Saturday, April 21, 2007

Finding Jay Ward

Jay Ward, the joyfully irreverent pioneer of TV animation, has a personal background that is very elusive. Even to long-time friends, co-workers and biographers some aspects of his life have been very tough to nail down. His birth date, September 20, 1920, seems to be well known, but I have found that his accepted birth name is in question.

Having searched through state birth records, I found that there was no Jay Troplong Ward born in California on that date -- or any other date for that matter! There was however, a birth recorded on that date, in the County of San Francisco; the birth of a Joseph W. Cohen, Jr. Interesting, but not necessarily confirmed until it was revealed that the mother's maiden name is Troplong! I think that nails it. His mother was Juanita M. Troplong and he was named for his father, Joseph W. (presumably Ward) Cohen. And apparently there is at least one occurrence of Ward being credited on a show as Joseph W. Cohen.

For those of you keeping track, I also found that at the time of the 1920 census (January 1920) his parents were living in San Francisco at 440 Post Street around the corner from the famous St. Francis Hotel.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Century Birthday - Cecil Surry


Cecil Hays Surry was born in the state of Washington and raised on a fruit farm in Chelan County in the center of the state. His parents, Bert and Eliza (who went by Lydia) were from Ohio and Kentucky respectively. Following the death of Lydia in the mid 1920s, Bert moved Cecil and younger brother Paul south to San Diego, California.

Cecil moved to Hollywood in 1929 when he went to work for Walt Disney where he worked on the Silly Symphonies. After a short time with Disney, he migrated to Walter Lantz where he animated beside Sid Sutherland and Tex Avery. In 1936 Avery was offered an opportunity to direct at Leon Schlesinger's Studio. Surry and Sutherland joined him as animators in his unit a couple of months later.

In the mid 1930s Cecil met and married Constance Berry and they had three children, Kathleen, Sheila and John.

In the mid 1940s Cecil began doing comic book work for Western Publishing. By 1950s Cecil had a home on Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Woodland Hills and was animating at United Pictures of America, know better as UPA. At UPA he primarily worked on Mr. Magoo cartoons including the Oscar-winning shorts "When Magoo Flew" and "Magoo's Puddle Jumper."

Cecil Surry died suddenly on September 19, 1956 at the age of 49, the result of a heart condition.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Century Birthday - Hardie Gramatky


Hardie Gramatky, perhaps best known for his classic childrens book, Little Toot, was born 100 years ago today in Dallas, Texas. He was also a prolific illustrator, watercolorist and, in the early 1930s, an animator at the Disney Studio.

Named for his father, Bernhard August Gramatky, Jr. was the middle of three sons born to Bernhard and Blanche Gramatky. The family's early home on San Jacinto Street in downtown Dallas was at a site now occupied by the J.P. Morgan-Chase Tower. Following the death of his father from tuberculosis, Blanche moved the family in with her sister, Minnie Ott, in Southern California. They lived around the corner from the Paramount Studio at 5433 Romaine Street for a short time before settling in the nearby suburb of San Gabriel.

Hardie gained early recognition for his art in the Junior Times, an insert in Sunday edition of the Los Angeles Times. Among the many other young artists who had their work published in the Junior Times were future Disney co-workers, Fred Moore and Ed Benedict.

Gramatky moved north to attended Stanford University in the mid 1920s and later enrolled at the Chouinard Art Institute back in Los Angeles. At Chouinard he would meet and fall in love with another artist, Dorothea Cooke. They dated while at school and were married in 1932.

He was hired at the Disney Studio in 1929 to work on the Mickey Mouse comics and in short order moved into animation. The smiling and energetic Gramatky can be seen in action throughout the softball game footage released on the DVD set More Silly Symphonies and detailed here in recent posts. He spent six years at Disney and in mid-1936 he and Dorothea moved to New York where he found work with various magazines including Fortune.

Inspired by the tugboats he saw from the window of his studio, he painted and penned the story of Little Toot, published in 1939 by Putnam. A restored classic edition of Little Toot is slated to be published this spring by Penguin Putnam.

Nine years after it was first published, the story of Little Toot was animated by the Disney Studio and included as one of the seven musical segments in the feature Melody Time.

For a couple of years during World War II, Hardie was back in Los Angeles supervising the production of training films for the Army Air Corps. Shortly after their return to the east coast, he and his family settled in Westport, Connecticut. Their home was at 60 Roseville Road, just a short walk from the Boston Post Road, the colonial-era route between New York City and Boston.

Hardie remained a resident of Westport for the remainder of his life. He and Dorothea continued their work for many magazines and Hardie also had several more books published. Beyond what grew to become a series of Little Toot books, he also wrote and illustrated a list of charming childrens literature including Loopy, Sparky, Creeper's Jeep and Hercules.

Hardie Gramatky passed away from cancer at the age of 72 in late April 1979 and although he died too soon, his work continues to be enjoyed by the world.

I encourage you to visit, a website maintained by his daughter, Linda Gramatky Smith. Here you can read many more stories and see dozens of examples of his wonderful artwork. This is a prime example of what so many other artists should have and unfortunately don't!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Softball Game - part 2

1:26 - 4:12

Picking up the softball game from where we left off last week
, here is the remainder of the game section of the footage:

The house (in the upper left of the frame) is the only house in the immediate neighborhood that is still standing today. Below is a late 1930s photograph of the Disney Studio on Hyperion showing the former lot where this softball game was played (in green) and the same house circled in red.

Carlos Manriquez, seen running here, is mis-identified in the audio commentary as Carlos "Enriquez."
At this point in the audio commentary Hardie Gramatky is mistakenly identified as John Cannon.

Directors Jack King and Burton (Burt) Gillett were hired early by Disney and came west from studios in New York, the hub of animation at that time.
Batting here is George Drake, head of the the training and inbetweening department. Inbetweening was the first rung on the ladder at the studio in the 1930s. Most artists spent a relatively short time there before moving up and into other departments. Drake was in the unfortunate position of being viewed as the gatekeeper to advancement within the studio, which resulted in unflattering opinions of him.

Studio comptroller, George Morris, is watching the game at left.

Below is a breakdown of the game footage and the players as they appear on the film. Most are identified as in the images above. If you have additional identifications please let me know.

pitcher: Hardie Gramatky

catcher: Chuck Couch
second base: Roy Williams

third base: Fred Moore
batter #1: Walt Disney
batter #2: David Hand

- (teams switch sides) - pitcher: __________
catcher: Walt Disney

first base: Tom Palmer

second base: __________
short stop: Norm Ferguson

third base: David Hand

batter #1: Hardie Gramatky

batter #2: Carlos Manriquez
batter #3: Johnny Cannon
batter #4: Jack Cutting / runner: Hardie Gramatky

batter #5: Roy Williams
batter #6: Les Clark
- (teams switch sides/cut/camera move) - catcher: Chuck Couch
first base: Carlos Manriquez

batter #1: Floyd Gottfredson
batter #2: George Drake
- (cut) -
batter #3: Walt Disney

batter #4: David Hand
batter #5: Norm Ferguson
- (cut to post-game) -

The post-game features director Jack King and animator Johnny Cannon in a mock fight over a bat with a large group of other studio personnel gathered around. Those images will be posted in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Disney Studio Directory - April 3, 1957


Here today is a copy of the Disney Studio Directory from April 3, 1957. It includes all your favorites (even Walt) with their telephone and room numbers listed. There is also a separate list for the Ink and Paint Department. Most of the studio at this point was hard at work on Sleeping Beauty and the group involved with Disneyland was in the midst of a major redesign for Tomorrowland that would be unveiled two years later.

I do not know who this directory belonged to, but there is one unique aspect to this copy -- it has been hand annotated (in pencil) throughout with defining notes about the people listed. And as people left the studio or in some cases passed away, their names were crossed out. Additionally, judging by these departures, this directory seems to have been in use for more than a decade. Here are fifteen pages that offer an informative glance into the Disney Studio. Enjoy.

(CLICK to view or download a full-size image)

Right away, beside Tom Adair is the quote "shut up and drink" and just down the
column is a stunner -- the word "suicide" next to the name of Dick Anthony.
He did die in January 1960. A young Don Bluth is described as "renegade."

Floyd Gottfredson's work is described with "strip"
and Ub Iwerks could be found in the Process Lab.

Gunther Lessing can be found as "ATT" and Clarence Nash is noted with "Duck."
"Penthouse" is beside the name of Disney's childhood friend Walf Pfeiffer.

Joe Reddy is listed as "publicity" and Al Teeter is listed as "P.R." Dolores Voght
is "Walt's Secretary" and Madeline Wheeler is Roy's secretary

Here's a listing for the Ink and Paint Department and
on the final page a note of "approximately 760 - 800 people."

Thanks to Hans Perk for inspiring me with his post of the
1967 Disney Studio Directory he began on February 13.

For those of you waiting, I will wrap up the Softball Game tomorrow.