We've been incredibly fortunate to have found a friend in the writer Daniel Pinkwater, who, among other occupations, recommends children's books on NPR's Weekend Edition every so often. It was only a few months ago that Mr. Pinkwater sang the praises of Alastair Reid's Ounce Dice Trice—and almost exactly a year to the day before that he'd talked up The 13 Clocks by James Thurber. So when he asked to see an early copy of The Bear that Wasn't, we were pleased, but didn't think it likely that the book would be one of his special picks. Well, wouldn't you know, our cup runneth over. This Saturday we were treated to a dramatic reading of this most delightful of children's books (if you find the tragedy of the human condition delightful).
Scott Simon and Daniel Pinkwater did a bang up job of reading a condensed version of the book, but naturally, the illustrations were missing from the rendition. Tashlin had been an animator for Warner Bros., Screen Gems, Disney, you name it. And he was known to integrate inventive filmic angles into his, say, Porky Pig story lines. That Loony Toons lineage is in evidence here, but so is a certain elegant 1940s line of the sort unlikely to penetrate that thoroughly middle-American institution.
(Scroll down for the links to the audio recordings of all three sessions)
Listen to Scott Simon and Daniel Pinkwater read from The 13 Clocks
Chuck Jones also made an animated version of the book in 1967. Boris Karloff (whose animated voice might be recognizable from How the Grinch Stole Christmas) Paul Frees narrated. According to an interview Tashlin did with Michael Barrier, he was not involved in the production of the film, nor was he pleased with it:
Well, that was—I guess maybe in recent years, with the exception maybe of your best girl friend running you over in your own car, that was just about the worst experience I ever had, the making of that cartoon. . . Well, they destroyed the cartoon with one little thing. I saw that, I almost cried. I never talked to Chuck about it, I've never talked to him since. It was a terrible thing.
Read the interview to find what so dismayed Tashlin about the film.