Creating any sort of animated feature is requires a lot of money, no matter how short it is intended to be. Even the prominence of CGI movies has yet to change this fact. When a production company puts down the cash for a cartoon, they run a higher risk of losing out if it bombs at the box office.
It is due to these difficulties that directors of animation tend to be highly motivated, passionate individuals. From Walt Disney to Ralph Bakshi, from Matt Groening to Seth McFarlene, these are people who are driven by their love of the medium.
With all of the work put into a project by such self-starters, it is hard to ever imagine them ever disowning a production that contains their blood, sweat, and tears. It must take real regret to hate something you spent months, or even years, making.
Today we are here to discuss such despised animated features. The cartoon series, movies, and individual episodes that have been publicly disowned by the people involved in their creation.
15. The Golden Touch
The final animated short ever directed by Walt Disney was a movie called The Golden Touch. It’s a ten minute long film based upon the legend of King Midas. In the short, King Midas is a money-obsessed king who is granted the ability to turn anything he touches into gold. After realising that he won’t be able to eat or drink again without the sustenance turning to gold upon touching his lips, Midas fears for his life. He is given the option of reversing the wish… at the cost of his kingdom.
The Golden Touch was a flop at the box office, a result which shamed Walt Disney to the point that it became a vocal weapon used against him by one of his own employees. Whilst arguing with Wilfred Jackson (a famous Disney animator), Walt Disney criticised Jackson’s work. The argument grew so heated that Jackson said “I recollect that you once directed a picture called The Golden Touch“.
Walt stormed off in silence, he emerged a few minutes later and told his staff to never mention that film again. They never did.
14. “Butters’ Very Own Episode” (South Park)
In 2001, the TV show South Park decided to focus an episode on one of the best characters in the series – Butters Stotch. It was called “Butters’ Very Own Episode” and it focused on Butters discovery of his father’s illicit affairs with other men. When Butters’ mother discovers this, she attempts to kill Butters by driving him into a river.
Butters survives the incident and goes off to have adventures on his own – meanwhile, his parents make-up and must now cover up the fact they murdered their child. They are supported by O.J. Simpson, Gary Condit, and John & Patricia Ramsey – people who were all famously suspected of murder. The final scene of the episode has Butters’ father making accusing statements whilst closeups of Simpson, Condit, and the Ramseys are shown.
While this ending was popular among fans at the time, recent events have proven that Gary Condit and the Ramseys were actually innocent of the crimes they were blamed for. The creators of South Park have since shown regret over the episode.
13. Fritz The Cat
Fritz the Cat started out as a comic series created by Robert Crumb. The series followed an anthropomorphic cat named Fritz, who was a con artist in a Zootopia style city filled with animal people. It was originally featured in magazines such as Help! and Cavalier before moving on to individual Fritz the Cat compilation books, whose success made the series popular.
In 1969, Ralph Bakshi approached Crumb with an offer to turn the Fritz series into a movie. Whilst Robert Crumb was initially impressed by Bakshi’s proposal, he eventually declined on selling the rights. It was Crumb’s wife who held power of attorney and sold the rights without Crumb’s knowledge. When the film was released, Crumb openly criticised the film for its political views and sex scenes.
Robert Crumb showed his disapproval of the film by releasing one final Fritz comic. Fritz the Cat: Superstar showed a disenchanted Fritz after he had become a successful movie star. The strip ended with Fritz’s girlfriend murdering him with an ice pick – ending the series once and for all.
12. Jetsons: The Movie
In 1990, Hanna-Barbera released a movie based on their classic show The Jetsons. The creation of the film ended up killing the franchise due to its poor critical reception and under-performance at the box office. It also ended up being the final film roles for both Mel Blanc and George O’Hanlon, who died after recording their voices and would never get to see the final product.
It wasn’t just the audience who disliked the film – one of its main animators has been very vocal about the disastrous production. Jon McClenahan was hired to storyboard the movie, but had his work continually rejected. He eventually left the project due to differences with the director.
When he saw the finished product, which had ended up using McCelenahan’s work without his knowledge, in the cinema, he called it “probably the worst animated feature film ever made”.
Despite the terrible fate of Jetsons: The Movie, we are due for another revival soon. The WWE are doing a crossover movie with The Jetsons (similar to their successful The Flintstones crossover – The Flintstones & WWE: Stone Age Smackdown). We can only hope that Vince McMahon can succeed where Jon McClenahan failed.
11. “The Last Roundup” (My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic)
The first episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic contained a background character who quickly became an Internet sensation. An unnamed grey Pegasus whose eyes pointed in different directions (due to an unintentional animation error) was quickly dubbed “Derpy Hooves” by the fanbase (a term “derp” being associated with idiocy and odd behaviour).
When the show entered its second season, Derpy (now named Ditzy Doo) was given her first on-screen speaking role. In the episode “The Last Roundup”, Derpy is portrayed as a clumsy and unintelligent character who is responsible for destroying the Town Hall with her lack of care.
It was from her portrayal in this episode that Derpy became the centre of controversy. The original voice of the character sounded like a child version of Lennie from Of Mice and Men – a character who is mentally disabled. The writer of the episode started to receive hate mail that accused her of being ableist and for turning the character into an insult towards the mentally challenged.
After a public apology, the episode was re-edited with a different voice and with Derpy’s design altered to have her eyes uncrossed. She is now officially named Muffin.
10. The History of Beavis And Butthead
Beavis and Butthead has a long and controversial history. Many episodes from the show’s run aren’t even allowed to be shown on television anymore. These include episodes where kids bring guns to school, Butthead shoots down an aeroplane, and even one where Beavis and Butthead swallow a bag of pills while crossing the border of Mexico.
Despite these controversial episodes, show creator Mike Judge has shown the most distaste for the earliest episodes of the series. He has gone as far as saying that he is ashamed of what his children would think if they saw the earlier seasons.
So how did Judge prove his displeasure? At one point, there was going to be a DVD called “The History of Beavis and Butthead” which contained a mixture of episodes from the entire series’ run. This DVD was ready to be shipped out when Judge discovered that many of his hated episodes were on the set. He invoked his right as the show’s creator to stop the release dead in its tracks. The set has never officially been released (although a few early copies did make it to stores, making it one of the rarest pieces of Beavis and Butthead merchandise).
9. “A Hero Sits Next Door” (Family Guy)
Family Guy has had its fair share of controversial episodes, including many that were outright banned. From “Wish Upon a Weinstein” (which was not shown for years because it was believed to be offensive to Jewish people), to “Screams of Silence, The Story of Brenda Q” (an episode based around domestic violence which is rarely shown on TV). Family Guy has never been afraid to go into dark and offensive territory with its humor.
Despite all of the complaints over the years, Seth McFarlene has always been stalwart in his defence of the series and its humour – with a few exceptions.
In an interview for the show Out of Character with Krista Smith, McFarlene revealed that the one joke he wishes he could take back is from an episode called “A Hero Sits Next Door”. The joke involves a kid buying a JFK Pez dispenser, whose head is blown off by a sniper, he then pulls out a replacement based on Bobby Kennedy. A nasty joke to be sure, but it’s odd that out of all of the offensive material released by Family Guy over the years, an antiquated JFK joke would be the one Seth McFarlene objects to.
8. Davey And Goliath
It’s odd to think that a show like Davey and Goliath could ever have any objectionable material. After all, it’s a claymation show about a boy and his talking dog that was made by the Lutheran Church to teach kids lessons about morality and the faith. What could possibly be so bad that the show’s creators would not want you to see?
The answer is – quite a lot. For over 40 years, it was believed that ten episodes of the series were destroyed by the church. The reason for this is that they contained content that was no longer politically correct, focusing on issues related to racism, violence and even nudity.
All was not lost, however. Copies of the episodes were discovered to have been saved by various broadcast affiliates that ran the show. These episodes have been edited to remove all of their offensive content and can now be found on the Davey and Goliath: The Lost Episodes DVD set.
7. “I’ve Got Batman In My Basement” (Batman: The Animated Series)
Batman: The Animated Series is regarded as one of the best screen adaptations of a comic book series. The show managed to capture the dark, gothic nature of the Batman comics while still managing to be a kids’ show. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill have created what are arguably the definitive portrayals of both Batman and The Joker, respectively– roles they still play to this day.
The man behind Batman: The Animated Series is co-creator Bruce Timm. It is because of his hard work and passion for Batman that we have what is now known as the DC Animated Universe. Bruce Timm understands Batman perhaps better than any other creator alive.
So what happened with the episode that he refuses to watch? The episode that he claimed had a terrible script and storyboard artists who simply didn’t care?
The episode was “I’ve Got Batman in My Basement”, where two kids hide an injured Batman in their basement to protect him from the Penguin. The presence of the child characters being the leads has led to Timm calling the episode “the epitome of what we don’t want to do with Batman”.
6. “Nurse Stimpy” (The Ren & Stimpy Show)
The name Alan Smithee might sound familiar. It is a pseudonym that is taken by filmmakers when they don’t want their name on a project. If the director requests their name be removed, then it is usually replaced in the credits with “Directed by – Alan Smithee”. This is something that is rarely invoked, as directors generally want to be associated with their work. It takes a film that is truly horrific, either in its quality or its objectionable content, for a director to use the Smithee name.
This was the case for the episode of The Ren & Stimpy Show called “Nurse Stimpy”, which focused on Stimpy taking care of Ren while he is ill. The director of the episode was John Kricfalusi (who also created the show). He had struggled to get some better jokes into the episode, but had been stopped by Nickelodeon’s Standards and Practices. While the episode doesn’t have any controversial material, it is filled with low-quality animation and repeated errors.
John Kricfalusi was so ashamed of the episode that he had his name taken off it. The credits list “Raymond Spum” as the director.
5. The Pebble And The Penguin
Don Bluth is considered one of the greatest directors of animated films. For a brief period at the end of the 1980s, his films were performing better at the box office than Disney’s. Films like An American Tail, The Land Before Time, and All Dogs Go to Heaven are considered some of the best non-Disney animated features of all time.
Despite these successes, Bluth also produced his fair share of bad movies. The one that stands out from these is The Pebble and the Penguin, a film that had so many problems that Bluth left midway through production.
The film was originally being animated by Bluth’s animation studio based out of Ireland. The company was bought out by a Chinese company named Media Assets, who insisted on numerous changes to the film. Bluth was so incensed that he walked out on the production and insisted that his name be taken off the film. He would leave for America where he would form a new studio of his own.
4. Star Trek: The Animated Series
Even in the weird history of the Star Trek franchise, one part that always stands out as especially bizarre is the 1970s cartoon – Star Trek: The Animated Series. Due to the animation technology available at the time and the show’s limited budget, the Star Trek cartoon suffered from poor visuals and reused animations. The show was also known for having episodes with unusual premises, such as Spock summoning the Devil and an episode where the ship’s computer goes crazy and starts playing practical jokes on everyone.
When Star Trek: The Next Generation was first broadcast in 1987, the series had become a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment world. The original series had achieved major cult status, with episodes in syndication all around the globe. Even today, the new Star Trek movies are making money at the box office.
So where does this leave Star Trek: The Animated Series? According to series creator Gene Roddenberry, the show never happened. He officially declared it non-canon and publicly stated that he wished it had never been created. Gene Roddenberry only supported the cartoon because he believed there would never be anymore live action Star Trek.
3. Cool World
In 1988, a film called Who Framed Roger Rabbit became one of the highest grossing films of all time, with a premise that combined live-action with animation. If it weren’t for the success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, then Cool World, a visually similar movie, would never have been made.
Cool World is about a cartoonist who escapes into an animated world of his own creation. It was directed by Ralph Bakshi, who had original wanted to make Cool World an R-rated movie about a man who fathers a half-real/half-cartoon child that wants to kill him. Bakshi sold the idea to Paramount, who then went behind his back and re-wrote the film in secret, making it a PG-13 film. When Bakshi discovered the truth, he got into a fight with a producer and punched him in the face.
Paramount threatened to sue Bakshi over the incident. In the end, they used the threat of a lawsuit to force Bakshi into completing the film. It was the last animated film that Bakshi would direct until 2015’s Last Days of Coney Island.
2. Charlotte’s Web
The classic children’s book Charlotte’s Web has had two screen adaptations to date. The most recent was the one in 2006, starring a young Dakota Fanning in a film that combined live-action with CGI. Back in the 1970s, a fully animated adaptation was created which added musical elements that were not in the original book.
The songs from the film were a major sticking point with E. B. White, the author of the book. White had previously refused offers from Disney to create a musical version of Charlotte’s Web as he felt having happy music went against the story’s tone. When White was approached by a representative of Hanna-Barbera, he had laid down the ground-rules for what he wanted the film to be, and chief among these was that it would not be a musical.
When the film was released in 1973, White was distraught by the adaption. He wrote to his friends that he didn’t care for the songs interrupting the film every few minutes, and that he regretted ever getting involved with Hollywood.
1. “A Star Is Burns” (The Simpsons)
Whenever you see a list of classic episodes of The Simpsons one name that shows up time and time again is “A Star Is Burns”. This sixth season episode features the residents of Springfield holding a film festival, which is eventually won by Barney (despite Mr. Burns trying to win through underhanded means). You would be hard pressed to find a fan who doesn’t like this episode.
The same can’t be said for the show’s creator, Matt Groening, who publicly refused to have anything to do with the episode.
Due to the episode coming out in 1995, most newer fans may not be aware that this episode was actually a crossover. The film critic Jay Sherman (who judges the film festival) was actually the star of his own short-lived animated series called The Critic. When The Critic was purchased by Fox, they insisted on a crossover episode with The Simpsons. Matt Groening argued passionately against the crossover and tried to stop it from being made. When he failed at this, he had his name taken off the episode’s opening credits. Of all the 500+ episodes of The Simpsons, “A Star Is Burns” is the only one that doesn’t bear his name. He even refused to talk about it on the DVD sets that came later.
Clearly Matt Groening’s opinions on crossovers changed over the years, as he allowed both Family Guy and his own show, Futurama, to cross over with no complaints.