ANIMATION ANECDOTES
February 1, 2019 posted by Jim Korkis

Animation Anecdotes #400

I began writing columns of anecdotes about vintage animation in the Spring 1977 issue of Mindrot (issue #6) published by David Mruz. I went on to write hundreds of similar columns of nuggets of animation trivia for a variety of magazines including Animania, Animato, Animation Magazine, ASIFA Inbetweener and others for several decades. The title “Animation Anecdotes” was coined by my good friend and former writing partner, John Cawley when I started writing for Animation Magazine.

MINDROT #6 and #7

My first Animation Anecdotes column for Cartoon Research was March 15th, 2013. Jerry has been a good and longtime friend and I offered to write a couple of weeks of anecdotes every Friday so that he could have one day off each week where he didn’t have to prepare material until he got up and running. I don’t think either of us realized that it would continue for years.

Speaking of continuing, with this installment, Animation Anecdotes is going on an indefinite hiatus so don’t look for it next week or in the immediate future. While it may seem like I have an endless source of these little treasures, the truth is that it is getting harder and harder to find material. However, for those who have gotten used to me on Fridays, next week will be the start of a new column by me entitled Suspended Animation.

In addition to the weekly columns of anecdotes, I have occasionally written one-shot columns on a single topic or an excerpt from an interview I have done. That is pretty much what the new column will look like although if I run across an interesting anecdote or two, I will definitely include it.

Animation Anecdotes from ANIMATION MAGAZINE #5 (Summer, 1988)

You’ve noticed that I use a lot of quotes because I felt it was important to capture the oral history of those who worked on something, even if it was sometimes shaded by unrealistic enthusiasm to publicize a current project. I tried to balance entries so there was a variety each week and not just all Disney which would have been easy to do. I loved documenting films that were announced but never made. I also tried to focus on older animation although I came to realize that films like The Little Mermaid and TV shows like The Simpsons first appeared nearly thirty years ago.

I discovered years ago that if this type of stuff is not written down somewhere that is fairly easily accessible, there is the very real danger that it will be forgotten because it really is just the nooks-and-crannies of a much larger story.

For those mourning the loss of these little anecdotes, here are another two dozen to inspire you to look for some more on your own and share them here at Cartoon Research.

1. In 1991, protestors at the Castro Theater in San Francisco objected to the showing of Disney’s Fantasia because they claimed that the dancing hippos made fun of fat people.

2. According to the L.A. Times June 16, 1991, the character Herman Munster of The Munsters was a big fan of Huckleberry Hound who was also blue colored.

3. In February 1997, Variety mentioned that John Hughes was working on developing a script for a live action Peter Pan film for Disney.

4. In Space Jam (1996) Lola Bunny was supposed to use a fishing rod to pull down the pants of one of the Monstars. Ivan Reitman felt it was improper for a female character to do that action so it was done by Sylvester the Cat instead

5. Actor Tim Curry was one of ninety actors who auditioned for the role of Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

6. Besides being a voice artist, Sara Berner was also known for her skills as a mimic and on a 1943 Roy Rogers radio show she did impressions of Fanny Brice, Gracie Allen and Judy Canova.

7. For the 25th anniversary of the Pink Panther in 1989, a reporter asked producer Friz Freleng what he thought about the longevity of the character and he replied, “That’s why I am still eating today.”

8. In 1989, Margaret Kerry remarked that Cambria Productions was continually being contacted by someone who claimed to have the rights to Flipper the dolphin and wanted to make a cartoon series starring Flipper in outer space for many years but they could never arrange the financing.

9. Animator Milt Gray told animator Mark Mayerson in 1995 that producer Walter Lantz would cut up animation drawings and use the back of the paper for storyboard sketches in order to save money.

10. In 1992, Woody Woodpecker was selected as the official mascot for Los Angeles’ Recycling campaign and appeared in a video entitled “Let’s All Recycle”.

11. In 1983, Steven Spielberg announced that he was planning to do a sequel to ET but it would be done as an animated feature with Don Bluth doing the animation

12. In 1991, Nelvana optioned the worldwide film and tv rights to Al Capp’s comic strip character Fearless Fosdick, a parody of Dick Tracy and announced it was developing both live-action and animated versions of the spoof character

13. Deadlines were so tight on Disney’s Aladdin (1992) that Glen Keane took some of his roughs of Ariel from The Little Mermaid and cleaned them up and used them as key poses for the character of Aladdin

14. Marvel Productions around 1984 were developing an animated series based on the Jim Henson movie The Dark Crystal.

15. In July 1989, it was announced that in celebration of Mr. Magoo’s upcoming 40th birthday, work was beginning on a new animated feature film introducing Magoo’s niece, Megan. A nationwide talent search was to begin to find a voice for Mr. Magoo since Jim Backus had recently passed away

16. In the Warners cartoon Confederate Honey (1940), the line up of Confederate soldiers standing with rifles show caricatures of Mel Millar, Henry Binder, Ray Katz and Paul J. Smith

17. Ralph Bakshi directed the twenty-six minute film Martin Luther King Jr.: Legacy of a Dream in 1971

18. When we discuss the success (or lack of it) of animation directors doing live-action films, why does no one seem to remember Jimmy Murakami’s Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) for Roger Corman?

19. An episode of King of the Hill came back from Korea with blue school buses because Korean school buses are blue. No one in Los Angeles had thought to mention they should be yellow.

20. In 1988, Bakshi said about the Mighty Mouse series: “I wanted to see how Fritz the Cat humor – without the sex – would work on Saturday morning.”

21. In 1990, Yoko Ono, the widow of John Lennon, gave permission to Jimmy Murakmai to make a six million pound animated feature entitled I Want To Be Famous about Lennon’s life in Liverpool and the early days of the Beatles

22. Disney Legend Wolfgang Reitherman once said, “An animator is first of all an actor, secondly a storyman and thirdly, an artist.”

23. Virgil Ross did animation of Donald Duck in a 1983 Disney Educational film called Epcot – Journey to Tomorrow.

24. In the British magazine Time Out, co-director of Fievel Goes West (1992), Phil Nibbelink estimated that about fifty percent of the film’s script came out of improvisation with the actors. “John Cleese as the villainous Cat R. Waul decided to pepper one speech with ‘y’all’ in order to exaggerate the character’s phony attempts to speak like a cowpoke”.

25. At one point, Disney was considering having Ravi Shankar, the Indian composer who inspired the Beatles, to score The Jungle Book.

NEXT WEEK: “Suspended Animation” #1

38 Comments

  • Thanks for your six years of information, large and small, on the history of animation, Jim. I’m guessing it all totaled up to about 5,000 or so different anecdotes over the 400 chapters.

    • Ha! Same from me, too, J.Lee!

      Jim..I have had both yours (and your longtime personal and professional buddy John Cawley) generally out of print books, CARTOON CONFIDENTIAL and CARTOON SUPERSTARS (which, interestingly, excluded other superstars like Tweety and Sylvester and Goofy!-pretty sure you guy still get questioned on that!).

      I became familiar with your ANIMATION ANECDOTES in ANIMATO (sadly discontinued for 20 years..) ..always good… like when I found out Paul Frees replaced Mel Blanc voice for the UPA Go Go Gomez in DICK TRACY! (According to Mark Evanier.) And then the National Stuttering Project vs Porky (I mean come on, like saying Daffy or – more to Porky’s cute image – Cindy Brady incites lisps..)

    • Hey, SJC, John and I had a sequel to Cartoon Superstars planned and it would have featured Goofy and Tweety and Sylvester in it along with others. We had started work on it when we discovered the publisher….lacked integrity…so we jumped to another publisher (Malibu that published Cartoon Confidential) and were going to publish the sequel until they decided to get out of the trade paperback business. They later were bought by Marvel for their superhero line of characters to eliminate competition. We had other books planned as well including a chapter by chapter examination of every Disney feature film.

    • To Jim, actually:

      THanks for the info ~ and the decision to do a sequel to the existing CARTOON SUPERSTARS.

  • I look forward to this column every week and now I have something new to look forward to next week. Thank you, Jim, for all of these great columns and i’ll Be with you next week as well.

  • “Deadlines were so tight on Disney’s Aladdin (1992) that Glen Keane took some of his roughs of Ariel from The Little Mermaid and cleaned them up and used them as key poses for the character of Aladdin.”

    Has anyone tracked down the poses in question and posted side-by-side comparison images? That would probably go viral.

  • Heavenly! TY!

  • Thanks Jim!

  • Thanks for all the great columns, Jim. I always look forward to reading it every Friday, and now I get to look forward to reading “Suspended Animation.”

    Any plans to collect the anecdotes from previous columns in another “Animation Anecdotes” book?

    • My Animation Anecdotes book was one of my WORST selling books ever. Some months it doesn’t even sell one copy either in print or Kindle. If my publisher ever decides to do charity work, maybe there will be another AA book. Books that sell consistently every month in both formats? Books about the Disney theme parks.

    • That’s such a shame, Jim. I own a copy (as well as copies of most of your books) and it’s one of my favorite books on animation. Here’s hoping sales pick up and the possibility of another edition may happen.

  • Jim, thank you for all the wonderful posts and information and knowledge! I’m also relieved to hear you’ll be continuing to post, just in another column here.

    I am SO thankful and glad I’ve tracked you down online after wondering how you’ve been doing and keeping you in my thoughts after meeting you waaaay back when down at the Disney Institute (gah, seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it?) Meeting you was such a joy

    😀 Cheers from SF! *daisy

  • I’ve been reading these anecdotes since we were both columnists on APATOONS, under Jerry Beck as fearless leader…and even before that. Your insights and collected anecdotes are always amazing, and I look forward to your SUSPENDED ANIMATION column beginning soon. Here’s hoping that you find other projects to bring to CARTOON RESEARCH.

  • I’ll just add my sincere thanks to the admiration and appreciation everyone else has been heaping on you! Such an incredible yeoman’s task all these years, bringing us such interesting and surprising morsels from the world of animation!
    And, yes! – Virgil Ross did indeed animate Donald Duck for that EPCOT film . . . but he still wound up looking a lot like the illegitimate son of Daffy!

  • Others here have probably said it better than I ever could’ve, but a tip of the hat to you, Jim, for sharing with us all those wonderful Anecdotes.

  • Best wishes, Jim. I’m delighted that you’ll still have a weekly presence here.

  • Best of luck with the new “Suspended Animation” columns! You have been the Walter Winchell and Rona Barrett of animation history! Too bad there won’t be another collection of Animation Anecdotes in book form, but perhaps you will consider a comic book collection of “Little Miss Madre” cartoons!
    Yours, Mark

    • What Mark is referring to is that for a while I helped out a good friend by writing and drawing a weekly comic panel called “Little Miss Madre” (sort of a Little Lulu clone) for the local Sierra Madre newspaper as I had previously written and drawn a weekly comic strip called “Sam Marino” (about a befuddled middle aged man) for the San Marino Tribute also edited by that friend. I was a good enough artist to realize how bad I really was and that I could get better with effort but never as good as someone like a Scott Shaw! or Dave Bennett or my other heroes where the artwork seemed to flow out of their arms. It was also really hard work. The lovely and talented Cathy Hill won a Little Miss Madre contest that the newspaper ran and the talented and knowledgeable Mark Kausler was always a huge supporter. It was a wonderful learning experience and some people liked the efforts.

      I have more than enough anecdotes (including previously unpublished ones) for at least two or three more books. The bottom line is that a general audience is just not as interested in classic animation as it once was when it went crazy buying limited edition cels or actually knew the names of current animators. I doubt one person today could name the lead animator on Olaf in FROZEN. I would love to have someone interview Mark and record and transcribe all that knowledge and release it as a book.

  • Thanks for the Animation Anecdotes over the years. I always looked forward to each new installment.

  • What’s the story on the bottom most picture

    • That’s from a mid-1930s Terrytoons end title. I thought it would make a fitting image to conclude Jim’s column today. 😉

    • Yes, I know that it’s obviously from a Terry-Toon; the last season of the Frank Moser era! But where did you find the cel? Private collection?

    • It is a scan of original art in a private collection. I can say no more.

    • That was expected to be very obvious considering I have seen nothing else like it when it comes to scanned art; except for two cards of “2000 B.C.” and “Fried Chicken” that I think I saw from you one time; speaking of those cards, they are not the original ones; look more like reissues, one of which appears to be from an earlier period. I know you will not say anymore about the art from this “collector”, but keep in mind of this.

      On another partially related note; as with the “title” credit on the earlier drafts I have seen other writers mention on here in the past, I’m sure that only for who did the lettering; the artwork on the British title cards seem to be by completely separate unknown artists, and all original non-import Audio-Cinema elements I have seen contain the same illustration of the animals playing instruments; every original non-import Educational elements up until 1932 that I have seen all follow a generic, uniform design, lettering being the difference.

  • Thank you so much for all those wonderful and interesting anecdotes you’ve posted over the years. That was one of the things I loved about Cartoon Research. I can’t wait to see what the new Suspended Animation column will be like.

  • I do wonder if the following can be watched any were?
    “23. Virgil Ross did animation of Donald Duck in a 1983 Disney Educational film called Epcot – Journey to Tomorrow. “

  • Here are some animated cels from “Journey to Tomorrow”
    https://www.hakes.com/Auction/ItemDetail/94389/DONALD-DUCK-JOURNEY-TO-TOMORROW-FRAMED-ANIMATION-CELS-DISPLAY

  • Mr. Korkis,
    I have to say that I have learned quite a bit from Animation Anecdotes. Therefore, I thank you for such brilliant columns.

  • Congratulations, Jim !!!

    • And many thanks to my very good friend David Mruz who gave me my very FIRST opportunity to share anecdotes about animation! And thanks to Dave as well for Mindrot/Animania that kept animation scholarship alive when Funnyworld ceased publication and before the internet was invented..

  • David Mruz’s MINDrot remains one of the most important publications in the history of animation. It gave so many of us a forum where we could speak and, more importantly, meet. Congratulations.

  • Thank you for all these columns, Jim–mostly as a reader but also, long ago, as an editor–and I look forward to the new one.

  • Jim, I want to thank you for this great series. This was one of my favorite sections of “Cartoon Research” and I wish you luck on your new column.

    I kind of wish that “Dark Crystal” animated series happened. It would be a good way to iron out some of the film’s details and use some ideas that were dropped from the final film. I can name some writers that would be perfect for this series (Marc Wolfman and Paul Dini, for example). I know the mid-80’s was a hit or miss period for TV cartoons, but I think this could work with Jim’s finger prints sticking out. It worked with “Muppet Babies” after all.

  • Hi JIm,
    I’ve really enjoyed reading your Animation Ancedotes column over the past 30 years. Best of luck on your new one.

  • Will there be another book collection of Animation Anecdotes as well?

  • Thanks, Jim! Reading your column was a treat.

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