SUSPENDED ANIMATION #256
By 1952, Scrooge McDuck, created by Carl Barks, had become such a popular character that he was appearing in his own best-selling DELL comic book series.
At the height of his popularity in the 1950s, he came to the attention of the Disney Studios where Jack Hannah was the director in charge of the “Duck” unit and turning out memorable Donald Duck short theatrical cartoons.“We did consider Scrooge McDuck for use in a short,” Hannah told me in 1978. “I recall vaguely somebody thinking that a character that went wild over money wasn’t funny and that seemed to be the reason we didn’t use Scrooge. You couldn’t get a good story out of it for a short.
“It was at the time that we were also stopping production on the shorts so that ended any further discussion. Even though he was very funny in comic book form, we decided he wasn’t strong enough at the time.”
Author and noted animation historian Michael Barrier discovered during his research at the Disney Archives when it was still open to credible scholars outside the Disney Company that, at one point in 1955, there was the possibility Uncle Scrooge theatrical short written by Barks.
Ken Peterson joined Disney in 1936 as an assistant animator and, by the early 1940s, was the head of the Art Department. He was the production supervisor on several films, including Alice in Wonderland, Lady and the Tramp, 101 Dalmatians, and Sleeping Beauty.
In early January 1955, he phoned Barks to see what his arrangement was doing comic book work for Western Publishing and if he were free to submit a possible story for a cartoon short using Uncle Scrooge, since Barks had been a former Disney storyman on Donald Duck. He followed up with another letter and Barks responded several days later with a nine-page script that no longer can be found in the Disney Archives.
However, in a letter dated January 10, 1955, Barks summarized the story.The short is meant to contrast Donald Duck’s seemingly carefree life as a worker at Scrooge’s Money Bin while Scrooge himself, because of his obsession with money, lives a stressful life.
As the cartoon begins, Donald Duck is in his comfy bed, surrounded by every modern convenience. When the alarm rings, he simply presses a few buttons, and his breakfast is cooked for him at his bedside. He doesn’t even have to get up to eat.
He rides to work and the narrator points out that he is covered by insurance if he gets sick and that another type of insurance will care for him if he loses his job.
At the Money Bin, Donald operates a money sorting machine but it is so efficient that all he has to do is just sit and monitor the activity as the coins drops out of various pipes into the machine and then into their respective tubes to a musical accompaniment.
Scrooge is a stern boss who fusses over his ledgers while keeping one ear listening to make sure the off-stage plunking of coins is continuing at a steady rhythm. He makes sure that Donald does not leave one second before the noon lunch bell.
Donald collects his morning wages as he leaves for lunch and rushes to a car dealer down the street where he puts part of the money toward a down payment on a shiny little red sports car. He eats lunch at a dining car café that is crowded, noisy, and filled with happy people. The cook says that happy, unworried people have better digestions.
By contrast, Scrooge hunches over his desk eating a meager meal of crackers and cheese that he bought at a bargain price. He comforts himself that he saves his money and now has three cubic acres of it. However, he is distracted from his lunch by news on the radio of a plague of rats loose in the city.Scrooge fears the rats could get into his Money Bin and eat up billions of dollars of paper money. A frantic Scrooge shutters all the windows and bolts the door. He sits back down to finish his lunch but is confronted with a determined rat who has smelled the cheese.
The rat rattles the shutters, bangs the door and tries by various gag means to get inside. Scrooge gulps his meal hurriedly. The rat does indeed get in and a series of humorous interactions finally ends with Scrooge cornering the rat and cocking his gun to dispatch the pest.
The clever rat holds up a $10,000 bill in front of it as protection and when Scrooge looks down the gun barrel and sees the denomination on the bill, he hesitates in fear. He turns the gun around to use as a club and the rodent sticks the bill between the teeth as a threat to shred it. The rat gestures toward the cheese and a defeated Scrooge gets him some in exchange for the bill.
However, the rat overplays its hand by turning down a variety of cheeses as too cheap for his refined taste. Scrooge has to order the most expensive cheese in the world, Odora De Pungento, which must be brought from a secret mountain cave in an armored car and served to the rat on a velvet cushion accompanied by trumpet fanfare.As the rat prepares to feast, Scrooge uses his adding machine to total up how much all of this is costing him and it totals to $10,000.01. He snatches the cheese away from the rat and tells the cheese men who brought it to take it back because it is cheaper to let the rat eat the money.
Scrooge explodes in a wild fit, much like Donald Duck, and the rat escapes. Donald comes back from his lunch content, stuffed and cheerful. Scrooge hiccups and drinks a bicarbonate of soda.
When Barks visited the studio later that month, he saw that the storymen had not used this story premise but come up with their own story of Scrooge and Donald.
Peterson told Barks, in a letter on February 14th, 1955 that they might still be interested in his script. On May 6th, 1955, Peterson returned Barks script and told him that the studio was moving more into television and away from theatrical shorts.
Barks later told Barrier that reviewing the script that it just did not have enough action and even jazzing it up with a flood of rats wouldn’t have helped. In fact, adding more rats would have added significantly to the cost of animation. He never used the story as a basis for a comic book story.