Sept 12, 2006 Ode to the Butt Joke
September 12th, 2006

I rise to speak in praise of one of the easiest, most effective, if little respected gags in animation history, namely the Butt Joke. In the 1930s they were called Fanny Gags. I think the earliest one was in Emile Cohl's Fantasmagorie in 1908. A rather rotund swordsman poked an unsuspecting victim in his derriere with his rapier, causing great mirth. In the Revolutionary War Battle of Saratoga (1777) Polish volunteer General Kozciusko was shot in the ass while inspecting his fortifications, which caused great merriment among the Minutemen. The British commander of Fort Ticonderoga was surprised at night and captured by Colonial hero Ethan Allen in his underwear, which was considered quite funny.

Following the tradition of the great silent comedians like Chaplin and Keaton, almost all major Hollywood cartoon characters have shot, stabbed, or otherwise poked one another in the keister.
courtesy of Dreamworks Animation.

In the classic Tom & Jerry MGM shorts someone was always getting poked or shot in the tuckus. In Disney's Fantasia, in the Beethoven Pastorale Sequence, a flock of giggling cherubim gather to peek at two lovers and their collected keisters form the shape of a heart. In 101 Dalmatians, Jasper the hoodlum gets bitten by Pongo on his butt. You could all list hundreds of cases. When I was at Disney, I became a sort of butt-joke specialist. In Aladdin when the Geni is singing "you gotta list that's three miles long, no doubt, well all you gotta go is rub like soooo.." He took Aladdin's list and rubbed his butt like a towel. I interpreted this gag by turning the Genii's backside into camera and enlarging his butt to leviathan proportions.

Critic Richard Schickel, in his 1967 book the Disney Version, was over-analytical, in my opinion, when he attributed Walt Disney's obsession with butt jokes to some subconscious private fetish. But as Freud said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. The fact is, butt-jokes are not only an easy laugh getter; they are a laugh all around the world. Much of modern comedy doesn't travel well. Some cultures don't understand self-deprecating humor or some colloquialisms just fall flat on a different culture. Jay Leno and David Letterman failed when broadcast in Europe and Gringo Americans scratch their heads when confronted on TV with a over-the-top Latin American clown or wacky Japanese game show.

When we did Beauty and the Beast 1991 it was translated and seen in a hundred languages in a hundred countries. When some of our animators who were born in other countries went home to see the picture, they all came back with the same story. Cogsworth the Clock, who was very funny in English, was very dull in other languages. Most of his humor came from puns like If it's not Baroque, don't fix it!". They all reported the same phenomena- that the biggest laugh in Spanish, German, Polish and Mandarin was when Maurice the father was going to save Belle and his pants kept falling down!
Quick Leopold, put in more Butt Jokes! courtesy

All over the world, from Austria to Zimbabwe, underwear is funny. Poking someone in the tush is funny. I guess sociologists could do a study, but lets say a common denominator of Mankind is a mutual embarrassed recognition of the more ridiculous part of our anatomy.

So cartoonists everywhere, honor the lowly butt joke! Long may it wave!

------------------------------------------------- History for 9/12/2006
Birthdays: Piero 'the Fatuous' DeMedici, King Francis Ist of France-1494, H.L. Mencken, Maurice Chevalier, Ben Blue, Jesse Owens, Barry White, Alfred A. Knopf, Ian Holm, Hans Zimmer, Rachael Ward, Michael Odaatje-author of The English Patient, Margaret Hamilton -"I'm mellllttinnng,,oooohh.." Joe Pantoliano

1866-Theater producer Fred Niblo got stuck with a French ballet troupe stranded and broke after the New York Academy of Music burned down. So he combined the dancers with a rather mundane melodrama and created" The Black Crook" and invented the first true Broadway Musical. It ran for twenty years and was continually revived until 1925.

1940- In southern France near Montignac a pet dog fell through a crack in the ground into an underground chamber. When four boys follow in to retrieve the dog they discover the Lascaux Caves Ice-Age paintings, where, a Stone Age man traced his handprint in chalk is considered the world’s oldest signature.

1941-THE WALT DISNEY STRIKE ENDS- Everyone goes back to work after the NLRB, with a lot of behind the scenes pressure from the Bank of America, settled the dispute. Walt Disney had to recognize the cartoonists guild, give screen credits, double the salaries of low
paid workers retroactive to May 29th and re-hire animator Art Babbitt. Disney immediately got on a train to Washington to try and convince the feds to reverse the decision or get an injunction in court. He failed. Ironically within a few months the war would break out and artists who had been bitter foes would be compelled to work side by side in the U.S. Army Picture Unit.

1945- Young Captain Ronald Reagan was discharged from the US Army Signal Corps. He never left Hollywood but starred in movies, training films and USO benefits. Yet in his old age he acted the great war hero. Some annoyed veterans told me Marlena Deitrich in fishnet stockings and pumps got closer to the fighting than Captain Reagan ever did.

1954- Television comedian Ernie Kovacs married Edie Adams, the Muriel Cigar Girl. They married in Mexico and at the insistence of Kovacs used a priest who read the entire service in Spanish, a language neither of them understood.

1953- THE RED REDHEAD-? McCarthy investigators accuse top t.v. star Lucille Ball of being a communist. She and husband Desi Arnez immediately went and testified that Lucy’s grandfather was an old Socialist who routinely enrolled all his grandkids in the Communist Party as a birthday present. America wouldn’t stand to see their favorite t.v. family go down, so the matter quickly blew over. Years later Desi would condescendingly joke/:" Lucy didn’t even know who the mayor of L.A. was. The only thing that was red about Lucy was her hair, and even that wasn’t real !"

1957- Market researcher James M.Vicary explains at a press conference the theory of Subliminal Advertising. His company proposed to unconsciously compel people to buy products by flashing messages at 1/24th of a second during movies. Even though the concept was discredited (givetomsitomoney) by the American Psychiatric Association (givetomsitomoney) a national panic ensued as people feared brainwashing.

1965- The Beatles release 'Yesterday'.

1966-"Gee Mr. French..." Family Affair premieres on t.v.

1966- The Monkees t.v. show premiered. Two young television executives Bert Schneider and Sam Rafaelson convince their network to make "A Hard Day's Night" for American television. Of the four kids in the make-believe band Mike Nesmith was the only real musician. Micky Dolenz had to be taught how to play the drums the first day of shooting. Insiders nicknamed them "The Pre-Fab Four". Still, the show was a major hit, won Emmy Awards and all their albums went gold. The producers took that success and used it to finance the hit film "Easy Rider". Mike Nesmith later married into the Liquid Paper Company and used his fortune to help start MTV. I confess I had my own Monkees shirt, double row of buttons, puffed sleeves, cobalt blue with tiny red polka dots. Last Train to Clarkesville!

1992- Anthony Perkins, the star of Hitchcock’s Psycho, died of HIV/AIDS. His widow, Berry Berensen the sister of actress Marisa Berensen, died in one of the hijacked airliners that plunged into the World Trade Center on 9-11.

2005- Disneyland Hong Kong opened.

Monday Sept 11, 2006
September 10th, 2006

This day our hearts go out to those who were effected and still suffer from the events of 9-11 2001.

The Martha Baxton Auction was a wonderful success. Money raised was double what was expected. A good time was had by all. The remaining items not sold will be put up on e-bay for online bidding. Included are some beautiful limited edition lithos of Maurice Noble, the legendary designer of the Road Runner cartoons and Whats Opera Doc?.

Congratulations to all the volunteers who worked from 9:00am to midnight to make it happen.
Birthdays: O.Henry, D.H. Lawrence, Brian DePalma, Hedy Lamarr, Lola Falana, Paul "Bear" Bryant, Tom Landry, Kristy McNichol, Lola Falana, Pinto Colvig the voice of Goofy & Pluto, Peter Tosh, Virginia Madsen, Amy Madigan, Moby

1841- British artist John Reno invented oil paint in a tube.

1847- Stephen Fosters song “Oh Susanna” first published.

1914- W.C. Handy's Saint Louis Blues published, the first true Jazz recording to gain national popularity. Myron “Grim” Natwick, the cartoonist who would one day create Betty Boop and Snow White for Disney, did the artwork for the coversheet. For this he was paid one gold dollar. To this day, musicians say " Thank God there was a W.C. Handy..."

1916- The Star Spangled Banner first sung at a baseball game at Cooperstown New York.

1947-Radio Bejing goes on the air.

1951-METROPOLIS TO MOSCOW? Robert Shayne, the actor who played the Inspector Henderson character for television’s Superman show appeared before the House American Activities Committee accused of being a communist. He was led off the set by the FBI in handcuffs as Man of Steel George Reeves and Jimmy Olsen protested vigorously. He was eventually cleared of all charges but because of the Blacklist he gave up acting and went into real estate.

1960- Terrytoon's Deputy Dawg t.v. show.

1960- Nancy Sinatra married Tommy Sands.

1966- "Kimba the White Lion" debuts in the U.S.

1967-The Beatles began filming Magical Mystery Tour.

1971- The “Jackson Five” Saturday morning cartoon show.

1972- The BBC quiz show Mastermind first broadcast. The shows creator Malcom Muggeridge claimed he got the idea while a prisoner of the Japanese in Malaysia and in truth the show resembles an interrogation. Some postman from Neasden sits in a dark room with a single spotlight in his face while people shoot questions at him about the lesser known works of Thomas Hardy, etc.

1987-Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" wins MTV's Best Video Award.

1987-Reggae great Peter Tosh and two others are shot and killed by
thieves who were robbing his Kingston, Jamaica home.

2001- THE 9-11 ATTACKS – When New York’s Twin Towers were completed in 1974, they were the tallest office buildings in the world and a symbol of American commercial power. Islamic Fundamentalist terrorists had tried to bring down the towers with a truck bomb in 1993. This day, terrorists hijacked three US domestic airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington DC. It was a beautiful, clear, Autumn day and the second plane crashing into the World Trade Center was timed for maximum press coverage. The images looked improbably like a movie stunt rather than a real disaster. The planned multiple attack was organized by Osama Ben-Laden, a rogue millionaire whose family has close ties to the rulers of Saudi Arabia. The passengers of a fourth hijacked airliner United Flt. 93 were talking to their loved ones on digital phones and were told of the planes crashing into World Trade Center. So the passengers armed with trays and boiling water attacked their hijackers -. The last words heard from passenger Bob Beamer ,“We’re taking back the plane…let’s roll!” Flight 93 crashed in an uninhabited field outside of Pittsburgh before it could be used as a human bomb. Authorities now think that plane would have been used to crash into the White House. Back in New York City, after burning with aviation gas at 1500 degrees for over an hour the two giant WTC towers pancaked in on themselves and plunged to the ground on top of rescue workers and firemen. 3,000 died from 150 countries.

September 10, 2006
September 10th, 2006

Birthdays: Fae Wray, Yma Sumac ( Star of Brazilian jazz and crossword puzzles- real name Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chavarri del Castillo, from Ichocán, Peru. Descendent of Inca royalty), Ian Fleming the creator of James Bond, Raymond Scott (composer of songs Carl Stalling loved to score into Bugs Bunny cartoons) , Margaret Trudeau, Amy Irving, Arnold Palmer, Charles Kuralt, Jose Feliciano, Karl Lagerfield, Steven Jay Gould, Chris Columbus, Colin Firth

1171- Salladin, the Vezir of Egypt, changed the religious practice of Egypt from Shiite back to Sunni Moslem. For this act the Caliph in Bagdhad made the Kurd a Sultan, and he took up the war begun by Zenghi and Nur-Al-Din against the Christian Crusaders holding the Holy places in Jerusalem.

1907-The first Neiman Marcus dept. store opens in Dallas.

1940- During the Battle of Britain, Nazi bombs hit Buckingham Palace, just missing the Royal Family. The Queen later Queen-Mum said:"At last now I can look the East-enders in the face." RAF ace Sgt. Ginger Lacey volunteered to go up and get the bomber who did the bombing. In a London fog his Hurricane fighter caught up to the offending German Heinkell –111 bomber and shot it down., But his own plane was so shot up in the battle he had to bail out. His parachute caught in a tree and as Sgt, Lacey looked down he saw an old Englishman in a Home Guard helmet training a shotgun at him. He obviously thought he was a German. Lacey explained he wasn’t a Jerry but the old duffer remained unconvinced. He was preparing to fire when finally let loose a torrent of Anglo-Saxon invective "YOU STUPID GIT, YOU G*DDAM F**KING OLD WANKER! WAIT TILL I GET MY BLOODY ID CARD OUT, etc. The Old man then lowered his weapon with relief:" "Ere. He said:" Anyone who can swear like that can’t be a German.."

1953 - Swanson Foods sells it's first "TV dinner"

1955- the t.v. series 'Gunsmoke' premiered.

1963- The First New York Film Festival opened with Luis Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel, and Woody Allen was probably there.

1966- H& B's Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossible's debut.

1968- Hanna Barbera's Space Ghost and Dino Boy' debut.

1972- Premiere of the landmark tv special Liza with a Z. Bob Fosse directed and choreographed the one woman show of the spangled 23 year old.

1981- Picasso's painting Guernica is at

1993- The t.v series The X Files premiered. The truth is out there.

Today is the Martha Baxton Auction at the Cal Arts campus in Valencia. Things kick off at 5:00PM. Even if you didn't go to Cal Arts or know Martha, this is a great place for animation and Disneyana fans to get some real bargains. Go to their website and check out the items, it's really special stuff. A Milt Kahl sketch from Robin Hood, John Musker caricatures of Tim Burton and John Lassiter, cels and drawings from The Little Mermaid, Iron Giant, Who Framed Roger Rabbitt, Sleeping Beauty, Tron and much more. 170 items last I heard. And on your taxes it's a charitable contribution as well!

Birthdays: Antonio Frescobaldi, Captain William Bligh, Cliff Robertson, Angela Cartwright, Alf Landon, Dee Dee Sharpe who sang the 60's R&B hit the Mashed Potato, Michael Keaton, Adam Sandler, Otis Redding, Anita Ekberg, Hugh Grant, Topol, Colonel Lyman Sanders the Kentucky Fried Chicken founder, James Hilton-writer who created the name for the paradise Shangri-La for his novel Lost Horizon

1908- THE PATENTS TRUST- Thomas Edison, Charles Pathe and Leon Gaumont form the Motion Picture Patents Group. Called the "Trust", their attempt to monopolize movie production and strangle off the independents had a lot to do with the early filmmakers exodus to Los Angeles. Otherwise the film capitol of the world would have been Ft. Lee, New Jersey. The only positive result of the trust was they enforced a regular industry standard for film stock of 35 mm running at 24 frames per second. It seems the Mitchell Camera Company was developing a motorized motion picture camera to replace the hand crank variety but they needed an official speed to set it at. In a contentious meeting of the Trust held at the Waldorf Astoria no one could settle on a single speed. Finally the compromise was made to make it the number of delegates in the room- 24.

1910-Alice B. Toklas moved in permanently with Gertrude Stein in the 22 Rue de Flerus in Paris. Until Steins death in 1946 they held court in one of the most glittering social networks of twentieth century Paris. Regular soirees included Picasso, Matisse, Dali, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, Max Ernst, Virgil Thompson, Sherwood Anderson, Max Ernst, Guilliame Apollinaire and Carlos Santayanna. But the ultra modern was not to everyone’s taste. Painter Mary Cassatt only visited once. She later told a friend:" I never saw so many horrible things, I never met so many horrible people!"

1920- Silent movie star Olive Thomas, nicknamed America's Kid Sister, partied a little too hard at the Dead Rat Cafe in Paris. The 21 year old died of an overdose of cocaine and alcohol. Her nude body was discovered wrapped in a full length ermine fur left on her couch. The scandal started the first investigation of drugs in Hollywood. It netted an army captain named Spaulding who admitted that film stars like Thomas, Mabel Normand and Ramon Navarro were regular clients for morphine, heroin and cocaine. Shortly after Groucho Marx put in his vaudeville show Animal Crackers the song Hooray for Captain Spaulding, the African Explorer.

1926 – The National Broadcasting Company or NBC created by Radio Corporation of America RCA. Under the direction of David Sarnoff it became the powerhouse network of broadcasting, recording and television.

1939- The first Andy Panda cartoon.

1939- The first day of shooting on Charlie Chaplin’s film the Great Dictator.

1939- A small theater in Riverside Cal was the site of a secret test screening of the completed Gone With the Wind.

1945- The first bug in a computer program discovered by Grace Hopper. A moth was removed with tweezers from a relay & taped into the log. Since then any computer glitch was nicknamed "a bug".

1950 - 1st use of TV laugh track invented by Hank McCune.

1956- Elvis Presley appeared on nationwide television on the Ed Sullivan Show. Sullivan himself had vowed never to have the kid on his show but caved in to network pressure. He stayed home that first time and actor Charles Laughton was the substitute host. CBS Network censors thought the gyrations of Elvis' pelvis so obscene that in many markets they blacked out the lower portion of the screen so he was covered the waist down.

1967- Jay Ward's George of the Jungle t.v. show with SuperChicken and Tom Slick premiered.

1982- Princess Grace of Monaco, the former movie actress Grace Kelly, died in a car accident on the mountainous hill roads of Monaco. Twenty years earlier in the film To Catch a Thief, Alfred Hitchcock had her drive her car at dangerous speeds over the exact same hairpin turns.

More Wisdom of the Old Animators
September 8th, 2006

Tissa David told us " At first all animators animate themselves. Every action you create is done as though you yourself were doing it. An animated walk is your walk. To be an animation actor you must strive to create an action as if it were done by someone you are not."

By the way, that picture is not Tissa, she'd kick me in the goulash if I didn't point that out. I just couldn't find a good one of her. It's a self portrait of Eduard Meissonier. He was the head of the French Academy of Arts and a leading figure in painting in his time.
He was a classical academician and thought the Impressionists were all phonies who couldn't draw.