October 5, 2018 posted by Jim Korkis

Animation Anecdotes #383

Canemaker on Pat Sullivan. From North Beach Now newspaper September 1991, author John Canemaker was inteviewed about his book Felix: The Twisted Tale of the World’s Most Famous Cat and how he did his research: “There were rumors (about Pat Sullivan’s life) so when I decided to do the book, I decided to make a concentrated effort to find out if the stories about Sullivan’s drinking and arrest for rape were true.

“I was very lucky. I knew his lawyer was Harry Kopp and (Otto Mesmer) had told me ‘well, his lawyer Kopp closed the studio’. So I looked up his obituary in the New York Times and it listed his three daughters by their married names and where they were living at the time (1943).

“By chance I called one of them in upstate New York and I went up and interviewed her. The first thing she said to me was ‘You know Pat Sullivan went up the river for rape. My father defended him’. She had letters that are printed in the book that Sullivan sent Kopp from jail.

“I looked up the court records, and sure enough, there were boxes of records of the trial. They included details about the rape and the letter from his wife pleading for mercy. Sullivan financed a cat house and was a sex maniac. I ended up leaving out roughly sixty pages from my manuscript. There was a lot more detail that isn’t in (the book) because my editor said we were getting away from Felix.”

Animation Wisdom. From Daily News September 29, 1991, Jeffrey Katzenberg, then chairman of the Walt Disney Studios talked about Disney animation: “These movies are neither judged nor measured in the way other parts of our business are. The value of these movies to our company is way beyond their value at the box office or in ancilliary areas.” In the same article, talking about American Tail: Fievel Goes West, producer Steven Spielberg said, “We can make an eighteen million dollar animated feature this is the equivalent of a hundred and eighty million dollar live action movie. It is the last frontier of the imagination.”

Sherri Stoner. From Premiere magazine November 1991, it stated that when actress and writer Sherri Stoner was performing live action reference for Ariel and Belle she was five foot two tall, weighed 92 pounds and had brown hair. Animator Glen Keane said, “Automatically – and I mean this in a complimentary way – Sherri’s face is very cartoony. She has cartoony timing. Her eyes – she has very big eyes – are more than just eyes. Her expressive hands and fingers go at awkward angles. Her hands are even more emotional than her eyes.

“The characters are real to us and Sherri takes the attitude that they’re real to her too. She doesn’t hold back anything.”

One of Ariel’s habits, biting her lip, is actually an idiosyncrasy of Stoner’s that animators incorporated into the character. For Belle, animator James Baxter exploited another Stoner quirk: “Sherri was constantly pushing her hair back, because it’s so wispy. So we worked that into Belle’s design.”

Stoner said, “When I do the stuff that ends up pleasing them the most, it has an emotional truth to it. They don’t just want somebody to move their arm, they want the arm to move because you’ve touched something inside.”

The Advantage of Animation. From the Orange County Register March 15, 1998, Greg Daniels, executive producer of King of the Hill said, “The fact that South Park and our show and Dr. Katz all came along created the sense of a trend caused by high-quality shows. These shows are all designed. They’re all unique. You turn on one frame of South Park and you know you’re watching South Park. You turn on one frame of King of the Hill and you know you’re watching King of the Hill.

“You turn on one frame of (NBC sitcom) Suddenly Susan and you have no idea what show you’re watching. You can’t tell unless maybe that frame is a close up of Brooke Shields and Judd Nelson. But other than that, the sets and everything don’t tell you where you are. So it’s harder for a live-action show to jump out of the pack, I think.

“Whatever weird thoughts pop out of the brain of the writer, they go right into the show. You don’t have to go, ‘Oh, that terrible living room again’. You can go ‘All right, let’s set a story at the lake’. We did a show where a tornado hit town. It would have cost say twenty million dollrs if you did it as a movie. And yet we are the closest thing to a movie because there’s no laugh track, no set. It’s shot on single-camera film. So I think we’re providing the audience with the equivalent of a twenty million dollr movie or whatever. However much Twister (1996) cost, we did it in a half hour and it only cost closer to one million dollars.”

Barry Cook on Mulan. In The Boston Sunday Globe June 14, 1998, Mulan co-director Barry Cook said, “We wanted this to come across as a real Asian experience. One thing we found out very early on was that lots of Asian art, modern and very ancient is concerned with balancing positive and negative space in the composition. The positive space is filled with characters, foliage, trees, structures, while the big negative spaces incorporate the sky, mountains, fields of snow.

“It may sound a little technical but our strategy was often to contrast those two elements. And boy, was that difficult to work into the Disney style which is very full and rich. We had to convince some 300 animators to take away any rendering that was overwrought and boil down eveyrthing to its basic visual elements.

“We didn’t put all our CG-eggs in one big basket scene like the Lion King stampede or the Beauty and the Beast ballroom seuence. There is an avanlance but for the most part the CG is used to make banners, lanterns, bamboo, fireworks. There was also a program called Faux Plane with which we could manipulate depth and perspective. We just used lots of different applications throughout the film.”


  • I’m honestly not surprised about Pat Sullivan financing a cat house. I’d love to see those excised pages.

  • Will John Canemaker write another book on Sullivan and Felix ? That’ll be a great update since the original book has been out of print for a while and is almost impossible to get under at least $ 250 (if you live outside the US),

  • “The Cat House the Cat Built”

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