Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

A Guided Tour of Animaniacs: Volume 4

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

This past May, Rob Lammle told you more than you ever wanted to know about Animaniacs. Now, we’re back to tell you even more about Yakko, Wakko, Dot, and the rest of the animated crew. The show's remaining episodes hit DVD tomorrow in Animaniacs: Volume 4, so we sat down with Animaniacs creator Tom Ruegger and Rob Paulsen, the voice of Yakko, Pinky and many others, to get behind-the-scenes details about the show’s final episodes. Enjoy the show!

EPISODE 77: “THIS PUN FOR HIRE” / “STAR TRUCK” / “GO FISH” / “MULTIPLICATION SONG”

“This Pun for Hire”

TOM RUEGGER: This was written and executed about the time that Steven [Spielberg] was partnering up with Jeffrey [Katzenberg] to make DreamWorks. After the first season, I’d say this was Steven’s number one favorite cartoon because it was jam-packed with jokes and puns non-stop. It never stopped with its play on words and it also ended with “the stuff that DreamWorks are made of.” A very cute ending. I think it’s one of our best.

“Star Truck”

ROB PAULSEN: That was Maurice LaMarche doing a spot-on impression of William Shatner, which he’s been known to do quite often. As a matter of fact, he created on his own something called International Talk Like William Shatner Day, which Bill Shatner has sort of embraced.

“Multiplication Song”

RP: Yet another of Randy Rogel’s amazing nuggets. Every time Randy came up with another song, the bar was raised higher and higher. It wasn’t like he was [giving us harder songs] to throw us a curve. He would just come up with something more and more and more spectacular. In fact, there may even be something in the works with me and Randy doing his music live. We did a few live shows in Los Angeles and people really loved it. We’ll see what happens.

EPISODE 78: “THE SOUND OF WARNERS” / “YABBA DABBA BOO”

“The Sound of Warners”

RB: Tress MacNeille played “Julie Andrews” and one of the songs included the lyrics “the hills are alive in the town of Burbank.” How can you not enjoy that? Tress really did a great impression of Julie Andrews with that super sweet take on how she would phrase lyrics. Everyone knows how great [Tress] is playing Dot, but it’s nice to see her do some other characters in the show as well.

EPISODE 79: “MY MOTHER THE SQUIRREL” / “THE PARTY” / “OH! SAY CAN YOU SEE” / “THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS SONG”

TR: This is the only half-hour of Animaniacs that all three of my sons perform in. “Oh! Say Can You See” is with The Flame and my middle son Luke did the voice for The Flame in all the cartoons. On “My Mother The Squirrel” my oldest son Nathan did Skippy and my youngest son Cody did the bird.

“The Party”

RP: If I’m not mistaken, that’s the one with the parody of Christopher Walken. “Why won’t anyone talk to me? I’m Christopher Walken. Why won’t anyone say hello?" It’s really funny because, since then, we’ve all had the pleasure of at least knowing someone who has worked with Christopher Walken and, as much as we love him, they do say he’s kind of an eccentric fellow. [Laughs]

“The Twelve Days of Christmas Song”

TR: This is a little obscure bit of trivia that I don’t think anyone but the people working on the show would know. This song is where the little blue bird comes out and sings “The Twelve Days of Christmas” in this very bizarre way where everything was turtle doves and the last one is a gigantic, king-sized turtle dove. So, one day, my little son Cody comes home from school and he says, “I learned a Christmas carol today.” So I say, “Oh, let’s hear it.” And he sings it exactly the way it is in this cartoon. I immediately said, “Well, I’m picking you up from school tomorrow because we have a recording session.” So the next day I picked him up and brought him into the recording booth, put him in front of the mic and said, “Sing me that song you sang.” There was no thinking or writing or any intellectual exercise. We just said, “Let’s just record this and do it.” And that’s how the episode came about.

EPISODE 80: “DOT’S ENTERTAINMENT” / “THE GIRL WITH THE GOOGILY GOOP” / “GUNGA DOT”

“Dot’s Entertainment”

RP: Just the fact that they came up with Andy Lloyd Webby is hilarious to me. This was right during the time that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s plays were all doing amazing business. I mean, every time he came out with a musical, it was a hit. Mr. Webber’s predisposition to being a bit of a diva, I think, was brought to bear in that cartoon with, arguably, pretty hysterical results.

“The Girl with the Googily Goop”

RP: Part of the charm of the show was that, often, Tom Ruegger and Steven Spielberg and the rest of the bunch would pay homage to these wonderful old cartoons, and that gave Animaniacs the sort of vibe that the Warners had been around for a long time. They created this mythology around the Animaniacs that they were created years and years ago and were locked up in the water tower. It was fun that they did these little tips of the hat, which served two purposes. They gave the old cartoons the credit they deserved, but they brought another air of authenticity to the ethos and the mythology of the Warner brothers. It really gives the cartoons a timelessness that doesn’t go away.

TR: Desiree Goyette played Googily Goop in this, and she was, in fact, the same actress who, at that time, was playing the voice of Betty Boop in some cartoons. We didn’t have to work too strenuously to cast that one.

EPISODE 81: “SOCCER COACH SLAPPY” / “BELLY BUTTON BLUES” / “OUR FINAL SPACE CARTOON, WE PROMISE” / “VALUABLE LESSON”

“Soccer Coach Slappy”

TR: A year or two before this cartoon, we had made “Bumbi’s Mom,” where Skippy Squirrel is brought to the movie theater by Slappy to watch Bumbi and [is] traumatized by the death of Bumbi’s mom and wails and cries. So, my son Nate had been performing Skippy, and a lot of “Soccer Coach Slappy” has to do with Skippy taking a soccer ball in the face repeatedly and wailing afterward. He’s crying like a baby.

The day before my son Nate was recording, he basically said, “I refuse to play this role!” I said, “What?” He was pulling a total prima donna, Redd Foxx in a sitcom routine. “I’m not reading this crap!” [Laughs] He said, “I don’t want Skippy to cry. He’s older. He’s grown up and he shouldn’t be crying anymore.” So it was quite the negotiation to get him to do it. I think I even pulled some crying from another episode because he really, really balked at it.

EPISODE 82: “WAKKO’S 2-NOTE SONG” / “PANAMA CANAL” / “HELLO NURSE” / “THE BALLAD OF MAGELLAN” / "THE RETURN OF THE GREAT WAKKOROTTI” / “THE BIG WRAP PARTY TONIGHT”

“The Ballad of Magellan”

RP: I think this was John McCann and Paul Rugg who put the lyrics to this song. That was the genius of those two guys taking this innocuous American folk song and putting these fantastic goofball lyrics to it. It was also one of the times Jess, Tress, and myself got to do a really nice three-part harmony on a song. Really fun little piece.

Music was an integral part of the whole show, which is one of the reasons that when the show was coming along and auditioning, I was really excited. Not only were there going to be all new characters, there was going to be all brand new fresh music. You know, 35, 40 pieces for every half-hour, which is absolutely never done anymore because it’s so expensive. And it paid off.

To this day, one of the reasons people love Animaniacs, in large part, is because of the music.

“The Big Wrap Party Tonight”

TR:This is one that I wrote and it definitely is… I wouldn’t really say it’s a parody, but I would say that it’s inspired by a Cab Calloway song. I was listening to a lot of Cab Calloway at that time. There was something called “Everybody Eats When They Come to My House” that was one of his songs that I think, melodically and music-wise, this has something similar to that.

EPISODE 83: “ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO CLOCK”

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo Clock”

TR: The inspiration behind “One Flew Over the Cuckoo Clock” came from when I was a little kid. My Aunt K was in a retirement home. She wasn’t addled the way that Slappy gets addled here, but we definitely pushed the envelope here. We went for some heart and some emotion, which we had never done with Slappy. Some people didn’t want us to do that, but I thought it was worth at least exploring and, ultimately, it turns into kind of fun and slapstick. There are some moments, though, where Skippy is put through the wringer emotionally.

EPISODE 84: “CUTIE AND THE BEAST” / “BOO HAPPENS” / “NOEL”

“Cutie and the Beast”

RP: The Tasmanian Devil is voiced by Jim Cummings. To this day I believe, whenever they use the Tasmanian Devil, they use Jim. One of the great things about Jim, that many people know, is that he’s also the voice of Tigger and Winnie the Pooh. The guy’s got incredible range.

Jim, Maurice LaMarche, and I worked together on a show called Taz-Mania, about a year before Animaniacs hit the airwaves. So, by that time, Jim was really well established at the Tasmanian Devil.

I love the fact that Warner Bros. can lampoon a Disney show with characters that they have in their catalog and it’s totally believable as a parody. I really dig that.

“Noel”

RP: Another genius Randy Rogel song. It opened on Wakko writing a letter to Santa and he misspells Santa by writing S-A-N-T-L-A. Incredible stuff.

The episode’s ending is also funny as it’s done in silhouette with Yakko, Wakko, and Dot looking at the credits. It was very Mystery Science Theater 3000 with the three of us going, “Rob Paulsen? Who’s that jerk? Tress MacNielle? Oh my God. Diva diva diva. She needs her own limo.” All that kind of stuff. We just took the piss out of everybody on the show, including ourselves.

EPISODE 86: “A VERY VERY VERY VERY SPECIAL SHOW” / “NIGHT OF THE LIVING BUTTONS” / “SODA JERK”

“A Very Very Very Very Special Show”

RP: I remember that because we had won the George Foster Peabody Award, in real life, which of course is a very prestigious award for any cartoon to win—or really anybody to win. I think, as a result of that, they tried to do something that was way over the top and very saccharin and maudlin. Funny stuff—but that was a big deal for us to win that award.

EPISODE 87: “FROM BURBANK WITH LOVE” / “ANCHORS A-WARNERS” / “WHEN YOU’RE TRAVELING FROM NANTUCKET”

“When You’re Traveling From Nantucket”

RP: Another Randy Rogel masterpiece. When Randy and I did our little show, people freaked out because it’s not only stuff that they’d already heard but then they hear it again twenty years later and they go, “Oh my God. This is brilliant!” We even do some songs that never made it to the air that are every bit as amazing, but we basically ran out of shows. Randy wrote a song about the spice trade and the history of warfare. It’s really spectacular.

Randy could do anything. The bones in the body. Countries of the world. You know, he’s actually written a new verse now that includes all of the new countries of the world and the way the world has shifted since he wrote that twenty years ago. He’s got Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and Macedonia and Ivory Coast. Absolutely incredible. We perform it together. It’s great.

EPISODE 89: “TEN SHORT FILMS ABOUT WAKKO WARNER” / “NO TIME FOR LOVE” / “THE BOO NETWORK”

“The Boo Network”

RP: I worked on Chicken Boo. That was a very odd cartoon. Really strange and fun. It was Deanna Oliver who came up with this really bizarre, probably medication-induced, idea about a giant talking chicken.

EPISODE 91: “MOOSAGE IN A BOTTLE” / “BACK IN STYLE” / “BONES IN THE BODY”

“Bones in the Body"

RP: More Randy Rogel. I run out of superlatives. The guy is not only an incredible songwriter, but he’s also won seven or eight Emmy Awards. He was originally at Warner Bros. because of his writing skills on Batman: The Animated Series. He wrote some really incredible drama and I think he won an Emmy for some of those. Then, when Animaniacs was coming along, he knew he had this musical skill, but he had to convince Warner Bros. to hire him. They thought he was just the guy that could write drama. They weren’t sure he could do musical comedy. He said, “I can do that.” So his audition piece was“Yakko’s World”—the song about all the countries of the world. Crazy. And then he won a pile of Emmys for writing all those songs. He is the consummate overachiever.

EPISODE 92: “IT” / “DOT – THE MACADAMIA NUT” / “BULLY FOR SKIPPY”

TR: I felt that we really got back in the groove and hit a home run with episode 92. This entire half-hour was completely animated in Chicago by a company called StarToons led by a fellow named John McClenahan and it’s a beautiful half-hour.

“Dot – The Macadamia Nut”

RP: It was a pretty close parody of “Macarena” and it was pretty cute. I remember when that “Macarena” song came out and I got sick of it in about 30 seconds, so it was lovely that the Warner Bros. folks were able to come up with a really cute parody.

TR: We got Warner Bros. to get us a license for the music and I rewrote all the lyrics so it would just be a nutty Animaniacs version of “Macarena.”

“Bully for Skippy”

TR: This one was, maybe, the most political thing I ever wrote. It was in reaction to the FCC mandating that there be a very specific and heavy amount of hours per day in the TV schedule that’s educational for children, which ultimately impacted the kind of cartoons that channels could put on the air. The head of the FCC at that point was a fellow named Reed Hundt so we came up with this character named Reef Blunt. We animated him and had our characters at some Washington, DC hearing and Reef Blunt basically said, “We’re going to have educational cartoons and I’m going to be watching you!” He pointed at the Animaniacs characters and says, “Especially you, Miss Squirrel!” [Laughs] It’s really one of my favorites of the whole series. It’s a really funny cartoon.

EPISODE 93: “CUTE FIRST (ASK QUESTIONS LATER)” / “ACQUAINTANCES” / “HERE COMES ATTILA” / “BOO WONDER”

“Acquaintances"

RP: I was playing hockey at that time. One of my teammates was Matthew Perry from Friends, and I remember telling him that we were lampooning his show and he said, “Oh my God, I love [Animaniacs]! I really want to do it.” Unfortunately, we never did get him on the show because we were done before he got a chance to do it. I don’t think he missed anything because he was making a million dollars a week, so I think he was okay. [Laughs]

EPISODE 94: “MAGIC TIME” / “THE BRAIN’S APPRENTICE”

“The Brain’s Apprentice”

TR: This was our Sorcerer’s Apprentice cartoon and, again, animated by StarToons in Chicago.

RP: That was the last “Pinky and The Brain” segment in the context of the show, but then we got a spinoff. From Tiny Toon Adventures in the late 1980s to Taz-Mania to Animaniacs to Pinky and The Brain to Histeria! to Freakazoid—all these things that I got to work on [at Warner Bros.]—it was like an 11-year love fest. I was there two or three days every single week. The people that I worked with are still my friends to this day. We won Emmys. We had a great time. We all found our footing on that show and the stars really aligned for us.

I remember telling Tress MacNielle, “You’re going to want to take a picture of this because, unless you’re on The Simpsons, it just doesn’t get any better than this. You’re working with the best people on both sides of the glass and Steven Spielberg and the giant orchestra, Richard Stone, Randy Rogel, and all these great people. It’s career defining.

I tell people in interviews that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles really changed my career, but Animaniacs really changed my life. I’m incredibly grateful.

EPISODE 95: “HOORAY FOR NORTH HOLLYWOOD (PART I)” and EPISODE 96: “HOORAY FOR NORTH HOLLYWOOD (PART II)”

“Hooray for North Hollywood”

RP: I remember that Mr. Plotz was let go a couple of times on the show. He was even fired by his son at one point in a segment called “A Christmas Plotz” which was our take on A Christmas Carol. Interestingly, the guys who were the heads of the studio at the time, Bob Daly and Terry Semel, really used to get a kick out of the fact that the Warner brothers would lampoon the studio heads. It’s kind of cool when you have the people that are signing the checks every week to do these very expensive cartoons, are willing to let you take the piss out of them. [Laugh] That just shows you how their egos didn’t get in the way.

EPISODE 97: “THE CARPOOL” / “THE SUNSHINE SQUIRRELS”

“The Sunshine Squirrels”

TR: Phyllis Diller was in this one. It wasn’t one of her last performances, but I’m really glad that I had a chance to work with her.

EPISODE 98: “THE CHRISTMAS TREE” / “PUNCHLINE (PART I)” / “PROM NIGHT” / “PUNCHLINE (PART II)”

“The Christmas Tree”

TR: [This is] the last Slappy cartoon. One of the things I’ve noticed in watching some of these over the past few weeks—they did this sort of Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the cartoon back in the mid 90s, which is 15 or 16 years ago now. Al Roker was doing the ceremony back then, and he’s still doing it. So you think some of these references are going to be dated really quickly and, certainly some of them are, but in that case it’s not.

EPISODE 99: “BIRDS ON A WIRE” / “THE SCORING SESSION” / “THE ANIMANIACS SUITE”

“The Scoring Session” and “The Animaniacs Suite”

TR: These two cartoons are all about the music and Richard Stone. “The Scoring Session” was basically Richard having a much-needed rest at Camarillo, which was a mental institution out here in California at the time. [Laughs] So he’s being filled in at the scoring session by a composer named Nevel Nosenest (voiced by Michael McKean), a rhinoceros. The entire cast is in this and the Warners come and ruin the scoring session.

Here’s a very obscure tidbit: Nevel Nosenest’s name was created the night that my kids and I watched, and then were driving home from, the Spielberg cartoon An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. Nievel Nose Nest. That’s where we got the name from.

RP: I remember Richard Stone, God rest his soul, who called me and said, “Hey, we’re doing the last scoring session.” They were always held at the Clint Eastwood Scoring Stage over on the Warner Bros. lot, which is the same stage that Carl Stalling and Milt Franklyn and all those guys used to do the original Warner Bros. cartoons. They even used the same piano that Carl Stalling used. The ghosts in that studio are amazing.

For some reason, though, they had to switch to the really big scoring studio at 20th Century Fox and Richard called me and said, “Hey, just so you know, we know the show is ending and I’m doing this Animaniacs Suite. Do you want to come and see it?” And I’m telling you what, man. I was in tears because Richard did this beautiful rendition of a medley of the Animaniacs theme with different styles and it was just beautiful. I was in tears watching it.

It was really interesting because, not long after that, Richard developed pancreatic cancer and passed away far too young. I remember at his memorial service, which was held on the scoring stage at Warner Bros., we were all there singing our praises of this great man. The word “genius” gets thrown around a lot, but in his case it’s not hyperbole. He really was a genius and an amazing guy. It was almost as if he knew that he had to get all this stuff done because he knew he wasn’t going to live very long. Richard’s untimely death put a really profound, sweet period at the end of this whole thing. We knew it would never happen again with this group. It was very sad, but very sweet and a very appropriate way for the whole series to end.

Animaniacs: Volume 4 arrives on DVD February 5.

All images from Animaniacs: Volume 4.

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Walt Disney Studios
15 Things You Might Not Know About Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Walt Disney Studios
Walt Disney Studios

As both a groundbreaking feat for the world of animation and an enjoyable crime comedy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit stands in a class all its own. Here are a few interesting nuggets about the cartoon-live action classic, on the 30th anniversary of its release.

1. IT WAS THE MOST EXPENSIVE MOVIE EVER MADE.

At the time of its release on June 22, 1988, Who Framed Roger Rabbit boasted the highest budget of any film to date: a whopping $70 million (nearly $150 million in today's dollars). It topped the previous record holder, Rambo III (which had come out less than a month earlier), by about $12 million. Roger Rabbit held the designation until July 1991, ultimately falling to Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which cost $100 million.

2. THE FILM ALSO BROKE THE RECORD FOR LONGEST END CREDITS.

Recognizing a cast and crew of just over 800, Who Framed Roger Rabbit featured the longest closing credit reel ever upon its release. The film’s credits ran for over 10 minutes, even without attribution for Jessica Rabbit’s voice actor, Kathleen Turner.

3. BOB HOSKINS WAS NOT THE FIRST PICK FOR EDDIE VALIANT.

Director Robert Zemeckis and producer Steven Spielberg communicated with a number of big name actors in regard to the casting of human protagonist Detective Eddie Valiant. Among those considered for the curmudgeonly private eye were Harrison Ford (who was too expensive), Chevy Chase (who was not interested in the part), and Bill Murray (who allegedly never got the message and was dismayed to learn he had missed such an opportunity). Other names tossed around included Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson, Sylvester Stallone, Wallace Shawn, Ed Harris, and Charles Grodin.

4. CHRISTOPHER LLOYD WASN'T THE FILMMAKERS' FIRST CHOICE EITHER.

Christopher Lloyd in 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' (1988)
Walt Disney Studios

Before landing on Zemeckis’s Back to the Future colleague Christopher Lloyd as the nefarious Judge Doom, producers considered Tim Curry (who they deemed too scary), John Cleese (not scary enough), and Christopher Lee (who turned the role down). Also in early contention: Roddy McDowell, Eddie Deezen, and Sting.

5. LLOYD WAS MORE TERRIFYING THANKS TO ONE SIMPLE TRICK.

Prompted by a suggestion from Zemeckis, Lloyd does not blink even once while onscreen in the film.

6. CHARLES FLEISCHER ACTUALLY DRESSED UP LIKE ROGER RABBIT WHEN PERFORMING HIS LINES.

Voice actor Charles Fleischer was so devoted to his role as the animated title character that he asked the costume department to create a full-body Roger Rabbit suit for him to wear on set. Fleischer delivered all of his lines from inside the suit, claiming that it helped both him and costar Hoskins immerse within the fantastical world of the film (even though Fleischer admits that Hoskins initially thought he was out of his mind).

7. THE “DIP” IS REAL.

Kathleen Turner and Bob Hoskins in 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' (1988)
Walt Disney Studios

Who Framed Roger Rabbit subverts the old maxim about cartoon characters never dying by introducing the one thing that proves fatal to the lot: a liquid concoction known as “dip.” There is actually a bit of science behind this plot device. The ingredients of the dip are revealed to be turpentine, benzene, and acetone, which are all paint thinners commonly used to erase animation cells (in other words, wipe out cartoon characters).

8. THE FILM SENT BART SIMPSON TO STARDOM.

One of the film’s most chilling sequences sees Judge Doom exacting his wrath upon an anthropomorphic cartoon shoe. The character never speaks, but it squeaks and whimpers as the Judge lowers it into a vat of dip. Those cries were the work of relatively unknown voice actor Nancy Cartwright, who would rise to fame one year later as the voice of Bart Simpson.

9. EARLY DRAFTS OF THE SCRIPT WERE DARKER.

The screen adaptation of Gary K. Wolf’s 1981 novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? underwent quite a few changes before it hit the big screen. Some drafts involved Jessica Rabbit and Baby Herman each turning out to be the story’s villain, Judge Doom revealing that he was the hunter who shot Bambi’s mother, and even Roger’s death.

10. ROGER AND EDDIE HAD FAMOUS STAND-INS FOR TEST SHOOTS.

At various stages in the film’s development, animators put together test reels for studio presentation. An early go at the project employed the vocal talents of Paul Reubens, better known as Pee-wee Herman, for a variation of Roger marked by neurotic stammering. Some time later, Richard Williams (who eventually became Who Framed Roger Rabbit’s animation director) treated Walt Disney Pictures to a taste of his talents via a scene uniting a more recognizable Roger with an appropriately cranky Eddie Valiant. Here, Eddie is played by future The Sopranos star Joe Pantoliano.

11. ROGER WAS MODELED AFTER BIG STARS.

In designing Roger Rabbit, Williams wanted to incorporate elements from classic animation. He has expressed that Roger is meant to embody the production caliber of Disney, the character design of Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes, and the personality and sense of humor of animator Tex Avery. Furthermore, Roger’s anatomy and attire can be broken up by studio influence: His face is meant to resemble a Looney Tunes character’s and his torso a Disney hero’s, while his overalls are a nod to Goofy, his gloves to Mickey Mouse, and his bow tie to Porky Pig.

12. JESSICA WAS INSPIRED BY SOME A-LISTERS, TOO.

While Jessica Rabbit’s principal aesthetic inspiration was the titular heroine of Avery’s famous short “Red Hot Riding Hood,” she had a few human influences as well. Among them were Lauren Bacall, Rita Hayworth, and Veronica Lake.

13. THE FILM SPAWNED THE INDUSTRY TERM “BUMPING THE LAMP.”

For movie animators and special effects artists, the phrase “bumping the lamp” refers to the application of tremendous effort to a particular aesthetic feature that viewers will more than likely never even notice. The saying entered the lexicon thanks to a scene that involved Bob Hoskins’s character repeatedly bonking his head on a low-hanging ceiling lamp, causing it to swing around the room. Animators had to draw and redraw Roger Rabbit in a fashion that was consistent with the rapidly fluctuating illumination of the scene. While the team was well aware that absence of the effect wouldn’t bother most audiences, they were so devoted to their craft that they stuck with it. (You can watch the scene above.)

14. THE FILM FEATURES OVER 140 PREEXISTING ANIMATED CHARACTERS.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit is the only film to date to unite Disney mascot Mickey Mouse and Warner Bros. icon Bugs Bunny; the pair shares a scene in the latter half of the movie, merrily skydiving next to an airborne Bob Hoskins.

In addition to Mickey, Disney showcased 81 distinct characters, as well as 14 “groups” of characters (for instance, the titular sprites from the short “The Merry Dwarfs” or the anthropomorphic fauna from the short “Flowers and Trees”) in the movie. Meanwhile, Bugs was one of 19 Warner Bros. characters to get screen time. MGM, Paramount Pictures/Fleischer Studios, Universal Studios, 20th Century Fox, King Features Syndicate, and Al Capp’s cartoons all had characters make appearances as well.

15. THAT SAID, THERE WERE SUPPOSED TO BE MANY MORE CAMEOS.

Although Zemeckis and his crew managed to populate Who Framed Roger Rabbit with a vast array of recognizable characters, their original ambitions were even more sweeping. Contractual issues and time constraints kept characters like Popeye, Chip and Dale, Pepe Le Pew, Mighty Mouse, Tom and Jerry, Pedro from Saludos Amigos, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Witch Hazel, Heckle and Jeckle, several characters from Fantasia, and even Superman from the final cut.

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Pixar
10 Fast Facts About Cars
Pixar
Pixar

Pixar’s Cars was released on this day 12 years ago. So put on your helmets, rev those engines, and let’s take a look at some behind-the-scenes facts about the Oscar-winning animation studio’s fastest-moving film.

1. IT WAS ORIGINALLY AN UGLY DUCKLING-TYPE STORY ABOUT AN ELECTRIC CAR.

Cars started off life as Little Yellow Car, about an electric car that faces prejudice from its gas-guzzling counterparts. Pixar animator/artist Jorgen Klubien, who developed the story during production on A Bug’s Life, was inspired by real-life automotive history from his home country of Denmark.

“In the 1980s some enthusiastic folks got the idea of making a three-wheeled one-person car that ran on electricity,” said Klubien. “They put it into production and it worked great in the city, but out on the highway it was too slow. People also thought the car was ugly. I thought the electric car was ahead of its time, and it struck me as odd that my fellow Danes didn’t agree. It reminded me of The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen. This famous Danish character wasn’t accepted at first, but in the end it proved to be right on the money.”

The story was deemed too slight to carry an entire movie, but the small-town setting remained an inspiration.

2. ITS CO-WRITER/DIRECTOR PASSED AWAY DURING PRODUCTION.

Cars is dedicated to Joe Ranft, the film's co-writer and co-director, who died in a car accident on August 16, 2005—while Cars was still in production. Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (2005), which Ranft executive produced, is also dedicated to him.

3. MATER IS BASED ON A REAL-LIFE NASCAR ENTHUSIAST.

The country bumpkin tow truck Mater got his name from NASCAR superfan Douglas “Mater” Keever, whom the filmmakers met while on a research trip to North Carolina’s Lowe’s Motor Speedway (now called the Charlotte Motor Speedway). Keever has a voice cameo in the film, as the motor home who says “Well dip me in axle grease and call me slick” early in the film. (Keever improvised the line, which was originally “Well dip me in axle grease and call me lubrication.” Producer Darla Anderson opted to change it, Keever speculated, because “maybe she thought it sounded sexual, I don’t know.”)

4. MANY AUTO WORLD LUMINARIES LENT THEIR VOCAL TALENTS.

Reigning racing champ Strip “The King” Weathers is voiced by legendary racer Richard Petty, who has the same nickname as his animated counterpart. Weathers’s wife, credited as “Mrs. The King,” is voiced by Petty’s wife, Lynda Petty. Several other automotive notables contribute their vocal talents: announcer/former racer Darrell Waltrip plays “Darrell Cartrip”; Tom and Ray Magliozzi, hosts of NPR’s radio show Car Talk, voice Lightning McQueen’s sponsors, Rusty and Dusty Rust-eze; and racers Michael Schumacher, Mario Andretti, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. voice automotive versions of themselves. (Despite voicing announcer “Bob Cutlass,” sports analyst Bob Costas doesn’t actually cover racing.)

5. SEVERAL ACTORS CHANGED FOR INTERNATIONAL RELEASES.

For Cars’s UK release, Jeremy Piven was replaced as the voice of Lightning McQueen’s never-seen agent Harv by Top Gear co-host Jeremy Clarkson. “The King” was also voiced by different racers in some international releases, as Richard Petty isn’t as well known outside of the United States. In Germany, The King is voiced by Formula One champ Niki Lauda, while in Spain he is Formula One’s Fernando Alonso.

6. MOST CHARACTERS ARE BASED ON REAL CARS.

Lightning McQueen, Mater, and Chick Hicks are all original Pixar designs, but most of the other characters are based on existing cars. Among them are Doc Hudson (1951 Hudson Hornet), Ramone the body paint specialist (1959 Chevy Impala), tire salesman Luigi (1959 Fiat 500), hippie Fillmore (1960 Volkswagen Microbus), military surplus store owner Sarge (1942 Willys Jeep), and Mack, the truck that drives Lightning around (Mack Superliner). Sally, as a 2002 Porsche 911 Carrera, is the only Radiator Springs character modeled after a contemporary car.

7. IT BROUGHT A NEW STANDARD OF REALISM TO ANIMATED FILMS.

Cars was the first Pixar feature to utilize a technique known as “ray tracing,” which properly renders the way light passes through and collides with surfaces. More simply, it enables artists to accurately depict reflections without having to go through and “paint” them individually. Ray tracing takes up a massive amount of computer power; as a result, each frame (or about 1/24th of a second) of Cars took an average of 17 hours to render. Some frames took up to a week.

8. IT WAS PAUL NEWMAN’S FINAL FILM—AND HIS HIGHEST-GROSSING.

Cars marks the final film of Paul Newman, who in addition to being an actor/entrepreneur/philanthropist also became a racing enthusiast after starring in the 1969 racing drama Winning. Cars is also the highest-grossing film of Newman’s career (not adjusted for inflation).

9. ONE OF LIGHTNING MCQUEEN’S CHARACTER INSPIRATIONS WAS KID ROCK.

To help get a handle on the character of rookie racing sensation Lightning McQueen, directing animator James Ford Murphy “put together a series of little bios of great personalities that were really cocky but really likeable.” Among the people he pulled inspiration from were sportsmen Muhammad Ali, Charles Barkley, and Joe Namath, plus musician Kid Rock.

10. YOU CAN VISIT THE MOUNTAIN RANGE THAT SURROUNDS RADIATOR SPRINGS IN REAL LIFE (SORT OF).

The mountain range surrounding Radiator Springs is inspired by the real-life Cadillac Ranch, an outdoor art installation located outside Amarillo, Texas that consists of heavily spray-painted Cadillacs, half-buried facedown in the ground.

Additional Source: The Pixar Touch, by David A. Price

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