April 13, 2018 posted by Jim Korkis

Animation Anecdotes #358

Bluth’s Beauty and the Beast. In early 1984, animator and producer Don Bluth announced his studio would begin working on an animated version of Beauty and the Beast. Bluth’s version had Beauty who was a blonde (to emphasize “innocence”) assisted by a number of animals including Nan, a clairvoyant dog; Max, a bird detective; and Otto, an escape artist lizard, as well as King Bats and the Wee Beasties.

Bluth felt his approach would have the same magic as the Disney classic animated features and be according to him “a tender love story that says, ‘a thing must be loved before it’s lovable’.” Bluth worked on the screen play and some storyboards. In the story at one point, the witch Queen Livia, who, being jealous of the Beast for rejecting her, would have attempted to manipulate Beauty in her sleep so she would leave the castle and let the Prince die.

When the deal with Steven Spielberg developed for An American Tail (1986), the Beauty and the Beast project was shelved after Bluth tried pitching the idea to Spielberg who rejected it. Bluth was also considering a version of Aladdin.

During production of The Land Before Time (1988), Bluth found funding for three features and he hoped the first would be Beauty and the Beast but by then Disney had announced their intention to do the tale and Bluth reluctantly dropped his project fearing that two animated features on the same topic at the same time would mean death at the box office for both especially since his version would come out second since Disney had already gone into production.

Jeffrey Katzenberg on Little Mermaid. In a 1989 Minneapolis/St. Paul press event hyping the release of Disney’s The Little Mermaid (1989), producer Jeffrey Katzenberg said, “I want to go out and compete with Harlem Nights and Back to the Future II. Maybe that’s a foolish ambition and I’ll walk home with my tail between my legs but that’s who I really think we are competing with. If you go back to the first group of animated movies that came out of this company, they were competitive with the whole movie universe. They were not isolated into the ghetto of parent/children movies.

“We have worked very hard in the animation department to not make these saccharine and kiddie-like. Emotion and humor do not have to come out of childish qualities. They can come from very smart and very intelligent beings.”

The Wisdom of John Pomeroy. In a 1989 Minneapolis/St. Paul press event hyping the release of the animated feature All Dogs Go To Heaven (1989) from Don Bluth, producer and animator John Pomeroy said, “We are trying to champion the cause of the animated feature films returning to the great days of Walt (Disney) so that once we could equal that we could take it further…there’s a lot more innovative new things to be done in animated films.

“I don’t regard head-to-head with Disney so much as competition, I regard it more as we have doubled our chances of surviving as an art form. I think it stimulates audiences to see both films. We do films for everybody. We try to reach the widest possible margin of an audience as possible. We have to find things that will enchant the kids but intrigue the teenagers and parents. That’s a heavy responsibility. Disney’s intent is to produce good films. So is ours.”

William Conrad on Bullwinkle. From the CBS “On the Town” (Los Angeles) television series for January 30, 1981, actor William Conrad commented during a segment on Rocky and Bullwinkle, “I learned more about my craft doing that show than just about anything else I’ve ever done. I’m not only surprised it is no longer being aired; I’m shocked it is not on. I thought it was the kind of show that would go on forever.”

Snow White Memories. In Entertainment Weekly July 9, 1993, Adriana Caselotti who voiced Snow White in the original Disney animated feature film was seventy-seven years old and shared: “I didn’t understand this thing until the opening night. They never let me see any rushes. We started on the film in 1934 when I was 18 and it went on until I was 21. (The studio) would call me in and I was paid $20 a day whenever I worked. In the middle of the production, they ran out of money. They didn’t know if they’d ever be able to continue and I wasn’t called for a year.

“You know, I live the part. All day long I’m singing the songs. I go around cooking and singing. The neighborhood kids come and ask me to do a show for them in front of the wishing well. I have a big wishing well outside of the house.

“I am a very happy person for having been given the opportunity to be the voice of Snow White. I get so much happiness out of it that I live in a cloud. I’ve never come out of it.”

Top Toon. In the Orange County Register October 22, 1989, a statement from filmmaker Steven Spielberg said, “Chuck Jones’ originality, his humor, and his pacing still have no peer today. In my book, he is still the top toon in town.”

Really a Dog. In the Entertainment Weekly Fall Double Issue for 1993, executive producers Tim Burton and Steven Spielberg saw the first new episodes of the series Family Dog in May 1991 and didn’t like what they saw. By January 1992, they had secured an additional two million dollars to doctor the ten completed episodes which had already cost more than six hundred thousand dollars each. They hired Canadian animation company Nelvana to animate new scenes and re-dub others, especially the first two shows. Dennis Klein, the series’ initial writer had no animation experience and didn’t own a dog. According to a production source, “He’d go around asking ‘Would your dog do such and such?’”

Here’s the original pilot, from the Amazing Stories series, written and directed by Brad Bird.

Birth of Rugrats. In Entertainment Weekly October 14, 2016, co-creator of Rugrats Gabor Csupo said, “Everyone was pointing at The Simpsons – do something like this but for children. Something inventive. Something daring. Not your regular Saturday-morning cartoon. And Arlene (Klasky) said, ‘Let’s do a show about babies’. We started to draw crazy looking babies and the more outrageously funny they looked, the more we liked them.” Co-creator Klasky said, “Our aesthetic was off beat and quirky. I didn’t draw the way Disney did. Some people thought our style was ugly. We thought it was beautiful.”

Here’s the now-classic opening sequence, directed by Peter Chung:


  • I’d always felt that the Jay Ward cartoons worked so well because the voice over talents were feeding off each other most of the time. I guess there were one or two voices among these greats that came in and did their parts separate from the sessions around the microphone, but the timing was so impeccable because they were like actors on a stage…I’d always found Chuck Jones to be the most observant of all the Warner Brothers animators.

    Some of his best cartoons dealt with characters that didn’t talk, and that is why I liked some of the earliest entries even in the INKI series. The characters moved through the stories in pantomime, sometimes looking to the audience as if to say “what would *YOU* do in a situation like this?”, and he came up with the most imaginative creatures, like the minah bird who just skips along to the rhythm of the music, oddly saving the main character from imminent danger by distracting the major players from whatever they were doing…

    “SNOW WHITE” remains such a great film to me with all the experimentation, and the voice of Snow White herself was unique, as unreal as the overall fantasy of teh story, and teh same goes for the wicked queen who was genuinely frightening as she transformed in her rage. Yet, I still sometimes wonder what Disney films would have been had the studio who distributed his films been MGM. The Harman/Ising cartoons were the closest thing to Disney’s best work. I just thought that MGM had very interesting sound effects in their cartoons, and I liked most of the scores to the cartoons as well.

    • And of course the MGM sound effects were among those to wind up at Hanna-Barbera.:-). And guess who directed the famous Award winnin’ Tom & Jerry there? Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna (and of course MGM’s sound effects in Tex Avcery, Harman and Ising and the lesser units were also wonderful..) Hanna-Barbera TV cartoons got sounds from other studios… the largest cartoon sound FX library, indeed! 🙂

  • I’ve seen a lot of derision and mockery aimed at Jeffrey Katzenberg over the years, but when he’s right, he’s right; I wish more executives in the animation industry would have the attitude towards animation that he expressed in the quoted article above.

    It’s funny that at the same time William Conrad was bemoaning Bullwinkle no longer being aired, I was getting up at 6am every morning mainly to watch that show. And now Dreamworks is producing a new version to show on Amazon Prime. It’s probably too soon to proclaim that it’ll last forever, and the show seems to have faded from the public consciousness over the past couple of decades, but it still has some life left, at least.

  • In case anyone else was curious, The Little Mermaid made $84 million in theaters, which was behind Back to the Future II ($118 million) and ahead of Harlem Nights ($60 million). It finished 13th in box office totals among 1989 movies, which were topped by the Tim Burton Batman. So it was solidly among the “adult” movies, which is no surprise. And I imagine The Little Mermaid has made Disney a LOT of money on video sales over the years.

    • Meanwhile, All Dogs Go to Heaven is ranked 44th, with just 27 million. Less than the Peter Pan reissue ($29m), but more than the Rescuers ($21m) reissue.

    • The Garfield and Friends episode “Astrocat” (originally aired 9/15/1990) had a pretty hilarious little commentary on the box office performance of “All Dogs Go to Heaven”…

  • I have a small animation anecdote, which comes from my source – a vintage Danish magazine Ude og Hjemme edition 2 – January 8th 1965. According to the Disney article, “When Disney was 15 years old, he read the classic children’s book Winnie-the-Pooh, where Winnie the bear at an occasion puts himself in a rabbit hole with the result that its rump gets stuck. Disney spend hours to speculate how it would be for a rabbit to see his ‘front door’ blocked of a bear’s rump. 47 year later he has begun to make a picture of Winnie the bear. The speculations from his boyhood arose yet again, and now the whole world’s movie audience soon be able to see the result. In the movie, the rabbit has some comic ways to camouflage the bear’s rump.”
    Of course I would have used the word ‘back end’ to describe Pooh’s butt in my translation, but became unsure because my English is not getting any better, so I used Google Translate for the difficult words.

    • Disney was 15 in the 1910’s. Wasn’t Winnie written in the 1920’s?

    • You’re right. I never noticed that

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