I'll bet few of you even remember this embarrassing Disney television show. It was an odd mix of celebrity guest stars, vintage cartoon animation and the Disneyland walk around characters.
I had returned to Disney Animation to work on the movie “Robin Hood.” This was mid seventies and it actually felt good to be back at the drawing board again. You can bet I was surprised to find legendary animator, Ward Kimball producing this rather strange television show. Plus, I was somewhat confused. Was Ward really serious about this wacky hodge podge of a show or was he simply pulling our leg?
Since the television series was being done on the cheap, there was no budget for animation. So, in order to have Mickey, Donald and Goofy appear on screen the producers had to resort to the use of actors in “walk around suits.” The result was hardly classy but it was the best Disney could do. Still, some of the talent appearing on The Mouse Factory was pretty impressive. You may have even heard the names, Jim Backus, Wally cox, JoAnne Worley, Henry Gibson, Charles Nelson Reilly and Kurt Russell to name a few.
The odd little Disney television show provided another surprise for this old animation veteran. One of the show's writers was my old friend, Tom Dagenais. Tom and I began our Animation career on the very same day back in 1956. It was the year Dagenais made a career changing decision and decided to become a writer. What was the appeal of scripting over drawing, you ask? Tom Dagenais learned that writers were better paid.
On occasion we would wander out to stage two where the show was being filmed. I remember Don Bluth particularly liked one wacky song JoAnn Worley performed on stage. It was called "Rutabaga Rag." After we left the stage, Don Bluth sang the stupid song all the way back to the Animation Building. Some performers did make us laugh while filming their segments. Guest star, Phyllis Diller was pretty darn funny and I can still hear her wonderful, infectuous laugh.
Sadly, “The Mouse Factory” was hardly one of Disney’s proudest television moments. In fact, the show was pretty darn awful. However, my favorite part of the show was the end credits that featured vintage Disney animation as we heard “Minnie’s Yoo Hoo” on the sound track. Now, that was some good stuff.