Archive for the ‘exhibit’ Category

Monday, May 9th, 2016

Exhibit: Three Interesting Documents

1931 Disney Letterhead

GRIM NATWICK JOB OFFER FROM ROY DISNEY

Ub IwerksUb IwerksIn 1930, Ub Iwerks unexpectedly quit Disney to form his own studio with Pat Powers. This left Disney in a very tough position. He had contracts to fill for cartoon shorts without a lead man to supervise. Disney hired Ted Sears away from Fleischer, and encouraged him to recruit other top animation talent in New York to fill the void left by Iwerks’ departure. Sears’ top prospect was his coworker at Fleischer, Grim Natwick.

Grim was comfortable in New York, and hadn’t considered moving West, but Sears told him that Disney was doing great work and there was money to be made. When Sears relocated to Hollywood, Natwick sent word with him that he was willing to talk with Disney about making the move. Roy Disney wasted no time in making the trip to New York to try to get Grim to commit. Grim invited him over to his apartment, and they spent the afternoon relaxing, eating and listening to a ball game on the radio- doing just about everything but talk business.

When time came for Roy to leave, he asked Grim what it would take to get him to join Disney. Grim really didn’t want to move, but he thought Roy was a nice guy, and he didn’t want to hurt his feelings. So he told him that he would go to Hollywood for $400 a week. (At that time, he was making $50 a week at Fleischer!) Roy told him that he would have to discuss it with Walt, and he would get back to him. Grim figured that he wouldn’t hear back, but a couple of weeks later, this letter arrived in the mail…

Grim Natwick Letter

Grim Natwick Letter

Grim was always the sort of person who welcomed new opportunities, and the prospect of making nearly three times what he was being paid by Fleischer was enough to make him willing to go West. He called a few of his friends who had already made the trip to Hollywood and asked them if the Disney brothers were on the level. His friends told him about Iwerks’ unfriendly departure from the studio, and they explained that Walt and Roy were just businessmen- that Iwerks had been the real creative spark behind Mickey Mouse. Some of Grim’s coworkers at Fleischer had already joined Iwerks at his studio in West Los Angeles, so Grim had them offer his regards to Ub. Within a few weeks, Grim was packed up in his car driving West to work for Iwerks for $75 a week!

Grim NatwickGrim NatwickIn his later years, Grim would laugh about being crazy enough to pass up $200 a week in the height of the depression. It’s likely that no one at the Disney Studio without the Disney surname was making that much at the time. Grim made a good choice though. When he arrived, Iwerks handed over the day to day supervision of the films to him, and he directed some wonderful Flip the Frog, Willie Whopper and Comicolor cartoons along with many of the same kid animators he had supervised at Fleischer. When Grim heard that Disney was starting work on a cartoon feature in 1934, he couldn’t hold off any longer. He joined the Disneys and did the lion’s share of the animation of the title character in Snow White.

For more on this subject, see… Grim Natwick’s Scrapbook

LETTER FROM CHARLES MINTZ TO VIRGINIA DAVIS

Virginia DavisVirginia DavisVirginia Davis played the live action Alice in Disney’s Alice Comedies, beginning with the first film, "Alice’s Wonderland" in 1923. Her family relocated to Hollywood from Kansas City to follow Disney, and in 1925, her mother decided the time had come to demand more money for her services. There was no lack of child actresses in Hollywood at the time, so Walt and Roy promptly called the bluff and replaced her. Virginia’s mother went to the department store and bought dolls of every major cartoon star of the day, and photographed Virginia holding them. She sent the photos to the producers of the cartoons, along with a letter subtly suggesting that “Disney’s Alice likes your cartoons!” It didn’t result in any jobs for the young actress, but it did produce one very interesting letter in response…

This letter is from Charles Mintz– the man who, along with his wife Margaret Winkler, engineered the takeover of the Disney Studio in 1928. Yes, this letter is proof that Disney’s “Alice” offered to work for the man who stole Disney’s “Oswald”!

Charles Mintz Letter

DICK HUEMER’S 1945 DISNEY CONTRACT

Dick HuemerDick HuemerI stumbled across a pair of contracts between Dick Huemer and the Disney Studios. The first was dated 1936, and the one I’m posting here is from 1945. The two documents are identical, with one small exception… the insertion of the clause, “…subject further to any subsisting and current agreements entered into with recognized labor unions having jurisdiction over the Employee”. This simple phrase was brought about by a battle that almost tore the studio apart. The fascinating story of the Disney strike is told in Tom Sito’s new book Drawing The Line. I hope that Tom or Steve Huelett will remark further on this document in the comments below and in The Animation Guild Blog.

Dick Huemer Contract

Dick Huemer Contract

Dick Huemer Contract

Dick Huemer Contract

Dick Huemer Contract

For more information on Dick Huemer’s amazing career, see… Dick Huemer’s Family’s Site.

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.

Friday, May 6th, 2016

Exhibit: Grim Natwick- Golden Age Animator

PART TWO: GRIM NATWICK IN ANIMATION’S GOLDEN AGE

Grim Natwick

In California, Walt Disney had seen some of Grim Natwick’s animation of Betty Boop in "The Bum Bandit" and sent his brother Roy to New York to convince him to join them in Hollywood. Ub Iwerks had just left Disney to form his own studio, and an experienced animator was sorely needed to take his place. Roy Disney made Grim a remarkably generous offer, but Grim wasn’t sold on going to work for the Disney brothers. He spoke to his friend Ted Sears on the West coast and was advised that Walt Disney was just a businessman- Iwerks had been the real creative core of the studio. So Grim decided that Iwerks’ new studio was the place for him.

Click to Read Disney's Offer
Click to read Disney’s offer to Grim.

Click to hear an audio interview with Grim about IwerksClick to hear an audio interview with Grim about IwerksSeveral of Grim’s former assistants and co-workers from Hearst and Fleischer were already working for Iwerks. Grim phoned Ub and offered his services, agreeing to work for less than half what Roy Disney had offered him. When Grim arrived at Iwerks, he was so accustomed to leading the crew of young animators, he hit the ground running. Ub had lost interest in animation at this point, and willingly handed over the day to day direction of the cartoons to Grim, while he focused on tinkering in his workshop behind the studio.

At Iwerks, Grim got the opportunity to direct, making a clear mark on films like "Jack Frost", "Room Runners", "Stratos Fear" and "Aladdin’s Lamp". But he always loved a challenge. When Grim heard that Disney was planning a feature length cartoon based on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, he knew he had to be a part of it. Ub offered him a full partnership in the studio to entice him to stay on, but money wasn’t Grim’s primary concern. Animation was. Grim reluctantly said goodbye to his friends at Iwerks and joined the Disney studios.

Natwick At Iwerks

Snow White Concept Drawing By NatwickSnow White Concept Drawing By NatwickGrim’s first animation for Disney was the female lead in "Cookie Carnival". He received great praise from Walt for his work, and was assigned the female lead in the upcoming feature, Snow White to animate. Grim was given some of the studio’s top assistants to work with- most importantly, Marc Davis, Les Novros and Jack Campbell. By the end of the picture, he had animated over 120 scenes, with six assistants working under him, producing as much as 35 feet of finished animation a week! (The average animator’s footage was about 7 feet a week.)

Grim’s tenure at Disney was not without turmoil, however. Ham Luske had been promised the character of Snow White before Grim arrived at the studio, and he considered Grim’s assignment to be an incursion on his territory. Although Luske had the directing animator credit on the film, he had little direct interaction with Natwick’s unit. There was considerable tension on the lot between Walt’s boys- the animators who had been with Disney for years- and the East coast animators who had been hired for the feature. Grim paid no mind to it, focusing on his work, but the bad feelings would eventually boil over.

Snow White Concept Drawing By NatwickSnow White Concept Drawing By NatwickGrim’s assistant, Jack Campbell showed promise and wanted to animate, so he was allowed to move to Luske’s unit as an animator. There are three Snow Whites in the finished picture… Luske’s, Campbell’s and Natwick’s. Luske’s girl is doll-like and close in style to the female leads in the Silly Symphony series (the scene with the bluebird in the forest is a good example), Campbell’s girl showed a strong influence of rotoscope (the scene at the wishing well). Natwick’s Snow White is the most lifelike and alive (the sequences where she investigates the Dwarf’s cottage, the house cleaning scenes, the dancing scenes and the "Someday My Prince Will Come" sequence).

Natwick At Disney

While Grim was putting in many hours of unpaid overtime, Dave Hand, the director, had promised a him bonus if the picture was a hit. But when the bonus checks went around, Grim was passed over, despite the fact that he was one of the key animators on the film. He contested the oversight with the paymaster and requested a copy of the draft to make a list of the scenes he had animated. He was disgusted to find that Luske’s name had been substituted for his own on scenes Grim himself had animated. When Max Fleischer called to invite Grim to join him at his new studio in Florida, Grim left Disney without a second thought. The paymaster had arranged for a token bonus, but Grim didn’t even bother to pick it up.

Natwick At Disney

Looking back on the situation many decades later, Grim felt that perhaps he should have swallowed his pride and stayed on with Disney to work on Fantasia and Pinocchio. Gulliver’s Travels wasn’t Natwick’s best work. He didn’t have the support of talented assitants like Marc Davis, and the application of the rotoscope was much more limiting than it had been at Disney. But after the political struggles at Disney, the Fleischer Studio felt like home, and Grim enjoyed the company of his co-workers.

Grim Natwick

Grim Natwick Concept Drawing
For "Flies Ain’t Human" (1941)

One afternoon, Max Fleischer visited Grim in his office and asked him to animate a sequence of Betty Boop for "old time’s sake". He explained that Betty had been a great asset to the studio, but the series had run its course, and this was to be the final Betty Boop cartoon. (The cartoon in question was most likely "Musical Mountaineers".) Max expressed his appreciation and offered to make a gift of the character to Grim upon the completion of the film. Not knowing anything about the legalities of transferring ownership of a property, Grim did nothing about it. But years later, he read in the trades that the rights to Betty Boop had been sold by the Fleischers to King Features Syndicate for a great deal of money. Grim sued, but he had nothing in writing and lost the case. Although some writers have tried to belittle Grim’s contribution to the creation of Betty Boop, saying that his part was minimal, history bears out the fact that the character was 100% the creation of Grim Natwick.

Grim Natwick At Lantz

Grim Natwick At LantzGrim Natwick At LantzWorld War II made it difficult to find work as an animator, but Grim’s old friend Walter Lantz was producing animated training films for the War Department. Grim returned to Hollywood to work for Lantz, where he had the opportunity to reunite with longtime friends like Shamus Culhane and Dick Lundy. In fact, Grim picked up his lunchtime game of horseshoes with storyman "Bugs" Hardaway right where they had left it when he left Iwerks ten years earlier! Lantz’s friendly, family atmosphere appealed to Grim, but he didn’t become complacent. He reinvented his style to suit the brash, slapstick style of animation at the time, and succeeded in creating some of the finest animation ever produced at Lantz.

Grim Natwick At Lantz

Lantz Animators in 1944 (Back Row: Paul Smith, Grim Natwick, Sidney Pillet, Bernard Garbutt Front Row:Les Kline, Shamus Culhane, Pat Matthews, Dick Lundy, Emery Hawkins)

Grim’s earliest work at the studio included "Take Heed Mr. Tojo" starring Hook, and "Enemy Bacteria", one of the most successful Wartime training films. His great animation for Dick Lundy and Shamus Culhane stood out in films like "Who’s Cookin’ Who", "Bathing Buddies", "Ski For Two" and "Solid Ivory". In his autobiography, Walter Lantz cited Natwick as the best animator he ever had the pleasure of working with.

Grim Natwick At Lantz


EXHIBIT CATALOG: GRIM NATWICK GOLDEN AGE ANIMATOR

Grim Natwick
Top Row: (left to right) Girl doodles* (ca. 1936) / Snow White Animation Rough* / Left: Character designs from "Funny Face"* (1933) Right: Animation drawing from "Stormy Seas"* (1932) / Studio gag drawing from Iwerks / Tracings from Natwick Animation of Wally Walrus from "The Beach Nut" (1944)

Middle Row: (left to right) Girl doodle (ca. 1936) / Girl doodle (ca.1940) / Studio gag drawing depicting Ub Iwerks as a boy playing hookey from school* / Studio gag drawing for Art Turkisher* / Character designs from "Enemy Bacteria"*

Bottom Row: Character design for Miss X from "Abou Ben Boogie"* (1944) / Caricature of Lantz Ink & Paint girl / Character designs (ca. 1940) / Character design for "Sliphorn King of Polaroo" (1945) / Animation drawing from "Abou Ben Boogie"* (1944) / Animation drawing from "Who’s Cookin’ Who?"* (1946)

* denotes a drawing by Grim Natwick

Next Chapter: GRIM NATWICK IN THE MODERN AGE (UPA and beyond)


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.

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Exhibit: Grim Natwick On Animation Design

Les Clark Hands

Mickey Mouse Hand Model Sheet by Les Clark ca. 1932

Grim Natwick was a remarkable artist. His career as an animator spanned the entire history of animation, from silent Mutt & Jeff cartoons all the way through Richard Williams’ The Thief and the Cobbler. I don’t know of anyone more qualified to answer the age-old question…

Who invented the three fingered hand?

Grim studied art in Vienna under Gustav Klimt soon after the end of World War I. Included with this article are scans of Grim’s anatomy studies from a little after his studies there. Some of you may see a similarity with Bridgeman’s wonderful books on constructive anatomy. Grim was in New York when Bridgeman was teaching there, so it’s entirely possible that these drawings were done studying under Bridgeman himself.

Natwick Anatomy Studies

DESIGN FOR ANIMATION
By Grim Natwick

Who invented the three-fingered hand? Someone way back in the dark ages of animation got tired of drawing hands with four fingers and simply left one off, and cartoon hands have been much easier to animate ever since. It was a stroke of genius. The four fingered hand disappeared from animation until "Snow White" (1937). Somehow a pretty girl didn’t look right with only three fingers. But the Seven Dwarfs still had three fingered hands.

Natwick Anatomy Studies

Characters and drawing styles changed as animation became a popular form of entertainment. Straight lines were changed to curved lines- square shapes became round shapes. Curved figures moved better on the screen and eliminated what we used to call "strobe".

Natwick Anatomy Studies

Mickey Mouse was a good example of a character designed to eliminate the early problems of animation. His head was a ball with a rounded lump for a nose, a few circles for eyes, and two frisbees for ears. His body was shaped like a pear or gourd. Four pieces of garden hose were used for arms and legs. His hands were just two bunches of peeled bananas. Four old-fashioned donuts served as cuffs and anklets. He had a hair snake for a tail, and his shoes were two boxing gloves with the thumbs cut off. He animated perfectly. Mickey has changed through the years, but the formula is still the same.

Natwick Anatomy Studies

By 1930, special artists were assigned the job of designing characters for animation. Cartoon stories had become more sophisticated and so had the viewing audience. The characters became individuals- stars- a part of Hollywood. A whole galaxy of heros and heroines have become famous in distant corners of the globe. At a recent animation festival in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, several Chinese animators appeared wearing Betty Boop buttons. Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny, Woody Woodpecker and the Flintstones are as well known in Paris, London and even Gnosjo, Sweden, as they are in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. They have become world classics, and good design and good drawing have made them so.

Natwick Anatomy Studies

The great animators were almost always good draughtsmen. Milt Kahl, Marc Davis, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, John Lounsbery, Ward Kimball– These men drew exceptionally well. Among the animators who preceded them, those who could stay in the saddle when the wind was blowing were talents like Dick Huemer, Bill Tytla and the enigmatic Art Babbitt. Babbitt always said that he hated to draw, yet he animated the "most beautiful of all Queens" in Disney’s "Snow White". He drew the complicated Mushroom Dance in Fantasia, an animation masterpiece that required the mind of a ballet dancer and the patience of a Saint, which Babbitt is not. One could name a host of beautifully drawn characters that Art Babbitt "hated to draw".

Natwick Anatomy Studies

How vital a part does drawing play in animation? Is it more important than a dramatic sense, a delicate feeling for humor, spacing and timing?

While an animator may borrow craftsmanship from an actor, he is faced every day with playing a new role, acting out a new scene, breathing life into a new character. His tools are ordinary sheets of paper, and an ordinary lead pencil. If his drawings lack magic, a scene will be a failure.

Natwick Anatomy Studies

Can one compare animation with the more dignified art of easel painting? Is a Ward Kimball any less talented than Seurat? Or is Bill Tytla less gifted than Raol Dufy? If we transpose the question to a more familiar area of the culinary arts- the Art of Cookery- one could say that one chef prepares a meal of barbecued spare ribs with Spanish sauce and chilled beer; while the other serves wild pheasant under glass with Rhone River wine and truffles. Either meal could taste best at a chosen time and a chosen place.

Natwick Anatomy Studies

If Claude Monet had tried to draw a Mickey Mouse, the result would probably have been a real gnocchi- a dodo! On the other hand, if you had asked a Les Clark or a Freddie Moore to paint purple haystacks or pointillistic water-lillies, the result might have been equally disappointing. They are two different art forms.

Natwick Anatomy Studies

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

TheoryTheory

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.