THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
September 17, 2020 posted by Steve Stanchfield

What Are Your Favorite Great (and not so great) Moments From Animation History?

After a rough week here, I thought it would be fun for some Cartoon Research participation!

I was thinking about some favorite events I’ve read – and some that I’ve heard about – in animation history. It’s pretty fascinating that there’s so many *little* stories along the way that are really obscure, and some really well known ones.

Now, when you’re thinking of your favorite ones, whatever you do, *don’t* watch the history lessons from Thomas Reich, formally of Cartoon Crazys. He’s been posting some interesting things this past week on the Cartoon Research Facebook. There’s a series of uninformed statments, including a kid’s ‘Master Class’ here where he explains a Popeye feature was being produced to compete with Snow White, but wasn’t finished in time so it was split in three! This, like some other facts on his videos, are simply not true – of course!

(But, just for fun, if you want to watch, here it is):

Now, here are some of my favorite tales, good and bad, I’ve heard or read over the years. I can’t confirm all of these are actually true, but if anyone knows please let me know! What I do know is that some of you have heard these same stories over the years as I have….

1) Tex Avery loses an eye. This famous story, told by Tex himself (in an interview with Joe Adamson) happened at Lantz in the early 30s, when a joke involving paper clips being shot from huge rubber bands went awry.

Milt Kahl

2) Milt Kahl complains to Walt, and is met with an envelope full of money. This is the least confirmed story I’ve heard, but I’ve heard it a few times. It sort of goes like this: Kahl, frustrated with the quality of work from the other lead artists, complains to Walt, threatening to quit. Walt listens quietly, and at some point slips Milt an envelope with cash in it. Milt responding with an “Ah, all right..” going back to work. It’s a fun story, but possibly not true, or at least really embellished.

3) Alex Lovy wins the lottery. This is a story that Ken Southworth told me. He said that most of the work week that the ‘old guys’ did while at Filmation happened in the mornings or after an extended lunch….and a similar situation existed at HB. Around 12:30 or 1, everyone would gather at one of the artist’s houses that lived close by, often having a barbecue, extending into the afternoon. One day, veteran artist Alex Lovy showed up at the lunch, having missed the morning work, announcing he had won the lottery, to the tune of over a million dollars! Apparently he was very generous to his friends, but sadly only lived another year after winning.

4) The secret dirty ‘Popeye and Betty Boop’ animation. According to several sources (including animator Gordan Sheehan) there was some animation of Popeye and Betty Boop in compromising situations animated at the Fleischer Studio in Florida. Sheehan thought it might have been made for Jack Mercer’s bachelor party in the late 30s. Of course, no copy has ever surfaced of the short. There’s a story about Dave Fleischer punching someone that interviewed him and made the mistake of mentioning this film.

Pat Sullivan

5) Animation artwork was swiped from the Disney ‘Morgue’ strapped to people’s legs. I’ve heard this story quite a few times. The story goes that, for years, animation drawings were rolled and strapped to people’s legs from the Disney ‘Morgue’. It seems like a pretty plausible story. I don’t think there was ever anyone caught doing this, but I might be wrong.

6) Lantz dumped thousands of cels somewhere in the desert. Now, this is a story after my own heart. The story goes that a dumping company removed many years of art from the studio, dumping them out of LA, burying them somewhere in the desert. This seems a little unlikely to me, but I love the story. Anyone up for some digging for Andy Panda?

7) Pat Sullivan finances a brothel and opens it in the same building at the studio. In John Canemaker’s excellent Felix: The Twisted Tale of the World’s Most Famous Cat there is a mention that one of the people interviewed makes that a brothel was financed by Sullivan and opened in the same building as the studio.

8) Burt Gillet chases Jimmie Culhane around, threatening him with a straight rod paper holder. This is a story told by Culhane in his book Talking Animals and Other People. Gillett, in an agitated manic fit, chased Culhane around threatening him with a metal paper rod. He was directing Rainbow Parade cartoons at the time, but after this incident left the studio.

Well, there’s some of my favorites. Now, it’s *your* turn. Feel free to correct anything I may have wrong above as well. Have a great rest of your week all!

35 Comments

  • I like the story that, after Robert McKimson suffered a head injury in a car accident, he was able to produce animation drawings at double his previous rate. I don’t know if that’s true, but if it is, it’s something neurologists ought to look into.

    Then there’s the story that when Walter Lantz heard that Ub Iwerks could turn out 700 animation drawings in a day, he set out to beat that record and drew 800 in one extraordinarily industrious session. But Lantz could not maintain that output on a regular basis.

    I’m also fond of the old urban myth about Walt Disney in the deep-freeze, even though it’s not true. Whenever I’m disgusted by the gross-out humour in modern Disney Channel shows, I think: Poor old Walt Disney must be rolling over in his cryogenic freezer….

  • There’s the legend of an animator making a Mickey and Minnie porno reel and showed it at a Christmas Party. Walt was smiling and laughing then asked who made it, and when they confessed, Walt fired them on the spot.
    Chuck Jones recalled Leon Schlesinger hearing Daffy’s voice with a lisp for the first time, who’s lisp was based on Leon’s. After the film was finished, Leon was quoted saying, “Jethuth Christht he hath a thunny voithe”
    During production of The Alvin Show, Ross Bagdasarian had to hear from the other room the soundtrack to a TV Popeye cartoon being made by Jack Kinney, and Olive keeps saying “Help Popeye Help” over and over again.
    Also on The Alvin Show, someone right in front of Ross called Alvin during the storyboard session “the Little Asshole”. Fun fact, never call the main character that in front of their creator. He made it pretty clear, “Don’t EVER use that guy again.”
    “Sally” from The Great Pumpkin was about to lose her tooth, so they reopened the studio to get her lines in right away. The moment she was done, poof…her tooth came out.
    The Pokemon incident of 97 that caused kids to get epileptic seizures. Just look up Electric Soldier Polygon, but watch the episode at your own risk.
    Finally, the famous story about the Bullwinkle Puppet telling kids to pull the knobs off their TV sets and they DID IT.
    There’s a lot of great stories, it’s hard to pick a handful

  • I like the story of Schlesinger calling in Clampett to his office to chew him out over something. And Clampett saying “just a moment, I’ll be right back,” but he never returns. Clampett should have his own biography that tells more of these kind of stories.

    Milt Kahl saying to Walt, “how can any sane man put his money in a piece of s-t like this?”, during a story meeting on Johnny Appleseed. As much as I disagree with Milt’s opinion on the film, I thought the fact that he gloated about making the statement was kind of funny.

  • Sorry to hear it’s been a rough week Steve. Hope things improve for you.

    Couldn’t call this a ‘favourite’ but I’ve seen this posted in comments on the net 2 or 3 times but never by anyone who gives sources etc. and there’s never a hint of it, anywhere even vaguely ‘official’ :
    That Karel Zeman and Hermina Tyrlova hated each other.
    Always sounds rather unlikely and the fact that he was asked to and did, re-film parts of ‘Christmas Dream’ after all her earlier work on it was accidentally destroyed in a fire, doesn’t make me think that’s evidence – more likely badly thought out supposition.
    Not that this film was mentioned in the claims made and I’ve never heard of any other direct connection between the two people.

    Also KZ and HT, from what I can gather of them, sound like the direct opposite of people who harbour unkind attitudes. People who can read and access relevant Czech material would of course know more about if and how they related to each other.
    I feel a little bad even mentioning it here just in case, like a repeated and increasingly distorted whisper it promulgates this, hopefully wrong, very minor rumour!

  • Re No. 6, I heard something similar about Terrytoons: When the studio closed in New Rochelle, decades of cells and background art went into the Dumpsters behind the building. I was in high school in New Rochelle at that time, and have been thinking for years about what I could have found if only I’d known.

  • RobGems68 wrote:
    There’s another possible, but unproven urban legend about the “Bullwinkle” puppet segment; Bullwinkle the puppet suggested cooking up the NBC Peacock like a Thanksgiving Turkey. NBC was unamused about the joke, and had the segment, and not long after the entire puppet segments pulled off the air. Whether true or not, The “NBC Turkey” joke segment remains lost to this day.

  • I enjoy reading stuff like this. One of my favorites was in Jim Korkis’s Animation Anecdotes book. Leon Schlesinger had just purchased a yacht and was bragging about it. Some of the animators asked when he would take everyone out on it, to which he replied, “I don’t want poor people on my boat.” It’s horrible, but I can’t help but laugh whenever I think about it!

  • Which producer said “Our cartoons are not be laughed at”?

    • I don’t know about that… but Chuck Jones quoted producer Edward Selzer as entering a story meeting, observing his artists laughing over gag drawing, asking “What the hell has all this laughter got to do with the making of animated cartoons?”

    • A slight tangent: In rehearsal Bert Lahr — a very anxious performer — misread reactions to a new bit. “Go ahead and laugh!,” he exploded. “I say it’s funny!”

    • I’ve heard that comment attributed to silent comedy producer Henry Lehrman talking about his L-KO company: “L-KO comedies are not to be laughed at.”

  • I question stories about Leon Schlesinger circulated by Chuck Jones, who hated Leon, mostly just for being the boss. The lisping stories about Leon are greatly exaggerated, and his alleged statement, “I don’t want poor people on my boat”, seems apocryphal. Chuck had a problem with bosses, evidently never getting along with any of them, hence his statements about Edward Selzer, which may or may not be true. Also take into account that Chuck also hated Bob Clampett, and Bob got along very well with Leon. Milt Kahl ran his mouth a lot at Disney’s, and got away with it. Walt didn’t want to lose his prodigious talent.

    • Ruth Clampett told this story to me many years ago. When ASIFA wanted to give Bob Clampett a lifetime achievement award Chuck Jones told ASIFA that if they did he would pull out all of his support to the organization.

    • From what I’ve seen of those Warner Bros. Christmas party films on the DVD sets, Schlesinger did not “lisp” and seemed to have a good enough sense of humor to take part in self-deprecating skits in the films. There’s also the fact that WB was arguably the one studio to have had the least labor strife, seeing as how Schlesinger’s lockout only lasted for six days before he gave in and signed with the union.

  • I recall hearing what I considered the only good thing about the bitter end of the Lantz Studios: Lantz was nice enough to give his staff a studios closing and as an old custom to when one retires, each guest came home with a golden pocket watch-only these watch featured “Guess Who?” Anyone know if there are picture of these watches?

  • Practical joke stories are always of interest. I especially like the one recalled by Dick Huemer involving himself, Dave Fleischer, and teeth… http://oralhistory.library.ucla.edu/viewFile.do?itemId=30084&fileSeq=2&xsl=http://oralhistory.library.ucla.edu/xslt/local/tei/xml/tei/stylesheet/xhtml2/tei.xsl#session1b

    Which is followed by another fun tale involving stuffed dates.

    Huemer’s tale about a model walking out in response to Vet Anderson’s habitual grinning while concentrating, during an art class at Raoul Barre’s studio during the teens, is another one for the books. http://www.huemer.com/animate3.htm

  • Fred Quimby telling the creators of “Puss Gets the Boot,” the first Tom & Jerry cartoon, “No more cat and mouse cartoons,” because he thought they would not fly with audiences. If I remember correctly, this story was related by Leonard Maltin in “Of Mice and Magic.”

    • There’s also the story of Quimby telling Avery to tone down “The Blitz Wolf” because, “we don’t know if Hitler’s going to win.”

  • When I ponder the forthcoming “FLINTSTONES” complete series blu-ray restoration, I wonder if the episodes will be put in proper chronological order. I bother to mention this because there is the unfortunate occurance of Mel Blanc’s serious car accident that kept him away from voicing Barney Rubble in the second season. I’d like to hear the shows in proper chronology just to hear whether or not there were episodes finished before Mel was so injured and which was the episode in which Mel returned and, supposedly, recorded his part with his co-stars around his bed portraying their characters. I could guess, listening carefully to the voices throughout the episodes, but it would be nice to know the proper history of it…the story about a Mickey/Minnie Mouse bit of pornography was told to me as little plastic figures on the top of a cake, celebrating a birthday or anniversary around the studio. The animators thought that Walt would laugh uproariously, just as a private joke, but instead, the conspirators were fired…I’d heard it said that Hugh Harman didn’t like many of the cartoons he produced for MGM; my heart sank when I heard this because the HAPPY HARMONIES and most of the other MGM cartoons were the first bits of animation I saw in my lifetime. I hope this is only partially true, but if it were true, who, then, was responsible for the humor throughout the series and, especially, when Hugh and Rudy returned to MGM in separate units? And why were they in separate units? Of course, if there is no truth to all of this, please feel free to ignore. The rumor goes on that Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera wanted to push the studio’s cartoons in a different direction with their TOM AND JERRY cartoons and may have intervened in the creation of some of the cartoons that either Hugh or Rudy had done, but then there are the cartoons that have either Hugh Harman’s or Rudy Ising’s name on them but were actually produced by someone else. This whole area of MGM cartoons history has not as yet been restored for any physical release, so I guess that no one has desired answers to these questions. No matter what the friction, the MGM classic animated theatrical cartoon will always remain a fond memory, along with some of those late 1930’s LOONEY TUNES and MERRIE MELODIES.

    • In his autobiography, Mel Blanc tells how for several days after his car accident, he was unconscious. Every morning, his doctor would ask how he was and get no response. One day, on impulse, the doctor asked “How are you doing, Bugs?” Blanc faintly answered in Bugs’ voice, “Eh, just fine Doc. How are you?” He began to recover after that.

  • Robert McKimson’s bickering gay layout and background artists (Gribbroek and Thomas, presumably?), as attested to in Mike Barrier’s ’71 McKimson interview. There’s a story I’d love more details about. Maybe it sounds like gossip rag stuff, but that one little anecdote has fascinated me for ages.

    http://www.michaelbarrier.com/Interviews/McKimson/McKimson.html

    • The Lovy Lottery was reported in a local paper. A clipping is in this post:
      https://yowpyowp.blogspot.com/2019/03/the-two-handed-artist.html

    • It wasn’t Dick Thomas.

    • If the anecdote about Gribboek and Thomas were true, that could have been the inspiration for the “Goofy Gophers.”

    • As the gophers were created in the Clampett unit and patterned after the overly-polite Alphonse and Gaston in the old newspaper comics, I highly doubt it.

    • Thanks for the input, Yowp. I had guessed Thomas based primarily on the fact that he departed McKimson’s unit not too long after Gribbroek joined, but I defer to your expertise on this. Further scrutiny of the credits of McKimson’s post-shutdown unit shows that one Bob Majors, whose sole credited work seems to be three 1957 McKimson cartoons, is probably a better candidate for the second individual, if it wasn’t one of many uncredited artists at the studio. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0538264/
      Either way, McKimson’s recollections had to have taken place in the late ’50s or early ’60s, by which time the gophers had been in pictures for about a decade. Besides, the gophers, while a bit prissy, were always congenial!

  • I always liked the anecdote that soon after completing his work on the Rescuers, Milt Kahl retired. A week later, he got a phone call from Ralph Bakshi, asking if he would like to work on his big project, the Lord of the Rings. “No thank you,” Milt replied, ” If I wanted to keep doing shit, I would have stayed at Disney.”

  • I love the story about Tom Rugger and Jean MacCudry putting a balloon of Yakko Warner on top of the Warner Bros. Studio water tower to promote the upcoming premier of “Animaniacs.” When Bob Daly, the head of Warner Bros., drove into the studio one day and saw the balloon on the tower, he thought it was Mickey Mouse and ordered it taken down.

  • Steve: I don’t remember Gordon Sheehan saying the POPEYE “stag cartoon” was done for Jack Mercer’s bachelor party, but it’s possible. He told both myself and cartoon animation cel collector Mickey Gold about this back in the late ’80s. As far as I know, the cartoon has never materialized, but I’ve heard rumors of its existence for years!

    • You were the first person to mention it to me– so when he came to one of the film shows, it was one of the first things I asked him. I had the cels with me at the time from the original ‘Attack of the 30s Characters’ opening, and I remember him thinking they were well inked. I asked why they made it, and remember him saying it may have been for that….

  • -The legend about Walter and Gracie Lantz staying in a cabin, seeing a woodpecker and having the “inspiration” for Woody Woodpecker. It’s an urban myth, it’s not really that true, as they stayed the year after he was created.

    -The sad belief with these modern kids since he’s not listed in the opening credits that today’s people believe Tex Avery was fired for “All This And Rabbit Stew”. No, he was fired because of those extra falls that were cut in “The Heckling Hare” because Scheclsinger was furious (Jerry, I knew this already, I apologize I just didn’t know how to word it).

  • I read this story the other day, and I’m not sure how accurate it is, but apparently Walt Disney bought his mother a house with some of the money he made from the release of Snow White. The house had a gas leak and his mother died from asphyxiation, and Walt apparently blamed himself for the rest of his life.

    • That story about Walt’s mother is true; his father survived, but everything I’ve read suggests Walt felt quite guilty about it and refused to discuss it.

  • Steve: You may be right about the Fleischer “stag reel” being for Jack Mercer’s bachelor party – when he married his first wife – but I can’t remember Gordon telling Mickey and I that it was done specifically for Mercer’s party.

    What’s with this Thomas Reich character? Seems he is the guy who made the claim that Paramount originally wanted a FEATURE version of the SUPERMAN cartoons, but changed its corporate mind and made them as shorts instead? Where did he get this stuff? If that were true, I am sure that one of us here would have heard it from people like Gordon Sheehan or Dave Tendlar or Myron Waldman – how would they not have wanted to talk about a FEATURE version of SUPERMAN to somebody! Ditto for a “feature” version of POPEYE adventures! “Kinda screwy if ya asks me!”

  • I don’t like the fact that there potentially was a Popeye “stag reel” from the Fleisher for whatever reason at all, if such a thing ever existed at all, because its freaken Popeye. No ifs, ands, or buts, Popeye and stag reel don’t go together.

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