I never get tired of watching animation. I live and breathe it daily and it actually cheers me up when I’m down. there are so many great animators out there but some of my favorite are listed below.
(and thanks Ben Price!)
Irven LeRoy Spence (April 24, 1909 – September 21, 1995) was an American animator. He is best known for his work on MGM’s Tom and Jerry animated shorts. Spence has been credited variously as Irven Spence, Irvin Spence, and Irv Spence.
Spence interest in drawing began in his youth, when he provided cartoons for his high school newspaper (along with classmate William Hanna. Spence’s earliest animation work was for Charles B. Mintz‘s Winkler Pictures, and then for Ub Iwerks, where he worked on the “Flip the Frog” series.
After Iwerks Studio folded in 1936, Spence worked at Leon Schlesinger Productions for several years as a member of Tex Avery‘s animation unit. He followed Avery to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer after Avery left Schlesinger’s over a disagreement. Spence provided animation for Avery’s first three shorts at MGM, but soon moved over to the Hanna-Barbera unit. Spence’s first Tom and Jerry credit was on The Yankee Doodle Mouse (1943), which received an Academy Award for Best Animated Short.
Spence left MGM in August 1956 for Animation, Inc., a commercial production studio, before joining his former bosses at Hanna-Barbera Productions seven years later. He provided animation for many animated television series, including Jonny Quest (1964), Frankenstein, Jr. and The Impossibles (1966), and The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show (1971).
William Charles “Bill” Littlejohn (January 27, 1914 – September 17, 2010) was an American animator and union organizer. Littlejohn worked on both animated shorts and features from the 1930s through to the 1990s. His notable works include the Tom and Jerry shorts, the Peanuts television specials, the Oscar-winning short, “The Hole” (1962), and the Oscar-nominated “A Doonesbury Special” (1977). He has been inducted into the Cartoon Hall of Fame and received the Winsor McCay Award and lifetime achievement awards from the Annie Awards and the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Director Michael Sporn has called Littlejohn “an animation ‘God’.”
Littlejohn was also co-founded and served as the first president of the Screen Cartoonists Guild Local #852 in 1938. He led the effort to gain recognition for the union at the major Hollywood animation studios. When Walt Disney refused to negotiate with the union and fired 16 pro-union artists, Littlejohn led the union in the 1941 Disney animators strike. The strike lasted nine weeks and resulted in Disney’s recognition of the union, substantial salary increases, a 40-hour work week and screen credits. The Disney strike has been recognized as a watershed moment in the movement to unionize the animation industry.
Littlejohn was also an active advocate for the art of animation. He was a co-founder of ASIFA-Hollywood in 1957 and of the International Tournée of Animation in the mid-1960s. He also served on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Board of Governors representing short films and animation from 1988 to 2001.
Myron “Grim” Natwick (August 16, 1890 – October 7, 1990) was an American artist, animator and film director. Natwick is best known for drawing the Fleischer Studio’s most popular character, Betty Boop.
Born in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, Natwick studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and had five brothers and two sisters. Natwick’s parents, James and Henrietta (Lyon) owned a furniture store. His grandfather, Ole, was one of the earliest Norwegian immigrants to the United States arriving in Wisconsin in 1847 (Ole was born on April 8, 1826, to Ole Torkjellson Natvig and Anna at Sagi Natvig, Ardal, Sogn, Norway). He had eleven children in Grand Rapids, Wisconsin (now part of Wisconsin Rapids), including James W., Grim’s father, and Joseph, who was the father of Mildred Natwick, Grim’s first cousin.
Natwick had his nickname since before high school as a takeoff on his “anything but Grim” personality. He was well known even in high school for his artwork and his poetry. Although never published, many pages of his poetry were displayed in the summer of 2011 at the South Wood County Historical Museum in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, where there is a permanent exhibit of Natwick’s works. His brother Frank was reputedly one of the first Wisconsin athletes to be invited to the Olympics in 1908. He was a high hurdler for the University of Wisconsin–Madison where he was president of his class.
Don Patterson (December 26, 1909 – December 12, 1998) was an American producer, animator, and director who worked at various studios during the golden age of animation, including Disney, MGM, and Walter Lantz. He was the older brother of animator Ray Patterson.
Patterson won a Golden Award at the 1985 Motion Pictures Screen Cartoonists Awards.
Robert Fred Moore (September 7, 1911 – November 23, 1952), was an American artist and character animator for Walt Disney Productions. Often called “Freddie,” he was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Despite limited formal art training, he rose to prominence at Disney very quickly in the early thirties due to his great natural talent and the tremendous appeal of his drawings, which is still greatly admired by animators and animation fans.
Moore was born in Los Angeles and is best known for being the resident specialist in the animation of Mickey Mouse. He is most notable for redesigning the character in 1938 for his landmark role as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice in Fantasia, a look which remains Mickey’s official look to this day. His animation of the earlier Mickey design was especially memorable in the 1938 short The Brave Little Tailor, the last significant appearance of the “pie-eyed” Mickey.
Moore’s other significant work at the studio included The Three Little Pigs, on which he was the principal animator; animation supervision of the dwarfs in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; most of Lampwick in Pinocchio (all of the poolroom scene and until halfway through his transformation to a donkey); and Timothy the mouse in Dumbo. Moore animated some scenes of the mice from Cinderella, some of the later scenes of the White Rabbit in Alice In Wonderland, and did the mermaids in the Mermaid Lagoon for Peter Pan.
Moore was well-known around the studio for his drawings of innocently sexy, often nude, women, referred to as “Freddie Moore Girls.” Some of his girl designs found their way into Disney films: for example, the centaurettes in Fantasia and the teenage girls in the “All the Cats Join In” segment of Make Mine Music. (In “All The Cats Join In”, Moore personally animated the sequence at the beginning, when the girl answers the telephone and then quickly showers and dresses, through to her scene putting on lipstick in front of her mirror). Moore’s enduring influence can also be seen in the design of Casey’s daughters in the 1954 short Casey Bats Again. His girl drawings remain iconic and influential. A model sheet for Ariel in the 1989 Disney film The Little Mermaid made specific distinctions between the design of that character and a “Freddie Moore Girl.”
Moore’s drawings and design style have come to epitomize the formative years of the studio in between Ub Iwerks’ departure in 1931 and the ascension of the “Nine Old Men,” after which studio design was dominated by animator Milt Kahl, along with storyboard artist Bill Peet, and later production designer Ken Anderson. During the 1930s, Moore, Art Babbitt, Norm Ferguson, Bill Tytla, and Ham Luske were the dominant Disney animators whose pioneering work culminated in 1937 with the breakthrough of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Moore was a close friend of fellow animators Ward Kimball and Walt Kelly, though he apparently had a quieter and more reserved nature than either of them. Many surviving gag drawings by Kelly from the period of Pinocchio show Kimball as the corrupt Lampwick, with boyish Moore as Pinocchio. Moore and Kimball were also caricatured as song and dance men in the 1941 Mickey Mouse short “The Nifty Nineties.” Moore makes a brief (and quiet) live-action appearance in the 1941 feature The Reluctant Dragon, along with Kimball and animator Norm Ferguson during one of the studio tour sequences.
He talked little about his family. His daughters were Sue Moore and Melinda Moore. Later on, his daughter Sue had married and had another daughter named Kelly Hall, who now resides in Tacoma, Washington with her two children.
Muse worked briefly at Walt Disney Studio, where he was Preston Blair‘s assistant on Fantasia (he helped animate “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” scenes). He also provided animation for Pinocchio (“I’ve Got No Strings” sequence), Fantasia and various Mickey Mouse cartoons such as Mr. Mouse Takes a Trip (1940), Mickey’s Birthday Party (1942) and Symphony Hour (1942).
Muse left Disney during the 1941 strike there and joined Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer‘s animation department in 1941, along with fellow animators Ray Patterson, Preston Blair, Ed Love, Walter Clinton, and Grant Simmons. He was assigned to the Hanna – Barbera unit, where he remained for 17 years. He first provided animation for the eighth Tom and Jerry short, Fine Feathered Friend (1942), as well as the very last Hanna-Barbera Tom and Jerry, Tot Watchers (1958), and nearly 120 other shorts in between. Muse also animated Jerry Mouse dancing with a live-action Gene Kelly in the 1945 musical Anchors Aweigh (and became archive footage as Jerry’s visible in Family Guy episode, “Road to Rupert“).
When MGM closed their animation studio in 1957, Muse joined his former bosses at their new company, Hanna-Barbera. He was one of the most prolific animators working for Hanna-Barbera’s classic period of the late 1950s and early 1960s. He animated many important shows and sequences, including all of the short pilot The Flagstones, from which The Flintstones series was sold, as well as the original opening and closing titles of the series (the instrumental “Rise and Shine” titles, seen in the first two seasons, rather than the later, more familiar “Meet the Flintstones” titles). Muse also animated all of the first-produced episode of the series, “The Swimming Pool” (during the first season, episodes were assigned to one animator, who had only about four weeks each to complete them). Other early episodes animated entirely by Muse include “Hot Lips Hannigan”, “The Monster From The Tar Pits”, and “The Tycoon” (the J.L. Gotrocks episode). Muse also animated the opening and closing titles for Top Cat (1961). Over a period of three decades, he provided animation for nearly all of Hanna-Barbera’s animated television series, including The Huckleberry Hound Show (1958), The Flintstones (1960), The Yogi Bear Show (1961), Top Cat (1961), The Jetsons (1962), Wacky Races (1968), Hong Kong Phooey (1974), Jabberjaw (1976), and Challenge of the SuperFriends (1978).
Vladimir Peter Tytla was born on October 25, 1904 in Yonkers, New York. His Ukrainian immigrant parents reportedly recognized talent in their son and encouraged it. In 1914, when Tytla was 9, he visited Manhattan to attend Gertie the Dinosaur, an animated vaudeville act by Winsor McCay. He never forgot it, and some say it changed his life forever.
Tytla in The Cookie Carnival was responsible for animating the gingerbread boy and girl as well as the rivalry between the angel-food and devil’s food cakes. He animated the broadly comic Clarabelle Cow in Mickey’s Fire Brigade. In Cock o’ the Walk, Tytla animated his first “heavy,” a bully rooster dancing the Carioca. The great Grim Natwick, creator of Betty Boop, remarked, “Bill hovered over his drawing board like a giant vulture protecting a nest filled with golden eggs, he was an intense worker—eager, nervous, absorbed…Key drawings were whittled out with impassioned pencil thrusts that tore holes in the animation paper.”
Tytla was one of the first animators assigned to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Fred Moore and Tytla were responsible for much of the design of the film and the definition of the personalities of the seven dwarfs. One of Tytla’s famous scenes from the film (as described by John Canemaker) is where woman-hating Grumpy is kissed by Snow White. As he brusquely walks away, an internal warmth generated by the kiss gradually slows him, bringing a soft smile and sigh to his lips, revealing his true feelings of love. Grumpy’s inner feelings are portrayed solely through pantomime—in his telling facial expressions, his body language, and the timing of his reactions.
Tytla was next assigned to animate Stromboli, an explosive puppeteer and kidnapper in Pinocchio (1940). Larger-than-life, a monster of mercurial moods—comic and menacing by turns—Stromboli is one of Disney’s most three-dimensional and frightening villains.
Brave Little Tailor was a 1938 short featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Tytla animated the giant who was as dumb as he was huge. The character “became the model for all giants throughout the industry from gags to personality,” according to Johnston and Thomas. The short was nominated for the Academy Award for Animated Short Film of 1939. But it lost to Ferdinand the Bull, another Disney short, directed by Dick Rickard, animated by Milt Kahl and Ward Kimball.
Early in 1938, Tytla animated Yen Sid, the old magician in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” which would eventually become a segment in Fantasia (1940). However the character from Fantasia which Tytla is better known for is Chernabog, his own version of Crnobog the Black God, from the “Night on Bald Mountain” sequence.
By 1940 Tytla was tiring of animating heavies. Not one to want to be typecast Tytla requested as his next assignment Dumbo (namesake star of the 1941 film), the baby elephant ridiculed and rejected because of his big ears.
Manny Gould (May 30, 1904 – July 19, 1975) was an American animated cartoonist from the 1920s to the 1970s.
Gould was employed by the Barré Studio in the early 1920s under the direction of William Nolan. When the studio closed, Nolan went to work for Charles Mintz on the Krazy Kat cartoons, distributed first by Paramount Studios and then Columbia Pictures. Gould and Ben Harrison went with him and later replaced him. Gould and Harrison moved with the Mintz studio to Los Angeles in 1930. Also going with him were his sister Martha Barbara Gould and brothers Louis R., Allen, and Will Gould, a sports cartoonist for the Bronx Home News who drew the syndicated strip Red Barry in the 1930s and became a television and movie screenwriter.
Gould, along with Art Davis, Lou Lilly and Frank Tashlin, arrived at the Warner Brothers cartoon studio in 1943 where he worked in the Bob Clampett unit and remained in the unit after Clampett left and Robert McKimson was chosen to direct.
Gould was hired in 1947 by Jerry Fairbanks Productions Productions as a director for its animation department, where Lilly had gone to head the story department. His last credited cartoon for Warners was released in 1949. Lilly formed his own commercial animation company in 1952 and by the late 1950s hired Gould to be his animation director.
In 1964, Gould was animating on the Linus The Lionhearted television cartoons for Ed Graham Productions, then the following year began working as an animator at DePatie-Freleng Enterprises on the Pink Panther and Tijuana Toads shorts and several series for television. He also worked on the cartoon features Heavy Traffic and The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat for Ralph Bakshi.
Charles Martin “Chuck” Jones (September 21, 1912 – February 22, 2002) was an American animator, cartoon artist, screenwriter, producer, and director of animated films, most memorably of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts for the Warner Bros. Cartoons studio. He directed many classic animated cartoon shorts starring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, Pepé Le Pew, Porky Pig and a slew of other Warner characters.
Chuck Jones joined Leon Schlesinger Productions, the independent studio that produced Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies for Warner Bros., in 1933 as an assistant animator. In 1935, he was promoted to animator, and assigned to work with new Schlesinger director Tex Avery. There was no room for the new Avery unit in Schlesinger’s small studio, so Avery, Jones, and fellow animators Bob Clampett, Virgil Ross, and Sid Sutherland were moved into a small adjacent building they dubbed “Termite Terrace”. When Clampett was promoted to director in 1937, Jones was assigned to his unit; the Clampett unit was briefly assigned to work with Jones’ old employer, Ub Iwerks, when Iwerks subcontracted four cartoons to Schlesinger in 1937. Jones became a director (or “supervisor”, the original title for an animation director in the studio) himself in 1938 when Frank Tashlin left the studio. Jones’ first cartoon was The Night Watchman, which featured a cute kitten who would later evolve into Sniffles the mouse.
ones created characters through the late 1940s and the 1950s, which include Claude Cat, Marc Antony and Pussyfoot, Charlie Dog, Michigan J. Frog, and his three most popular creations, Marvin the Martian, Pepe LePew, Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner. Jones and writer Michael Maltese collaborated on the Road Runner cartoons, Duck Amuck, One Froggy Evening, and What’s Opera, Doc?. Other staff at Unit A that Jones collaborated with include layout artist, background designer, co-director Maurice Noble; animator and co-director Abe Levitow; and animators Ken Harris and Ben Washam.
In 1950, Jones and Maltese began working on Rabbit Fire, a short that has changed Daffy Duck’s personality.
Jones remained at Warner Bros. throughout the 1950s, except for a brief period in 1953 when Warner closed the animation studio. During this interim, Jones found employment at Walt Disney Pictures, where he teamed with Ward Kimball for a four-month period of uncredited work on Sleeping Beauty (1959). Upon the reopening of the Warner animation department, Jones was rehired and reunited with most of his unit.
In the early 1960s, Jones and his wife Dorothy wrote the screenplay for the animated feature Gay Purr-ee. The finished film would feature the voices of Judy Garland, Robert Goulet and Red Buttons as cats in Paris, France. The feature was produced by UPA, and directed by his former Warner collaborator, Abe Levitow. Jones moonlighted to work on the film, since he had an exclusive contract with Warner Bros. UPA completed the film and made it available for distribution in 1962; it was picked up by Warner Bros. When Warner discovered that Jones had violated his exclusive contract with them, they terminated him. Jones’ former animation unit was laid off after completing the final cartoon in their pipeline, The Iceman Ducketh, and the rest of the Warner Bros. Cartoons studio was closed in early 1963. Jones claimed in his autobiography that this happened because Warner finally learned they weren’t making Mickey Mouse cartoons.
In 1963, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contracted with Sib Tower 12 to have Jones and his staff produce new Tom and Jerry cartoons as well as a television adaptation of all Tom and Jerry theatricals produced to that date. This included major editing, including writing out the African-American maid, Mammy Two-Shoes, and replacing her with one of Irish descent voiced by June Foray. In 1964, Sib Tower 12 was absorbed by MGM and was renamed MGM Animation/Visual Arts. Jones’ animated short film The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics won the 1965 Academy Award for Best Animated Short. Jones also directed the classic animated short The Bear That Wasn’t.
As the Tom and Jerry series wound down (it was discontinued in 1967), Jones produced more for television. In 1966, he produced and directed the TV special How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, featuring the voice and facial models based on the readings by Boris Karloff. Jones continued to work on other TV specials such as Horton Hears a Who! (1970), but his main focus during this time was producing the feature film The Phantom Tollbooth, which did lukewarm business when MGM released it in 1970. Jones co-directed 1969’s The Pogo Special Birthday Special, based on the Walt Kelly comic strip, and voiced the characters of Porky Pine and Bun Rab. It was at this point that he decided to start ‘ST Incorporated’.
MGM closed the animation division in 1970, and Jones once again started his own studio, Chuck Jones Productions. He produced a Saturday morning children’s TV series for the American Broadcasting Company called The Curiosity Shop in 1971. In 1973, he produced an animated version of the George Selden book The Cricket in Times Square, and would go on to produce two sequels. Three of his works during this period were animated TV adaptations of short stories from Rudyard Kipling‘s The Jungle Book: Mowgli‘s Brothers, The White Seal and Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. During this period, Jones began to experiment with more realistically designed characters, most of which having larger eyes, leaner bodies, and altered proportions, such as those of the Looney Tunes characters. Jones resumed working with Warner Bros. in 1976 with the animated TV adaptation of The Carnival of the Animals with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Jones also produced the 1979 film The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie which was a compilation of Jones’ best theatrical shorts; Jones produced new Road Runner shorts for The Electric Company series and Bugs Bunny’s Looney Christmas Tales (1979), and even newer shorts were made for Bugs Bunny’s Bustin’ Out All Over (1980).
Robert Porter “Bob” McKimson, Sr. (October 13, 1910 – September 29, 1977) was an American animator, illustrator, and director best known for his work on the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons from Warner Bros., and later DePatie-Freleng Enterprises. He was also well known for defining Bugs Bunny‘s look in 1943.
McKimson created characters like Foghorn Leghorn and the Tasmanian Devil, as well as directing every Hippety Hopper/Sylvester pairing. He also created Speedy Gonzales for the 1953 short Cat-Tails for Two and directed many others periodically (along with Freleng and other directors) for the remainder of his theatrical career.
McKimson’s first directorial work, Daffy Doodles (at least his first released directorial work, though it was for the most part a Frank Tashlin cartoon; he cut his actual directorial teeth on a Seaman Hook wartime cartoon for military audiences in 1944), wherein Daffy draws moustaches on all the pre-drawn (and even some natural) faces in his sight, was released in early April 1946.
In 1953, the Warner Bros. cartoon studio laid off most of its staff for a period of six months. After the studio reopened, Freleng and Jones quickly re-assembled their respective units, but McKimson discovered every member of his previous team, apart from writer Tedd Pierce and background painter Dick Thomas, refused to work with him again. At the start of this period, McKimson animated on three of his own shorts, The Hole Idea, Dime to Retire, and Too Hop to Handle. (in fact, he was the sole animator credited on The Hole Idea)  Soon, McKimson assembled a new team of artists, including layout man/background painter Robert Gribbroek and animators Warren Batchelder, Ted Bonnicksen, and George Grandpre. Tom Ray, Russ Dyson, and Keith Darling helped at various points.
McKimson soldiered on at Warner’s cartoon studio as it began to lose people (including Jones) in 1962. Over this time, he directed his share of shorts and worked on the feature The Incredible Mr. Limpet. After the studio closed, he joined DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, co-owned by his old associate Friz Freleng and David H. DePatie, who had been a producer at the Warners studio. At DePatie-Freleng, McKimson directed several The Inspector shorts and worked on some of the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies contracted out to DePatie-Freleng by Warner Bros. In 1967, Warner opened its animation studio again; McKimson went back in 1968 and stayed until the animation studio shut down again in 1969. His last Warner Bros. cartoon was Injun Trouble with Cool Cat. Injun Trouble was also the last of the original Looney Tunes or Merrie Melodies cartoon to be produced before the Warner Bros. cartoon studio was closed. McKimson was the one person to be at the studio from the start of the Looney Tunes series through its finish in 1969, first as an animator and then as a director.
Roderick H. “Rod” Scribner (October 10, 1910–December 21, 1976) was an American animator best known for his work on the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons from Warner Bros.. His animation was one of the wildest things ever seen on screen during The Golden Age of American animation. He started as an animator for Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton in 1938. In 1940, he joined Tex Avery‘s unit and worked with Robert McKimson, Charles McKimson, and Virgil Ross.
In late 1941, after Tex Avery left, he was replaced as the unit director by Bob Clampett. Scribner turned out to be arguably Clampett’s best animator. Clampett classics such as A Tale of Two Kitties (1942), Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs (1943), Falling Hare (1943), and The Great Piggy Bank Robbery (1946) showcase some of his greatest work: his trademark “Lichty style” of animation. Clampett left Warner Bros. in 1945 to pursue a career in puppetry and television. Not much is known about where Scribner was between 1946-1949 (although he does some animation on two McKimson cartoons starring Porky and Daffy in 1947). In 1950, Scribner returned to Warner Bros. under Robert McKimson’s unit. His animation was tamed down to McKimson’s standards, but he still got away with wild scenes, like in Hillbilly Hare (1950), Hoppy Go Lucky (1952) and Of Rice and Hen (1953). He left Warners in 1954 and worked at UPA. In his later years, Scribner worked with former colleague Bill Melendez on various Charlie Brown movies and television specials, eventually starting a studio called Playhouse Pictures, which produced commercicals for over 45 years.
Les Clark (November 17, 1907 – September 12, 1979) was the first of Disney’s Nine Old Men. Joining Disney in 1927, he was the only one to work on the origins of Mickey Mouse with Ub Iwerks.
Walt Disney complimented Les on the lettering he made for the menus on the mirrors at the candy store. Two years later in 1927, about to graduate from Venice High School, Clark got up the nerve to ask Walt for a job. “Bring some of your drawings in and let’s see what they look like,” he recalled Walt saying. At the Hyperion studio in the Silver Lake area east of Hollywood, Clark showed his samples, which he admitted were freehand copies of cartoons in College Humor. Walt admired his “swift, deft” graphic line and hired him.
Clark graduated from high school on a Thursday and jubilantly reported to work the following Monday, February 23, 1927 though Walt warned him “it might just be a temporary job.” The “temporary” job lasted nearly half a century. By the time he retired in 1975, Les Clark was a senior animator and director, and the “longest continuously employed member of Walt Disney Productions.”
Clark entered animation at a pivotal time and participated in events that shaped not only Disney’s future but the history of the art form itself. When he arrived, the Alice Comedies were winding down and a series starring a new character named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was beginning. Ub Iwerks, who became Clark’s mentor, was the studio’s top animator, capable of turning out large numbers of cleverly animated drawings each day.
Les Clark’s debut as an animator came in the first Silly Symphony, The Skeleton Dance (delivered on May 10, 1929): a scene of a skeleton playing the ribs of a bony buddy like a xylophone.
Clark’s draftsmanship and versatility as a personality animator developed way beyond what Ub Iwerks was capable of but echoes of the magical, cartoony Iwerks always remained in Clark’s work. A charming example is the little train to Baia in The Three Caballeros (1945), chugging and puffing on crayon rails to a bouncy samba beat through stylized jungle landscapes.
Wolfgang Reitherman (June 26, 1909 – May 22, 1985), also known and sometimes credited as Woolie Reitherman, was a Disney animator and one of Disney’s Nine Old Men.
Reitherman began working for Disney in 1934, along with future Disney legends Ward Kimball and Milt Kahl. The three worked together on a number of classic Disney shorts, including The Band Concert, Music Land, and Elmer Elephant and in all, Reitherman worked on various Disney feature films produced from 1937 to 1981, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Slave in the Magic Mirror) to The Fox and the Hound (co-producer). He did the climatic dinosaur fight in Igor Stravinsky‘s The Rite of Spring in Fantasia, the Headless Horseman chase in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” section in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, the Crocodile in Peter Pan, and Maleficent as a dragon in Sleeping Beauty (the former three he animated and the latter he directed). Beginning with 1961’s One Hundred and One Dalmatians, “Woolie”, as he was called by friends, served as Disney’s chief animation director. One of Reitherman’s productions, the 1968 short Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. He also served as a producer and sequence director, and starred as himself in the 1941 feature film The Reluctant Dragon. All three of Reitherman’s sons — Bruce, Richard and Robert — provided voices for Disney characters, including Mowgli in The Jungle Book, Christopher Robin in Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, and Wart in The Sword in the Stone.
Reitherman directed several Disney animated feature films including, One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), The Sword in the Stone (1963), The Jungle Book (1967), The Aristocats (1970), Robin Hood (1973) and The Rescuers (1977). He is also known for reusing animation in movies directed by him. According to Floyd Norman, this was just one of his trademarks, and had nothing to do with time or cost savings: “Woolie was our director on The Jungle Book. Reuse was just Woolie’s thing. He never did it to save money. I really don’t think the “Old Guard” ever had any interest in saving money. I was never a big fan of reuse, but it wasn’t my place to tell these old guys what to do. One final thought. It never seemed to bother Walt, and I never heard him complain about reuse.”
Ward Walrath Kimball (March 4, 1914 – July 8, 2002) born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was an animator for the Walt Disney Studios. He was one of Walt Disney‘s team of animators, known as Disney’s Nine Old Men.
Also, he was a jazz trombonist. He founded and led the seven-piece Dixieland band Firehouse Five Plus Two, in which he played trombone.
While Kimball was a brilliant draftsman, he preferred to work on comical characters rather than realistic human designs. Animating came easily to him and he was constantly looking to do things differently. Because of this, Walt Disney called Ward a genius in the book The Story of Walt Disney. While there were many talented animators at Disney, Ward’s efforts stand out as unique.
Kimball created several classic Disney characters including the Crows in Dumbo; Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland; the Mice, Lucifer the Cat and Bruno the Bloodhound from Cinderella; and Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio. He also animated the famous “Three Caballeros” musical number from the Disney film of the same name.
In 1953 Kimball became a director and was responsible for the Academy Award-winning short Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom, and three Disney television shows about outer space that put the United States into the space program. He received an Academy Award for the short animated cartoon It’s Tough to Be a Bird.
Kimball was profiled by producer Jerry Fairbanks in his Paramount Pictures film short series Unusual Occupations. This 35mm Magnacolor film short was released theatrically in 1944; it focused on Kimball’s backyard railroad and full-sized locomotive.
Kimball was also a jazz trombonist. He founded and led the seven-piece Dixieland band Firehouse Five Plus Two, in which he played trombone. The band made at least 13 LP records and toured clubs, college campuses and jazz festivals from the 1940s to early 1970s. Kimball once said that Walt Disney permitted the second career as long as it did not interfere with his animation work.
Kimball continued to work at Disney until 1974, working on the Disney anthology television series, being one of the writers for Babes in Toyland, creating animation for Mary Poppins, directing the animation for Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and working on titles for feature films such as The Adventures Of Bullwhip Griffin and Million Dollar Duck. His last staff work for Disney was producing and directing the Disney TV show The Mouse Factory, which ran from 1972 to 1974. He continued to do various projects on his own, even returning to do some publicity tours for the Disney corporation. He also worked on the World of Motion attraction for Disney’s EPCOT Center.
Kimball also produced two editions of a volume titled Art Afterpieces, in which he revised various well-known works of art, such as putting Mona Lisa‘s hair up in curlers, showing Whistler’s Mother watching TV, and adding a Communist flag and Russian boots to Pinkie.
While his only two acting appearances on film were an uncredited role as a jazz musician (with his Firehouse Five Plus Two) in Hit Parade of 1951 and as an IRS Chief in Mike Jittlov’s The Wizard of Speed and Time, Kimball served as host of the “Man and the Moon” episode of Disneyland in 1956. He appeared as himself in an episode of the popular TV show You Bet Your Life hosted by Groucho Marx on March 18, 1954, which has been released on DVD. He hosted the second season of the 1992 PBS series Tracks Ahead. That season has since been repackaged to feature current host Spencer Christian.
As recounted in Neal Gabler‘s biography of Walt Disney, Ward Kimball was a key figure in spreading the urban legend that Disney had left instructions for his body to be preserved by cryonics after his death.
Amid Amidi wrote a biography of Kimball, Full Steam Ahead: The Life and Art of Ward Kimball that was projected for publication in the fall of 2012. However, publication of the biography was cancelled in February 2013, which Amidi believed was due to pressure from the Disney corporation.
Glen Keane (born April 13, 1954) is an American animator, author and illustrator. Keane is best known for his character animation at Walt Disney Animation Studios for feature films including The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, Tarzan, and Tangled. Keane received the 1992 Annie Award for character animation, the 2007 Winsor McCay Award for lifetime contribution to the field of animation and in 2013 was named a Disney Legend.
Keane left CalArts in 1974 and joined Disney the same year. His debut work, which was created over a 3-year period, was featured in The Rescuers, for which he was an animator for the characters of Bernard and Penny, alongside the famed Ollie Johnston. In 1975, during the production of his debut film, Keane married Linda Hesselroth, and they are the parents of design artist Claire Keane, and computer graphics artist Max Keane.
After The Rescuers was completed, Keane went on to animate Elliott the Dragon in Pete’s Dragon. Keane also animated the climactic bear showdown in The Fox and the Hound. In 1982, after being inspired by the groundbreaking film Tron, Keane collaborated with fellow animator John Lasseter (Toy Story, Toy Story 2) on a 30-second test scene of Maurice Sendak‘s Where the Wild Things Are, which was optioned for them by Disney executive Tom Wilhite. The test integrated traditional character animation and computer-generated backgrounds (Video on YouTube), and, like Tron, was a cooperation with MAGI. It was also Disney’s first experimentation with digital inked and painted characters. But, the project turned out to be too expensive, and the studio was unwilling to invest further in the planned featurette. The test for Where the Wild Things Are was revolutionary for its time, and a predecessor to the famous ballroom scene in Beauty and the Beast.
In 1983, Keane left Disney as a contracted employee and worked as a freelance artist. During this time, he worked on the character of Professor Ratigan in Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective. He also did some work on The Chipmunk Adventure where he did the sequences of “Boys and Girls of Rock N’ Roll” and “Getting Lucky”. He returned to Disney to work on the characters of Fagin, Sykes and Georgette for Oliver & Company. Keane rose to lead character animator, becoming one of the group of young animators who were trained by and succeeded “Disney’s Nine Old Men“. Keane animated some of Disney’s most memorable characters in what has been referred to as the “New “Golden Age” of Disney Animation. Keane designed and animated the character of Ariel in the 1989 film The Little Mermaid, then the eagle Marahute in The Rescuers Down Under. Subsequently, Keane worked as the supervising animator on the title characters for three Disney hit features: Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and Pocahontas.
While living with his family in Paris, France for three years, Keane completed work on Disney’s 1999 Tarzan for which he drew the eponymous character. Keane then returned to Disney’s Burbank studio as the lead animator for John Silver in Treasure Planet. In 2003, Keane began work as the director of Disney’s CGI animated film, Tangled (based on the Brothers Grimm story Rapunzel), which released in November 2010. In Tangled, Glen and his team hoped to bring the unique style and warmth of traditional animation to computer animation. In October 2008, due to some “non-life threatening health issues”, Keane stepped back as director of Tangled, but remained the film’s executive producer and an animating director.
On March 23, 2012, having worked approximately 37 years at Disney, Glen Keane left Walt Disney Animation Studios. Keane said in a letter sent to his co-workers, “I owe so much to those great animators who mentored me – Eric Larson, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston – as well as to the many other wonderful people at Disney whom I have been fortunate to work with in the past nearly 38 years. I am convinced that animation really is the ultimate form of our time with endless new territories to explore. I can’t resist its siren call to step out and discover them.”
On December 2013, it was announced that he had joined Motorola’s Advanced Technology and Projects Group and is cooperating with its engineers to create interactive hand-drawn animation. Keane released his first animated short- Duet- at the Google I/O Conference in San Francisco on June 25, 2014. It is the first hand-drawn cartoon made with 60 fps, and the third in a series of shorts called the Spotlight Stories that are designed to explore spatial awareness and the sensory inputs of a mobile device to create a distinctive storytelling experience.
In addition to his work as an animator, Keane is the author and illustrator of a series of children’s Bible parable books featuring Adam Raccoon and King Aren the Lion.