Archive for the ‘grim natwick’ Category

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Exhibit: Grim Natwick In The Modern Age

PART THREE: GRIM NATWICK AND MODERN ANIMATION

Grim Natwick

Studio gag drawing from UPA depicting an animator being laid off, replaced by children cutting out paper dolls.

It’s important to keep in mind Grim Natwick’s age when you look over his career. When he animated Snow White, he was one of the oldest artists at the Disney studio- 49 years of age. When his former assistant from Iwerks, Stephen Bosustow convinced him to join UPA in 1950, he was sixty. Most animators of his generation were thinking of retirement, or coasting on their past accomplishments until their pensions came through… but not Grim. He dove into the stylistic revolution of UPA with both feet. Grim animated on the early Magoo cartoons, as well as one-shots like "Rooty Toot Toot" and "Gerald McBoing Boing". In the early 50s, he was sent to New York as the keystone animator for UPA’s East coast office, where he animated many commercials and industrial films for the company, along with his assistant Tissa David.

Click to see Grim's  UPA model sheets

When UPA NY shut its doors, Grim worked at various New York commercial studios like Ray Favata and Robert Lawrence Productions. He animated on the first television cartoon series, Crusader Rabbit, and later took in work from Jay Ward and Bill Scott on the George of the Jungle program. He freelanced for Melendez and Duane Crowther’s Duck Soup Producktions, eventually settling in with director, Richard Williams. He animated on Raggedy Ann & Andy and travelled to the UK to teach while working on Cobbler & the Thief. He continued to draw into his early 90s, until his failing eyesight made it difficult.

Click to see Grim's post UPA commercialsClick to see Grim's post UPA commercialsOne afternoon, as I sat with Grim on his front porch, he casually mentioned that he had been told that there were machines that animated- computers. He wondered aloud "how they manage to get the machines to hold a pencil" and expressed an interest in finding out more about it. So I called my friend Charlie Gibson, who was a partner at Rhythm & Hues in Hollywood. I arranged for Grim to take a tour of their studio the following week.

50s TV Commercial50s TV CommercialWhen we arrived, we found the entire staff of R&H standing in the lobby waiting for us. Charlie showed Grim their machine room and demo reel, and sat him down at a workstation to see how wireframe characters are posed. After a few minutes working with the mouse, Grim leaned back in his chair and said, "I’ve seen some amazing things here today that I never would have imagined possible. I don’t pretend to understand everything I’ve seen, but I have a basic idea of what you do here. I have just one question to ask you… When I animated Snow White or Mickey Mouse, I had certain tricks to put the personality of the character across… a gesture, the raising of an eyebrow, a bit of acting… How do you do that sort of thing with your computer?"

50s TV Commercial50s TV CommercialThe room went silent. Charlie paused for a moment and replied, "Well, Grim, you just put your finger on the thing we struggle with every day… Computer animation is still very new. We’re constantly learning as we go. To answer your question, we study classic cartoons to learn those secrets from great animators like you."

In the space of an afternoon at nearly 100 years old, Grim had gone from "How do they get the machines to hold a pencil?" to putting his finger on the main issue facing CGI animators. His mind was always nimble and able to see the challenges facing animation in the future. He was truly a remarkable man.

EXHIBIT CATALOG: GRIM NATWICK IN THE MODERN AGE

Grim Natwick

Top Row: A Selection Of Natwick Animals (left to right) Chicken character designs from "Solid Ivory"* (Lantz/1947) / Lion doodle (after Jones’ "Inki & The Lion")* (ca. 1947) / Tiger studio gag drawing* (ca. 1944) / Character design for Lantz Wartime cartoon (ca.1943) / Concept for children’s book* (ca. 1947)

Middle Row: 1950s Commercials (left to right) Character design (ca.1959) / Self caricature of layout artist Art Heineman (UPA ca.1952) / Studio gag drawing depicting an animator being replaced by children cutting out paper dolls (UPA ca.1952) / Model drawing of Bert Piels (Piels Beer) by Tissa David from Grim Natwick animation (UPA ca. 1955) / Model drawings from unknown commercial by Tissa David from Grim Natwick animation (UPA ca.1955)

Bottom Row: Studio Gag Drawings Self caricature by Bill Melendez (ca. early 60s) / Studio gag drawing depicting Bill Scott explaining to a West coast animator how to dress like an East coast animator (UPA NY ca. 1952) / Three studio gag drawings by Bill Scott depicting the relationships between Grim Natwick, John Hubley and Scott (UPA NY ca. 1952)

* denotes a drawing by Grim Natwick

Next Chapter: THE GREATEST ANIMATOR WHO EVER LIVED (Studio Gag Drawings & Caricatures)


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.

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Exhibit: Natwick on Iwerks

Ub Iwerks

Ub Iwerks Self Portrait

One of the principle goals of Animation Resources is to tell the history of animation, not by character or studio, but through the lives of the people who made the cartoons. No single animator’s life and career tell the history of animation better than Grim Natwick’s.

Grim started in the 20’s animating silent Krazy Kat cartoons at the Hearst Studio in New York. He ended up at Fleischer, where he created Betty Boop. He received an offer to move West to join Walt Disney, but friends advised him that Ub Iwerks, who had just left animationresources.org to form his own studio, was the real creative spark behind the Mickey Mouse pictures. So Grim joined Ub instead, and ended up running the studio. A few years later, Grim became excited with the prospect of a feature length cartoon, so he went to Disney, where he ended up animating the title character. He returned to the Fleischers in Florida for a spell, and ended up back in Hollywood working for Walter Lantz on the wartime Woody Woodpecker cartoons. At an age when most of his contemporaries were retiring, Grim jumped into the modern stylization of UPA with both feet, and was instrumental in setting up their New York offices. He worked with Culhane, Ward and Melendez; and in his 80s, animated on Richard Williams’ Theif and the Cobbler. Here is a life that spanned the entire history of animation.

Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks

Walt Disney & Ub Iwerks

I’m very proud to introduce the first bit of information into the biographical database… an interview done with Grim in the at Animafestival 1982 produced by Reg Hartt. Michael Gowling ran a tape of Grim’s comments. In the interview, he talks about his entire career… animating Snow White, experimenting with timing on commercials at UPA, and sharing insight on the various people he worked with over the years. One particularly interesting part of the interview deals with Ub Iwerks, and Grim answers a question that many animation historians have been puzzling over for years… in his own unique way.

NatwickOnIwerks.mp3

Thanks again to Reg Hartt and Craig Davison.

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.

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

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.