If you’ve been around as long as I have there’s sure to be a fair number of movie projects on your resume that never saw the light of day. This is one of them, and I’ll only give a few details because the amazing story of “Huck’s Landing” is worth an entire book. You’re looking at a comic strip that was being developed in tandem with the proposed animated motion picture. These are original inked comic strips rescued from the imploding Tom Carter Studios late in 1983. After a delightful Thanksgiving weekend we were suddenly summoned to the Newport Beach facility to grab our stuff before the studio was padlocked. Sounds like an intriguing tale, right? We’ll talk more about this later.
You’re looking at the work of cartoonist, Scott Shaw! Yes, the exclamation point is indeed part of his name. Scott did these comic strips along with comic artist, Phil Ortiz. If I recall, I may have written a few of the gags myself. However, my main task was completing the storyboards on the ill fated feature film, “Huck’s Landing.” Oddly enough, we had begun work on this animated feature film nearly a year earlier . In the spring of 1982, the project was under the creative supervision of the brilliant conceptual artist, Phil Mendez. I do not joke when I say Phil Mendez was the black Ken Anderson. If you’re not familiar with Mr. Anderson, he was a Disney Legend who worked at Walt’s magic factory for decades. Anyway, Phil Mendez was an amazing talent who seem to have no end of creative ideas. He arrived at the Walt Disney Studios in the early seventies like a bombshell and the rather conservative Mouse House had no idea how to deal with the artist. Unlike Walt Disney who was comfortable with impulsive creative types, the clueless, lackluster Disney animation management saw Mendez only as a threat. A brilliant, creative black man?! Oh my god! Sound familiar?
By 1983, Phil Mendez had left the Huck’s Landing project much the same way he had departed the Disney Company. Not only was Phil Mendez a talent, he was also known for his expansive personality which always rubbed “suits” the wrong way. Button down, tight ass business types never know how to deal with artists Anyway. In any case, we soldiered on and completed story development and visual preproduction on the animated film. However, you didn’t have to be a business genius to know you had booked passage on the Titanic and the studio’s impending death was only weeks away. Of course, this is a much longer story and it’s a fantastic tale I’ll have to tell in detail one day. In the meantime, I’ll simply say I was surprised to find these original comic strips buried in my closet. If Scott Shaw! or Phil Ortiz would like a copy and a reminder of the crazy time we spent together back in 1983 I’ll be happy to accommodate.
After all is said and done, the film I labored on for nearly two years was hardly a bad idea. The spin on the celebrated Mark Twain character could have worked effectively in animation. Some of the early tests we shot were frankly, amazing. In some of our tests we composited hand drawn, inked and painted cel animation over miniature sets. If you’re not getting it, think back to what Max Fletcher was doing with Popeye back in the thirties and early forties. We were taking this vintage cartoon concept and using the technology of the eighties. We even employed some of the tech wizards that had worked on George Lucas’ “Star Wars.” This could have been one helluva movie. Sadly, all that’s left today are a handful of original comic strips.