My next interview subject, Sherri Stoner, has easily been my biggest influence as a writer. I did not have a good personal life in the 90s, and because of all the troubles I had in the decade, I don’t have fond memories of a lot of the decade’s pop culture. There are some exceptions, though, and Sherri Stoner was involved with them. As the model for Belle in Beauty And The Beast, she helped create a character I found myself relating to as I made my way through a school system that didn’t understand the issues involved with Asperger’s Syndrome. As a writer for Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs, and with her voice work on the latter, she created cartoons that had me in hysterics and would help to fuel my early writing endeavors. As the co-writer of 1995’s Casper, she created a movie that was a very cathartic experience for me in the wake of my father’s passing.
Sherri Stoner was also very active in the 80s as well, and she was involved in several of my favorite projects of the decade, ranging from guest roles on TJ Hooker and Murder, She Wrote to a supporting role in Reform School Girls, one of my favorite 80s exploitation movies, to modeling for the character of Ariel in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, one of the first Disney movies to really make an impression on me, to the point that the movie has been a frequent topic in my writing for over a decade-and-a-half.
I started doing interviews in 2006, and from the beginning of my time as an interviewer, Sherri Stoner was the talent I dreamed of interviewing the most. That dream came true on Monday, September 17th, and I hope you all enjoy reading this interview.
Say hello to Sherri Stoner!
Johnny: Helllloooooo, Sherri!
Sherri: Hi, there. How are you?
Johnny: Oh, I’m doing fantastic. Let’s jump right into it. I’ll start with this question: What were your pop-cultural likes growing up, like favorite movies and music?
Sherri: Let’s see. Well, in terms of music, I was obsessed with The Beatles. Obviously, I was late to the game for them, but my parents had seen them when they played here at Dodgers Stadium, and we had some of their early albums. I remember a friend and I were watching the movies that would be on at 8:00 in the evening, and they played Help!. When I saw that movie, I became obsessed with them, starting when I was 11. By then, they had broken up, though. In terms of comedy stuff, as the shut-in kid I sort of was, but not really, I watched a lot of TV and I loved the old I Love Lucy episodes a ton. I remember discovering The Marx Brothers on an old movie late at night and it was like a revelation to me, so I was on a mad dash to try and see all their movies after that because I thought they were so very funny. My dad used to take me to practically every movie that came out, no matter what the rating, so I saw all the great movies of the 70s, even though I was way too young to see them, so that was a great thing to have been a part of. I watched all the Saturday morning cartoons. All the Hanna-Barbera stuff was pretty goofy, and a lot of it was there just to sell cereal, but it was great because it informed all of Slappy’s cultural references, right?
Sherri: In terms of cartoons, I loved, loved, loved everything Warner Brothers, and those were on Saturday mornings, too.
Johnny: Alright. To my next question: What were your high school days like?
Sherri: Miserable, thank you (Laughing). Yeah. No, I didn’t belong in high school ever. It wasn’t really my cup of tea. I’m not a terribly social animal. I’m an only child, so I like my alone time. I’m not real comfortable navigating large groups of people, and that’s all high school is about, right? I pretty much couldn’t wait to get out of there.
Johnny: Neither could I.
Sherri: Yeah, I know. I mean, I had a boyfriend and stuff. That part was pretty good. I had a couple of good friends, and that was fun, but I couldn’t wait to get out of there.
Johnny: Alright. What inspired you towards a career in the entertainment industry?
Sherri: Well, it was sort of by accident. The Summer right after high school, I took some courses at Santa Monica City College out here, and because it was so cheap and sort of easy, I just took a bunch of classes I was kind of interested in. I took some art classes as that was sort of my leaning, but I also thought about stagecraft, so I took an acting class. I acted for the first time in that little class, and I just loved it. Again, being shy, you wouldn’t think I would, but being able to go inside a character and say and do all the stuff you weren’t comfortable saying and doing on your own felt very, very freeing to me. As luck would have it, I looked really, really young for my age, so I got an agent in commercials because I looked so young for my age. I could say dialogue okay, so I started going on commercial auditions and I got a bunch of commercials. I just sort of fell into it kind of by accident.
Johnny: That’s what the next few questions are going to be about, your live-action work. I know a lot of people ask you about your animation work, but I’m just as interested in your live-action stuff, and I start with this: According to the IMDB, your first acting credit came in 1980 with the role of Mary Ann in the Knots Landing episode “Let Me Count The Ways”. What was it like to work on that show, and was your character a one-and-done, or was there talk of bringing her back?
Sherri: No, she was pretty much a one-and-done. A lot of my roles were sort of troubled teen roles, because that was sort of what was on TV in that era, you know? She was a girl who was coming back to high school after, I believe, having gotten pregnant, and giving a sort of talk to the class, so that’s what it was.
Johnny: Alright. In 1982, you played Cindy Palmer in the T.J Hooker episode “The Connection”, which was an anti-drug episode as so many shows of the 80s and 90s had. Do you think that anti-drug episodes were a good idea, or do you think they simplified a complex issue?
Sherri: Well, I honestly think they simplified a complex issue at the time, but perhaps I never really thought of it until now. Maybe if people saw it on their television, after they turned off their television, they talked about it a little bit, you know? Maybe it was a way of bringing into people’s living rooms topics that otherwise wouldn’t have been brought into their homes. That’s hoping for the best, but I definitely think it was a simplification of a complex issue.
Johnny: To jump into the 90s for a moment, I think the genius “take that” to this would be the “Elephant Issues” episode of Tiny Toon Adventures, which climaxed with “One Beer”, which I think is probably the best way of saying, “Don’t overload the cartoon with messages”.
Johnny: On a lighter note, there would be a lot of spoofing of William Shatner in the cartoons you wrote from the 90s onward, so what was it like to actually work with him?
Sherri: Oh, he seemed nice. I don’t remember anything bad about him, but if I’d known then what I would end up doing, I probably would’ve stared at him more. At the time, he was sort of a funnier Captain Kirk (laughing), but he was a nice guy. He was nice to me, and joking around when I was on the roof and stuff like that.
Johnny: Alright. Also in 1982, you appeared in a Bob Hope special…To be specific, the very long-titled Bob Hope’s Star-Studded Spoof Of The New TV Season: G-Rated, With Glamour, Glitter And Gags. Wow, and I thought Princess Angelina Contessa Louisa Francesca Banana Fana Bo Besca The 3rd was a mouthful. What did working with Bob Hope teach you that would apply to your later comedic work, whether with the Groundlings or as a cartoon writer?
Sherri: Hmm, nothing off the top of my head. I will say this. It was a little goofy sketch where myself, two other girls and Brooke Shields were girls at the cafe from Happy Days. We were bobby-soxers, and The Fonz broke down the wall by riding his motorcycle in. It was Bob Hope dressed as The Fonz, sort of a “what happens when the Fonz gets old” kind of thing (laughing). One thing he did that I remember, although I don’t remember the exact line, was a Geritol gag. It was a line that another girl had to say, and he just was not satisfied with that line, so he kept making the writers pitch new lines. The poor girl would have to say it over and over, and she was kind of a friend of mine. I felt for her because he had to put her on the spot to make the line funny in front of this audience. It was just kind of weird, but I guess I could take away from that that you should just keep going until you find the line that works. Don’t just settle for the first line. If it’s not landing, think of something else.
Johnny: Had you ever considered writing for Bob Hope’s later specials, or was the animation work tying you up at the time?
Sherri: I never thought about writing for Bob Hope. It wasn’t something that was dangled before me. I remember one time that someone, it might have even been Spielberg, contacted me about writing jokes. I can’t remember what it was, but I had to contact them back and say, “I’m not a joke writer”. That’s a whole other skill set, you know? Being able to craft a joke that someone could tell at a roast or in a stand-up comedy routine. It might have been a roast. I didn’t remember until you just mentioned it, but it’s a completely different thing than what I do.
Johnny: Alright. To go back to the 80s, you played Rachel Brown Olesen in the final season of Little House On The Prairie, as well as two of the follow-up TV movies. What was your favorite part of working on that show?
Sherri: Let’s see. I loved the clothes. I did quite a few Western things. I loved the clothes and the make-believe of it all, and the great thing about that show was they had a whole town set up that was Walnut Grove, you know, with buildings and everything. It was like being transported in a way, and we filmed on the same sound stage as they filmed The Wizard Of Oz. They showed me where you could see on the floor that, although some of the paint had worn away, you could still see the Yellow Brick Road there.
Sherri: Yeah, that was pretty amazing, and the people were very nice, really lovely people who worked on that show. The crew was really super-nice. They’d been working on the show so many years together that they were like a family, and the cast was the same, very much a family and very welcoming. It was nice.
Johnny: Very cool. Going into 1985, you played Jessie Courtney in the V episode “The Champion”. If aliens like those in V existed in real life, how would you deal with the situation?
Sherri: I’d just flee in terror (laughing). I don’t know. What would I do? Let’s see. I would find a way to escape with my family somehow.
Johnny: Alright. I now come to 1986 and the movie Reform School Girls, where you played Lisa. I know you’re not exactly fond of that movie, but I loved your character in it. As I was uncertain of my emotions in my teens and 20s, and found myself in some very bad situations, I found myself sympathizing with your character. Do you have any positive memories about that movie?
Sherri: Well, you know, it wasn’t necessarily a bad working environment. I mean, some of it was a bit dicey. There’s a certain camp quality to it that’s kind of fun, and the girls were all really nice, but it didn’t have the biggest budget. We were filming all night at this abandoned sort-of prison, and it was kind of creepy in that regard. I guess the people who were nice made it look good.
Johnny: What was it like working with Wendy O. Williams?
Sherri: She was very nice. She was a sweet human being, actually. At least she was to me.
Johnny: By most accounts, she was very sweet, at least based on what I’ve read about those who interacted with her. She cared a lot for animals and was working with them at the time of her death. If I recall correctly, in her will, she left money to help take care of animals.
Johnny: Were you nervous about the branding scene, or were your fellow actresses in that scene supportive in-between takes?
Sherri: I actually don’t remember much about that night. It wasn’t a very pleasant experience, so maybe I’ve kinda blocked it out.
Johnny: On a lighter note, if Doug Walker were to do a Nostalgia Critic episode about Reform School Girls, would you riff on it with him?
Sherri: Maybe (laughing).
Johnny: I just know you worked with him in 2010 on the Animaniacs retrospective, and he’s had cameos from talents in the movies he’s reviewed, like Mara Wilson in the review of A Simple Wish or Dante Basco in the Avatar: The Last Airbender reviews, so that’s what I was thinking.
On a different note, as with many of my previous interview subjects, you made an appearance on Murder, She Wrote, playing Sarah Martino in the episode “Old Habits Die Hard”. What stood out the most to you about working on that show?
Sherri: Let’s see. Of course, getting to work with Angela Lansbury was pretty neat. She’s an institution. I think that was what really stood out for me the most, and in my part, I was playing a novice nun, another teenager in peril. I did play a lot of victims, and she was a little victim, although not such a bad girl.
Johnny: I asked this of Ami Dolenz when I interviewed her recently, and I was wondering: When you were on the set, did Angela Lansbury have any advice for you that you would carry into your later entertainment career?
Sherri: I can’t think of any, except probably her professionalism. That speaks volumes, right?
Sherri: Any time you see somebody heading up such a difficult show, there are so many lines to know, and any time somebody like that can pull it together and has it together, that’s a good lesson.
Johnny: To stay with the live-action stuff, some of your biggest successes in the 80s came on stage as part of The Groundlings. As you still occasionally work with them, what have you enjoyed the most about working with The Groundlings?
Sherri: Oh, I think it’s the improv and the people. I love doing improv, and any time you can improvise with people who are so good at improvising, it’s such a fun thing to do. It’s scary and fun all at the same time. It’s a little like writing in that, when you’re writing, you’re just making things up as you go along, right? You have to just make it up, and improvising is like making things up in real time in front of an audience, and what a great place to laugh because any time you’re on stage, you’re laughing with great people who are on stage. You’re not only leading, but entertaining.
Johnny: You’re actually the 4th Groundlings alumni, or Groundlings-adjacent talent, I’ve interviewed, the first three being Cassandra Peterson, whom I interviewed via e-mail for my previous writing base, RetroJunk, in 2011, and am still hoping to do a follow-up phone interview with her. There was Hilary Shepard, whom I interviewed last year, and then Kelli Maroney, who has trained with The Groundlings. When it comes to The Groundlings, besides the character of Slappy Whiner, who would later provide the basis for Slappy Squirrel, what were some of your other favorite sketches and characters to work on as part of The Groundlings?
Sherri: Well, I worked a lot with Kathy Griffin. Kathy Griffin would often write these sketches that would be based on her family a little bit, her quirky, funny family. She would play in those scenes opposite her sister Joyce, who was a character. I didn’t play Kathy, per se, in those scenes. I would play somebody sort of wondering, (laughing) “Where are all these weird people coming from?”. I enjoyed those scenes a lot. I worked with Julia Sweeney quite a few times. We did a play together called Mea’s Big Apology, and that was a lot of fun to work on that play. I didn’t work a lot with Deanna Oliver, whom I would come to work with on Animaniacs. If I could turn back time, to quote Cher, I would work more with her on stage because she’s an amazing talent when it comes to improvising and comedy.
Johnny: Alright. Are there any videos of your shows with The Groundlings, or, for that matter, any of The Groundlings’ shows in general?
Sherri: That I don’t know. I mean, I know that some exist somewhere, but in terms of high-quality or anything like that, I don’t know.
Johnny: Well, if a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo is ever started to do something like that, I’d gladly help fund it.
Johnny: Before any of the 90s cartoons you worked on, my first exposure to you came via your modeling work for the Disney animated classic The Little Mermaid, where you were the model fro Ariel. When you were working on that movie, did you have any idea that it was going to revolutionize Disney the way it did, or did you initially view it as just another gig?
Sherri: Well, I didn’t think it was just another gig, because they found me through The Groundlings. We used to do these industrial shows. A few of us, not always me, would do these corporate shows where we would teach people how to improvise. They had us out there at Disney to teach improvisation to the animators, and I was spotted by John (Musker) and Ron (Clements). They were looking for somebody petite to do the Ariel thing. They thought of me, and I came in to audition. First of all, when I read the script, I thought it was really good, and I thought the script was really funny. I hadn’t read many scripts up to that point, but I thought it was really good. I thought it would be a neat little trivia thing that only I would know about, and maybe my future kids would know about, right? I love Disney movies, and I thought it was super-cool. I was really happy to do it.
Johnny: It’s a personal favorite of mine. I’ve mentioned to you on Facebook how Ariel is my favorite Disney Princess, and how as a man with Asperger’s Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, I see a lot of myself in Ariel, whether it’s the intense focus on a particular subject or the matter of having difficulty communicating. Many modern critics, though, especially former Channel Awesome contributor and current cultural historian Lindsay Ellis, look at the character of Ariel with disdain, with quite a few critics feeling Ariel is, among other things, shallow, selfish, and willing to throw her life away for someone she barely knows. What do you think of Ariel yourself?
Sherri: Well, here’s what I think. Even if those things are true, she’s 16, and isn’t that what 16-year-olds do? They make impulsive decisions, especially when love is involved. It’s not like she’s this fully-formed woman who is going to make completely reasoned choices. With that being said, on the other side of things, doesn’t every woman have a chance to decide for herself what she wants from life? That’s why I don’t judge too harshly, because too often, I think, as a woman you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, no matter what you do. Let’s say if you’re a working woman, you’re not home with the kids. If you’re with the kids, how could you be wasting your life doing that, right? We’re constantly told what is appropriate for us lifestyle-wise, and I think it’s time we be allowed to choose for ourselves and not be judged.
Johnny: I’m right with you on that one. We now come to Tiny Toon Adventures, where I was first exposed to the genius of your writing. Your scripts helped fuel my love of pop culture, and your references were amazing. For example, in the short “It’s All Relatives”, you spoofed, of all things, 2 Live Crew’s “Me So Horny” with Babs’ parody “Me So Bunny”. Were you a fan of 2 Live Crew beforehand, or was that testing the depths of Getting Crap Past The Radar, as TV Tropes would put it, that would be fully explored on Animaniacs?
Sherri: You know, I believe that song might have been Paul Dini’s, but I don’t know for a fact, so I think that was something that maybe he helped me come up with or we came up with together. I could be wrong, but I can’t take credit for that.
Johnny: Okay. I have another question about “It’s All Relatives”: When Babs takes on a rocker persona to introduce her cartoon impressions, which rocker is she supposed to be spoofing?
Sherri: Boy, I don’t remember. What did she look like?
Johnny: She had the white face paint of an Alice Cooper or a Gene Simmons, but the British accent of an Ozzy Osborne.
Sherri: Yeah, I think she was a mash-up of all things heavy metal…A little KISS in her, a little Joan Jett, a little Ozzy Osborne.
Johnny: Yeah, that short was great. Really, all the shorts you’ve written have been great, and speaking of music: “Tiny Toons Music Television” and “New Character Day” exposed young listeners to some of your musical tastes, including They Might Be Giants, The Roches and Aretha Franklin, and may Aretha Franklin and Maggie Roche rest in peace. What other musicians would you like to have introduced young audiences to if Tiny Toon Adventures had done a few more music video episodes?
Sherri: With what you just said, I bought They Might Be Giants to the party, Tom Ruegger bought The Roches and, I believe, Art Vitello was the one who bought Aretha Franklin. Really, the only one I’m responsible for is They Might Be Giants. Here’s something for you. When I was first coming up with Rita and Runt, at the time, Rickie Lee Jones and Tom Waits were dating, and I had perceived Rita And Runt as being Rickie Lee Jones and Tom Waits. That’s how I pitched them originally. I guess I would’ve liked to have bought Rickie Lee Jones and Tom Waits in. Kate Bush would’ve been cool. I loved R.E.M at the time, but they never would’ve let us do it. Oingo Boingo would’ve been fun.
Johnny: Great musical taste (Sherri laughing). One of your standout efforts as a writer for Tiny Toon Adventures was “Thirteensomething”, a witty and touching look at how important humor is for the world. How much of what Babs went through in that episode came from your live-action acting career?
Sherri: Definitely a little bit. That was certainly getting into a mindset with Babs. It was always fun when you could add a little depth to a character they thought was just a little bit frivelous. I always liked doing that. Tress could always pull it off. She was so great at her job.
Johnny: That episode had another example of a reference that I wouldn’t get until I was older. At one point, Babs, distressed in New York City, says, “They’re going to write a TV movie about me, Babs: Portrait Of A Teenage Toon”. I had no idea until I was older that that was a reference to the TV movie Dawn: Portrait Of A Teenage Runaway, all about a teen prostitute. (Sherri laughs) It’s amazing the stuff you can discover when you get older.
Another standout writing effort for that show came with “Fields Of Honey”, which gave the first Looney Tunes characters, Bosko and Honey, a happy ending decades in the making. Were there any plans after that episode to have Bosko and Honey make occasional appearances on “Tiny Toons” alongside the later characters like Bugs Bunny and the others?
Sherri: Hmmm… I think Tom has mentioned that there was a thought to have them come back, but I can’t say for certain. I know characters from that era informed how he later designed the Warner Brothers… and sister Dot.
Johnny: Speaking of which, that means we’re making the jump to Animaniacs, starting with this: Two shorts you wrote, “Guardin’ The Garden” and “Noah’s Lark”, were unusual in that they were both based on religious stories. When I interviewed Tom Ruegger recently, he mentioned that a Histeria segment about The Crusades earned the ire of the Catholic Church. It was mentioned in your interview with the Animanicast that Richard Lewis was annoyed by the impression of him in “Noah’s Lark”, but besides that, did you have to deal with complaints from religious groups for those two shorts, or did you manage to dodge that bullet?
Sherri: Well, I’ll tell you, I was never privy to the people complaining that Tom knows of. He was the executive producer and he heard these things, and would protect us from a lot of information like that, so I wasn’t aware of anybody complaining. I didn’t even know Richard Lewis had complained until Tom bought it up in that interview.
Johnny: I thought the Richard Lewis impression was funny, but then, you’ve always had a gift for creating these funny characters based on celebrities in the cartoons you’ve written. When it comes to Animaniacs, I have to ask this: Slappy Squirrel’s theme was Dvorak’s “Humoresque”. With all that Animaniacs managed to get past the censors, was that song chosen as Slappy’s theme because it also provided the basis for the classic bawdy song “Was It You”?
Sherri: That’s a good question. Again, I can’t take credit for that because it was Tom Ruegger’s idea. He had this great idea that each of these characters would have a little theme song that would be referenced when they made entrances or exits, or whenever they came in handy. I thought that was a great idea for him to use.
Johnny: Okay. One of your funniest shorts for Animaniacs would have to be “Video Review”, a mile-a-minute reference-filled salute to the coming-to-life-at-night cartoons of Warner Brothers’ Golden Age. As video stores have pretty much disappeared since that cartoon’s debut, do you think a similar homage could be done about video streaming services, or does the marching on of technology preclude such possibilities?
Sherri: I think you could always find a way. I mean, you’d need different visuals and stuff as it wouldn’t be like diving into book or video covers. You would have to go about it a certain way.
Johnny: When it comes to streaming, the pleasure that many Animaniacs fans felt upon hearing of Hulu’s revival of the show turned to pain when the original writers were not announced as being part of the show. As you were both a writer and an actress for the original show, and as I asked Tom, if you got a phone call from either Warner Brothers or Amblin Television saying, “We realize now that Animaniacs needs the original writers”, would you join the show, or would you tell them to jump in a lake?
Sherri: If Tom was doing it, I’d do it.
Johnny: He said that if they asked him, he’d do it and he’d work on getting the old writers together.
Johnny: I certainly hope that Warner Brothers and Amblin and Hulu will get their heads together and bring you guys on board again because you were the heart and soul of what made the show the classic it was.
Sherri: Well, thanks.
Johnny: You’ve mentioned “Bubba Bo Bob Brain” and “Bumbie’s Mom” as your personal favorites of the scripts you wrote for that show. On a related note, which episode or segment, upon your completion of the writing, did you surprise yourself with the most? In other words, what was the script that made you say, “I can’t believe I wrote that”?
Sherri: All of em! Ha! I do remember the first half hour I wrote – “Her Wacky Highness” – I was typing away at it and I came to a part where I needed Babs to face a big challenge when she was escaping… anyway, I was suddenly hit with the idea to use what she had been studying that day in class – not looking down when you walk on air… That was a big wow to me… that stories can surprise you, even sometimes loop around in unexpected, happy ways, ways you didn’t plan for or expect.
Johnny: One of your more unique episodes was written entirely in French, the Buttons and Mindy short “Le Bouton et le Ballon”. How were you able to retain the wit of your Animaniacs writing in a different language?
Sherri: Animation is foremost a visual realm, so you want to keep the visuals as interesting as the dialogue, and you want the dialogue to play off the visuals. In that one, we did a lot more with the visuals, taking a stab at a beautiful classic movie.
Johnny: Aaah, yes, The Red Balloon. I can recall watching that in elementary school, I think. Another Animaniacs short where your razor-sharp wit and pop-cultural savvy were showcased was “Gimme A Break”, which would be one of the last shorts you wrote for Warner Brothers. When you were writing that short, did you have any idea that it would be one of your last writing contributions to The Silver Age?
Sherri: No, I did not know, but maybe it’s better that way (laughing).
Johnny: Although you had left the writing staff of Animaniacs shortly after the jump to Kids’ WB, you stayed on as Slappy’s voice. Although it caught many young viewers off-guard at the time it debuted, a true showcase for your voice-acting abilities came with “One Flew Over The Cuckoo Clock”. After years of playing Slappy Squirrel and her human predecessor Slappy Whiner for laughs, what was it like to take on a more serious side to the character?
Sherri: Well, it was fun. The thing about her is, I think, she’s always had a lot of depth. Any time you have a character that is that capable of being firey and feisty, yet at the same time loves little Skippy more than anything, you’ve got a lot of depth and spark there already. It wasn’t really hard to imagine, for me, going a little deeper with that.
Johnny: I must admit that when I first saw that short when I was younger, it kind of unnerved me, and I was kind of wondering where the humor was. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate it.
Johnny: Animaniacs came to an end the first time around with Wakko’s Wish. Quite a few viewers, including, admittedly, myself, were surprised by the semi-serious tone that the story took. If you had written a finale for Animaniacs in its’ initial incarnation, what would you have done with the story?
Sherri: Boy, that’s a tough question to answer on the fly. I don’t know what I would’ve done. I’m reminded of the last moments of Little House On The Prairie where they exploded the town. Slappy might’ve blown up Warner Brothers or something. I don’t know (laughing). I really have no idea what I would’ve done.
Johnny: I could see that happening, and that leads me to ask: Many fans of Warner Brothers’ Silver Age feel the rise of Pokemon led to the fall of The Silver Age. What are your feelings on Pokemon and its’ impact on Warner Brothers Animation?
Sherri: I think there’s room for both, you know? I don’t see why you can’t have both Pokemon, and all the fun that franchise provides, and Warner Brothers. The problem comes from people thinking you can only do one thing at a time, but I think that’s changed now with streaming. There’s so much more variety now, and so many different places to put things, that it’s much more open now than it’s ever been.
Johnny: Yeah, I can see that. What do you think Slappy Squirrel’s opinion on Pokemon would be?
Sherri: Oh, she wouldn’t like Pocket Monsters at all. They’d disturb her. She wouldn’t want to catch them all. She’s want to kill them all.
Johnny: I’ve told you of how seeing Casper was a cathartic experience for me in the wake of my father’s passing a month-and-a-half before the movie’s release. When I saw the movie, the descriptions of death and loss were very palpable. It seemed as though you were writing of those things from personal experience. Would that be accurate to say?
Sherri: Well, yeah. My father passed away fairly young in his 50s, so I had experienced loss. We were very, very close.
Johnny: I really needed to see Casper. It really helped me get through some feelings regarding my dad’s death, at least temporarily. Unfortunately, I would end up seeing other things and they would bring back bad memories. I can still recall watching The Lion King in the 9th grade and having to walk out of the room as a nervous wreck because I was so freaked out by the scene of Mufasa dying and Simba being blamed for it. Just like how you were scarred by Bambi, and that, of course, provided the basis for “Bumbie’s Mom”, it was like that for me and The Lion King. To this day, I still can’t watch it.
Sherri: Yeah. I get that. I understand that completely.
Johnny: What scenes from the original script of Casper do you wish could’ve made it into the final movie?
Sherri: Oh, boy. I don’t know. I don’t recall any that I missed terribly that much.
Johnny: Well, I think the movie was great the way it was. On a different tack, moving into the 00s, I forgot to ask Tom about this when I interviewed him recently, so I’ll ask you: Quite a few Silver Age veterans reunited in the mid-00s to work on the cartoon Animalia, based on the popular book series. What was it like to reunite with the old gang to adapt these books?
Sherri: It was nice to work with Tom again. We weren’t all in the same building together anymore, because everybody was doing freelance work on that show, but it was great to work with Tom again.
Johnny: I saw an episode of it on vacation one time, and I liked how it still managed to have a bit of the wackiness of The Silver Age, complete with pop-cultural spoofing and all that, but just oriented in a younger manner.
You also wrote a “My Little Pony” direct-to-video movie, 2009’s Twinkle Wish Adventure. What was your favorite part of working on that?
Sherri: Visiting Hasbro headquarters. They had some cool toy displays and vintage ad campaigns that I found fascinating!
Johnny: The Silver Age gang reconvened once more in 2014 for the Disney series The 7D. What was your favorite part of working on that show?
Sherri: Deanna and myself and Randy Rogel and Paul Dini and Paul Rugg were in the same building, so that was really great fun, being around all these great minds again.
Johnny: It was fantastic, and one episode that really stood out for me that you wrote was “Big Rock Candy Flim-Flam”. It was notable as you not only wrote for, but did voice-over work with Debbie Reynolds in what would be her final acting role. What was Debbie like to work with?
Sherri: She was a character, but she was very nice to me.
Johnny: What an honor to have worked with her. Her death, literally a day after her daughter Carrie Fisher…My God, that was like a horrible endcap to a horrible year.
Sherri: I know. I agree entirely.
Johnny: Well, on a lighter note, having worked for both Disney and Warner Brothers, do you regret some of the shots fired at Disney in cartoons like Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs, or would you say that all is fair in love and comedy?
Sherri: Oh, all is fair in love and comedy. You know they can take it (laughing).
Johnny: I have to admit that, when I was younger, some of my earliest writing efforts were Animaniacs fan-fiction, and I really regret that now, mainly because I don’t know how to write fiction. I’m great at non-fiction, but fiction is not a strong suit for me. I wrote it so that the Warners genuinely hated Disney (Sherri laughs). I had no idea that you guys were joking. I had no idea that they were jokes. I thought the writers genuinely were against Disney, and another writer had a character from a different franchise basically say to the Warners, “Why are you going after me for working for Disney? June Foray worked for Disney, and so did your own voice actors”.
Sherri: (Laughing) I applaud anybody who writes for any reason at any time.
Johnny: Yeah, but I definitely feel that non-fiction has been my forte, and so have interviews. When it comes to writing, on a larger note, the writers of the Silver Age managed to get a lot past the censors, but still kept things pretty much family-friendly. Have you ever considered writing cartoons with adults in mind, something along the lines of the go-for-blood-and-broke Robot Chicken or, as the website Vulture recently put it, the post-comedy of BoJack Horseman?
Sherri: Well, I think it would be fun to try that, absolutely. I mean, I like writing for anything, pretty much. Right now, I’m writing for Curious George, which is much younger. I’m writing and story-editing on that show, but I love doing it. I love that little monkey and all the shenanigans he gets up to. I like getting into the mindset of different characters and seeing what happens.
Johnny: Alright. What would you say has been the biggest change in the entertainment industry between the 1980s and 2018?
Sherri: Well, the Internet. That’s it. The Internet has changed everything.
Johnny: Alright. I’ve mentioned to you the possibility of going out on the convention circuit as several of your fellow Animaniacs veterans have. Have you given that any thought, or do you think that’s not for you?
Sherri: If somebody asked, I would probably consider it.
Johnny: I think next year might be a good year to do that, considering that 2019 marks 30 years of The Little Mermaid. Of course, as you were the model for Ariel, I definitely think that you could do a pretty good job selling pictures from that People Magazine profile of you in the red swimsuit standing next to the large cardboard cutout of Ariel. I could definitely see that being a collector’s item.
I now come to my final question. It’s been a while since I’ve ended an interview with this, but since I’ve been waiting pretty much the entire time I’ve been doing interviews to do this, I’ll ask it: If you could go back to your youth with the knowledge that you have now, would you do anything differently?
Sherri: I don’t know. You know, it’s one of those things where I always think of the movies where somebody changes one small thing, and their whole life changes. I’d be afraid that I wouldn’t get to experience all the good stuff if I changed my life. There have been hard times, but that’s the way life is. I think the younger me would be thrilled with what I’m doing. I know that for a fact. My younger self would be absolutely thrilled, and I’ve got a great family, so I’ve got no problems. I’m very grateful.
Johnny: That’s fantastic, and that about does it for my questions. I have to say this was worth the wait. I started writing interviews back in 2006, and I’ve always wanted to interview you. When I interviewed Julie Brown in 2008, via e-mail for RetroJunk, someone in the comments section asked me who I could interview if I could interview anybody, and I told them it would be you. It wouldn’t be the President or The Pope. It would be you.
Sherri: (Laughing) Aww.
Johnny: Your work has been such a big influence on me. Whether it was the modeling in The Little Mermaid, the writing for Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs, the screenplay for Casper, or even your live-action work in Reform School Girls, all of it has helped me out through some very dark times in my life. The 90s and 00s were very rough for me, and the work you did, as I revisited it, helped me get through those dark times. When I befriended you on Facebook in 2010, I had no idea it would lead to this. This interview was everything I dreamed of and a whole lot more, and I thank you so much for taking the time to do this.
Sherri: My pleasure. It’s been great talking to you.
Johnny: I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to do this. This was a dream come true for me. When first started writing for Pop Geeks in 2014, I mentioned that there were three dream interviews I had: You, Ginger Lynn, and anybody who won an Academy Award. Ginger Lynn I interviewed in 2014. I interviewed my first Academy Award winner in 2015 with Alan Heim, who took home the Best Film Editing Oscar for All That Jazz. Now finally, the third dream has come true, which was actually the first dream. That was to interview you, and it’s everything I was hoping it would be.
Sherri: That’s great. Now you have to come up with your next dream.
Johnny: Absolutely, and I have some pretty good ideas in the works, but either way, this was a blast and I’ll definitely be in touch.
Sherri: Okay. See you on Facebook.
Johnny: See you on Facebook, and have a good evening.
Sherri: You, too.
I would again like to thank Sherri Stoner for having taken the time to speak to me. I consider myself very lucky to have interviewed the woman who has been my biggest influence as a writer, and I hope you have all enjoyed reading this interview.
If there’s anybody that you think would make a good potential interview subject for me in the future, leave a comment below. Thank you so much for reading.
Who will I flashback with next? Stay tuned.