July 27, 2018 posted by Jim Korkis

Animation Anecdotes #373

Chuck Jones Projects That Never Were. In 1990, it was announced that Chuck Jones Productions was actively involved in four new projects where Jones would have both creative control and equity in the property and characters he would create. The one “closest to my heart” said Jones was The Short Happy Lives of Barnaby Scratch about the adventures of a London cat burglar who is a cat. It was to be a musical comedy theatrical feature film. Jones had wanted to do it for years but “the rights were with UPA”. Jones had written a script.

A television network project was a half hour primetime animated comedy series called The Chuck Jones Three-In-One Show. It would feature three separate eight minute segments all with original Jones characters. The Three Yahs (Papa, Mama and Baby) would be creatures with a lot of hair and little distinguishable anatomy. Malcom Powder would be “the perfect little boy. Finally, the show would include an at the time unnamed cat versus mouse duo.

His other two projects in development were Crawford, based on his 1970s comic strip about “a boy who needs to struggle to get it right and whose inanimate bedroom furniture and objects become characters within the story” and The Earth Creatures about an extraterrestrial boy on school assignment to find the “typical” earth creature only to wind up with two earth kids on a quest that takes them all over the world.

Jones insisted on the animation being done domestically, that the story be for a general rather than simply kid audience and not be produced like the typical Saturday morning cartoons of the era. He also alluded to the possibility of Japanese financing.

Ralph Bakshi Explains. In 1990, producer and animator Ralph Bakshi told columnist Marilyn Beck, “It’s time for the censors to come after me again. I’d rather be chased than ignored. Cool World (1992) is a comedy about how we all live today. I called it Cool World because it isn’t so cool now. It’s taken me so long to do another movie because I wanted to go back to discussing what’s happening in America as I did in the 1970s and now Paramount is letting me.”

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In Emmy magazine May/June 1991, producer Fred Wolf talked about how Murakami Wolf Swenson (MWS) was working with the Walt Disney Company on Wuzzles, Gummi Bears and DuckTales series when “out of the blue an advertising agency offered us a comic book and said, ‘Can you make a show out of this?’ I was intrigued by the title which was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

“I said ‘I can make a show out of this, with the provision that the owners of the comic give me carte blanche’. The comic book was not TV material. It was quite dramatic and, perhaps, gruesome. What I had to do was make it very funny, campy, silly. I had to go for a wide appeal from young kids to collegiate humor.

“We had produced five episodes by spring 1988 and they got excellent ratings. I had the rights to produce more but couldn’t raise any money or interest. Then Westinghouse/Group W came to the rescue with financing. It turned into ‘Turtlemania’ and we had a subsequent order for forty-seven more shows. We are still making them.”

Glen Keane on the Beast. In Comic Buyer’s Guide May 17, 1991, animator Glen Keane said, “When people think of Snow White, they think of the Disney Snow White. When they think of Pinocchio, they think of Disney’s Pinocchio. And now, when people think of Beauty and the Beast, when they think of the Beast, they’ll think of this Beast. That’s quite a responsibility: to come up with something that would be definitive.

“Actually when I’m designing Beast, I’m trying to get inspiration from as many areas as possible. You look at nature around you, because everything we do is based on something that’s real. So I went out to the zoo and sketched these animals as much as I could, to become as familiar with them as possible. I combined the strong brow of a gorilla, the stature and expressive eyes of a buffalo, the tusks and general ugliness of a wild boar and the shaggy mane of a lion.

“Beast is a different character than many heroes. Usually these characters have something that they have to fight against that’s outside of them in the story, like a dragon or a wicked witch. With Beast what he really has to battle against is himself – his beastly nature – which makes him a very rich character.”

Waldman on Culhane. At the memorial service for Shamus Culhane on March 15, 1996, Bill Lorenzo read a letter by animator Myron Waldman who could not attend. Waldman wrote, “I met Shamus in 1930 at Fleischer’s and again when he came to work down in Florida. Shamus and I went on fishing trips down in Florida and always had a good time. We always kept in touch over the years. Later we both did some work for Hal Seeger. I did the pilots on those pictures. I worked at home, which I loved because the commute was tough.

“In his younger days, he was very handsome and even later with his beret. He was a very talented man. He played the violin and loved to draw animals. He really had his heart and soul in the pictures he did. He was very dedicated to his work.”

Snoop Dogg Reviews The Aristocats. In a 1996 issue of Entertainment Weekly, entertainer Snoop Dogg talked about the recent VHS release of The Aristocats (1970): “I think The Aristocats is da bomb. I’d lay back and watch it every day if I wasn’t so busy makin’ my own hits. O’Malley the alley cat is awright. He’s no Dr. Dre but, hey, that’s homey’s got a place in my dogg pound anytime. The tunes don’t leave your head. I sho’ have a bone to pick with the lyrics to Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat, but just try to stop hummin’ it. Can’t do it. These cats sho- age well. My homeys don’t look as good at 26 as this movie does. These cats got lot more lives to live.”


  • I was reeled in by talk of the projects that Chuck Jones was trying to put out there. I would have loved to see any of these as feature length films, and I wonder if any of these could still be produced. See, that is the wonderful thing about the grand old men of animation; they were constantly trying to come up with new characters instead of trying to rehash the old characters which sometimes were better off as history…not forgotten history, but history, nonetheless as gag content and situations made reference to the times in which they were created.

    I don’t know exactly what problems that Snoope Dawg had with the lyric content of “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat”, but perhaps, as I always state, the concept of jazz musicians, whether anthropomorphized animals or fully realized humans, was still coming from a very dated place. “THE ARISTO-CATS” would have swung masterfully in the mid-to-late 1930’s. One wonders how well this would have done back then, even adding a little Fleischer-esque touches here and there…and I guess you also have to take into consideration that this is Walt Disney Studios doing this, a cartoon that obviously has to appeal to the general audiences. Jazz had changed so much; in fact, when I listen to some of the impressive soundscapes of someone like Charles Mingus, I can see it acting as backdrop for a surreal animated something-or-other. Also, in the golden age of the big band and swing eras, music left room enough for comedy. In fact, comedy existed alongside music quite well.

    I can’t say the same for so many musical styles of the present. Think about it; if you were to create a musical animated film that combined many styles, how much time would you spend finding that exclusively “animated” world for that music and how much time would you take wondering whether you were insulting the music that you wanted as backdrop, if you know what I mean? Remember how even a POPEYE cartoon had these jaunty little tunes behind them? Hey, Popeye could even scat! I, too, don’t always believe that “THE ARISTO-CATS” got it right, but as a general audience animated film, it is interesting. Loved the idea that there are cats making cool music, and the story for “THE ARISTO-CATS” has probably been hinted at in other studios’ cartoons in which stray cats invade the proceedings, but the jazz backdrop could have been all kinds of inventive bringing even the kind of harmonics that you’d hear in the noir-ish “hip” scorings used in something as simple as a “COURAGEOUS CAT” cartoon.

    Overall, we need to loosen up and have fun while allowing for all kinds of musical landscapes to be heard amid the music that is found in cartoons…and, hey, not all cartoons have to be for kids, nor does the humor of same have to be *SO* blue that it makes the average viewer uncomfortable.

  • I believe Mr. Dawg does not like the lyrics as “Everbody Wants to be a Cat” and not a dog…uh, dawg.

  • When I brought Grim Natwick to Toronto in 1982 the promoters I worked with left me in the lurch when it came time to cover the hotel bill for Grim and Mrs. French, This is NOT something I wish on anyone. I told Shamus what had happened. He covered the bill. The moment I got Grim and Mrs. French on the plane I started selling off 16mm prints. I drummed up the cash and covered Shamus. We became great friends. He, too, had been left in the lurch. Months later the people I had worked with sent me a check way, way below what it should have been. I sent it back. Shamus came to Toronto for a week long symposium I sponsored in 1986. It was awesome as was he and his wife, Juana.

  • Is it possible that Pudgie Parrot, featured in Mrs. Doubtfire could’ve been intended for this Chuck Jones series?

  • I remember going to the memorial for Shamus in NYC. I arrived late, and when I saw Harry McCracken there, his first words to me were, “You missed Hal Seeger.” He’d been recovering from surgery & could not stay long so he came early, said his piece, and left.

  • I would love if someone were to make another book with all of Chuck Jones unused ideas from after he left Warner Bros similar to The Dream That Wasn’t that discussed the story of Crawford. Which I highly recommend. Chuck Jones is one of my favorite animation directors and all these ideas of his are very fascinating I wish I knew more about them more. Maybe some day.

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