‘This is the big one.’ .. told myself. 'The Thumperinterview "'heonethatcould make you orbreakyou .lcrawled towardsthe warren. the editor‘s words in mymind. ‘Find ou‘v'hathe'sbeen doingthese pastfort‘ivears.Whathe reallythoughtaboiitihalwallyBambi. Did Disney rip him off? Is he bitter?‘

ledged intothetunnel. feeling in my pocket forthe fresh lot‘uce. Most rabbits have haditlonti beforethey're forty but Thumper. the Bob Hope. Mannie Shinwell or Mickey Mouse. is a survivor.True he W15" longerinthe tooththanl'dexpecttdand hisgrey coat had turned BrnilllL But he moved briskly. his eyespiiik i‘aflierthan bloodshot. his talk minited.

lasked how he grtthr part in Bambi which madehima megabunny overnight. 'ltwasafluke'. he said modestly. ‘An Austrian iuy called Felix Salten wrote Bambi. It was his pigeon

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Thatswaggering. boastful. streetwise NewYorkalley cat.T0p Cat. orTCtohis close friends. is one ofthe few cartoon characterstonumbermore adultsthan children amonghisfans.thankstoa no-compromiseapproachto scriptwritingthatmusthave gone way overmostchildren'sheads.TC wasn‘t something you grew out of. but into. likea pairoftrousers handeddown by an elderbrother. Butldidn'tiustgetto knowTOpCat throughthose endless BBCt screenings. No. lwasluckierthanthe average TC fan. | gotto meethim. Or rather. them. Histwo co—creators. Bill Hanna and Jo Barbera and a third man

huthedidn'thave rabbits. onlyhares. When Disney wascastingforthe movie allthe hares were outoftowniorarace withsometor‘toiseslromChicago.' Buthowdid he and Bambi getalong on the set? ‘Fine. just fine. He was young. natch. and needed to be shown theropesbutwe were part ofa big happyfamilyhavinga greattime while everybodyelse was atwar.'Thetilm appeared in 1942 and showed that dumbanimalsweren'tjustforputting in stews. There were cries of'Oscar.' forThumper’simmaculate performance as Bambi'swisecracking sidekickbutthe nomination wenttothe nowunheard ofJames Cagney. AfterBainbi hewentunderground. frightened otoverexposure andwary of the Hollywoodfleshpots. Still only four. he had fatheredfifty—thiee bunnies. When he resurfaced he was yesterday's rabbit. Bugs Bunny was the talk of the town and Peter had made a successful comebackin cabaret. Thumper. on his agents bad advice. auditionedforpartsin Mrs Warren's Profession. Bunny Lake is Missing and Starsky and Hutch buthedidn'tseemtt fitin anymore and retired. lfetchedths lettucefrom my coatpocketto mollify him but he was unimpressed. 'Lettuce is soporific. Haven'tyou read Beatrix Potter? Now. if it had been some nice Brussels sprouts. . .' l didn'twantto leave onafaux pas andshookhispaw and promisedtolethimseeacopy of the article. 'Good.‘ he said. “But remember. ifyou can'tsay nothin' nice. don'tsay nothin' atall.‘

tr'tie lari kriirxxs. irrilx the l-retl ()tiiriihx l‘llllilleili ill\ are the real thing l I it there. ( it it l. Swine trl {ilL‘\t‘tlllL’\lltlll\tlllti riiirr'ear'e .irisxxeietl iii a laxeiriatiri: h itrk eallett ()t \lit emit." Utter/t hx l eiiriar‘tl \laltiri ( \exx .\lllL‘llL‘;tlll ihr'ar'x l: a llltl\i liir all true lariwrl ear'tiwns. Hut. xx heri all l\ said and tltrrie. the

going by the unlikely name ofArnold Stang. Who? Stang was 50 years old. looked like a leprechaun with horn-rimmed spectacles and if you met him in the street. you wouldn‘t know him from Adam. Until he opened his mouth. Those unmistakeable tones. the voice that charmed a thousand Dibbles. So what was I doing in Hollywood. California. talking to Top Cats voice. and the two men who first had the idea of animating the Sergeant Bilko shows. transforming the motorpool into a bunch of alley cats? I. and my partner in crime. Rodger Stanier. were about to make a series of TV commercials for Hall Advertising and their client. The Royal Bank of Scotland. And Top Cat was to be their illustrious new spokesman. We flew to L. A. to commission TC‘s originators.


lnanimationtheprocess of anthropomorphism posits numerous intriguing questions of identity. For instance. TheJungle Book‘sBaloothe Bearcould be seen as the embodiment ofthe less larcenous among recent Republican Presidents. Like his human counterparts he‘s a nice guy. providing his charge. whether it be a man cub or mankind. with life's bare necessities. Laid-backand ill-suitedtothe task at hand he combines the endearing gaucheness ofa Gerry Ford withthe amiable paternalism of an Eisenhower and doesn'tthe relishwith which he donsa disguise suggestmorethana passing regard forthe civilian

profession of the present incumbent?

hest kill_\\ iil'ear'tiiiiii riiakirie are lirrnlx in the past and perhaps it‘s hetter' that xxax . is it lair tii expeet wirieiirie else tii aehiex'e the xx'arpetl hr‘illiariee ixllex ;\x'er'_x‘. . . .etitilii there ex er' he ant ither .‘xlel Blarie‘.’ Perhaps it \VtitllLiILI he Ml had it xx e xx ere alltixx etl tti eriiirx titii‘ ear‘tirtiiis iri ( i'elatix'e ) peaee and quiet htit xx e are denied ex'eri lhi\. With the rising tide «.il prtir‘ieriee. We are irier‘easinulx‘ heiiietnltlthateartiitinsar'e \ I liltieiittxlx x'ttileni. \L‘I it had example. eneiitir‘aee mindless x itilenee. \htllllti he harmed ete. .‘xitrst ear‘ttrtrris addiets like lil_\‘\L‘H are peaeeltil. laxx -.ihitling eiti/eiis; tiirtil write t'lghieitth titi—gtxuiet' lt‘ie‘\ lii tietix tl\ It xxtitilti niake ex'en \hgi \erearii.

l 0 Bambi l\ t'e‘rele‘ttseti titt\ I‘.;i\let‘.'

Hanna-Barberato putthemtogether.

The commercials. immensely succesful. ran for 3 years. And Rodger andlbecame experts in TCtrivia. TC fansmightbe interestedto learnthat onlthhalf-hourshows were ever made

Life goes on. The Royal Bankmerged with Williams and Glynn and Top Cat was unceremoniously dropped. Rodger andlleftHallsto start up ourown advertising agency. And. as for Hanna-Barbera. they're still hard at work. producing some of the dullest. mostinsipid animationyou're ever likelyto see onthe crystal bucket.

They stopped making programmes of the quality of Top Cat a long time ago whenthey started making something else. Money. Peter Mill is Creative Director of The Leith Agencva...

.._., W; i. . j .

The List 21 Mar 3 .\pr 3