Acting legend Kirk Douglas has influenced plenty of animation over the years, from the visual appearance of Charles Muntz in Pixar’s Up to the emotional performances of characters in The Ren & Stimpy Show, but if we had to choose just one piece of animation to mark his 100th birthday today, there’s no question it would have to be The Big Story.

This homage to the actor, in which multiple Douglases do verbal battle with each other, was created by British filmmakers Tim Watts and David Stoten, and would go on to win the 1994 BAFTA for best animated short. Frank Gorshin handled the vocal duties as Douglas.

Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi, who has studied Douglas’ mannerisms and acting perhaps more than any other animation artist, explained the appeal of a Douglas performance in these terms:

Kirk Douglas has a presence that makes you feel like he’s really there in your living room. Most actors seem to be acting and allowing you to watch, but Kirk is pulsing, surging flesh and blood that commands you to experience his every conflicted emotion. He’s not on the screen. He’s right there next to you scorching you with his fetid breath. I wanted that in my cartoons.

Here’s a few more Douglas impressions by animation artists.

Kirk Douglas, drawn by John Kricfalusi and colored by Bruce Timm.
Kirk Douglas, drawn by John Kricfalusi and colored by Bruce Timm.
Kirk Douglas concept art for "The Big Story."
Kirk Douglas concept art for “The Big Story.”
Kirk Douglas in "Spartacus," painted by Patrick Mate, currently character designer on Sony's "Smurfs: The Lost Village."
Kirk Douglas in “Spartacus,” painted by Patrick Mate, currently character designer on Sony’s “Smurfs: The Lost Village.”

And just because I’ll never have another reason to post this, here’s a rare magazine photo of Kirk Douglas dancing with gossip columnist Louella Parsons in 1950 at the Mocambo nightclub. The music he’s dancing to: The Firehouse Five Plus Two, the band started by Disney animator Ward Kimball (in the back, right). Animator Clark Mallery is playing the clarinet at left:

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Amid Amidi

Amid Amidi

Amid Amidi is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Cartoon Brew.

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