March 2, 2018 posted by Jim Korkis

Animation Anecdotes #352

East of the Sun. Prior to the release of The Secret of NIMH (1982), animator and producer Don Bluth discussed his proposed second animated feature in a Canadian interview: “The next picture we’re doing is a modern-day fairy tale, but it’s based on a very old fairy tale. It’s Norwegian, called East of the Sun, West of the Moon. And the old fairy-tale is very convoluted — it has a lot to do with a prince and princess, of course. The prince is enchanted and he’s a polar bear. And the polar bear talks to the princess and says, ‘You must never look upon my face, because if you look upon my face, I’ll be whisked away somewhere, and you’ll never see me again.’

“So she sneaks in through his bedroom in the middle of the night and lights a candle to look at him, because he’s in mortal form at night. Consequently, the curse is complete and he is thrown into some land that lies “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”. And she has to rescue him.

“Now the story that we’re telling takes place in the future, about the year 2500, and it has much the same elements in it, except it’s about a young boy and a young girl. She gets the boy in trouble in much the same way. He is discovered – he’s a fugitive from another world. He is discovered because of her, and is taken away to be put to death, and she sets out to rescue him.

“It has some fantastic visuals in it, too. We go down to the lost city of Atlantis in one sequence; how she journeys to this land East of the Sun, West of the Moon is on the back of the North Wind, so it has, I think, some beautiful things in it.”

Unfortunately in August of 1982 the animation industry was hit by one of its most devastating strikes trying to curb runaway (foreign) production, mostly used for Saturday morning and syndicated series. Work stopped on several projects. Besides Bluth’s East of the Sun, Disney’s Mickey’s Christmas Carol and Welcome Entertainment’s Ziggy’s Gift were also affected. Picket lines were set up in front of the major studios, with the line of strikers in front of Disney getting plenty of TV coverage.

Once the strike finished, The Secret of Nimh had under-performed at the box office and plans for Bluth’s next project was changed.

The Romance of Betty Boop. The Romance of Betty Boop (1985) was a CBS special produced and directed by Bill Melendez, today best known for his work on the Charlie Brown Peanuts specials. At the time, Melendez noted that he was never a Betty Boop fan when he was a youngster. However, he liked the script by Ron Friedman.

“There had been a continuing loyalty group to Betty Boop,” Melendez stated. “But she was never my favorite character until I read the script. It was no longer that flapper of the 1930s. It was for today, a joy to read. It was a refreshing difference for me personally and if the ratings allow, I would do additional Boop specials.” Ratings did not allow that to happen.

Beauty and the Beast. From the New York Times November 17, 1991, co-director of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991) Kirk Wise said, “In the early parts of the film, Beast should be walking on all fours. In the latter parts of the film, he should stand more upright. And by the time the two are together in the dance, he’s carrying himself upright like a human being. He actually looks handsome, even though he’s in this sort of beastly form.

“Belle’s arc is from being revolted and scared by Beast to loving him to seeing beyond this ugly façade something that is very warm and very real and very lovable.”

South Park Characters. In Entertainment Weekly October 14, 2016, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone revealed that wheelchair bound Timmy was just created for a minor bit but they fell in love with the character. Timmy was supposed to die in his first appearance. PC Principal was just supposed to be a “one-off” gag character.

“There was a moment, a couple of years ago, when The Simpsons were going to kill off a major character,” said Stone. “We were like, ‘Let’s be super hardcore. Let’s just f*cking kill Kyle’.”

Mike Judge. In USA Today in 1993, writer Mike Judge commented on Beavis and Butt-head: “A lot of people are saying ‘why am I laughing at this?’ It’s just simple dumb humor. I really think kids take it for what it is, that it’s a satire and we’re not endorsing what they do. I voice both characters and while there is a script, I do ad-lib a lot. The difficulty is that we’ll have a great line but it’ll be just too clever for them so we can’t use it.”

Spielberg Loves Animators. Steven Spielberg quoted in American Film magazine September 1978, “I’m so much in love with Disney animators. I think animation is the foster parent of live action cinema because animators have in their mind a clear picture of how a chipmunk rolls over in the snow. They don’t build mechanical chipmunks and roll them over. They have to use their imagination and paint them. I think that all directors should be animators first, because you take the imagination and turn it into something tangible.”

Wisdom of Chuck Jones. In The Record from July 30, 1992, animator and producer Chuck Jones said, “If you care about the art (of animation), I think you are obliged to help those who will follow. Saturday morning TV is written down to children. It’s dangerous when you write down to any audience, of course, but it’s never a good idea to write down to children. Beethoven was composing at the age of five. The test of any good children’s story is whether it can be enjoyed by adults as well.”

Square Dancing. Some animation fans know that Chuck Jones and his wife were square dancing enthusiasts and that Chuck did frequent drawings for the square dancing magazine, Sets in Order and even an occasional column. Bob Osgood began publishing SIO in 1948 and the last issue was issued in December 1985, 444 issues total. It was Phil Monroe who got Warners’ studio personnel interested in square dancing and organized noon time dances in the studio’s basement. The McKimson cartoon, Hillbilly Hare (1950), with its square dancing sequence grew out of this activity and McKimson called in Monroe as an adviser on the square dance patter.


  • You can also see ROMANCE OF BETTY BOOP on 1984 Oscar submissions

  • It’s a shame that Don Bluth’s early film ideas never got off the ground. They are a lot more intriguing than Rock-a-Doodle or A Troll in Central Park.

  • Just goes to show that Chuck Jones actually cared about animation. No one can ever take his place in anybody’s hearts.

  • I agree that the best kids’ entertainment is that which refuses to talk down to its audience. We like the Warner Brothers cartoons, even at their “cutest”, because there is very little that is cloying about them as a whole. The artists at Termite Terrace were creating cartoons for their own amusement and I’d like to think that this aspect is that which caught on with the American public, child or adult. I never understood most children’s storytelling created *SPECIFICALLY* for children because it is an adult’s impression of what a child will like, and believe me, that is the hardest thing to accomplish. I don’t say that such an achievement has never been, but for me, the stuff that was just put out there to amuse a wider range of people is the stuff that remains so great, today. To create cartoons specifically for children is to assume that it will all be thrown away and forgotten when the children in question grow up or just grow older, unless there is something so artistically stimulating about it, and few such attempts really gain that status. Steven Spielberg is right when he says that modern directors should learn the techniques of animation, because there are some incredible feats of imagination, there, even when it comes to lampooning live action film–that’s why we appreciated the body of work, both animation and live action, of Frank Tashlin. He achieved that manic energy in his films because he treated both animation and live action as equal.

  • I would have liked to have seen that Don Bluth film. The lead female character looked to be a barefooter. Those kinds of characters are cool.

  • I would love for Don Bluth to live long enough not only to see Dragon Lair movie ACTUALLY GETTING FUNDS, but to direct one more movie after that. Either East of the Sun (also an a-ha song btw), or Satyrday. Would love to see that.

    Also, LOL @ that one comment.

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