Forgotten Comic Strip

Did you know there was almost a Roger Rabbit Comic Strip? That’s correct, boys and girls the wacky rabbit nearly made his debut in the daily newspapers. And, here before you is the proof the zany comic strip actually existed.

You see, back in the turbulent eighties there was a lot of stuff going on at the large entertainment company located in the San Fernando Valley. The company was undergoing massive changes and along with those changes was an agreement to partner with Hollywood icon, Steven Spielberg on a bold new project. As shooting continued in the UK, I continually received all manner of material from the filmmakers overseas. There were sketches and photographs. Script pages and revisions. In any case, it sure looked like we had stumbled on to something and the wacky movie Bob Zemeckis was directing was sure to be a hit. We had already launched a graphic novel and the project was already in work. We had secured the services of artists, Dan Speigle and Daan Jippes to create the comic. Why not a syndicated daily comic strip, we wondered? Before you could say the words, Mickey Mouse we were onto it.

Since the Disney/Spielberg motion picture would be a combination of live-action and animation we decided to emulate the concept in our daily comic strips. Members of our editorial and art staff would play the roles of the live-action characters by being photographed and stripped into the comic pages. Remember this was long before digital so all the compositing had to be done by hand. In any case, we thought the wacky idea worked really well and before we knew it we had completed a fair number of comic pages to present to our partner, King Features Syndicate. For reasons unknown, the strip idea received a thumbs down and the Roger Rabbit Comic Strip never saw the light of day.

If you recall, the motion picture “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” opened to good box office and solid reviews. As a matter of fact, there are some who consider this innovative motion picture the reason animated film making received a new lease on life. We did eventually finish the Roger Rabbit Graphic novel and it was published in several languages as well. In time, I would work on a number of Roger Rabbit motion picture sequel attempts but none ever caught on. Much like our Roger Rabbit Daily Comic Strip the ideas never went anywhere. So, here’s all that’s left of the once famous animated cartoon rabbit. Even though the film scored big with audiences back in the eighties, Roger never got a second chance at life and he’s now just a footnote in Disney history.

The Roger Rabbit Daily Comic Strip. No one has ever seen it, but guess who has all the original art?

The Roger Rabbit Daily Comic Strip. No one has ever seen it, but guess who has all the original art?

Jiminy Crickets!

“Jiminy Cricket” must have been a popular expression back in the thirties. Did you know that one of the Seven Dwarfs actually says, “jiminy cricket!” in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs?” This was years before the Disney Studio completed “Pinocchio.

I found this hand inked and painted cel in a box in my garage. But before you get excited, let me explain that it’s not from Walt Disney’s classic animated film, “Pinocchio.” You see, we did a lot of crickets over the years. Much of the animation was for television. That’s a dead giveaway if you look closely at this cel. Even though the cel is beautifully hand inked and painted it’s no match for one of the original crickets from the Walt Disney feature film which had a more delicate ink line and a softer choice of colors. This is clearly art for a commercial or a segment of The Mickey Mouse Club. By the way, did you know that Cliff Edwards was still voicing the famous cricket as late as the fifties? Though getting on in years, the original voice of Jiminy was as energetic as ever. For some reason, Edwards like to hang around the Animation Building, and we would often see him in the hallways. Maybe the old guy just felt at home at the Disney Studio, and Walt didn’t seem to mind.

Speaking of “Pinocchio,” I was fortunate enough to spend time with another famous voice actor from the Walt Disney movie. Of course, I’m speaking of Pinocchio’s voice, Dick Jones. Sadly, Mr. Jones passed away recently, but I’ll never forget what he told us about working for Walt Disney and doing the voice of the little wooded boy. Decades later, Dick Jones remembers tearing up with each release of the Disney classic. He considered it such a wonderful thing to have been a part of this extraordinary motion picture that continued to bring joy to so many people. To the best of my knowledge, Dick Jones never voiced another cartoon character for the Disney Studio. However, the Disney Legend will always be remembered for “Pinocchio.”

Finally, this animation cel is in pretty good condition considering it was painted many years ago. Of course, by then we were using cel vinyl paint which was more long lasting and resilient than the old Disney water based paint. In any case, it’s pretty cool to see actual artwork you can hold in your hand. It’s a totally different experience from todays cartoon filmmaking where everything is virtual and never truly exists.

Jiminy Cricket makes an appearance in a Disney television commercial. Actually we did quite a few with the famous little guy back in the fifties, sixties and beyond.

Jiminy Cricket makes an appearance in a Disney television commercial. Actually we did quite a few with the famous little guy back in the fifties, sixties and beyond.

It's Been Sixty Years!

Sixty years ago the amazing new medium of television introduced a magical new weekly series called Disneyland. Even better, the show was hosted by the man who started it all. If you’re an animation geek like myself, you’ll remember the off camera television announcer say the magic words, “…and now your host, Walt Disney.” Wednesday night would never be the same.

And, so began an exciting journey inside Walt Disney’s magic factory where the Old Maestro himself would share his special secrets with the television audience. Of course, it was a network television show watched by millions, but all of us felt we were getting the inside scoop from Walt Disney himself as he took us on a private tour of his studio and the exciting projects that were yet to come. Perhaps this might seem strange, but back in the fifties not every family had a television set. I was lucky enough to have a neighbor who did, and they graciously invited me into their living room to watch the Disney show. Remember, I was just a kid in school and this was many years ago. Disneyland had not yet opened its gates and Walt Disney was eager to introduce us to this bold, innovative new theme park. It would be an attraction like no other. Plus, Walt had a slate of new movies and television shows, and he gave us a peek at those as well. In many ways, Walt Disney was the ultimate pitchman as he sold us on his bold new ideas. No matter. It may have been a sales pitch but it was also entertaining as heck and we couldn’t get enough of it.

Like most young people with stars in their eyes I couldn’t wait to finish school and apply for a job at the Walt Disney Studios. However, a Disney career was still a long way away as I returned home to complete my homework assignments. Thinking back on that time, I realize the only time I watched television was on Wednesday nights back in the fifties. I sat in my neighbor’s living room and watched Disneyland in glorious black and white. The weekly ABC series was my portal into the land of my dreams. Once a week, I could garner a peek inside the Walt Disney Studio and even have the Old Maestro himself as my guide. As you can imagine, this pilgrimage to my neighbor’s home was the highlight of my week and I never missed a single show. It’s difficult to believe this has been sixty years ago. Since that time, the Disney shows have moved to full color, high resolution and stereo sound. Plus, there are even greater things to come. However, for this Disney veteran, all of this stuff will never surpass the magic of those early black and white days with its analog television images and crummy reception. We were simply a group of dazzled kids with stars in our eyes and the dream of one day working for the most incredible, magical company on planet earth.

Walt Disney hosts his television show, Disneyland. It's been sixty years since the show hit the air.

Walt Disney hosts his television show, Disneyland. It's been sixty years since the show hit the air.