August 10, 2018 posted by Jim Korkis

Animation Anecdotes #375

The Paramount Priest. In May 28,1995, the Daily News had a story about Joseph Funaro, pastor of the Catholic church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Brooklyn Heights. “I was the first, or one of the first to draw Casper for the cartoons,” said Funaro.

After winning a citywide art contest sponsored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he got a job at Paramount in 1954 as an inker and eventually moved up to work under Al Eugster. “He was great,” said Funaro.

Funaro claimed a caricature of him even appeared in a Casper cartoon where Casper is told by the other ghosts that his problem is that the artist who draws him is too nice. Casper goes to Paramount studio and in the hallway finds his artist who is a chubby, cheerful, red-headed man who looks like Funaro.

Funaro had always wanted to become a priest so used the money he was earning to go to the seminary in Kitchener, Ontario, one of the few places that accepted men who did not speak Latin, which was then an admissions requirement at most seminaries. Funaro said his favorite character was Baby Huey. He was ordained in 1965.

In 1995, he still drew a lot. He turned an attic of a friend’s house into a gallery of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He would go into restaurants that encouraged people to draw on tablecloths and fill them with sketches of Little Audrey, Popeye, Katnip, Casper and more. “I never regretted leaving animation,” said Funaro. “God wanted me to get that out of my system.”

Robotech Origins. The animated series Robotech was hybrid of three different Japanese-animated television series: Superdimensional Fortress Macross (1982), Genesis Climber Mospeada (1983) and Superdimensional Knight Corps Southern Corps (1984). They were dubbed into English by Carl Macek and rewoven with an entirely new American plot. For many animation fans, it was their first exposure to anime.

The show was released in 1985 and ten years later the first Robotech convention was held. Animerica magazine (Vol. 3 No. 1) interviewed Macek about it and he recalled, “You know, the funny thing is that, when I did this, it all went down in a very short amount of time, under ninety days to do the whole thing. There’s never been another TV program like it since. It had a very adult concept of storytelling.

“It had interracial relationships, main characters dying in mid-series, guys dressing up as women…stuff that wouldn’t have a place in TV animation today. And if it were happening today, no one would even pay the money to acquire rights to it. Think about it – 85 episodes, multiplied by $10,000 per episode plus another $10,000 per episode to put it into English! It was very ambitious…maybe even foolhardy.”

Frank Welker’s Thoughts. In Entertainment Weekly, May 13-19, 1996, voice artist Frank Welker said he moved from Denver to California in the mid-1960s to be a movie star but went into stand-up, touring with the Righteous Brothers and Sergio Mendes. But when he got into doing voiceovers, he realized, “I could go in and do all these great roles and not have to change out of my tennis shoes and jeans. I could be a leading man in the morning and the hunchback of Notre Dame at night. The appeal was overwhelming.

“I like doing the silly characters like Fall-Apart Rabbit (from Bonkers) because he’s so goofy or Ralph the guard (from Animaniacs) because he’s just as dumb as swamp water.

“Education has its place on TV but kids, like adults should have entertainment. Children should go to school all week, get their lessons from their parents, watch PBS and Big Bird and learn how to add and then turn over and watch Fall-Apart Rabbit’s head fall off.

“I’m not sure that children’s television is where we stop violence in America. I think gratuitous violence in any form is unnecessary. But when characters smack each other with pillow and powder puffs, I’m just not really convinced that that is harmful. But I make noises – I’m not a psychologist.”

Flintstone Facts. From TV Guide April 15, 1995, Apollo 7 Cmdr. Walter Schirra did exclaim “Yabba-Dabba Do!” to NASA’s Mission Control when he saw the Earth from space in 1968. More than a hundred babies born during the same half hour as Pebbles was born were sent a $25 savings bond and a Pebbles doll. Their mothers each got a dozen roses. Originally, Pebbles was meant to be a boy named Rocky.

Donald Duck. In The Globe August 24, 1982, voice artist Clarence Nash who was then seventy-seven years old and still doing the voice of Donald Duck said, “Life didn’t stop for Donald and me when Walt Disney stopped making cartoons twenty years ago. We just switched from working at the studio to making personal appearances free of charge at school assemblies.

“So, you see, Donald may have been out of the movies but he never really retired. The only time I got scared was at home one night, I tried to do the voice and it was gone. I didn’t sleep well at all that night. I was sure my career was over. But when I woke up the next morning, the voice was back, thank goodness.”

Ollie Johnston. During an interview to the Quebec Arts The Globe and Mail newspaper for the 1995 release of Frank and Ollie documentary, animator Ollie Johnston said, “John Culhane, an animation historian, says there’s four and a half billion people in the world and half of them have seen a scene from one of the movies Frank and I did. It’s hard to understand that. I can’t really grasp it.

“We lived in an ivory tower. But it was supposed to be a world of make-believe. That’s where Walt wanted to take the audience, to a place you could only go to in his pictures. He didn’t like things to be too ugly. That was Walt’s great idea, that entertainment was more important than logic. He knew what people wanted.”


  • Well, I think we know why a boy child named Rocky would not “fly” on “THE FLINTSTONES”; the popular flying squirrel and his fans would certainly not appreciate that!! I liked looking at the CASPER universe in Famous Studios cartoons, and the cartoon linked to in today’s post is a good reason, although I’d love to check out the cartoon on which teh animator-turned-priest was caricatured. Always interesting that the males scared by Casper’s appearance were usually wilder in their takes. Could this be that some animators found it hard to “rubberize” or stretch and squash the female form? The receptionist and the inkers and painters just scream and run away, nothing nearly resembling a Tex Avery take, and this wasn’t only so at Famous. Come to think of it, you really didn’t see much of this at MGM or Warner Brothers either, unless it turned out to be a guy dressed as a female, although I think there might be one or two of the “red” cartoons at MGM that had a wild take when a female saw the wolf or some other protagonist?

    • IF you want to include animals, Avery animated some pretty wild takes on the female rabbits reacting to “Frankie” in “Little Tinker”.

    • The most well known female character regularly involved in any wild slapstick takes that I can remember would have to be Olive Oyl,though I’ll concede she seemed to be more,shall we say,”built” for it.

  • I remember Clarence Nash doing an assembly at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Roseburg, Oregon when I was in 6th grade, which would have been 1971 to 1972. I have always liked Donald Duck very much and here was this guy who did his voice talking to us. I wish I had a tape recorder of what he said and I wish I could remember everything he said. However it left a big impression on me and he was the first person who worked in animation that I met.

  • Funaro was “the first, or one of the first to draw Casper”? In 1954?

    Maybe one of the first hundred.

    Some of those religion-boys do like to exaggerate.

    • He wouldn’t be the first, or the last, animator to do so. Regardless of whether said exaggeration was deliberate or due to faulty memory or incomplete knowledge.

  • Father Funaro was stationed at my parish [Our Lady of Grace in Howard Beach , Queens] for many years. He put on some of the best community theatre shows ever! [I especially recall his production of “South Pacific” though I only had a few lines and some chorus work.] I knew he had a background in animation but did not know the specifics.
    Father Fun, if you are still out there, I just want to say thanks for all the good times! Hope you make Bishop one day!!

  • In THE GOSPELS the only people Jesus calls sinners are priests and scribes. The priests and scribes are super busy denouncing the company Jesus kept (which included all the people priests today call sinners). I don’t know what part of this men who choose to become priests miss. It’s like reading a history of World War Two and deciding we want to be Hitler instead of Churchill. Funaro should have stuck with animation. There’s an old saying, “The nearer the church–synagogue–temple the farther from Allah, the Buddha, God.” Life bears witness this is true.

    Not the kind of reply you want and probably won’t get posted however as St. Paul said, “When you see the need to speak the truth stand and speak it.”

    • “In THE GOSPELS the only people Jesus calls sinners are priests and scribes.”
      He called the Pharisees hypocrites and the New Testament clearly differentiates between them and sinners:
      Try Mark 2:13-17 New International Version
      Jesus Calls Levi and Eats With Sinners

      13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

      15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.
      16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
      17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

      So, despite your assertion, Jesus called the sinners he was dining with sinners and he was explaining his reasons to the Pharisees.
      Besides, Jesus said a lot of things. For example, in Mark 7:7-10, Jesus tells people specifically to obey the Old Testament law that disobedient children should be killed (the one prescribed in Exodus 21:15, Leviticus 20:9, and Deuteronomy 21:18-21).
      Mark 7-10 New International version (NIV)
      7 “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
      They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’
      8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
      9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!
      10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’

      So can we please stick to cartoons and leave the mythology out of it?

    • Fuller context:
      ‘The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2 and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.[a])

      5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”

      6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

      “‘These people honor me with their lips,
      but their hearts are far from me.
      They worship me in vain;
      their teachings are merely human rules.’[b]

      8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

      9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe[c] your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’[d] and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[e] 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

      14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” [16] [f]

      17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)

      20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”’ (Mark 7:1-23)

      Was He saying that disobedient children should be killed, or was He pointing out that the Pharisees didn’t follow the letter of the law either?

    • Okay – Okay… no more of this religious stuff on Cartoon Research. Our only “god” here is Walt Disney, Bob Clampett or Jim Tyer (or others of your own choosing)… Only their ‘teachings’ or sacred words permitted from here on out.

  • Baby Huey got ordained in 1965!? Haha, only kidding. But this article reminded me of an anecdote about when I was a kid and used to read Hot Stuff comics constantly. My very Catholic grandfather at one point said, “Maybe we should have him blessed.” He was only joking, but maybe if Father Funaro would have blessed Hot Stuff, the little Devil might have made it into animated shorts! (To this day I remain bitter about Hot Stuff never being animated .)

  • In the video on Frank Welker, did they include Santa’s Little Helper (the dog) on “The Simpson’s”? I don’t remember seeing a clip.

  • Pretty shocking that apparently even in the 80s and 90s interracial relationships in TV shows was frowned upon, I thought that by then that kind of stuff was over.

    Anyways, good post!

  • “It had interracial relationships, main characters dying in mid-series, guys dressing up as women…stuff that wouldn’t have a place in TV animation today.”

    Funny thing about that… Steven Universe has literally covered every single one of those topics and more in it’s run so far.

    So I think it’s at least fair to say that Carl’s words have not aged entirely well.

    • Interracial romances are actually pretty common on TV cartoons now.

  • Frank Welker was a regular in Don Knotts’ short-lived variety show, and co-starred with Don in the film “How to Frame a Figg.”

    • He also had a fairly prominent role in the pilot for a TV version of CATCH-22. This does not really have more than curiosity value, but if you are curious you can find it on YouTube.

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