June 1, 2018 posted by Jim Korkis

Animation Anecdotes #365

Deja and Gaston. From the L.A. Daily News November 30th, 1991, animator Andreas Deja, the primary animator on Gaston in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991), said, “Originally I was going to do Belle but (the co-directors) persuaded me to work on vain Gaston. I don’t think any of the handsome males in the earlier Disney films have been handled as very good actors. Some of them were nicely drawn, but most of them were pretty stiff looking. They never really did much acting. The chance to try and do something with that kind of character that really hadn’t been done before was too good to pass up.

“The interesting thing about Gaston is that you don’t realize he’s the villain when you first see him. When Captain Hook or Shere Khan come on the screen, you know they’re bad guys. They’re designed to look that way. Gaston’s design is just the opposite. Because he’s handsome, you think he’s the good guy. It’s only as the story progresses that you realize what a jerk he is, so there’s an arc to his character.

“The decision to make Gaston so handsome made the whole assignment a lot more difficult. We had to find expressions that were very rich when he was scheming or being sarcastic – when he a definite thought process going through his mind. He had to look like an animated character, not a moving photograph so I told the animators who were working with me, ‘If you worry about making him look just right in every drawing, you’ll be inhibited and it’ll keep you from doing fluid animation. Work as rough as you want and get the animation to bring across the personality and the story points. When the animation works, we’ll worry about the fine points, like the size of the nose and the eyes’.

“When you begin working with a character, you don’t quite know what he’s all about, and you have to find the hook, the thing that drives him. For Gaston, the answer is that he’s completely in love with himself! He talks about how beautiful he is without even knowing he’s offending people. Then I realized there are guys like this all around.

“You see them in restaurants. You see them in clubs. I can’t imagine a richer place than Los Angeles to research a character like Gaston.”

Tale As Old As Time. Also from the L.A. Daily News November 30th, 1991: “What interests me about (Disney’s Beauty and the Beast 1991) is that it really is a ‘tale as old as time’,” said producer Don Hahn. “Scholars trace it back to the legend of Cupid and Psyche. It’s the frog prince. It’s the Phantom of the Opera. It’s the monkey son-in-law. It’s a story that exists in every culture, from Japan to the American Indians. It deals with concerns that are universal: transitions, journeys in life, a woman leaving her father and home to marry her big, hairy guy. The story exists in many forms as each generation tells the tale in its own way.”

Keeping Roger Rabbit Alive. In the New York Times April 19, 1990, Peter Schneider, then senior vice president of Disney feature animation said, “Keeping Roger Rabbit alive has proven to be a challenge since the sequel isn’t expected to open in theaters until summer of 1992. Roger is the first time in many years that a cartoon character has come off of a movie and become a character audiences want to see more of.

“Once we saw he really did transcend the movie, the question was how to keep him alive. Of course, there is merchandise but the key to longevity is the screen which is why we are doing theatrical shorts.

“However, shorts these days are almost as complicated to make as a feature film. We look at it both ways. They are as complex as a feature but at the same time six minutes is definitely easier to do than seventy minutes so, of course, it’s easier to manage. It’s also a great way to try out new people, train them for the features.”

Stunt Dawgs. In 1992, Claster Television released a syndicated animated series called Stunt Dawgs. The publicity release stated, “The whole tone of these cartoons is purely comedic, completely nonviolent. In the same way that Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) revived the notion that you can safely portray a rabbit getting his arm stuck in a door or crushed by a safe, we feel Stunt Dawgs can achieve the same effect with light-handed cartoon humor.”

The concept of a cartoon devoted to the antics of Hollywood stuntmen came from director Hal Needham, a former stunt man and director of films like Smokey and the Bandit (1977). In fact, the main character was named “Needham”. A short lived comic book version from Harvey comics was also produced.

Stop Stuttering. In the Los Angeles Times December 4th, 1991, Ira Zimmerman of the National Stuttering Project made a public outcry against the recent Warner Bros. merchandise catalog because an ad featured Porky Pig saying “D-d-don’t delay. D-d-do your holiday shopping today.”

“Everybody in the world knows Porky has a stutter,” said Zimmerman. “I don’t believe everyone needs to be reminded of that. It is inappropriate to depict stuttering in print.”

Zimmerman pointed out that his own stutter doesn’t appear in print when he is quoted. Zimmerman did admit that Porky could serve as an example to stuttering children that they are not alone. Warners sent a letter of apology and stated it was not the intention to demean Porky or any other stutters. The next edition of the catalog did not include Porky.

A page from the 1991 Warner Bros. catalogue.

AIDS DANCE A THON. Animator and author John Canemaker was responsible for producing AIDS DANCE-A-THON (1991), a public service announcement for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis featuring artist Keith Haring’s lively creations cavorting with real-life dancers in this television promo for an AIDS fund-raiser, the first authorized use of Haring’s images for commercial purposes.

Haring’s work had been animated once before by Haring himself in 1982 for the old Times Square Spectacolor screen. Canemaker’s version visible on the screen that replaced Spectacolor dance more elaborately and interact with live action humans.

“Voguing is all fingers,” said Canemaker. “And Haring is clumps so I dimensionalized. But we had to retain the flat look, or it wouldn’t be Haring.”


  • I guess it is hard for me to speak to the PORKY PIG controversy, but Joe Doherty was a stutterer, the kind I knew of growing up since I attended a school for the disabled. Yes, they made fun of Doherty’s stuttering, but I knew that this sort of stutter actually existed, and this kind of made him a sympathetic character in my eyes just because he isn’t “perfect”, yet we see him involved in the cruel but wide world around him. Porky was the “everyman” character of the LOONEY TUNES and MERRIE MELODIES series in much the same way that Mickey Mouse served that purpose for Disney, only Porky was really involved in the cartoons. “DAFFY DUCK SLEPT HERE” is one of my favorites in the lengthy series of cartoons in which Porky was somehow involved.

    It is like the perfect comedy stage play with such memorable dialogue that I would guess that kids in college who may have enjoyed cartoons were quoting snatches of that dialogue throughout those four years of their life (“g-g-gotta hurry…g-g-gotta catch the t-t-train…”); it was sometimes like Popeye’s mutterings as Porky moved through all the frames. And, yes, when Mel took it over, it developed its own rhythm. For kids who were mercilessly mocked for their disability, I can’t exactly speak to that except to say that there were folks like me who were jabbed at every time MR. MAGOO became a subject of conversation, but I was one of the few kids in my Catholic grade school, in the years before I attended the more “diverse” high school setting, who really liked going home in the afternoon and spending the afternoon immersed in everything classically animated.

    • Given how Porky was soon slowly getting left behind as a “Mickey Mouse’ leading man, it’s ironic, the controversy (as is, if the complaint’s about Porky being for kids, the whole idea that he originally was made for said audience..)

  • And of course on the cover of that same book you have Tweety insulting everyone with a speech impediment: “I Tawt I Taw A Putty That” so they can apologize for that too.

    • That’s “baby talk”. But of course there’s Sylvester and Daffy for the lisping.

    • Both based on Leon Schlesinger

  • As Porky himself said in Back in Action: “It’s a pain in the butt being p-p-p-politically correct.”

    • Sitting right next to Speedy Gonzales (“You’re telling me”) ; then cue to Scooby and Shaggy criticizing the guy who played the latter on the 2002 remake.

  • Whatever happened to Ira? I remember him on animation newsgroups 20 years ago jumping on every time Porky Pig was mentioned.

  • Wait. Porky stutters?.

  • Porky Pig was a Disney-esque creation of the 1930’s ( his creator, Friz Freleng, being a former Disney employee in the 1920’s); of course he was all but shunted aside during the WWII era in favor of the more brassy Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny.

  • Ira Zimmerman frequented the Usenet group alt.animation.warner-bros in the mid-to-late 90s, at first in an attempt to suppress Porky, or at least his stuttering. Later, he seemed to be more of an appreciative participant in the group, perhaps, I’m guessing/hoping, learning to see Porky as a positive representative.

    • I remember him, I wonder if he has changed his tune there.

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