Archive for the ‘grim natwick’ Category

Tuesday, September 12th, 2023

Instruction: Writing Cartoons Pt 2- A Continuity Emerges

Valiant Tailor

When I was beginning to draft this series of articles, I remembered a folder of thumbnails that Grim Natwick’s family gave me. The folder was labelled "Valiant Tailor Gags". I thumbed through the drawings several times over the years, but I only looked at the drawings individually- I didn’t look at them as a group. I pulled the folder out this week and upon closer examination, I discovered that the drawings formed a clear record of a gag session from 1934. This set of sketches is particularly important because it shows how the gags were created, how they evolved and grew as the artists discussed them at the story meeting, and how they found their way into the continuity of a finished cartoon.

Iwerks Staff 1935

The basic premise of this sequence is… The King is being chased by bees. He dives into a lake to escape them. The Giant arrives and harasses the King. The Tailor defeats the Giant and saves the King. Grim Natwick directed this cartoon, and his notes appear on the drawings in red. A check mark indicates that the gag is approved for the film. A question mark indicates that he isn’t sure where to use it yet.

Here are some of the gags that the staff of the Iwerks Studio came up with for this premise. At the end is a Quicktime movie of the complete cartoon, so you can see how these plans were realized in the finished film.

Writing Cartoons

William Hamner suggests a gag where the King is swallowed by a whale and is shot out his blow hole. (Since the character design hadn’t been established yet, Hamner draws the character as Otto Soglow’s Little King!)

Writing Cartoons

An artist named Hudson elaborates on Hamner’s basic idea, adding a tail flip to the end.

Writing Cartoons

This gag suggests that the King be underwater, hiding from the Giant. The Giant tries to catch him like a fish with a gold watch as bait.

Writing Cartoons

Underwater, the King uses a looking glass as a teeter totter.

Writing Cartoons

The Giant blows on the water and a passing octopus offers him Listerine.

Writing Cartoons

Ed Friedman suggests a gag where the Giant breaks a limb off a tree and uses it as a boomerang.

Writing Cartoons

Another variant on the broken tree branch- The Giant uses it as a straw to drink the lake dry.

Writing Cartoons

Several unrelated gags: The King runs out of the lake with streams of water from his crown. / The King is poked in the butt by a sword fish. / The Giant gets honey poured on his head. / The King is stung by bees on the patch on his butt.

Writing Cartoons

The Giant runs from a swarm of bees and stumbles over some wagons.

Writing Cartoons

Grim suggests a gag where the Giant takes a header into the dirt, plowing the ground in a furrow.

Writing Cartoons

He attempts a topper gag with a farmer using the Giant to plow his field.

Now comes the really interesting part! Here are Grim Natwick’s thumbnails showing how he takes the random gags and works them into a rough continuity. The drawings are very rough. You might want to print them out so you can compare them to the finished film.

Writing Cartoons

  • (32) The King enters scene and does a trout dive into the lake to escape the bees. We pan with the soldiers as the pursue the Tailor and chase him up a tree.
  • (33) The King bobs up and down in the water as the bees circle in a repeating cycle above him.
  • (34) A thunderous laugh is heard in the distance. The Giant steps over the crest of the hill and takes a few steps over them.
  • (35) The Giant scares the soldiers away. He looks at the King and laughs. The King ducks.
  • (36) The Giant blows on the water and throws a stone at the King.
  • (37) The King reaches up into the tree and grabs a branch. The Tailor jumps to another branch.

Writing Cartoons

  • (39) The Giant uses the branch like a gaffing hook, reaching to catch the King with it.
  • (40) The hook at the end of the branch catches in the patch on the King’s butt.
  • (41) The Tailor sees what is happening and ducks into a hole in the tree. The camera pans down the outside of the tree to its base, where the Tailor crawls out of another hole.
  • (42) The Tailor sneaks past the Giant and runs off screen
  • (43) Dissolve to: Interior tailor shop. The Tailor grabs a jar of honey.

Writing Cartoons

(44) Exterior Tailor Shop: The Tailor runs down the street with the jar.

  • (45) Dissolve to: The Tailor diving back into the hole in the tree trunk.
  • (46) The Tailor, standing on a high limb of the tree, drops the honey jar.
  • (47) The pot of honey dumps all over the Giant’s head.
  • (48) The King comes to the surface of the water as the bees go after the Giant.
  • (49) The Giant runs from the bees. He shoves his head in the dirt to escape them. He runs through a barn and a church over the hill and into the distance.
  • The sequence went from here to the storyboard stage, where the action was defined better and the gags were plussed. Watch the film and see how it came out…

    Writing Cartoons

    The Valiant Tailor (Iwerks/1934)< (Quicktime 7 / 7 minutes / 18.5 megs)

    The next article in this series will show how the structure of cartoons became more sophisticated in the mid-1930s, and the development of organizational tools that made that possible.

    Stephen Worth
    Animation Resources


    This posting is part of an online series of articles dealing with Instruction.

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    Wednesday, March 1st, 2023

    Grim Natwick’s Century of Learning

    Animation Resources

    One thing I’ve noticed among certain young animators is a tendency to focus exclusively on things that directly apply to whatever project they’re currently working on. Referencing art in a different style or from a different period in time can sometimes be seen by them as a distraction, or worse yet, irrelevant to their work as an artist. This is a very bad habit to get into, because it builds a box around an artists’ creativity. After a few years, this focus settles into a form of tunnel-vision. At Animation Resources, our primary purpose is to help artists “think outside the box”.

    There have been a few people I’ve met in my life who saw the big picture clearly. Grim Natwick was one of them. He had an incredibly broad view of animation, which isn’t surprising because his career in animation spanned nearly seven decades! Grim was a storyteller, and even though his long convoluted stories jumped across decades and diverse subjects like the cow jumping over the moon, his thought process was like a laser beam focused on the essence of what it means to be an artist.

    When you look at Grim’s career, it’s astonishing. He started out working on silent Happy Hooligan cartoons, He went on to create Betty Boop and animate Flip the Frog, Snow White, Woody Woodpecker, Mr Magoo, and Crusader Rabbit, and ended his career animating on Richard Williams’ “Thief and the Cobbler”. I once asked Grim to what he attributed his long and varied career. He didn’t hesitate. He answered right away…

    “My education.”

    Grim Natwick

    Grim studied illustration and design in Chicago, but soon he found himself working in animation, and he realized his skills and education weren’t up to the task. He took a year off and travelled to Vienna to get formal art training. Every day of his life, Grim set aside an hour to do self study. He would pull a book on Picasso off the shelf and sit down at his drawing board and try to figure out Picasso’s shapes and abstraction. He would sketch from Reubens to learn composition. He’d break down the work of illustrators like Rackham and try to capture their watercolor techniques. All of this informed his animation and made it possible for him to reinvent himself when it was called for.

    I have only worked in the field for thirty years myself, but I have seen most of the people I started out working with fall away from animation. They weren’t able to keep up with technology, or they refused to work in any other style than the one they had been trained in. Animation evolved and changed, and they were left behind because they refused to think outside their own box.

    Here is a video of Grim speaking with Reg Hartt in Toronto in the early 80s. In this interview he discusses a wide range of subjects, from fine art to illustration- at one point he digresses all the way to Indonesian shadow puppets- but every bit of it directly applies to his life as an animator. And it directly applies to your life as an animator too.


    When I was in college, I looked Grim up in the phone book and visited him at his apartment in Santa Monica. I aspired to work in animation and I wanted to learn how animators think. I couldn’t have had a better person to learn from. I would sit on Grim’s front porch and ask him questions. Then the stories would unfold in front of me, giving me an overview of what the artform was all about, and most importantly, insight into what it could be.

    Grim NatwickIt’s 30 years later now, but I still think about the things Grim talked about. Grim never put himself in a stylistic box. He worked in every style and never stopped learning.

    Young animators sometimes look at what we are doing at Animation Resources and think to themselves, “That’s old stuff. It doesn’t apply to me.” Professional animators sometimes look at it and say to themselves, “I’m a professional now. I’m not in school any more. I don’t need to study.” Grim Natwick never thought that way. He saw the interrelationships between different styles and forms of art. He credited his studies for keeping him relevant in the business long after his contemporaries had moved on or retired. Grim lived and breathed his art. He had a passion for it and he could put that passion into words. He could teach it to others. All of that is important and all of it applies to the life and career of every artist.

    When I discovered this video interview, I realized how much of what Grim planted in me has developed into what Animation Resources has become today. Grim’s approach to his art is a shining example for all of us to follow. Whether you’re a student or a pro, exploring and learning and discovering new things should be a part of your daily life. Animation Resources wants to help you do that.

    Animation Resources 10th Anniversary

    It’s Members Appreciation Time again at Animation Resources, and For the past decade, Animation Resources has been serving artists working in the fields of animation, cartooning and illustration. Our volunteers and members have pulled together to raise the bar for our art form, and it’s time to celebrate… It’s Members Appreciation time again!

    During the month of February, Animation Resources expresses our appreciation for to members with a very special Reference Pack, and we invite you to become a member too. For the next 30 days, we will be sharing reasons why you should join us. Our benefits of membership far exceed the cost of our annual dues. You can find out what our members get at the Member Appreciation Page. It’s easy to join. Just click on this link and you can sign up right now online…


    Members Appreciation Month

    PayPalAnimationAnimation Resources depends on your contributions to support its projects. Even if you can’t afford to join our group right now, please click the button below to donate whatever you can afford using PayPal.

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    Friday, April 1st, 2022

    Exhibit: Grim Natwick- The Greatest Animator Who Ever Lived

    Grim Natwick

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


    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.

    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


    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.


    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.


    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
    Animation Resources

    TheoryGrim Natwick

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

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