REMINISCING WITH THE ORIGINAL "FOX" OF "THE FOX AND THE HOUND"
Blog, Movies, People
Posted on Aug 19 2011 by Greg
The child actors of the '80s who voiced young Tod and young Copper in Disney's The Fox and the Hound have continued their separate careers and moved in varying directions, much as their animated counterparts. I spoke with Keith Coogan--who has had a long and successful career as an adult as well as a child--about the film, his legendary grandfather and his co-star.
GREG: Have you watched The Fox and the Hound over the years since its first release in the '80s?
KEITH: I have probably watched it once every five years or so. This one [on Blu-ray] is just unbelievably beautiful. Sounds great, looks terrific. Thank you Disney for my copy. So yeah, I have watched it over the years and always from a different kind of point of view. Just like when you watch E.T. First you will identify with Elliot, then you will identify with the older brother, then you identify with the mom, then you wind up identifying with Peter Coyote. Well the same with The Fox and the Hound. I appreciated the Sandy Duncan role as I grew older, I appreciated more of the story as I matured. And when I watch, I can forget I was even a part of it because they put it together so great and it is such a strong story. Anytime I need a good cry I would pop in The Fox and the Hound!
G: But that is a "good" kind of sad. It is important for kids to learn compassion.
K: Yeah. That is such a message of the movie. When you‚€™re a kid, you are class blind, you are color blind. That innocence is what they are layering over, and that optimismÔ¿½‚€œwe will always be friends forever, won‚€™t we?‚€Ě ‚€œYeah, forever.‚€Ě Then it turns out not to be the case and why and that always brings a tear to my eye.
G: The production was a bit bumpy according to the history books, but The Fox and the Hound is especially noted because it blended the work of veteran and new animators.
K: I‚€™m very proud to be part of a Disney classic and I love that animators and fans alike see it as a crossover picture from the old to the new. It took a while to make and they stretched the voice recording over several years. I remember seeing the ‚€œpencil‚€Ě version of the bear attack and the waterfall. Terrifying. Unbelievable. They had all the sound, everything in it but they hadn‚€™t animated that sequence yet and it was still very intense, very frightening.
G: Were you and Corey Feldman (who voiced Copper) already friends?
K: They recorded us separate but I had known Corey Feldman and we had worked together. We were definitely cohorts and friends. I would be done with my session and I would see him come in with his mom, maybe we had some on-set school together a little bit.
G: Was doing the voice a challenge as a child actor?
Not being able to act with my eyes and my body was a loss. I had never done voice over before. So the process was just they were explaining, ‚€œOkay, these are the two birds and you are really grossed out by the worm and you say ‚€ėYeecch.‚€™‚€Ě Some times I would just give a one-line reading, other times they would try a bunch of different options. It was basically easy, probably three sessions total for a period of two years or so. Then when the film came out, I was just blown away. You wouldn‚€™t have known that Corey and I weren‚€™t working together or in the same room.
G: In the film, you‚€™re credited as Keith Mitchell. Did you change it to honor your grandfather, Jackie Coogan?
K: My stage name is Keith Coogan. Before my grandfather passed away in 1984, my work was under Keith Mitchell, which was my birth name. When my grandfather died in 1984, I changed it to my mother‚€™s maiden name, Coogan. I totally wanted his name to continue. You should know who Jackie Coogan was, what he did for child earnings, what he went through, his history. I wanted to honor my grandfather and also do an absolute split between my younger television work and the future film career that I was planning on at the time.
G: Of course, Jackie Coogan is legendary as the first big child star, the developer of the Coogan Law to protect young performers‚€™ earnings and Uncle Fester on TV‚€™s The Addams Family. Did he talk a lot about the early days?
K: We were very aware of that history of my grandfather. Hewould say things like ‚€œI didn‚€™t meet the Pope, the Pope met me.‚€Ě Great quotes from Charlie Chaplin like ‚€œI only had one costar and that was Jackie Coogan.‚€Ě He definitely lived in that past, he had great successes from age four. There‚€™s a great biography of him called Jackie Coogan: The World‚€™s First Boy King. Chaplin was absolutely responsible for establishing my grandfather‚€™s image, costume and then Jackie and my great-grandfather ran with it. My great-grandfather turned into a producer, created Jackie Coogan Productions and did My Boy, Long Live the King and Oliver Twist. His first talkie was Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. So, I knew about the legend really as I had grown up and I have read more and learned more. He went through so many things in his life. He married Betty Grable, fought in World War II, of course had a second career with The Addams Family. l loved him dearly. He was the cranky, rascally old grandpa that a lot of people seem to have.
G: Do you have advice for young performers today?
Spend very thriftily, be wise with your money. It doesn‚€™t last very long. The fame comes and goes, it is very cyclical, enjoy it while it is happening, really, really, enjoy it, it is over before you know it. You can come back, America loves a great come back story. You might find yourself just continuing on and just working if it is something you really love to do. If you really, really enjoy being on a set, if you really enjoy acting it is a great craft, something that calls to you, you have know choice but to do it. But, if you are going to do it, certainly get an education to fall back because you may not ever work again and you‚€™ve got to make a living. It doesn‚€™t last forever and enjoy it while it is happening. I am very lucky to have broken into features at 16. I turned 17 on the set of Adventures in Babysitting, also for Disney. Chris Columbus was such a great director to us as kids. He would see the story from the kids‚€™ point of view and that helps the audience see the story from the kids‚€™ point of view. Another Disney film I was very happy to do was Cheetah, which took me to Kenya and was one of the greatest times of my life. I turned 18 on that set so just a year later. What an unbelievable experience!
G: And now you‚€™re creating your own digital film productions.
K: Yes, and it‚€™s something almost anyone can do in their own way. You can write, you can produce and help other people out with their projects and friends and it is a different animal. It is a different pace, you are shooting a lot more, you have a lot more room to improvise, still rolling, still rolling. I really like the way the industry is kind of changing. It is miraculous and I took right to it. A little combo of improvisation, a little combo of that classic structure of how to shoot a scene and how to do coverage but moving fast and light with digital and even 3D. I did a 3D short. It is really challenging but also a boon to the creative instinct. I love it.
G; Do you still keep in touch with ‚€œthe hound,‚€Ě Corey Feldman?
K: Yes, I love him, but you do grow apart as adults. We are not part of our daily lives. For 36 years we have worked side by side in the industry and share some of the same beginnings. If you look at our IMDBs from the seventies they knock up against each other. So he is definitely respected by me also the only other person I could talk to who has been through such a similar situation as myself. He is a great one to lean on when I need to because he is the only one who understands. You look around and think there are not a lot of us left, so I don‚€™t want to lose touch with Corey ever. I have so much respect for him and I want to see more of him of course. But you grow up. That is the theme of Fox and the Hound. Adult situations can kind of drive some distance between you, not in the heart.
Corey and I will always be friends forever.
HARRISON FORD RIPS PAPA SMURF'S HEAD OFF!
Posted on Aug 06 2011 by Greg
Oh, it was all in good fun, but in a recent Conan O'Brien interview, an "annoyed" Harrison Ford
admitted that even his wife and son went to see The Smurfs
, contributing to its phenomenal opening weekend (which surprised many, but not some of us).
Saying that his "Cowboys and Aliens" broke the tie for number one by "almost a lot of money" (less than a million), he and O'Brien reveled one of the most ironic upsets in motion picture history -- the little blue Smurfs were a powerhouse match against Indiana Jones and James Bond appearing in the same movie.
Sorry if get controversial here, but I have always liked The Smurfs, from the hit Hanna-Barbera
cartoon to their best selling line of record albums (all of which were recorded in Holland and sounded like "Una Paloma Blanca.")
When my son in Kindergarten, another little boy hassled him after learning he watched the Care Bears
. (What are Kindergarten kids supposed to watch, The 40-Year-Old Virgin
?) He should have told the little creep that the Care Bears were a multimillion-dollar international concern, not that it would have mattered. It's just that there is a tendency to underestimate things like Smurfs and Chipmunks and other little Davids among the bigger and "cooler" Goliaths.
I co wrote a book about Disney records because I love them and listened to them, even when I was considered too old for many of them.
If you also took a lot of guff for not following the pack and making your own choices in your life, please join me in basking in the glow of Smurfy success.
WHY "LITTLE FUGITIVE" IS STILL SO COOL
Posted on Jul 31 2011 by Greg
Just got through watching a DVD set called The Films of Morris Engel
, to re-watch one of my all-time favorites and enjoy the other two in the "series." It was also nice to share with them with my family. Engel was a renowned WWII and candid "slice of life" photographer who decided to capture the same kind of little moments of New York City life he had in his photography in a feature film (apparently despite the best advice of friends and "experts").
The resulting feature, Little Fugitive
, is a powerhouse in its simple and evocative capture of '50s New York, particularly Coney Island. It went from a film nobody seemed to want to one of the most acclaimed independent films of all time, cited by Francois Truffaut
as a conduit for French new wave cinema and added to the National Film Registry.
Disney connection: the film was cowritten by Raymond Abraskin
, who with Jay Williams
(also played the pony ride man), wrote the "Danny Dunn" books, which are credited on Son of Flubber
. Also, look for Will Lee
-- the beloved Mr. Hooper
on Sesame Street
-- as a photographer.
Engel provides a delightful, wry commentary on his landmark work, along with video features by Mary Engel
, daughter of the director and his wife, Fugitive
editor Ruth Orkin
Orkin directed the "female version" of Little Fugitive, a romantic dramedy called Lovers and Lollipops
. Now a grownup story is added to the antics of a small girl, the musical score is more than a solo harmonica (but still supplied by session musician and children's record artist Eddy Manson
). Playing an unlikely make romantic lead is Gerald O'Loughlin
, best known as the crusty but benign chief on TV's The Rookies
Engel (and Orkin's) last feature is Weddings and Babies
, the most elaborate of the three, with a bonafide star in the lead -- the luminous Swedish actress Viveca Lindfors
. Playing the male lead is again an unlikely choice: John Myhers
, who you've seen on dozens of movies and TV shows usually as an administrative figure, most notably in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
. His performance, though not quite as adroit as Lindfors', is touching and restrained. The story takes place in Little Italy during the festival and sizzles with authenticity.
In a summer blaring with special effects extravaganzas, what a refreshing change to cool down with three unpretentious gems. Sometimes a lack of budget results in special degree of creativity and ingenuity.
"POOH" IS NOTHING TO POOH-POOH
Posted on Jul 16 2011 by Greg
We sat in a crowded theater to see Winnie the Pooh
today and heard adults and children laughing, oohing and "aww"-ing as, for a golden hour or so, they took a breather from the clutter of the commonplace and watched a masterwork of sheer simplicity, taste and talent.
And it was funny. HA-HA funny. Seriously, more than most of today's sitcoms. The wordplay, timing, and pacing was near perfectlon.
How can you miss when the genius of John Cleese
takes up where Sebastian Cabot
left off, when the astonishing Jim Cumming
s channels Sterling Holloway
and Paul Winchell
, when Tom Kenny -- the actor who brings TV's most absorbent fellow -- voices Rabbit and when the temptation to go for BIIIIIIG Hollywood names (of this week) was forgone in place of the best people for the voices?
And perhaps most of all, Craig Ferguson
takes Owl, perhaps the least appreciated character in the Hundred Acre Wood, and makes him not just funny, but sometimes laugh-out-loud funny -- if you don't believe me, watch the "pit" scene. The crowd roared.
By the way, Ferguson has been tirelessly and proudly touting his role for months on his late-night show, appeared this week on The Tonight Show
to plug it, and devoted an entire hour of his Late, Late Show
to the film -- right down to guest spots for Zooey Deschanel
, who sings in the film, and the aforementioned Cummings, getting a rare chance to appear in person on a mainstream TV show -- if only we could see other great voice actors afforded the same thing once in a while! Ferguson's show, which is strictly for grownups, can be seen on the CBS website.
Yeah, yeah, I know, a wizard is in almost every other theater. But allow your blood pressure to lower for a shining moment or two with Pooh and crew.
"PUFNSTUF" MEETS "GUYS AND DOLLS"
Posted on Jul 03 2011 by Greg
"Li'l Abner" the comic strip is probably unknown to younger audiences, but it was a sensation in the mid 20th century for decades and made creator Al Capp
a millionaire -- a bit ironic since the strip spoofed the rich, the powerful and especially the political. Sort of The Daily Show
of its day with a rural overlay.
The strip was so successful that it actually spawned a theme park, Dogpatch, U.S.A.
and a hit Broadway show that was one of the few to transition to film virtually intact. The wide screen Paramount extravaganza looks great on DVD (compared to washed out prints shown by local TV stations in the '60s) and is worth revisiting or experiencing for the first time.
There are several reasons, one of them being the immensely energetic Billie Hayes
as Mammy Yokum. In her TV role as Miss Witchiepoo, Hayes made Sid & Marty Krofft'
s Saturday Morning fantasy series "H.R Pufnstuf" a showcase of comic timing worthy of classic American vaudeville and British music hall. Her Mammy Yokum is clearly Witchiepoo's cousin -- right down to a few minutes cackling and screaming over a glowing cauldron! The colorfully whimsical Dogpatch setting itself looks like something from a Krofft show, if it had a realllly big budget, with no attempt at the typical realism of a Broadway musical that becomes a movie -- like Camelot
for instance, which became extremely gritty on film.Li'l Abner
also boasts Stubby Kaye
doing a variation of his Guys and Dolls character with tailor made songs, the most scathingly accurate (and still timely) "The Country's in the Very Best of Hands" with Abner himself, played by Peter Palmer
. Palmer did little after "Abner" since he became so identified with the role, but you can see him as a prizefighter in one of those musical episodes of The Honeymooners
with Jackie Gleason
Then there's the Amazonian splendor that is the eternal Catwoman Julie Newmar
, as Stupefyin' Jones, who entrance elicits a brief cameo by an unbilled Jerry Lewis
. This alone makes the movie worth a look or two or three.
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