Archive for the ‘biography’ Category

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Interview: Bob Givens- Grand Old Man Of Animation

Bob Givens

In November of 2008, Will Finn, Mike Fontanelli, JoJo Baptista, Michael Woodside and I were treated to nearly three hours of fabulous stories from Bob Givens relating to his half century in the animation business. I’ve included the whole interview as two Quicktime movies…

Bob Givens

You’ll notice that the kinds of stories that Bob relates here are quite different from what you might have read. When I first met Bob, I asked him if he had read any of the books written on the subject of animation history. He was blunt. “A lot of it is bologna. Those books are written by people who weren’t there… people who have never set foot in an animation studio.” This is a sentiment that I’ve heard expressed by a lot of the "old timers" I’ve had the privilege of being able to speak to. But Bob may be the last one left. We’re all lucky to have this opportunity to virtually sit at the feet of a "golden age" animator and hear about his experiences in his own words.

Bob Givens

Bob began his career as an Assistant Animator at Disney. His raw talent led him to be assigned to assist the Grim Natwick unit on Snow White. Please correct me in the comments if I’m wrong, but I believe that Bob is the last surviving member of the Snow White crew.

Private Snafu

During WWII, Bob was a part of the First Motion Picture Unit producing training films for the war effort.

Bob Givens

At Warner Bros, Bob designed the character models for the first true Bugs Bunny cartoon, "A Wild Hare", as well as providing background layouts and story sketches for countless Jones, Freleng, Avery and McKimson cartoons.

Linus the Lionhearted

Givens’ career continued to flourish throughout the television era. He worked on the first TV cartoon, Jay Ward’s Crusader Rabbit, as well as Clampett’s Beany & Cecil, Post Cereal’s Linus the Lionhearted and Hanna Barbera’s The Flintstones. Along with Bernie Gruver, Givens designed the classic "Raid Bug" spots for Cascade, and continued to work steadily into his 80s, retiring in 2001 after laying out Chuck Jones’ Timber Wolf.

Bob Givens

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David Swift at IMDB
History of the First Motion Picture Unit

Many thanks to Bob Givens for sharing his experiences with us, to Mike Fontanelli and Will Finn for taking time out of their busy schedules to speak with Bob, and to Michael Woodside and JoJo Baptista for producing this video.

Will Finn posts his impressions of the interview on his blog, Small Room.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Animated CartoonsAnimated Cartoons

This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Animation.

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Exhibit: Grim Natwick- The Greatest Animator Who Ever Lived

Grim Natwick

Grim Natwick with his "kid assistant",
Chuck Jones (Iwerks/1933)

PART FOUR: GRIM’S STUDIO GAG DRAWINGS AND CARICATURES

Like most animators, Grim Natwick had a unique sense of humor. He was famous for his limericks, scribbled in on the margins of his animation drawings. Here are a couple of doozies by Grim…

CaricatureCaricatureI’ve broken my friendship with Babbitt
Because of his slovenly habit
Of eating out loud
And I’ve never been proud
Of his nibbling bones like a rabbit!

"It’s true!" said the painter to the prude
"I sketch all my ladies in the nude
A dress is OK
For a window display
But on my girls, it wouldn’t improve."

A nail sitting Hindoo said "I
Have perched here and gazed at the sky
Till I’ve punctured my hide
Fillagreed my back side
I’m damned if I’ve ever known why!"

Grim Natwick

Grim prized his studio gag drawings above all the others in his collection. He described how they came to be for me one day…

Grim Self CaricatureGrim Self Caricature"At Lantz, we all worked very hard. But occasionally, we would need to take a break and have fun. One of us would draw a quick caricature of one of the other animators, or do a cartoon on a funny situation that had taken place. He’d tiptoe out into the hallway and pin it up on the board and sneak back to his desk. Pretty soon, someone else would come along and see the drawing and run back to his desk to answer the gag, pinning up their sketch on the board alongside the other one. By the end of the day, the board would be covered with funny drawings. We’d pull them all down and start all over again the next day."

Lu Guarnier
Grim’s most treasured folder of drawings was the gag
sketches involving Lu Guarnier’s window at UPA New York.

THE ANIMATOR & HIS ASSISTANT
A Series Of Studio Gag Drawings From UPA NY (ca. 1955)

As an "animation historian", I’ve never been as interested in the dates and figures related to animation as much as the process- and how it felt to be a part of a golden age studio. These sketches give a clear indication of that, better than words could ever tell…

Animator and Assistant UPA NY
Animator and Assistant UPA NYAnimator and Assistant UPA NY
Animator and Assistant UPA NYAnimator and Assistant UPA NY
Animator and Assistant UPA NYAnimator and Assistant UPA NY
Animator and Assistant UPA NYAnimator and Assistant UPA NY
Animator and Assistant UPA NYAnimator and Assistant UPA NY
Animator and Assistant UPA NYAnimator and Assistant UPA NY
Animator and Assistant UPA NYAnimator and Assistant UPA NY
Animator and Assistant UPA NYAnimator and Assistant UPA NY

CONCLUSION

CaricatureCaricatureWell… It says "conclusion" up there, so I better get to telling you why Grim Natwick was the greatest animator who ever lived. I don’t know how many readers of this blog have had a chance to digest all of my articles from this week. It certainly has been very difficult to summarize a career as long and varied as Grim Natwick’s. I had always intended to write a book on Grim, but the weblog may actually be the best format for telling his story.

Books on animation history are usually organized by studio. If you read Leonard Maltin’s great book, Of Mice & Magic, Grim Natwick’s name is sprinkled throughout six chapters. That might give you the idea that Grim was a marginal figure who moved around a lot. But when you read his life story chronologically- not inserted into six separate chapters- you realize that Grim’s life story IS the story of the history of animation. The history of animation isn’t the story of studios and characters- it’s the story of the artists whose talents created the magic up there on the screen.

Grim Natwick was the greatest animator who ever lived. But I still haven’t told you why yet!

CaricatureCaricatureGrim loved to tell long, convoluted stories that would inevitably ramble back around to his point. Here’s a story like that…

Antran Manoogian, president of ASIFA-Hollywood heard that Grim was in town and was celebrating a birthday, so he threw a party for him. As he was blowing out the candles, Grim announced that he was pleased to spend his 100th birthday in such fine company. Everyone in the room gasped. No one had any idea that it was Grim’s 100th birthday. The room burst into applause. Antran drove Grim home after the party. In the car, Grim was uncharacteristically quiet and sheepish. He finally said, "Young man, I have a confession to make… I told everyone that I was 100, but I’m only 97." Antran laughed and promised Grim that ASIFA would throw him an even better party in three years- the best birthday party ever.

Antran kept that promise. when Grim turned 100, ASIFA threw a huge celebration at the Sportsman’s Lodge in Studio City. Hundreds of people attended, including co-workers from every studio Grim ever worked with. Grim described it as "the most illustrious gathering of animators since Winsor McCay’s testimonial dinner in the late 1920s". At the end of the evening an announcement was made for all of Grim’s former coworkers and assistants to gather on the stage for a photo. Animator, Michael Sporn recently posted this photo…

Grim Natwick's Birthday Party
Grim Natwick's Birthday Party

Grim By ChuckGrim By ChuckThree of Grim’s former assistants were chosen to address the audience that evening… Walter Lantz (Hearst), Chuck Jones (Iwerks) and Marc Davis (Disney). All three spoke of Grim’s generosity and friendship. They credited Grim with teaching them their trade and inspiring them to become better artists. Those three men weren’t alone in that. Dozens of other great animators… Bill Littlejohn, Irv Spence, Willard Bowsky, Berny Wolf, Tissa David, Shamus Culhane- too many to mention- all traced their own accomplishments back to Grim’s example when they were just starting out. Grim’s "kid assistants" went on to form the artistic core of every major animation studio in the United States.

Grim is the greatest animator who ever lived, not just for his own accomplishments, but for what he shared with the people he worked with. Animation was never just a job to him. It was his passion. He instilled that passion in his assistants, and those assistants went out into the world and became great themselves. Grim Natwick was the catalyst who made the entire history of animation possible. That’s why he is the greatest animator who ever lived.


EXHIBIT CATALOG: GRIM NATWICK’S CARICATURES & GAG DRAWINGS

Grim Natwick
Top Row: Caricatures of Grim (left to right) Self caricature* (ca.1926/Hearst) / Self caricature with assistant, Chuck Jones* (1933/Iwerks) / Caricature of Grim on studio outing to Catalina by Chuck Jones (1933/Iwerks) / Caricature of Grim in his fancy suit (ca. 1942/Lantz) / Caricature of Grim at his "studies in Vienna" possibly by Art Heinemann (UPA ca.1955)

Middle Row: (left to right) Two sketches depicting the love/hate relationship between Emery Hawkins and Grim Natwick* (ca. 1944/Lantz) / Bill Nolan at the Krazy Kat Studio* (ca. 1926) / Studio gag drawing (ca. 1959/Robert Lawrence) / Studio gag drawing* (ca. 1936/Disney)

Bottom Row: Tony Sgroi and "Bugs" Hardaway (ca. 1947/Lantz) / Manny Gould* & Sammy Stimpson* (ca. 1926/Krazy Kat Studio) / Bill Nolan with a cold* (ca. 1919/Hearst) / top: Dick Lundy* (ca. 1936/Disney) bottom: Freddie Moore* (ca. 1936/Disney) / Studio gag drawings* (ca. 1929/Fleischer) / Caricatures of Jack Carr* (ca.1923/Krazy Kat Studio)

* denotes a drawing by Grim Natwick


Grim Natwick Exhibit
Assistant Archivist, Joseph Baptista views the exhibit.

GRIM NATWICK’S SCRAPBOOK

This travelling exhibit has appeared at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive in Burbank, CA and at the South Wood Historical Society Museum in Wisconsin Rapids, WI, birthplace of Grim Natwick.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

TheoryGrim Natwick

This posting is part of an online exhibit entitled Grim Natwick’s Scrapbook.

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

Exhibit: UPA New York- Lu Guarnier’s Window

LU GUARNIER 1914-2007

Lu Guarnier

Michael Sporn reported in his blog that animator, Lu Guarnier passed away on December 29th, 2007. (Read his post here.) He writes…

Tissa David told me that the UPA studio was one long space that was divided into cubicles. She called them “stalls” like horses would occupy at a racetrack. Grim Natwick, Tissa and Jack Schnerk shared the end corner cubicle. The only one who had his own space and the only one to have a window was Lu Guarnier.

Here are the studio gag drawings relating to Lu’s window…

Lu Guarnier
Lu Guarnier
Lu Guarnier
Lu Guarnier
Lu Guarnier
Lu Guarnier
Lu Guarnier
Lu Guarnier
Lu Guarnier
Lu Guarnier
Lu Guarnier
Lu Guarnier
Lu Guarnier
Lu Guarnier
Lu Guarnier

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

TheoryGrim Natwick

This posting is part of an online exhibit entitled Grim Natwick’s Scrapbook.
Animated CartoonsAnimated Cartoons

This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Animation.