Biography: Albert Hurter

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Birth/Death

Birth: May 11, 1883,
Death: March 28, 1942

Occupation/Title

 Disney Storyboard and Visual Development artist.

Bio Summary

Swiss born, animator who began his professional animation career at Barre-Bower studios working on the Mutt & Jeff cartoon series. Eventually he left Barre-Bowers after clashes with his fellow employees. After a decade hiatus from animation he was hired as a story artist at Disney Studios where he laid the groundwork for the visual style Disney adapted for their Feature Films as well as their Shorts Film line, used for decades after Hurter’s death.

Early Life/Family

Albert Hurter Jr. was born in Zurich, Switzerland to Albert Sr. and Maria Hurter. The couple would eventually have two more boys, Hugo born in 1884, and Ernst in 1890. Albert Sr. was employed as a technical drawing teacher at the Berufsschule, a Zurich professional school. He influenced his three boys in an art education resulting in Hugo becoming a technical draftsman and Ernst an electrical engineer. However in 1903 Albert Jr. departed Zurich for formal art training in Berlin. At an early age Albert was diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease, a disease that would later treatable by conventional medicine, unfortunately such medicine did not exist during his youth and thus the damage to his heart was irreversible. His condition would eventually claim his life. After seven years of art training Albert Jr. returned home in 1910, two years later his father died at age 60 after which he departed for America where he perused his professional career. Albert Hurter never married and had no children.

Education/Training

Studied architecture in Zurich for three years then in 1903, at age nineteen, he traveled to Berlin for formal art training. Hurter moved to New York in 1912 where he was hired at Barre-Bower studios where he learned animation. In 1918 he abruptly departed the studio for California where he dabbled in design work until 1931 after which he was hired at Walt Disney Studios where he remained till his death.

Career Outline

Began his career working on the groundbreaking series Mutt & Jeff shorts produced by Charles Bowers. He remained with the Barre-Bowers studio until he abruptly left in 1918 over apparent “cultural classes” with his fellow employees. Hurter spent the 20’s scratching by on magazine, furniture and fashion designs. In 1931 Walt Disney Studios, hired Hurter under suggestion of Ted Sears, whom he knew from Barre-Bower. Though by this time Mutt & Jeff animation was no longer industry standard, Walt appointed Hurter to the three-man story department because of his extraordinary ability humanize objects. Hurter established the “Visual Look” of many of Disney’s feature films, some of which were never release during his lifetime, including “Peter Pan” and “Lady and the Tramp.” Hurter brought to the attention of his collages, the influences of many European artist, namely Heinrich Kley and established an artistic style that Disney adapted for many of their Feature Length films. Hurter continued to work a year up till his death. Seven years after his death in 1942 Ted Sears helped publish the book “He Drew As He Pleased – A Sketchbook by Albert Hurter,” which featured over 700 drawings accumulated over the years. In the forward of the book Walt paid tribute to Hurter as “a master creator of fantasy” who possessed “genuine ability as an artist.”

Comments On Style

Hurter had a unique ability of anthropomorphizing animals and inanimate objects. He drew his inspiration from the work of such European artist as Heinrich Kley, Herman Vogel, Gustave Doré, Franz Struck, Honoré Daumier and Wilhelm Busch.

Influences

Heinrich Kley, Herman Vogel, Gustave Doré, Franz Struck, Honoré Daumier and Wilhelm Busch

Personality

Anti-social and withdrawn.

Anecdotes

“When the layout men get the rough [sketch] well built, give it to Albert before the animator gets it. Then before it goes to Sam [Armstrong, head background painter], Albert gets it once more… Albert can make suggestions if they don’t destroy gags. He dresses them up. We take them back and shoot them for the animators. Before final coloring Albert gets them again. That keeps the key of the picture and the picture and the characters.” –David Hand
“A master creator of fantasy.” – Walt Disney.

Miscellaneous

Featured in books: “He Drew As He Pleased” – 1948 Simon & Schuster, “The Art of Walt Disney” – Christopher Finch, 1973 Abrams, “Before the Animation Begins” – John Canemaker, 1996 Hyperion

Filmography

Silly Symphonies (1931-1939) (storyboard artist, character designer, visual development)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) (character designer)
Pinocchio (1940) (character designer, visual development)
Dumbo (1941) (character designer, visual development)
The Reluctant Dragon (1941) (character designer, visual development)
Peter Pan (1953) (pre-production 1939) (character designer, visual development)
Lady and the Tramp (pre-production in 1937) (1955) (character designer)

Honors

Related Links

Bibliographic References

BIO-AAA-453

Contributors To This Listing

John Perez

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