February 9, 2018 posted by Jim Korkis

Animation Anecdotes #349

Charade. In 1984, the Academy Award for Best Animated Short was given to Charade. It cost just three hundred dollars to make and was a summer school project at Sheridan College. The four and a half minute story revolves around two people playing the game of charades with one of them being hopelessly obtuse.

In the Toronto Star for March 27, 1985, the producer-writer-director Jon Minnis stated, “I just wanted to draw and animation seemed like a good chance to do that. Animation is more like a trade than a field of entertainment where you can make a practical living. A friend recommended Sheridan College because it had a good reputation. I found they had a summer school which suited me to the ground.”

In 1981 he enrolled in a three year program that ran each year from May to August. During the rest of the year he earned a living “in the printing trade and freelancing in Toronto in animation and cartoon work.” His third year assignment was to make “a short color animated film with sound. I sat down one late afternoon in March 1983 and completed storyboards on five different ideas. Charade was one of them and I chose it because it was the easiest film to make. It’s simple, no backgrounds, but just animation on paper. It was a sudden inspriation.”

At Sheridan he made the film over three months with Pantone markers on paper during the summer and spent his own money on supplies. The film earned him an “A-plus” grade. Sheridan submitted it in the Independent Short Film Showcase where it won him $3,000 and a chance to be shown with the live action feature Moscow On the Hudson (1984). It also won best first film at the Toronto International Animation Festival, both best animation film and best first film at the Canadian Film and Teleivision Association Awards as well as a Genie Award for best theatrical short.

Minnis began working on dozens of commercials with an animation company headed by Michael Mills who knew how to get the short considered for an Oscar nomination. Minnis said, “He thought it had a chance and got a theater owner in Los Angeles to run it for three consecutive days, the time required to qualify.”

Minnis told the newspaper, “I have another one scripted. I would like to make one more animated film. And then? Maybe live action.”

Doctor De Soto. Doctor De Soto is an Oscar nominated short done by New York animator and animation historian Michael Sporn. He took the twenty-eight illustrations in the original book by writer-artist William Steig and expanded them into 7,2000 frames of animation using drawing pencils and different shades of Magic Markers to try to capture Steig’s distinctive style. The result, set against light background music is a film “that doesn’t rush at you or scream at your kids”, said Sporn. The story dealt with a mouse dentist helping a fox with a toothache without being eaten.

The film was produced by Morton Schindel whose previous films were largely confined to distribution to schools and libraries. Schindel attributed the success of this ten minute short to remaining as true as possible to the original book. Almost every line of the text in the book was recited by Ian Thomson, a British actor living in New York.

“A film should bring kids back to the book,” said Schindel. “We never talk down to children, never tell them how they are supposed to respond. We are going to continue making films for children that say something. The kids might not be jumping around, but when they watch these things, the minds will be working.”

Hanna on Slapstick Comedy. In New York Times Magazine November 23, 1969, producer Bill Hanna said, “I am glad we are moving away from the realistic adventure cartoon that was filled with violence. We as a studio have always been specialists in comedy and satire. The hits in Tom and Jerry were played for comedy. The harder the cat got hit, the harder they laughed and laughed. The way it was staged was for comedy – like the old slapstick comedy. It’s the spirit in which it was done that made it nonviolent. Immediately preceding the hit, Tom would have done something that made him deserve it — so the audience delighted in seeing the mouse triumph, because he’s a small, defenseless character.”

Mike Judge. In the Los Angeles Times March 16, 1993, Mike Judge talked about his MTV animated series Beavis and Butthead, “(While in high school in New Mexico), I would just kind of draw weird pictures. It was always faces. I’d usually draw a teacher or something, real unflattering pictures of teachers. It seemed like if I was mad at someone or if they were irritating me, I could draw them better. I read some reviews that said the animation (for Beavis and Butthead) was scrawled out. Doesn’t bother me that much. I really had no plans for the two beyond a couple of short films.”

Paige O’Hara. In USA Weekend in February 1993, Paige O’Hara who voiced Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991) said, “Some people think I look a lot like her, and some don’t think I do at all. We have similar coloring, and she definitely has some of my expressions. When Belle pulls her hair out of her face, and when she looks at the Beast with that questioning, ‘Are you for real?’ look, those are definitely things I do.”

Homer’s Secret. Why did Marge Simpson discard her ambitions and dream to marry Homer? According to voice actress Julie Kavner in Los Angeles Times Magazine January 26, 1992, “Homer is very good in bed”. At the time, it was written into her contract that she would never be required to promote herself on camera as the voice of Marge.

X-Men. In the New Jersey Herald and News for July 25, 1993, Iona Morris who provided the voice for the weather controlling mutant Storm in the Fox Children Network’s X-Men series said, “The fact that we’re all different and individuals is what makes us special. And that is what the mutant X-Men fight for in their society, being accepted. I would like to see children when they look at it and they see what all of us go through and see that the X-Men always love each other that they realize they can always find a support group –their family, their friends, people who accept them for what they are.”


  • A later film Minnis would produce was a cute music video titled “Just a Cartoon”…

    Sadly I’ve been informed by someone who knew Jon that he’s been out of the animation spotlight for a long time. Sad, but I guess earning an Oscar was enough for him.

  • Fun read!!!
    Hi Jim! (waves hello from San Francisco!) 😀

    • And I am waving back to you from Orlando where you first shared with me your dreams about going into animation. I hope all your dreams have come true.

    • 😀 Yes yes!!! After 15 years animating for TV, I’m now teaching 2D and Animation History to the next generation! 😀 So great to read your articles here, so happy to know you’re doing well! <3

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