Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Iwerks animator Godfrey Bjork would have been 100 years old today.
Please see the earlier post from last May for more about this almost forgotten figure.
In the months since then, I have found that he was married at the time to a woman named Lydia. They apparently did not have any children.
Noted in the earlier post was information that Bjork is interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The exact plot location is shown on the map below.
View Larger Map
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Nearly seventy years ago a 36 year old Walt Disney (his 106th birthday is today) and some stars from his new movie were featured on the cover of Time Magazine.
The cover and article within are shown below:
(as usual, click on each for larger images)
Thursday, October 25, 2007
There has been plenty of buzz recently regarding the Carthay Circle Theater, with a reproduction coming soon to Disney's California Adventure. The original theater once stood in the mid-Wilshire District of Los Angeles and was host to many film premieres including the west coast premiere of Gone With the Wind and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Here are a few snapshots of the diorama scenes that were on display for the premiere run of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. While the photographs certainly aren't professional, they do offer a rare peek at the theater grounds at the time.
Though these displays don't necessarily depict scenes from the film, they appear to have been well constructed and there are dwarfs (in the form of garden gnomes) placed throughout.
The inclusion of monsters however, seems a bit out of place and begs the question, who thought those were a good idea?
I don't imagine that anyone from the Disney Studio was involved, but who knows.
(click on each for a larger image)
Monday, October 22, 2007
The clipping below is from a catalog for prospective students of the Chouinard Art Institute, School of Motion Picture Arts. Although undated, I believe this to be from the late 1930s, probably 1937 or 1938.
The School of Motion Picture Arts was established in September 1936 and headed by Harold Miles, a long-time educator, an art director for live-action films and also a credited art director on Walt Disney's Snow White. The school taught in the fields of set design, drafting, costume design, advertising art, and animation. The head instructor in Animation was Eugene Fleury, who also was an instructor at the Disney Studio.
Within the curriculum for Animation was a class in Caricature, taught by Joe Grant. The clipping contains a brief description, with an example drawing and a photo of a Grant in a dashing pose with a pipe and a sculpted caricature of Oliver Hardy.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Fred, ...Meet Fred
While doing research several years ago in the depths of the Main Library in downtown Los Angeles, I came across the interesting fact that during the mid-1940s, Robert Fred "Freddie" Moore and Fred "Tex" Avery, two of the biggest names in the industry, were next-door neighbors!
In a part of Los Angeles now know as Valley Village, between Moorpark Street and the 101 Freeway, Freddie Moore lived at 4437 and Tex Avery lived at 4445 Carpenter Avenue.
Former home of Freddie Moore
4437 Carpenter Avenue
(click on it for a larger image)
Former home of Tex Avery
4445 Carpenter Avenue
(click on it for a larger image)
Fred Moore's family included his wife Virginia and during the summer months daughters Suzanne and Melinda from his earlier marriage. Tex and Patricia Avery didn't have children until son Tim and daughter Nancy were born in the later 1940s.
Although there doesn't appear to be evidence of any cross-pollination in their work during this time, I often wonder how friendly the two might have been -- how many conversations they had over the fence.
NOTE: While I'm sure it doesn't need to be said to any reader here, please remember that these are private residences.
Do not disturb the people living in or near these homes.
Monday, October 8, 2007
BORN 100 YEARS AGO TODAY
Arthur Harold Babitzky entered the world in the unlikely city of Omaha, Nebraska, at the eastern edge of the state on the Missouri River.
His parents Solomon* and Zelda were married in 1898 in their native Russia. His father first came to the United States in 1903 and his mother arrived in 1906. Solomon worked in the clothing/textile industry, in dying and cleaning.
Arthur was the first of four children to survive beyond infancy. A sister, Louise, born a year after him, also did not live more than a few years. It wasn't long before he was joined by brothers Issie and William. The family home was at 1436 S. 13th Street, just south of downtown Omaha.
In 1913 the family moved a hundred miles up the Missouri River to Sioux City, Iowa. In a short time the family had grown again with the birth of Arthur's sister, Fannie (or Hannah) in 1914. Their first home there was at 705 W. Seventh Street but after a few years they had moved across the street to 822 W. Seventh.
When Art was in his late teens the family relocated once again to the Brighton Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York and Art soon moved out and went to work in the field of animation. In 1929 he went to work for Paul Terry and Frank Moser where he animated on the Aesop's Fables cartoons and later on TerryToons.
Frustrated with the low pay, Babbitt moved west to Hollywood hoping to find work with the Walt Disney Studio. He succeeded and was hired in July of 1932. There he would animate on Mickey Mouse cartoons and Silly Symphonies; notable among them, the award-winning Three Little Pigs.
In the summer of 1934, Art embarked on a trip to New York along with some other studio employees including Frank Churchill, Les Clark and Dick and Juanita Lundy. After sailing on the Santa Elena through the Panama Canal they arrived back in Los Angeles on September 3.
Babbitt was continually trying to convince Vladimir "Bill" Tytla, his friend from Terrytoons, to come west to Disney's and by mid-November 1934 he had started at the studio. Babbitt invited Tytla to move in with him at his home in the Hollywood Hills at 5600 Tuxedo Terrace. In this home they began offering life drawing classes in the evenings after work.
Art grew to become on of the top animators at the studio during the 1930s and is credited with creating the character of Goofy (initally known as "The Goof.") He was a directing animator on the feature films, known for the characters of the Wicked Queen in Snow White and the stork in Dumbo. Perhaps his most well known is the scene of the the dancing mushrooms in the Nutcracker Suite segment of Fantasia.
In 1936 Babbitt and Tytla moved to another home they shared just a short distance away at 5700 Hill Oak Drive. It wasn't long though, before Art had married Marge Belcher, a dancer (and Snow White reference model.) Tytla moved out and soon was married himself.
In May of 1941 Babbitt was the primary figure behind the artists strike of the Disney Studio. This action would help lead to the establishment of what is now The Animation Guild, Local 839. Much more has been written about this incident elsewhere.
Art would go on to work at other studios including UPA and the studio of a former Disney co-worker, Shamus Culhane. He was also a co-founder of Quartet Films where he would be involved in the production of numerous commercials.
With an apparent fondness for homes in the Hollywood Hills, he and his second wife, Annamarie lived in the hills above the Hollywood Bowl at 6902 Los Tilos Road during the 1950s. During this decade they had two daughters, Linda and Karen.
When Art married again in the 1960s to Barbara Perry, they lived in a home just up the road in the same neighborhood. They remained there for many years including the time that Art was animating on the Raggedy Ann and Andy feature for Richard Williams.
Art Babbitt passed away at the age of 84 on March 4, 1992.
During his lifetime Art had been honored with dozens of awards for his work, and this week he will be among those honored by The Walt Disney Company as a Disney Legend.
* Solomon would later change his name to Samuel.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
BORN 100 YEARS AGO TODAY
Richard James Lundy, an only child, was born to parents James and Minnie Lundy a century ago today. He was born in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan on the eastern tip of Lake Superior at the Canadian border. The family would soon move south to Detriot where James began work as an inspector for the Burroughs Adding Machine Company.
By the time Richard was ten years old, his parents were separated and he and his mother had moved north to Port Huron, Michigan. A short time later he and his mother were back in Detroit where she, now divorced, was employed as a waitress at a nearby restaurant. The home they lived in was on Tillman Street very near where highways 96 and 94 intersect today.
Late in the 1920s Dick was in Los Angeles and by the middle of summer,1929 he had arrived at the Disney Studio on Hyperion where he began in the ink & paint department. That September he was moved up and began inbetweening. With the departure of Ub Iwerks the following January, production began to slip behind. Lundy was soon promoted to animator to help with getting production deliveries back on track. He animated on several classic shorts including Three Little Pigs and Orphans Benefit, the film that would begin his association animating "the duck" later to become known as Donald.
Dick had several residences throughout the area during the 1930s, his first was an apartment at 1740 N. Gramercy Place, just north of Hollywood Boulevard. He moved closer to the studio by 1931 when he lived at 4637 Melbourne Avenue**. Lundy had moved again the next year to an apartment at 6514 Cerritos Place, near Cahuenga Boulevard.
Soon he would be married and he and his new wife, Juanita would settle into an apartment at 3335 Rowena Avenue. In 1934 they were on the move again, to a home at 4115 Greenbush Avenue in Sherman Oaks. Following his work on the landmark feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Lundy was given to opportunity to direct some of the cartoon shorts beginning in 1939. By this time Dick was divorced from Juanita and he and his second wife, Anne, were living at 4615 Strohm Avenue in North Hollywood where they would stay until the late 1940s.
He remained a director at Disney's until fall,1943 when he departed to work for Walter Lantz. Dick started as an animator, but quickly moved back to directing on shorts starring Andy Panda and Woody Woodpecker as well as the musical Swing Symphonies. When the Lantz studio closed down in 1948, Lundy moved into making commercials at Wolff Productions.
In the spring of 1950, an offer for more money and directing work landed him at MGM where he briefly took over Tex Avery's unit and directed Caballero Droopy and several Barney Bear shorts. Throughout most of the1950s and 1960s, Lundy lived in Glendale, tucked up against the hills near the Brand Library at 1553 Western Avenue.
He returned to animating when he arrived at Hanna-Barbera in early 1959 where he worked on The Flintstones, Yogi Bear and Scooby Doo shows among many others. Aside from a period when he animated on Ralph Bakshi's Fritz the Cat, Lundy remained at H-B until his retirement in late 1973. He continued to stay busy with freelance work for several years following that 'official' retirement.
Dick Lundy later moved south to beautiful San Diego County. He passed away there on April 7, 1990 at the age of 82.
**Note: Lundy's boss, Walt Disney, had lived next door to this house (at 4639 Melbourne) six years earlier, a short fifty yard walk from his studio at the time on Kingswell Avenue.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
BORN 100 YEARS AGO TODAY
Virgil Walter Ross was born a century ago today in Watertown, New York. His parents, Bertha Mary (Hart) and Ellwood Burdsoll Ross, both natives of New York state, married in 1901 and made their home at 142 Washington Street. Their first son, Ellwood Hart Ross, (known by his middle name as a child) arrived in late April in 1906 and Virgil followed about 15 months later.
By the time Virgil was ten, the family had moved to 41 Auburn Street in the Detroit suburb of Highland Park, Michigan where the his father worked as a tool-making foreman at the Ford Motor Company.
By 1920 the family had relocated to 2857 E. Theresa Street in Long Beach, California and Ellwood continued his trade, but was now working in the nearby shipyards. They had settled further north in the late 1920s at 211 W. 126th Street in Compton a home currently in the shadow of the 110/105 freeway interchange. While in high school he picked up a pencil and signed up for a class in cartooning.
Shortly after he graduated Virgil began working as a commercial illustrator with an office on Figueora in downtown Los Angeles. Having been turned down when he brought his portfolio to the Disney Studio, he did find work at the Mintz Studio.
His stay at Mintz did not last long and he soon found himself inbetweening at Ub Iwerks' Studio. A short time later he had moved on to Walter Lantz where he eventually became an animator. There he worked with many rising stars of the industry including a young (six months younger than himself) man known by the nickname of Tex.
When Tex Avery was hired in 1936 by Leon Schlesinger to direct cartoons at his studio, he brought along a few of his Lantz co-workers including Sid Sutherland and Ross. He animated in Avery's unit until Tex departed the studio in 1941. Then after a short stint with director Bob Clampett he settled in with Friz Freleng beginning an association that would last nearly three decades!
While at Schlesinger's he met an inker at the studio, miss Frances J. Ewing. They were later married and made their home at 5933 Carlton Way. By 1945 they had moved to 3337 Bennett Drive in the hills above the Cahuenga Pass. They would live on Bennett Drive for more than fifty years!
Following the closing of Warner Bros. cartoon studio in the early 1960s, Ross worked at Filmation, Hanna-Barbera, DePatie-Freleng and Marvel, among others.
Virgil Ross passed away at his home on May 15, 1996 at the age of 88. He had lived long enough to receive the recognition of his peers in the industry and cartoon fans around the world.
Monday, July 30, 2007
BORN 100 YEARS AGO TODAY
Al Coe, and animator known for his work on shorts at Disney and Lantz and Roy Williams, long time story man at Disney were both born a century ago today!
Sorry everyone, but I lost the articles I wrote on these two (and for Dick Bickenbach which should have been up on August 9th) with the crash of my computer. This was made worse by the fact that my internet connection was down for several days and even now is sometimes on, sometimes off (thank you Verizon!) To add to the confusion, I have family in town for the next week or so.
I apologize for missing these posts, but they WILL be up as soon as I can get them finished and posted.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Like many seaside communities, Santa Barbara has been home to quite a number of artists. A handful of them would move to Los Angeles and ply their profession in the field of animation. Others from the industry would eventually retire in this picturesque community.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, two men who would later have significant careers in the field, were neighbors here on the same street!
These two were Erni Nordli and Paul Julian. They were separated in age by just two years and likely attended the same schools, though history doesn't record if they actually knew each other while they were neighbors.
By 1930, seventeen year old Ernest Nordli and his family had recently relocated here from Salt Lake City, his birth place. His parents, Hans and Hattie moved the family into a modest home at 901 Valerio Street just southwest of the town's business district.
Ernest had five siblings; one older brother, Philip; two younger brothers, William and Douglas and two younger sisters, Ruth and Genevieve. The family of eight squeezed into this three bedroom home where they all shared one bathroom.
A career in the arts was not an unlikely pursuit for Ernest. His father was a lino-typist at a nearby publishing house and his mother taught music at their home. Within the next few years, Ernest would be among the artists working at the Disney Studio on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Later he would be an art director on Dumbo and Fantasia then moved into layout at both Warner Bros. and Disney's.
A few houses up the street, beyond a dog-leg in the road, was the Julian family who had moved west from South Bend, Indiana a decade earlier.
Paul Julian was born Paul Hull Husted on June 25, 1914 in Illinois. His brother Harry was born two years later in Indiana. By 1920 their mother, Esther, had married a second time to a gentleman by the name of Frank Julian.
While it is not clear what became of their father, (He may have been killed while serving in WWI) it is known that within the next few years the boys would take the name of their stepfather.
The Julian family would grow to six with the arrival of two more boys, Frank Jr. and Daniel, born after they arrived in Santa Barbara. Their three bedroom home, similar to many in the area, can be found at 814 W. Valerio Street.
Between Frank, a barber and Esther, an art school instructor, the family was well-off enough to have a live-in servant, Margaret Johnson, who was from Scotland.
Paul Julian would go on to become a prolific watercolorist and a well respected background artist at several studios including Warner Bros. and UPA, where his paintings were the essence of the Oscar-nominated short, The Tell-Tale Heart.
Note: This is the first of what will certainly be many posts on this subject. Over the past fifteen years I have done a tremendous amount of research on where the luminaries of the industry lived and worked. Along the way I discovered that quite a few lived near one another and in some cases were even roommates. Some of the names you'd expect (Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, for example,) while others are quite surprising! If you liked this post, there is a lot to look forward to in the coming months!
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
A BIT MORE OF THE WHERE...
On a nondescript street just a short walk from the busy intersection of Western Avenue and Santa Monica Blvd. stands a building that's been there for more than eighty years. In those years it's been painted and painted over again. Its large arched windows, once complete with a decorative wrought iron fence have been sealed over.
(click on the images below for larger versions)
This building, not at all different from many others scattered across this city, sits in a state of quiet decay. Weeds, chewing gum, spray paint and goodness-knows-what-else are evident on the walls and sidewalk. One might wonder what things this building has witnessed in its eight decades....
Upon closer inspection it becomes clear....
In 1930 the staff of the nearby Charles Mintz Studio gathered there for a few group photographs.
Here are composer Joe DeNat, Manny Gould, Harry Love, Charles Mintz, George Winkler, Al Rose, Ben Harrison and Jack Carr.
In this photo are DeNat, Art Davis, Charles Mintz, Sid Marcus and Dick Huemer. The building is located at 5454 Virginia Avenue just around the corner from the Mintz Studio at 1154 N. Western Avenue.
Much of the 1920s era stucco work on the building is intact as shown in the photos below. It's a miracle these details exist, considering the amount of renovation (and layers of paint) this place has been subject to!
A few steps away at 5437 Virginia is the apartment building where George Winkler, Manny Gould, Joe DeNat and production manager James Bronis were living at the time. It is apparent that this building too has seen better days.
I'd like to thank Harry McCracken at Scrappyland.com for having posted the original photos of the Mintz Staff. If you haven't visited Scrappyland yet, I suggest you take a look -- it's a terrific retrospective on an often forgotten cartoon series and the people that created it! The middle group photo is from Leonard Maltin's Of Mice and Magic.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
BORN 100 YEARS AGO TODAY
Disney composer and orchestrator Edward Holcomb Plumb was born and raised in Streator, Illinois, a town on the Vermilion River 100 miles southwest of Chicago. His parents Samuel and Anna already had two sons by the time Edward was born. Along with his older brothers Samuel Walter, Jr. and Gordon, his grandmother, Levancia Plumb lived with them at 206 Wilson Street.
Plumb arrived in California in the early 1930s and found work as a composer and orchestrator in the movies. His first work for Disney was for the memorable short, Mother Goose Goes Hollywood.
He married Louise Mason and they welcomed a daughter, Susan in May of 1938. They made their home on a winding street in the hills near Silver Lake. With the addition of two more daughters Anne and Elisabeth in the early 1940s, the family was complete.
While Frank Churchill wrote the songs for Bambi, the poetic score for the film was executed by Ed Plumb. His work on Bambi would earn him the first of his four Academy Award nominations.
Although Disney seemed like home base for Ed, he frequently worked on projects beyond Walt's Studio during the 1940s and early 1950s. He worked on titles for Republic, Paramount and Twentieth Century Fox. At one point he even lent his talents to MGM for the Tom & Jerry short, The Missing Mouse (1953.) It is unclear where Scott Bradley may have been for this one!
By the early 1940s Plumb had moved his family to 12203 Laurel Terrace in the hills of Studio City. Here he was a neighbor of other Disney composers Charles Wolcott, whose home was at 12185 and Joe Dubin who was later at 12373 Laurel Terrace.
Edward worked as orchestrator at the nearby new location of the Disney Studio on the animated features The Three Caballeros, Make Mine Music, Song of the South, So Dear to My Heart, Peter Pan and Lady and the Tramp.
When Disney entered the field of television, Edward was tapped to work on The Disneyland TV show, notably Ward Kimball's "Man in Space" show. He orchestrated on the Davy Crockett films and on Westward Ho The Wagons, that also starred Fess Parker. His final film project, also for Disney, was Johnny Tremain in 1957.
Edward Plumb passed away on Friday April 18, 1958.
(If you haven't already clicked on the location links above, check out the Google Maps Locations for Ed Plumb.)
Monday, May 28, 2007
Willard Bowsky was one of them.
Willard G. Bowsky was born in 1907, the second son to parents Herman and Emma Bowsky. The Bowskys were married in the spring of 1898 and welcomed their first son, Merle on Christmas Day 1904.
During Willard's childhood the family lived on both sides of the Hudson River, jumping between homes in
By the time of Willard's tenth birthday they were living at
Bowsky began his work at the Fleischer Studios in the late 1920s and by 1930 had elevated to the level of a credited animator. His animation work can be seen in the Talkartoon, Color Classics and Screen Song (Bouncing Ball) films, but he is well known for animation on dozens of Betty Boop and Popeye cartoon shorts.
In later work on the Popeye films his work has been described as that of director, a credit generally reserved for Dave Fleischer. In any case, Bowsky was at least a supervising or directing animator, though he never received a credit beyond that of animator.
In the fall of 1938 Bowsky had relocated to Florida to the beautiful new home of the Fleischer Studios in
Early in 1942 Max and Dave Fleischer were gone and the studio was under control of
Motivated by a personal sense of duty (coupled with a possible disenchantment with the direction of the studio,) Willard Bowsky, unmarried at the time, enlisted in the Army on October 14, 1942. His older brother Merle had enlisted some time earlier.
Following training, Willard was assigned to the 14th Armored Division. He was a platoon leader with 50 men under his command in the 94th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron. He also made an artistic contribution to his squadron by designing the unit’s insignia (at left.)
The 14th Armored Division arrived at
Willard’s was among the squadrons that comprised The Division’s Combat Command A (CCA). They were soon ordered to advance into an area southwest of
He was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart and is interred at the
We remember Willard Bowsky today and honor his service to his county, his contributions to the field of animation and celebrate the centennial of his birth.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
If the name of animator Godfrey Bjork comes up in conversation, it is most often accompanied by the name of Emile Offeman. The story, as told by Shamus Culhane in his autobiography, Talking Animals and Other People, describes how Offeman, the production manager at the Ub Iwerks Studio, badgered Bjork incessantly for his footage -- this in spite of the fact that Godfrey had a declining heart condition.
Even when Bjork's condition kept him bed-ridden, Offeman (a would-be stand-in for Bela Lugosi) sent work to his home. He also made a point of calling several times a day to make sure Godfrey hadn't run off to the beach and pushed for him to get the work done. This soon lead to Bjork suffering a fatal heart attack. The saddest fact (apparently lost in the fog of the past 74 years) is that Godfrey Bjork was a mere 25 years old!
Godfrey Waldemar Bjork was born in New York, December 12, 1907, the second of four sons to Alfred and Hilda Bjork who had emmigrated from Finland in 1896. Throughout his youth he showed quite a talent for drawing, which enabled him to begin a career in animation before he reached the age of 19.
By 1930 he was listed as an artist in motion pictures and lived with his parents at 924 Summit Avenue in the Bronx -- just a half mile from home plate at Yankee Stadium. When he relocated to California shortly thereafter he work at the Ub Iwerks Studio and made his home at 740 North Stanley Avenue, up the street from what is now trendy Melrose Avenue.
Godfrey Bjork is interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
Thursday, May 3, 2007
Page two contains the classic caricature of Dick Huemer by T. Hee. The last page is full of classifieds -- almost idyllic from a perspective of 67 years later!