Biography: Ed Benedict

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Birth/Death

Birth: 23 August 1912 Ohio
Death:
28 August 2006 Auburn, California

Occupation/Title

Artist, designer, animator, and layout artist

Bio Summary

Ed Benedict was born in Ohio in 1912. Known as one of the “greats” of animation’s Golden Age, he began at Disney in 1930 and continued his career working at Universal on Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and MGM under Tex Avery. He is best known as the primary designer of such Hanna-Barbera stars as Yogi Bear and the Flintstones. Benedict moved to Carmel, California in the 1960’s and continued freelancing until retirement. He died in his sleep at 94 in his Auburn, California home. He was predeceased by his wife Alice, and survived by his children and grandchildren. He requested that his ashes be scattered over California‘s Carmel Bay, where his wife’s ashes were also scattered.

Early Life/Family

Brother Bill
Sister Miriam
Wife- Alice

Children:
– Son, Donald
– Son, Allan

Grandchildren
– Derek and Peter (Donald’s children)

Education/Training

A highly respected and greatly admired animator, Benedict’s skills were honed throughout his impressive professional career.

Career Outline

Benedict began his career in animation at Disney in 1930, working on such early films as THE CHINA PLATE and BLUE RHYTHYM (both 1931), starring Mickey and Minnie Mouse. He moved to Universal in 1933 to work on Walter Lantz’s OSWALD THE LUCKY RABBIT shorts. He spent much of the 1930’s at Universal, aside from a brief stint with Mintz and an attempt to open his own studio (Benedict-Brewer, with Jerry Brewer). The studio collapsed because studio-owned theatres would not show their independently produced work. In the early 1940s Benedict returned to Disney and worked on several industrial/educational films (DAWN OF BETTER LIVING, etc.), and also received his first and only Disney credit as a layout artist (the Willie the Whale segment) on MAKE MINE MUSIC. Mid-1940s, he became involved with TV commercial animation at Paul Fennell’s Cartoon films, where he honed his modernized approach to drawing.

In 1952, Benedict was recruited by his former Universal colleague Tex Avery to become Avery’s lead layout artist and designer at MGM. Ed designed a number of Avery’s classic shorts including DIXIELAND DROOPY, FIELD AND SCREAM, THE FIRST BAD MAN, DEPUTY DROOPY and CELLBOUND. After Avery’s departure from MGM, Benedict continued working at the studio on the Mike Lah-directed Droopy shorts, while also freelancing for Avery on TV commercials at Cascade. While at MGM, Ed’s work caught the eyes of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. Hanna asked Benedict to design a dog and a cat for a TV project, which turned out to be the first Hanna-Barbera TV success: THE RUFF AND REDDY SHOW. During the late-1950s and early-1960s, Benedict became the primary designer for Hanna-Barbera and he designed most of the studio’s early stars including Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, The Flintstones, Snagglepuss and countless others. He not only created memorable characters, but also placed them in memorable settings, breaking TV taboos. In the Flintstones, Fred and Wilma were the first animated couple to be shown sleeping in the same bed. It would not be an exaggeration to say that a large part of H-B’s success in TV animation is owed to Benedict’s incredibly appealing and fun character designs. Ed moved to Carmel, California in the 1960s and continued freelancing for various studios during the 1960s and ’70s before retiring. (Cartoon Brew)

Comments On Style

His style was to draw heavily outlined figures, with unusual asymmetry and flat geometric shapes. The simplicity of his characters enabled Hanna Barbera to make cartoons for television at less than half the budget previously allocated for such films in the cinema. – Matthew Bannister (“last word”, BBC)

Ed Benedict’s distinctive style, most noticeable in his Hanna-Barbera creations, was striking with its charm and warmth. His creations were very stylized, with their heavy lines and stubby limbs. Though they were drawn in a flat manner, they were not bland, and exuded strong personalities that led to great popularity with the public.

Influences

Russell Patterson and Roy Nelson

Personality

Known for being passionate when it came to discussing art, design, and animation. Has an exterior that has been described as “indifferent” (Cartoon Brew), curmudgeonly, and crusty (John Kricfalusi), but a depth of character that reveals itself in his soft heart, warm creations, and lively opinions.

Anecdotes

In interviews, Benedict would berate fans for loving shows he helped create. He told Animation Blast: “I never really looked at a lot of them. I suppose when they first came out I looked at a few, and pretty soon they didn’t interest me. I wasn’t seeing any of my work. It was somebody else’s poor drawing of what I tried to do with the original model and they were just embarrassing. Somebody would say ‘Oh, I just love that stuff,’ for Christ’s sake! There’s an assumption that that’s my stuff they’re complimenting – but it isn’t my work.”

He made it very clear that he disliked the Hanna Barbera TV cartoons, the work that he was most known for, and that he didn’t care particularly that people liked his work so much.

I first met him in the mid 80’s when Lynne Naylor, Bob Jaques and I went on a trek to northern California to meet him. He was a super curmudgeon who couldn’t believe anyone even knew who he was, let alone loved his cartoons. We brought up tapes of his work for Tex Avery, his Hanna Barbera cartoons and he was completely disgusted by them! But then he demanded copies of them all so he could write me letters telling me everything that was wrong with them.

I showed him a bunch of Clampett cartoons and he was amazed at how wild and inventive they were. “Damn ugly though!”

Over the last couple decades I kept visiting him and rifling all his files of fantastic cartoon drawings he did for cartoons, commercials and comic strips. He also would show me lots of photos he took of the MGM studios in the 1950s. He would point to an animator and tell me all about him. “See that guy with the suave mustache? That’s Ken Muse, a nice guy, a real slick operator. Couldn’t draw worth a crap! Hanna loved him cause he could really ‘pump out the footage’! But a good guy to go bowling with, one of the guys.” – John Kricfalusi

Miscellaneous

Curmudgeonly he may have been, but he was liked by the fans and his influence was recognized by many, notably John Kricfalusi, the creator of Ren & Stimpy, who has described Benedict as “an unsung hero of animation. He was one of our greatest designers.”

Filmography

The Dizzy Dwarf (1934) (animator)
Amateur Broadcast (1935) (animator)
Quail Hunt (1935) (animator)
Battle Royal (1936) (animator)
Unpopular Mechanic (1936) (animator)
The Golfers (1937) (animator)
Steel Workers (1937) (animator)
Fireman’s Picnic (1937) (animator)
The Mechanical Handy Man (1937) (animator)
The Dumb Cluck (1937) (animator)
Birth of a Toothpick (1939) (animator)
Make Mine Music (1946) (layout artist- Willie the Whale)
The First Bad Man (1955) (layout artist) (uncredited)
Deputy Droopy (1955) (layout artist)
Cellbound (1955) (layout artist)?Grin and Share It (1957) (layout artist)
Mucho Mouse (1957) (layout artist)
Blackboard Jumble (1957) (layout artist)
One Droopy Knight (1957) (layout artist)
Sheep Wrecked (1958) (layout artist)
Mutts About Racing (1958) (layout artist)
Droopy Leprechaun (1958) (layout artist)
“The Huckleberry Hound Show” (1958) TV Series (layout artist)
“Quick Draw McGraw” (1959) TV Series (layout artist)
“The Flintstones” (1960) TV Series (character designer)
“Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines” (1969) TV Series (layout artist)?”Hong Kong Phooey” (1974) TV Series (layout artist)
Boo Boo Runs Wild (1999) (TV) (dedicatee) (layout artist)

Honors

Annie Award: Winsor McCay Award 1994

Related Links

Bibliographic References

http://film.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/0,,1921348,00.html Obituary
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0070768/ Ed Benedict on IMDB
http://johnkstuff.blogspot.com/2006/08/ed-benedict-1912-2006.html
John Kricfalusi’s Blog
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/news/lastword_22sept2006.shtml
Matthew Bannister, “Last word”, BBC
http://www.cartoonbrew.com/archives/2006_08.html Cartoon Brew

Contributors To This Listing

Carrie Liao

Shecky Grey
benj

John Kricfalusi
Brother Rabbit of www.ralphbakshi.com
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