Biography: John Hubley

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Birth/Death

Birth: May 21, 1914 — Marinette, Wisconsin
Death: February 21, 1977 — New Haven, Connecticut

Occupation/Title

Animator, Director, Art director, Writer, Producer

Bio Summary

John Hubley is one of the leading figures in animated history, known especially for his design contributions to the United Productions of America (UPA) studio. He was born in Wisconsin in May of 1914. At the age of twenty-two, he was hired along with a wave of new talent to paint backgrounds and layouts for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He also provided art direction on Pinocchio, Bambi, Dumbo, and the “Rites of Spring” sequence in Fantasia. He left the studio during the strike in 1941 and directed films for Screen Gems. During World War II, he served in the Army in the Army Air Force First Motion Picture Unit (FMPU) producing instructional shorts, such as “Flat Hatting” (1944). Shortly after, he joined the newly formed United Film Production studio (renamed United Productions of America in 1945), where he worked as a director and is most noted for the character Mr. Magoo. During the 50s his name became blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). He found work producing commercials uncredited, and later formed his own studio together with his wife, Faith Hubley. They collaborated on twenty-two films, some of which were nominated for and won Oscars. He was further honored with a Winsor McCay award in 1975. John Hubley died in February, 1977 during heart surgery, survived by his family and his legacy.

Early Life/Family

Education/Training

Career Outline

-1935 — gets job as background, layout artist at Disney — works on Snow White, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi, Fantasia
- 1941 — leaves during animator’s strike and directs for Screen Gems
- 1942 — joins the Army and assigned to Army Air Force First Motion Picture Unit (FMPU)
- 1944 — John Hubley joins United Film Production
- 1945 — UFP renamed to UPA
- 1946 — named Supervising Director of UPA
- 1949 — creates Mr. Magoo and directs the first cartoon “The Ragtime Bear”
- 1952 — forced to leave UPA when he refuses to name names before House Committee on Un-American Activities — name is blacklisted
- 1953 — founds Storyboard Studios, working on television commercials uncredited
- 1956 — moves studio to New York and works on independent short films together with wife Faith Hubley

Comments On Style

UPA (United Productions of America) revolutionized Western animation with its modernist, flat style and limited animation. UPA films are often noted for their use of flat planes of color and graphic shapes, uniting modern design with animation. The wide variety of themes and styles in their films were liberated from the bigger studios’ focus on realism and cartoon conventions.
John Hubley discussed animation in a March 1942 issue of The Animator:

“A progressive, intelligent approach to animation, and realization that it is an expressive medium, is imperative if we want to keep animated cartoons from stagnating. Development and growth of animation is dependent upon varied, significant subject manner presented in an organized form, evolved from elements inherent in the medium. Among the least understood of these elements are the graphic ones. In spite of the fact that animation is almost entirely concerned with drawings, drawings which must function in both time and space.”

John Canemaker notes:
“He was a brilliant caricaturist and he pushed the characters into a more contemporary idiom. You could say that really started the UPA style.”

Regarding Faith and John’s collaborative style:
“They violated all the rules. They threw dust on the cels, and they worked with grease so the paint would run. It came out beautifully; everybody was awestruck that such a thing would work.” – Bill Littlejohn, animator

Influences

Personality

Anecdotes

John was the original director of Watership Down (1978). He was fired by producer Martin Rosen when the film made slow progress. His opening sequence with its unique, Aboriginal-inspired style remains and stands out from the rest of the film.

Miscellaneous

Filmography

Animation Department:

Hell-Bent for Election (1944) (storyboarding and design)
The Four Poster (1952) (director: animation sequences)
Of Stars and Men (1964) (background artist)
We Learn About the Telephone (1965) (animator)
The Cruise (1966) (layout artist)
The Year of the Horse (1966/I) (animator)
Voyage to Next (1974) (background artist)
Cockaboody (1974) (background artist)
Everybody Rides the Carousel (1975) (background artist) (layout artist)
“The Electric Company” (animator) (780 episodes, 1971-1977)

Director:
Wolf Chases Pigs (1942)
The Dumbconscious Mind (1942)
King Midas, Junior (1942)
The Vitamin G-Man (1943)
Professor Small and Mr. Tall (1943)
He Can’t Make It Stick (1943)
Flat Hatting (1944)
Robin Hoodlum (1948)
Magic Fluke (1949)
Ragtime Bear (1949)
Punchy de Leon (1950)
Spellbound Hound (1950) (supervising)
The Miner’s Daughter (1950) (supervising)
Trouble Indemnity (1950) (supervising)
The Popcorn Story (1950) (supervising)
Rooty Toot Toot (1951)
Barefaced Flatfoot (1951)
Fuddy Duddy Buddy (1951)
The Adventures of an * (1957)
The Tender Game (1958)
Harlem Wednesday (1958)
A Date with Dizzy (1958)
 Moonbird (1959)
Old Whiff (1960)
Children of the Sun (1960)
The Hole (1962)
 Of Stars and Men (1964)
The Hat (1964)
Urbanissimo (1966)
Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Double Feature (1966)
The Cruise (1966)
Zuckerkandl (1968)
Windy Day (1968)
Of Men and Demons (1969)
Eggs (1970)
Dig (1972)
Voyage to Next (1974)
Upkeep (1974)
Cockaboody (1974)
Everybody Rides the Carousel (1975)
People, People, People (1976)
A Doonesbury Special (1977)
The Cosmic Eye (1986)
“O Canada” (1997) TV series (episode “The Cruise” [1966])

Producer:

Flat Hatting (1944) 
Brotherhood of Man (1945) 
Rooty Toot Toot (1951) 
The Family Circus (1951) 
Fuddy Duddy Buddy (1951)
Wonder Gloves (1951) 
Grizzly Golfer (1951) 
Sloppy Jalopy (1952) 
Willie the Kid (1952) 
Pink and Blue Blues (1952) 
Pete Hothead (1952) 
Madeline (1952) 
Spare the Child (1954) 
The Man on the Flying Trapeze (1954)
Fudget’s Budget (1954) 
The Adventures of an * (1957) 
The Tender Game (1958) 
Harlem Wednesday (1958) 
Moonbird (1959) 
Old Whiff (1960) 
The Hole (1962) 
Of Stars and Men (1964) 
The Hat (1964)
Urbanissimo (1966)
Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Double Feature (1966) 
The Cruise (1966) 
 Zuckerkandl (1968)
Windy Day (1968) 
 Of Men and Demons (1969) 
Eggs (1970) 
Dig (1972) 
Voyage to Next (1974) 
Upkeep (1974)
Cockaboody (1974) 
WOW Women of the World (1975) (associate producer)
Everybody Rides the Carousel (1975
People, People, People (1976)
A Doonesbury Special (1977
O Canada” (1997) TV series (episode: “The Cruise” [1966])
Writer:
Brotherhood of Man (1945) (writer)
Rooty Toot Toot (1951) (story)
Georgie and the Dragon (1951) (story)
The Adventures of an * (1957) (writer) 
Children of the Sun (1960) (writer)
The Hole (1962) (story)
Of Stars and Men (1964) (writer)
The Hat (1964) (writer)
Urbanissimo (1966) (writer)
Dig (1972) (writer)
Voyage to Next (1974) (writer)
Everybody Rides the Carousel (1975) (writer)
A Doonesbury Special (1977) (screenplay)
The Cosmic Eye (1986) (writer)
Art Director:
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) (uncredited)
Pinocchio (1940)
Fantasia (1940) (segment “The Rite of Spring”)
Dumbo (1941) (uncredited)
Bambi (1942)
Leben des Galilei (1947)

Miscellaneous Crew:

Giddyap (1950) (supervising director)
Bungled Bungalow (1950) (supervising director)
Gerald McBoing-Boing (1951) (supervising director)
M (1951) (production layout)
Of Stars and Men (1964) (rendering artist)
Sound Department:
1. Everybody Rides the Carousel (1975) (sound editor)

Art Department:
1. Eggs (1970) (graphic artist)

Editor:
1. Harlem Wednesday (1958)

Honors

1953 Nominated for Golden Lion for “The Four Poster” (1952)
1961 Nominated for Golden Palm for “Children of the Sun” (1960)
1967 Nominated for Golden Palm for Best Short Film, “Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Double Feature”
1978 Won Jury Prize for Best Short Film, “A Doonesbury Special” — Cannes Film Festival — nominated for Golden Palm for Best Short Film
1975 Annie Awards, Winsor McCay Award winner
1960 Won Oscar for Best Short Subject, Cartoons for “Moonbird”
1963 Won Oscar for Best Short Subject, Cartoons for “The Hole”
1967 Won Oscar for Best Short Subject, Cartoons for “Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Double Feature”
1969 Nominated for Oscar, Best Short Subject, Cartoons for “Windy Day”
1970 Nominated for Oscar, Best Short Subject, Cartoons for “Of Men and Demons”
1975 Nominated for Osccar, Best Short Animated Film for “Voyage to Next”
1978 Nominated for Oscar, Best Short Animated Film for “A Doonesbury Special”

Related Links

A-HAA: Early 50s UPA Model Sheets
A-HAA: Meta: Eight Great Blogs For Students Of Animation
A-HAA: Exhibit: Grim Natwick In The Modern Age
A-HAA: Cartooning: Byrnes’ Complete Guide To Cartooning Part Six

Bibliographic References

Mary Corliss – The Hubley Studio: A Home for Animation – 1997 
Noel Wolfgram Evans – 
Less is More: John Hubley’s Animation Revolution
PBS – 
Independent Spirits: John Hubley
Master of Animation: John Hubley

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Contributors To This Listing

Krystina Haggerty

To make additions or corrections to this listing, please click on COMMENTS below…

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