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One of the great treats for me while writing "The California Raisins" was my access to the entire Motown music library. Will Vinton Productions licensed the use of all the great Motown sounds.  I have always been a fan of classic Motown so I was able to pick any song from their catalog I wanted for the episodes Of course the song had to fit the plot of the episode, but I would not let that deter me.

I immediately grabbed the Marvelettes hit "Beachwood 45789", and wrote up a storyline that had to be approved by both the network, Will Vinton Productions and of course Motown. I anxiously awaited their verdict.  And to my joy they not only loved it, they authorized for that episode to have a bigger budget to make sure the song got the production values it deserved.

I also remember the second song I selected the Contours classic "Do You Love Me Now that I Can Dance". Like all the other Motown songs, our voice over cast recorded their versions of the song. In this case the song was recorded by the incredibly talented Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell. I made a point to not only be at the voice over recordings, but also at the recordings of the songs. We would usually record 3 or 4 songs in one session. In addition to the great cast we had an incredibly talented musical team that did its best to recreate the Motown sound. In my imagination, being a part of those recording sessions took me back to the actual Detroit sessions.  Of course it was just a fantasy!

In addition to writing the animated cartoon version of the Raisins, Will Vinton asked me to write the second Claymation Raisin Special.  This was a special treat because I was flown to Will's studios in Oregon where the incredibly talented Claymation Team created all the classic Claymation Raisin and other Claymation productions.  Their studio was incredible. It was one big stage with 5 or 6 miniature sets being filmed one frame a time. The sequences were shot using film cameras, and had complete miniature lighting setups. It was quite amazing.

One of the most amusing experiences I had was when I took the plane back from Oregon to Los Angeles. The network requested that I bring back one of the clay Raisins for publicity shots.  So the Wil Vinton staff carefully put one of their Raisins in a wooden cases, carefully packed.  The Raisin was about 10 inches tall, with a Styrofoam core, covered with clay.

I was looking forward to going through Airport Security -- because I knew the case would be X-rayed.  And sure enough they put the case through the X-rays and you can imagine their the security team's reactions.  At first they were baffled, here, in x-ray black and white was one of the hugely popular California Raisins. They could not believe it.  Their amazement turned to laughs and they asked me to open the case. Well not only did the security staff get a huge laugh, so did the entire airport lounge. Everyone wanted pictures taken with the Raisin and I of course was happy to oblige.

Working with Will Vinton and the California Raisins was one of the more enjoyable experiences I had as an animation writer!  

...Rowby

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