Thursday, October 25, 2007

Snow White at The Carthay

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

Joe Grant at Chouinard

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.

(click for larger image)

When I have some time in the future I will post other excerpts and eventually the entire catalog.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Neighbors - chapter II

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

Century Birthday - Art Babbitt


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.