Archive for the ‘grim natwick’ Category

Monday, April 27th, 2020

Exhibit: Berny Wolf 1911-2006

Berny Wolf at Iwerks

Berny Wolf holds up a model sheet he created
along with Grim Natwick for an Iwerks Willie Whopper
cartoon. (See Al Eugster’s Photo Album)

(Originally posted 9/13/06) We received the sad news today that veteran animator, Berny Wolf passed away a few days ago at the age of 95. Berny was a real gentleman, and his career spanned the entire history of animation… from Fleischer, where he rotoscoped Cab Calloway as a ghostly walrus for "Minnie the Moocher"; to Iwerks, where he designed characters and animated on Willie Whopper and Comicolor cartoons; to Disney, where he animated on Pinocchio, Fantasia and Dumbo. In the TV era, Berny was a mainstay at Hanna Barbera and FilmRoman, continuing to work into his 80s.

Here are some model sheets Berny created along with Grim Natwick at Iwerks…

Berny Wolf Model Sheet
Berny Wolf Model Sheet
Berny Wolf Model Sheet
Berny Wolf Model Sheet

Ben Burgess mentioned that Berny animated the scene of Jimminy Cricket on the seahorse in Pinocchio. I have a drawing from that scene in my own collection and didn’t even realize that it was from one of Berny’s scenes…

Berny Wolf Jimminy Cricket

Perhaps Berny’s most famous scene is one he animated when he was just 21 years old… the ghostly walrus from the Fleischer Betty Boop cartoon, "Minnie the Moocher". Dave Fleischer assigned Berny to rotoscope footage of Cab Calloway. He told me that he did the work at Max Fleischer’s original rotoscope rig- the one on which they had rotoscoped Ko-Ko the Clown many years earlier. The rotoscope machine was made from an old camera stand, and it stood in a dark, dusty corner of the camera room. For a week, Berny sat alone in the corner, perched on a high stool rotoscoping Cab Calloway. Here is the film…

Minnie the Moocher

Minnie the Moocher (Fleischer/1932)
(Quicktime 7 / 17 megs)

Berny was a quiet, unassuming man. Perhaps that is why many people today are unaware of his importance to the history of animation. He was the quintessential East coast animator until the end, often attending important meetings in an impeccable pinstripe three piece suit, complete with a watch chain and white carnation in the lapel. Animation Resources offers its condolences to the family of Berny Wolf. He will be missed by all who had the honor to know him.

COMMENTS

On behalf of my father, I want to say a heartfelt thank you for being so interested in his work and his life. You cannot imagine what it has meant for our family to see his name in print with all the wonderful comments. I can forward photos of him in the past and at his 94th birthday if you like. He was very shy and did not like having photos taken.

Sincerely,
Lauren Wolf-Purcell

Please do send the photos. We’re building a digital archive of information on the lives of great animators. If you have anything you would allow us to digitize to represent your father in our collection, please let us know. -Stephen Worth, Director

Read Mark Kausler’s overview of Berny’s career at Cartoon Brew
Mark Evanier’s remembrances.
Ernesto Pfluger’s Spanish obit

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.

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Friday, April 24th, 2020

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.

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Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

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 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.

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