December 28, 2018 posted by Jim Korkis

Animation Anecdotes #395

Glen Keane. In a November 22nd, 2010 interview, animator Glen Keane talked about showing one of his heroes, animator Ollie Johnston, a scene from Tangled (2010) back in 2005 when the Nine Old Man was 92 years old and had to be wheeled in to the studio.

Keane said, “I was pointing it out. I said ‘Ollie, look’, and it was a little scene of her (Rapunzel) holding a squirrel, that was in the movie at this point. I said ‘Look, freckles! We’ve never had freckles on a character before! Look at the satin on her dress; we’ve never been able to do that, the light reflecting on it’.

“Ollie said, ‘Well, Glen. What I was wondering is, what is she thinking about?’

“It was like, ‘gah, yes’. Who cares about all of the icing on the cake, if the cake isn’t tasty, if it doesn’t have butter and eggs? No one’s going to want to eat it. That was the drive throughout this whole process. Have a goal that’s worth fighting for. If you don’t, the computer is like a used car salesman. It’ll always make you walk off the lot with something you don’t want.

“The thing that happens with the computer is that it’s always seducing you to buy into ‘less than’. It’s seducing you to fall in love with a nicely rendered form. And the shading that is done so nicely on that shoulder. But who cares that the shoulder is pushed here and it’s anatomically impossible? Look at the way the wrinkle falls on that dress! It’s like, grrrr! See, the computer always tries to do everything symmetrical. Asymmetry is beauty. Symmetry is cold, and lifeless.”

Hinged Plywood. From The Comics Journal April 1991, The Simpsons’ Matt Groening said, “I guess I take my cue from Jay Ward’s cartoons, Rocky and Bullwinkle, very low-budget animation and some of the old Warners cartoons. Animators these days want to imitate Tex Avery but you don’t have to have jaws drop to the ground and eyeballs fly out of the skull in order to indicate surprise. You can do less rubbery, ‘boing-y’ type things and still indicate emotion. Most of my notes in the storyboard phase of the show are ‘less cartoony, less cartoony’.

“Classic Disney cartoons are very spongy, very rubbery. Classic Warner Brothers cartoons are like hinged rubber. Hanna-Barbera cartoons are like plywood. And The Simpsons is like hinged plywood.”

Tell Tale Heart. Bill Scott told Paul Etcheverry on November 24th, 1981: “One of the happiest experiences I had as a writer was doing the adaptation for (UPA’s) Tell Tale Heart (1953). I had a marvelous time with it. I wrote some stuff in there that people swear Poe wrote. And much of it isn’t Poe at all. That’s just me writing like Edgar Allen Poe and that was delightful for me. But then, I was very happy to get back on some rock ‘em, sock ‘em Magoo stuff.”

Bakshi 1987. In 1987, Ralph Bakshi was trying to pitch an animated Mighty Mouse feature and developing two theatrical films with Richard Pryor (one would have been all live action and the other would blend live-action segments with animation). “Live isn’t new ground for me,” said Bakshi. “New ground is working with a star like Pryor. I feel his range is enormous.”

Bakshi had also acquired the animated rights to the Harrison Ford film Blade Runner (1982) and with co-producer John Hyde, he was planning to develop it as a prime-time television series. Bud Yorkin would serve as executive producer. While the characters would be animated, the backgrounds would incorporate live-action elements. “I have a special technique I’ve designed that encompasses all my techniques in a different way that I’d use on Blade Runner,” said Bakshi.

Dexter’s Laboratory. From The Hollywood Reporter November 6, 1997, composers Thomas Jones Chase and Steve Rucker did the music for Dexter’s Laboratory working with MIDI technology and a Euphonix console to create an orchestral simulation by painstakingly tweaking and layering their electronically produced sounds for a nearly perfect approximation of real instrument ensembles.

Rucker said, “Music counts now. It’s recognized as being important. Nobody says, ‘Just give us some plain old cartoon music’. People are sophisticated listeners. Home audio systems are better. The animation itself is more interesting. It’s not worth being cheap with the music.

“The brain gets an incredible workout working on animation. When I’m working on a live-action feature, I never feel like I’m working as hard as I am with animation.”

Cats Don’t Dance. In Los Angeles Times June 1st, 1997, producer David Kirschner said, “Cats Don’t Dance (1997) was supervised by no less than eight executives in its lifetime, several of whom would have rather ironed Chris Farley’s underwear than make an animated movie. Turner Pictures President Amy Pascal told me, ‘I don’t care for animation in any way, shape or form’. Those were her exact words. I asked and asked about the merchandise campaign and they kept saying ‘We’ll get to it’. They never did. When you do a film like this, you better damn well make sure you have support across the board. Launching these films takes a year and a half of planning.”

Don Bluth. From Los Angeles Times June 1st, 1997, producer and animator Don Bluth said, “Any independent animated feature can’t make it any more. I saw Cats Don’t Dance (1997) and thought it was really good. But nobody knew it was out there. I don’t think you can make an animated film by yourself. Even if it’s the best animated film in history, no one will see it if there’s no awareness.

“In Anastasia (1997), the dog Pooka was created to give kids access to the story because it’s in many ways and adult story. What we set out to do is tell a great story – no one has the exclusivity in telling great stories in this medium. Are there marketing challenges in communicating that Fox has made a great animated film? Yes, there are great challenges. But when you step back and look at the overall risk, it’s similar to the risk you take with any film. If you succeed, people will come. If you fail, people will not come. Of the players in the ring, not everyone is going to make it. Somebody is going to get hurt and lose a lot of money.”


  • Turner should never have purchased Hanna-Barbera, or any other animation studio for that matter. They were absolutely clueless. The “we’ll get to it” mentality was also in place when Universal produced the live-action “The Flintstones” film. Studio artists/art directors kept asking the higher-ups when they were going to start producing a Licensing style guide for the film, using the classic animated characters. They realized nobody would want the John Goodman likeness. When the execs finally came around, there was only a matter of months before the film debuted, which meant studio artists had to work around the clock to produce the Style Guide. Turner’s marketing division was equally useless. They couldn’t market vodka to a wino. “Cats Don’t Dance” is an underrated film. It’s too bad it wasn’t better promoted/marketed.

    • By the time ‘Cat’s Don’t Dance’ was released, Turner had sold the whole she-bang to Warner Bros. Warner’s killed the film as they were getting their own feature animation studio going at the time. They hadn’t made it, so they didn’t promote it. When Amy Pascal showed up one day, it was obvious that she had contempt for animation, among others that showed up to produce on the film. If Turner hadn’t been present ‘Pagemaster’ & ‘Cat’s’ would not have been made. At H-B, there wouldn’t have been any ‘What A Cartoon’ series, Johnny Bravo, etc. and the cash influx that went into the studio. The building was expanded, improved and refurbished. The film library took on a new life with airings on Cartoon Network and Boomerang. I feel that Warner has served animation far worse than Turner.

    • Thanks for reminding me of the timeframe. What I should have said, is they screwed up “Once Upon A Forest” (aka “The Endangered”) with poor marketing. Although, that project was fraught with problems internally for a while, even needing Bill Hanna to travel overseas to straighten out some production issues. While the Turner people did get some decent programs out of “What A Cartoon” (Dexter, Powerpuff — Johnny Bravo wasn’t very well designed, IMHO), they bungled BIG time with “The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest,” losing over a million dollars in preproduction problems before an inch of footage was ever drawn. If the powers that be had a better handle on that kind of stuff, and the studio was showing itself to be profitable, I do not think it would have been disbanded and folded into Warner Bros Animation. I have a very clear memory of this time period, and it was like “dead man walking” on a daily basis.

  • Cats Don’t Dance was really a great little film that deserved far more from the industry than it got. Bluth makes a great point; there needs to be support all the way down the line, not just the animation team but also the top executives, and most importantly, the marketing team whose job it is to make sure the audience knows the movie’s out there.

  • “All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain”.

    Any BR fans here (original and/or 2019)?

    It’s too bad Bakshi’s take didn’t live…but then again, who does?

  • Amy Pascal was also behind the god-awful Ghostbusters and Spider-Man reboots at Sony. The Sony email hack revealed that she’s a barely literate moron who writes her emails in all caps with poor grammar.

  • I know some people are going to hate Amy Pascal for this, but I think she came around to liking animation after a while.

    At Sony Pictures Animation, she was responsible for the subplot between Flint Lockwood and his father in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (Phil Lord and Chris Miller even defended her when the Sony hacks stuff came out.) And need I mention she was a producer on Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse.

    • But on the other hand, she was partly responsible for cancelling Tartakovsky’s Popeye…

  • Response to Sam Johnston: Sony didn’t cancel their Popeye movie; it’s just stuck in development hell. Heck, they announce the new screenwriter for that movie in 2016. Don’t believe anything written on Cartoon Brew about that, because if that Popeye movie ever did get made, Amid would still have negatively criticized it much like he did The Peanuts Movie.

    • The main point of Cartoon Brew’s article about the Popeye movie was that Sony had killed Genndy Tartakovsky’s version of it. Which is absolutely true.

  • My favorite character in Cats Don’t Dance is Max. I still haven’t figured out why. I should do my fan art of Celandine and Chicspec cosplaying as Darla and Max. BTW, what is he? The 900 variety of gorilla or just an extra big and ugly human?

    • I think Max was either 1) King Kong’s cousin or 2) the Missing Link.

  • I love Cats Don’t Dance very much, but it’s a shame that both Turner and WB caused it to bomb in theaters when it was released. I’m sure glad Don Bluth likes it as well and I also agree with him about making animated films aware to the public. It just goes to show how important proper marketing is to a film’s promotion, especially for animated features.

    • I’m not surprised. “Cats Don’t Dance”, while having its problems, is better than many of Bluth’s own films.

    • “The Iron Giant” was under-promoted too, but found its audience over the years because its mix of science fiction and fifties cool hit the right buttons for cult success. A musical set in the 30s? Maybe someday.
      “Cats Don’t Dance” did do a tie-in with Subway, and if you collect these things, you might be interested:

  • This raises the question: why do executives who dislike animation often get put in charge of overseeing an animated film?

  • @Mesterius Maybe so, but from what I’ve heard, Amid Amidi framed it as the Popeye movie getting cancelled in favor of the Emoji Movie, which is a bunch of crap. Sony’s Popeye movie is currently in development as they announced a new screenwriter in 2016. Genndy tartakovsky may not be working on it anymore but they’re still doing it. Plus, Amid has a real bias against the major movie and TV studios; he infamously said he wanted The Loud House to be cancelled after allegations came about Show creator Chris Savino.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *