DisneyBluRayDVD via YouTube
DisneyBluRayDVD via YouTube

12 Fib-Free Facts About Pinocchio

DisneyBluRayDVD via YouTube
DisneyBluRayDVD via YouTube

Imagine that you're Walt Disney and you're coming off of 1937's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, a total industry game-changer; a movie that inspired a special Academy Award and caused The New York Times to write, "Thank you very much, Mr. Disney, and come again soon."

How do you top yourself? Well, Disney tried to do it with Pinocchio. The studio was partially successful: the movie was a critical darling, but a box office bust. Turns out that turning a lying marionette into a sympathetic, likable character was a task even Disney struggled with. How they tried to accomplish it is just one of the 12 fib-free facts we rounded up on this 1940 classic.

1. LIKE MANY OTHER DISNEY MOVIES, IT WAS BASED ON A BOOK.

The Adventures of Pinocchio was a children's book by Italian author Carlo Collodi, originally published in 1883. If you think the Disney version is dark, you should read the original—Pinocchio is stabbed by assassins and hanged halfway through the book, though he's later rescued and turned into a real boy by the "Child with the blue hair."

2. ANIMATORS WERE STYMIED ABOUT HOW TO DRAW PINOCCHIO.

They were unsure whether to draw him with human movements or with wooden movements. Animators struggled for 18 months, until animation director Milt Kahl (one of Disney's Nine Old Men) decided to blend the two ideas, giving Pinocchio human-like motions, but adding puppet-like joints and screws to the mix.

3. THE PUPPET WENT THROUGH SEVERAL DIFFERENT PERSONALITY CHANGES.

At one point Walt wanted him to be “fresh” and wise-cracking, similar to Edgar Bergen’s Charlie McCarthy dummy. Another version certainly wouldn’t have flown with family audiences: a “lusty” Pinocchio would have grabbed at the Blue Fairy whenever she appeared.

4. DISNEY LEGEND WARD KIMBALL ALMOST QUIT—UNTIL WALT PUT HIM IN CHARGE OF JIMINY CRICKET.

Animator Ward Kimball was still upset about scenes of his that were cut from Snow White and was in Walt’s office to tender his resignation. Instead, Walt asked Kimball if he would lead the charge on animating Jiminy Cricket, a tricky assignment, since no one was sure how to make the little insect look appealing. “God, he did such a wonderful job, that I walked out very happily and said, ‘What a wonderful place this is,’” Kimball later recalled.

5. JIMINY CRICKET WAS INSPIRED BY A COUPLE OF DIFFERENT PEOPLE.

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When Walt explained the character to Kimball, he mentioned that Jiminy Cricket reminded him of his own “beloved addled Uncle Ed.” After hearing Walt’s vision, Kimball originally designed a character that looked more like a real cricket—feelers, bulging eyes, and an elongated body. Walt called it “gross,” so Jiminy changed into a little man with a big head bearing little resemblance to a real bug. “He was a cricket because we called him a cricket,” Kimball said, and later explained how much he eventually grew to hate the character. “I hated that cricket. I got sick of drawing that oval head looking in every direction. His coat I borrowed from the man on the Johnnie Walker scotch bottle. In the back it curves and splits in the middle so it resembles cricket wings.”

6. FIGARO THE CAT WAS WALT'S FAVORITE CHARACTER.

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Though Figaro is a relatively minor character in the movie, Walt loved the cat so much that he found another role for him when Pinocchio was over: Minnie Mouse's pet. Minnie already had a pet cocker spaniel, but it was ousted in favor of Figaro.

7. JIMINY SUFFERS A SURPRISING FATE IN THE BOOK.

The cute little conscience incarnate was only a minor character in the book—and he dies when Pinocchio throws a hammer at him. It was Walt’s idea to expand the character, but he didn’t hit upon the idea until after the storymen had completed the script. They had to go back and rework Jiminy Cricket into the entire movie.

8. PINOCCHIO WON TWO ACADEMY AWARDS.

Both involved the movie’s spectacular music. Paul Smith, Leigh Harline and Ned Washington won the Oscar for Best Original Score; Harline and Washington won Best Song for “When You Wish Upon a Star.” The latter, of course, has become a theme song for the Disney company over the years.

9. A SONG CALLED "HONEST JOHN" WAS CUT FROM THE FILM.

Performed by Disney mainstay Thurl Ravenscroft (also known for his voiceover work as Tony the Tiger) and his group The Mellomen, “Honest John” didn’t make the final movie, but here’s a demo:

Ravenscroft did appear in the movie in another way, though: He provided the roars for Monstro the whale.

10. THE MOVIE WAS A CRITICAL SUCCESS, BUT A BOX OFFICE FAILURE.

Critics raved about how perfect the movie was. The Los Angeles Times critic said, “Pinocchio tops any animated cartoon I ever saw,” and The New Republic wrote that it “brings the cartoon to a level of perfection that the word cartoon will not cover.” But you wouldn’t know it from the box office. In some markets, Pinocchio barely made a tenth of what Snow White had. Walt believed the movie suffered from competition with Gone with the Wind, which had opened not long before. And he later admitted that "Pinocchio lacked an intangible something.” Critics still love the film today, by the way—it’s one of just a handful of movies to achieve a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

11. MEL BLANC VOICED GIDEON THE CAT.

Walt hired Mel Blanc to voice the villainous sidekick character after hearing Blanc's hiccupy “drunk” impersonation. Blanc recorded all of his lines in 16 days and received $50 per day—but if you’ve seen the movie, you might remember that Gideon the Cat is mute. Disney ended up being worried that audiences would think the cat was drunk, and reduced Blanc’s lines to a single hiccup, which Blanc didn't find out until the movie premiered. Good thing he had that whole Bugs Bunny thing to fall back on.

12. DISNEY PAID FOR CLIFF EDWARDS' GRAVESTONE.

Veteran vaudeville actor Cliff Edwards provided the voice of Jiminy Cricket, including this gorgeous rendition of “When You Wish Upon a Star”:

Unfortunately, Edwards' drug and alcohol addiction affected his work greatly. His career began to decline, and by 1969, he was no longer in the employ of the Walt Disney Company. They did, however, quietly pay his medical bills. In the early ‘80s, someone in the company was informed that Edwards had never received a proper headstone after his death in 1971. Disney purchased a simple marker that paid tribute to “Ukulele Ike,” the persona Edwards was known for back in the vaudeville days.

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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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