Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rollin "Ham" Hamilton's 110th Birthday!

Rollin Clare* Hamilton was born 110 years ago today in South Dakota. His parents were William Clarence Hamilton and the former Ella Stevens, both natives of Iowa.

Two years earlier his older brother, Louis had been born in Iowa, but shortly after that, the young family was on the move to South Dakota where William worked as a druggist. His work had the family on the move every few years throughout the area.

In the first two decades of the new century they lived in Edgeley, Grafton and Grand Forks, North Dakota as well as Casper, Wyoming.
In 1906 the family grew once again when they welcomed Irene Martha. By 1922 the family had made the move to Los Angeles, California.

In February, 1924, the twenty-five year old Hamilton was the first outside animator hired at the Disney Bros. Studio. He immediately began working on what would be the fifth of the Alice Comedies, Alice's Spooky Adventure. Later in 1924 Disney hired his younger sister Irene as an inker.

Rollin would remain animating with Disney throughout the remaining Alice shorts and all of the Oswald The Lucky Rabbit cartoons until early May 1928 when he was among those who exited the studio when Charles Mintz took over physical production of the Oswald cartoons.

Mintz, with the studio headed by his brother-in-law George Winkler would only produce the Oswalds for about a year. In April 1929 Universal who distributed the shorts and owned the character took over production themselves. Their new cartoon studio was on the lot and run by New York transplant, Walter Lantz.

Hamilton, who had become close with Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising during the years they spent together at Disney's and the Winkler studio, joined them when they struck out on their own after earlier failed attempts. Success came when they sold the idea of a cartoon series to Warner Bros. The series, starring a new character Bosko, would be produced by Leon Schlesinger.

Rollin stayed animating for the Warner Bros. cartoons even after Harman and Ising ended their production of the shorts a few years later. Schlesinger took over and physical production was moved to a Looney Tunes studio on a corner of Warner Bros. Sunset Blvd. lot.

Hamilton's last known credits were on some Looney Tunes shorts directed by Tex Avery in 1938.

On June 1, 1952 Rollin Hamilton suffered a heart attack and passed away two days later at the age of fifty-two. He was laid to rest at Forest Lawn in Glendale.

* Most records have his middle name spelled as "Clare," but has also been found listed as "Claire."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Tyrus Wong is 98 today!

I just wanted to point out that a major force responsible for the look of Disney's Bambi celebrates his birthday today. He was born in China and moved with his father to Southern California before he was ten years old.

An accomplished artist, he was an art director for live action films for the greater part of his career. Wong also worked designing greeting cards for a time as well.

In recent years he can be found on the beach in Santa Monica the fourth Saturday of most any month flying his amazing handmade kites. He is generally accompanied by a crowd of family and friends. The photo at right was taken two years ago on his birthday weekend kite flying trip.

He didn't seem to have made it there this weekend.