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t remember when they saw Bambi (1942) for the first time in a movie theater. It’s a moment that’s engrained in all of us, and as parents we want our children to experience that same moment for themselves as difficult a moment as it is; it’s invaluable.

“These movies carry with them an attempt at the highest values that we can muster, that is the heritage of Walt Disney. And they are celebrations of what’s best in mankind. They are about good triumphing against evil, about distinguishing right from wrong, about not judging a book by its cover, about the need to believe in oneself.”

Bill Scott’s Inspiration. Producer/writer/actor Bill Scott once told me: “I think there was a good deal of the Hope and Crosby ROAD pictures with Rocky and Bullwinkle stepping out of character and making remarks about the characters being in a film. That’s the kind of humor I grew up with, and that’s what I thought was funny.”

Creature Comforts. In the London newspaper, the Post Standard in October 1990, Peter Lord of Aardman Animation said that what appeals to him and Nick Park about using clay as opposed to drawn animation is that “you can improvise a great deal and still be thinking creatively at the last minute.”   He used the example in Creature Comforts (1989) in which a chicken pulls the beak from its partner’s face and lets it twang back as if it were on elastic was a gag dreamed up on the same day it was shot.

Nick Park added, “Basically you listen to your interview material a million times and come up with all the possibilities you can. The only thing I had to decide was what sort of questions and what sorts of people would come up with the kind of answers that animals would give if you were to go into a zoo and talk to them. I did initially try to ask people to imagine that they were animals, but it didn’t really work because it sounded like acting.

“So I went and did interviews in schools, in old people’s homes, and with people I knew who lived in small, grotty bed-sits. I’d met the Brazilian student (an engineering student who did the voice of the jaguar) before and knew that he hated living in Britain, the food and the weather and because animals in zoos are quite often brought in from other counties, I thought he’d probably give the right answers.” The family that ran Park’s corner shop did the voice of the polar bears.

William Hanna Regrets. In the Los Angeles Times August 29, 1988, animation producer William Hanna said, “The early years of Hanna-Barbera were more fun than the later ones. I was working more in the creative areas of timing and direction then. But as the studio grew, I became more involved in administration and got away from the creative aspects. Also the networks were not as involved in the creative process as they are now, a lot more of the input came from the studio. Frankly, I miss that.”

The Wisdom of Bakshi. In the Los Angeles Times Calendar section for August 9, 1992 animator and director Ralph Bakshi said, “The art of cartooning is the art of total exaggeration. You can’t be too gross in animation. You can’t be too anything in animation. Cartooning is anarchy. That’s all it’s ever been about.

“Basically, once something becomes successful, you have a lots of people trying to tell you how to maintain that success. And their way of maintaining success is to tell you not to take the chances that made you successful. Suddenly, all these people are terrified to tamper with it and they don’t realize the reason you got there in the first place was because you took some risks.”


  • Heard that Bebe’s Kids was a underrated film like Rodney Dangerfield’s Rover Dangerfield – but unlike Rover (which was unexpectedly shelved), Bebe’s Kids was released in theaters and later became a cult classic.

  • “Bebe’s Kids” is a beloved film by both young and old in my community. It is required in the DVD collections of us Black folk.

  • Reginald Hudlin has directed a new movie about Thurgood Marshall, which opens Friday.

  • I got to see a lot of development of Bébé’s Kids at Hanna Barbera, which was really great, and seeing the film turn out so, so well was a treat. Bruce Smith, the director, seemed like the nicest guy. Unfortunately, it didn’t do well at the box office and that pretty much put the kibosh on “prestige animation” at that studio.

    I seem to remember that most of the people working on it were Disney exiles?

    • Oh, am I remembering incorrectly that it was Hanna Barbera? I know I saw them working on it at HB’s studios, but I guess it wasn’t an HB film?

    • Actually, it was produced at Hyperion Studios… the folks who made The Brave Little Toaster and Isty Bitsy Spider…

  • “…We were just a bunch of animators who finally got their chance to do whatever they wanted so we went crazy. We were constantly writing Mighty Mouse out of the stories, trying to come up with new characters…”

    Sometimes I wonder the sanity of John K’s mind, then and now. This pretty much sums it up for me 😛

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