The Les Elton Story. Les Elton was born Leslie Elton Brownley on August 27th 1893 in Lock Haven, Philadelphia. By the age of 17, he was billed as “Comedy Cartoonist” doing the familiar lightning sketch act so popular for venues like vaudeville. He eventually drew for both the Philadelphia Record and Public Ledger, as well as the St. Louis Globe Democrat as well as trying to develop his own comic strip. In 1916, he joined the Bray animation studio where he primarily ghosted some comic strips based on the actual animated cartoons but left in 1917.
In 1917 he patented a way to combine live action and animation. His 1931 animated cartoon Monkey Doodle featuring “Simon the Monk” was produced for former Bray staffer Jaques Kopfstein, with the help of his stepson Robert Bentley who later became a respected west coast animator. The Eltons then went to California, where in 1935 Les produced another animated cartoon The Hobo Hero and Robert got a gig at the Warner Brothers cartoon studio working with Frank Tashlin and Tex Avery among others.
Kopfstein was the producer who released some Felix cartoons in 1930 with post-sync sound tracks through Copley Pictures. Many years ago I was told that Les Elton spent some time at Disney but I have never been able to confirm that fact.
Janet Jackson Cries at Cartoon. From USA Weekend March 30, 1990, “Janet Jackson, the singing sister of Michael, loves cartoons but not violent or sad scenes. She made it through only twenty minutes of The Land Before Time about stranded dinosaurs. It made her cry. ‘Maybe it’s just this time in my life,’ said the twenty-three year old.”
Jim Henson’s Favorite Cartoons. From USA Weekend March 23-25, 1990, the legendary Jim Henson talked about animated cartoons. “People keep coming back to cartoons because elephants can fly, little wooden boys can dance and baby deer can learn to walk for the first time. Anything is possible. I enjoyed so many Disney films growing up and have so many favorites: Pinocchio, Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland among them. Walt Disney was a master storyteller and his characters hold a special place in my heart.
“Some of the funniest chase scenes ever captured on film star the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote. You tend to root for both characters. You want the Road Runner to win because he’s an ‘innocent’ and you want the Coyote to win just because he deserves it after all he’s been through. Like Road Runner, the Sylvester and Tweety shorts are full of great chase gags. I sometimes felt that even if Sylvester did catch Tweety, he wouldn’t quite know wha to do with him.
“Now in his 50th year, Bugs is probably the cartoon character who works best with dialgoue – as seen in the three cartoons in which Bugs, Daffy and Elmer Fudd argue over whether it is rabbit season or duck season.”
Lost Animation Projects. In 1990, the Sci-Fi Channel (before it became Syfy) announced it was going to produce an animated special by author Issac Asimov based on futuristic superhero characters. Co-production was been done by TMS Entertainment, a subsidiary of Tokyo Movie Shinsa. The principal character created by Asimov was a scientist specializing in genetic engineering who had created several superhero androids, each with unique superhuman abilities. Plans also called for an adaptation to comic books as well. Asimov had been working with the new cable channel as an adviser.
Hanna-Barbera 1989. In 1989, President and Chief executive of Hanna-Barbera Productions David Kirschner announced that the studio would be producing a five million dollar musical-fantasy feature blending live action and animation for NBC to be called Through The Horn. Kirschner also said he had received permission from Steven Spielberg to do an animated series based on American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991) after its release.
Hanna-Barbera never made that series but in 1992, Amblimation, Nelvana and Universal Cartoon Studios joined forces to make thirteen half-hour episodes of Fievel’s American Tails for NBC. Of course at that same time, H-B had announced live action feature films of Jonny Quest, The Jetsons and The Green Hornet, none of which got made.
In Variety November 16th, 1989, Kirschner maintained that company founders William Hanna and Joseph Barbera “remain active in various projects – especially the feature films – but both are nearly 80 years old and it is my mandate to pilot the studio into the next century.”
Bluth TV. In 1988, it was announced that Sullivan Bluth Studios was forming a separate television production division in Ireland to sell primetime animated specials and Saturday morning series to the networks. The first project was to be a series based on All Dogs Go to Heaven.
“The company hopes to maintain an output of one pic each year with all future projects to be considered as possible groundwork for subsequent series or specials,” said Pat Ketchum who was the vice president of the expansion. “We feel our main competition is going to be Disney.”
The company had also assembled a staff in Burbank to act as a liaison to the networks. Ketchum pointed out that while Bluth spent $175,000 per minute on animated features, it would operate at roughly $14,000 per minute for the television productions.
Aquino on Ursula. From Premiere magazine December 1989, Ruben Aquino, supervising animator on Ursula from The Little Mermaid said, “You hear about actors wanting to do the villain because they’re so much fun – it’s the same for animators. It’ll be hard to top her. (Composer) Howard (Ashman) sang the roles of the more extreme characters including Sebastian, the mad chef and Ursula in the music demos and he’s real theatrical. A lot of Ursula comes from him. She’s a little bit campy and real vampy.
“We tried her as half scorpion fish, half manta ray and finally came up with half octopus. There’s so much you can do with tentacles. They give a creepy feeling. They’re slinky, hypnotic and graceful. Of course, we cheated a little bit. We put in only six tentacles.”