When Animalympics was first broadcast on 1st February 1980 nobody involved thought that it would remain in the minds of those who watched it all these years later!
Written by Steven Lisberger (who would go on to create and direct Tron) and Michael Fremer, Animalympics was commissioned by the NBC network as two separate specials that spoofed the Summer and Winter Olympic Games.
Lisberger conceived the idea in 1976 and made a 7-minute short for the film with a $10,000 dollar grant from the American Film Institute. He decided the idea could be expanded, so he got backing from NBC to produce the film, and, obtaining a 7-figure budget, moved his studio from his Boston loft to California.
Initially Lisberger and NBC produced two 30-minute parts: Animalympics: Winter Games and Animalympics: Summer Games. Only Winter Games aired in 1979, but Summer Games never aired, due to the United States boycotting the Olympics when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
The following year, both parts were edited together with new footage. The result is the Animalympics we now all know and love.
The show consisted of various vignettes broadcast on the fictional ZOO television network that are hosted by a stork called Barbara Warblers (voiced by Gilda Radner), “anchorturtle” Henry Hummel (Michael Fremer) and Jackie Fuelit (Fremer). Other characters are voiced by Billy Crystal and Harry Shearer.
Another key reason Animalympics remains in the minds of those who watched it is the awesome soundtrack that was provided by 10CC’s Graham Gouldman – who wrote and produced all of it and even managed to get a few 10CC bandmates in to helpout!
The legacy Animalympics leaves us reaches far and wide including art director/animator Roger Allers, who animated Kit Mambo, the lion star of Animalympics, Allers would later direct The Lion King.
Also animation director Bill Kroyer later wrote and directed the animated feature FernGully: The Last Rainforest and animator Brad Bird went on to work as story editor of The Simpsons, and later achieved even more success writing and directing The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille.