Bluth in Ireland. In the Washington Post May 1st, 1988, producer and animator Don Bluth said “Someone told us a little while back that you either have to get into the film business or get out. We were at the very bottom of the ladder. (Jerry) Goldsmith (who had worked with Bluth on Secret of NIMH) knew Steven Spielberg and asked him to look at this picture he’d just finished scoring. Steven called and asked, ‘Would you come to my office and talk?’ When we got there, he said, ‘I was under the impression the golden age of animation was over. What did this cost? $6.3 million? That’s incredible! Let’s make a picture!’
“Two and a half years later, Steven called again, ‘I think I’ve got a picture’. (With An American Tail) we put the paddles in reverse. Business people are thinking ‘Well, animation is dead. It can’t make money’. Now there’s a barrage of animated features going to happen. I had no idea when we left Disney what this would take us to. I feel Ireland’s going to be that place people will come to get away from the rest of the world. I guess we’re the first.”
Betty Boop Feature Film. In Variety for February 14th, 1993, it was announced that Betty Boop would make her animated feature film debut in a film for MGM by the Zanuck Company to be released in 1994. The film was never made. It would mark producer Richard D. Zanuck’s first venture into animation.
“I never really thought about doing animation but the character of Betty Boop is such a historic one in terms of cartoon characters. She’s really the only one that has survived through the years. We realized the impact of this character around the world in terms of its recognition. We found even six year olds in Taiwan know who she is. It took months to clear all the rights to this character because she’s been around so long. It was very complicated,” said Zanuck.
Steven Paul Levia was to produce with Jerry Rees as writer and director. Rees was also to find studio space and hire artists for the film. Co-producer was to be Richard Fleischer.
Flesicher said the film would be a “comedy with a good love story. Betty will be sexy, sassy and innocent all at the same time. She’s carried that combination for sixty years. She has an inborn innocence that stays with her but she’s very provocative and flirtatious.”
Krifalusi Cartoons That Were Never Made. In Variety for January 13th, 1993, it was announced that Kricfalusi was developing an animated variety show for primetime that would feature his characters He Hog and George Liquor. Kricfalusi likened it to the old Jackie Gleason television variety show with skits, songs and guest appearances.
Musical numbers said Kricfalusi would focus on “manly songs about chopping down trees, things like Sons of the Pioneers and Frankie Laine”. Another segment entitled “The Liquour Cabinet” would feature George Liquor in his “manly den” holding forth on topics like the “value of intolerance”.
He Hog, a dentist by day and super swine at all other times would have “the world’s greatest superpowers, including X-ray nipples and ultra tastocity (extremely sensitive taste buds). He can lick a trail to the villain’s hideout. He can even taste guilt. The only thing that can neutralize him is marmalade on his butt. The antidote? Toast. He foils criminals such as Mr. Meat and Professor Mole. A deal is imminent.” No, it wasn’t – though a pilot was eventually produced in 1999.
My Friend Troma. The Hollywood Reporter announced in February 1st, 1993, that Tokuma Group had partnered with the New York film company Troma Inc. (Toxic Avenger) to distribute an English dubbed version of Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro that when it was released in Japan had “reaped about five million dollars theatrically and eighty million overall when merchandising, publishing, video cassette sales and more were taken into account”.
Troma was to release the film (under the ’50th Street Films” label) in the spring beginning in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago with 200 prints being made. Troma’s top executive Lloyd Kaufman said, “This is part of our thrust to become a serious independent distributor for top quality, main stream movies which haven’t been discovered by the majors. The quality of the film’s animation is on the level of anything that Disney has produced. In my opinion, it’s more beautiful. The Totoro character in Japan is more beloved than Mickey Mouse.”
Tokuma went with Troma because of its success with smaller releases and hoped it could prove the commercial appeal of Miyazaki’s animated films to an American public. The English dub was produced by Streamline Pictures (Carl Macek and Jerry Beck) – this version of the film was eventually released in VHS by 20th Century Fox (and it was later re-dubbed and re-released on video by Disney. Today that version is available on blu-ray via Gkids and Shout Factory).
The Wisdom of Frank Thomas. In the Los Angeles Times in December 27th,1992, animator Frank Thomas said, “Ollie (Johnston) is the one with the best feelings for a character. If I needed a character to express emotions, I’d go to Ollie. There is a scene I did in Robin Hood that I would still like to change. And there’s a scene between Captain Hook and Tinker Bell in Peter Pan that no matter how many times I see it, I would like to take out an extra gesture by Captain Hook. I was never happy with the stepsisters in Cinderella either.
“The worst part about going to art school is that someone is bound to tell you how to draw which is terrible because you don’t want anyone to tell you how to look at the world. Now with the Thumper character we had a voice – this surprising voice popped out of the mouth of this five year old kid. He had his own brazen takeover voice. We adapted Thumper to this kid’s personality. I think he’s selling real estate in New York today.”
That Will Never Happen Again. From The Guardian newspaper April 30th, 2012, Don Hahn producer of Disney’s animated feature Beauty and the Beast (1991) shared, “The release in 1991 was extraordinary. Everywhere it showed, there was an outpouring of appreciation. Later, when they announced the Oscar nominations, it was like an out-of-body experience: Beauty and the Beast became the first animated film ever to be nominated for best picture. I tossed my coffee away and went running around the garden in my underwear. When you get into animation, you just think you’re going to sit in dark rooms and make funny drawings. You don’t expect to be going to the Oscars and sitting next to Barbra Streisand.”