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.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.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.
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