Archive for the ‘grim natwick’ Category

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

Exhibit: Grim Natwick In New York


Grim Natwick

Grim Natwick’s career in animation began in 1917 at International Film Service Productions, managed by Gregory LaCava. The studio was owned by William Randolph Hearst, who wanted to exploit his comic strip characters in the new medium of the animated cartoon. LaCava had been lured away from Raoul Barre’s studio where he had been working as an animator. His organizational skills were put to good use setting the studio on the right track, but he was having trouble finding experienced animators. He did however, know of a great draftsman who was working as a sheet music illustrator- a classmate from art school…

Grim NatwickGrim NatwickLaCava enlisted Grim to help out for "for two weeks or so" until he could locate experienced animators. Grim’s first task was to animate a racehorse in a Happy Hooligan cartoon. He spent more than a week on the sequence experimenting and struggling, and at the end of the two weeks, he was ready to quit. But LaCava told him that Hearst would pay him the unheard of amount of $100 a week if he would stay on. Money talked, and ultimately, Grim took to animation like a duck to water. The two weeks ended up stretching into over seven decades.

Click to see Grim's anatomy studiesClick to see Grim's anatomy studiesAround 1920, Grim took a few years off to study art in Vienna- drawing from life, landscape painting, portraiture- a full classical art education. He returned to New York a much stronger artist than he had left. International Film Service no longer existed, but Bill Nolan had organized a studio to produce Krazy Kat cartoons. The series bore little resemblence to George Herriman’s classic comic strip. The animation was done using the "slash system" and animators were expected to not only assist their own scenes, but to ink them as well. The artists at the Krazy Kat Studio at this time included some of the best in New York, two of whom- Walter Lantz and Jimmie (Shamus) Culhane- would work with Grim again much later in his career.

Grim NatwickGrim NatwickIn 1929, Grim joined the Fleischer Studios. Fleischer had just made the transition from silent films to sound, and was abandoning the high contrast inked look of the Out of the Inkwell cartoons for a more rounded style with a full range of gray tones. Disney had just raided the studio for talent, taking several key animators, including Dick Huemer, back to California with him. A few months later Ted Sears headed West. Grim was left with a group of inexperienced, but enthusiastic and talented young artists. He quickly whipped the crew into shape and provided the Fleischers with some of the most imaginitive animation ever produced at the studio. We’ve featured two cartoons from this period here in the past… Swing, You Sinners and Mariutch, both from 1930.

Grim NatwickGrim NatwickOne day, Dave Fleischer handed Grim a photograph of singer, Helen Kane and asked him to design a caricature. Fleischer had found a sound-alike, and planned to use her in the upcoming Talkartoon, "Dizzy Dishes". Grim exaggerated Kane’s wide eyes and rosebud mouth, creating a slightly coarse, but strikingly original design. A few weeks later, Dave asked Grim to design a girlfriend for Bimbo to star as the "fair young maiden" in a cartoon adaptation of the popular song, "Barnacle Bill the Sailor". Grim streamlined and refined his caricature of Kane for the part. But Dave Fleischer objected, insisting that since Bimbo was a dog, his girlfriend should also be a dog. Grim quickly sketched Betty Boop’s head on a four legged canine body. He held up the drawing next to the pretty girl design, and asked, "Which would you rather have as your girlfriend? A girl? Or a dog?" Dave laughed and agreed that the pretty girl was the right choice.

Grim Natwick


Grim Natwick

Top Row: Animation From Hearst & The Krazy Kat Studio (left to right) Drawing from "Judge Rummy" cartoon* (ca. 1918) / Concept sketch for unproduced series based on Cliff Sterrett’s "Polly & her Pals"* (ca. 1926) / ibid* / ibid* / Self portrait of Grim Natwick* (ca. 1926)

Middle Row: Animation From Fleischer (left to right) Animation drawings from "Mariutch"* (1930) / Animation drawing from unknown film* – Animation drawing from "Mariutch"* / Animation drawings from "Swing, You Sinners"* (1930) bottom dwg- collection of Kent Butterworth / Character designs for Bimbo* (ca. 1930) / Character designs for Bimbo in "Barnacle Bill The Sailor"* (1930) / Caricature of Grim Natwick by Rudy Zamora – Self portrait of Grim Natwick* (ca. 1930)

Bottom Row: Anatomy Studies After Bridgeman* (ca. 1920)

* denotes a drawing by Grim Natwick

Next Chapter: GRIM NATWICK, GOLDEN AGE ANIMATOR (Iwerks, Disney, Lantz)

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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Monday, February 24th, 2020

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.

Open The Treasures That Open Your Mind


The secrets of a long and fulfilling career in animation are right in front of your face. But you’ll never recognize those treasures if you don’t make an effort to think beyond what you already know and like. Every other month, members of Animation Resources can download a Reference Pack full of inspiration and ideas to help you think outside your own box. During Member Appreciation Month, Animation Resources is pulling out all the stops to share some of our greatest treasures with our members. Throughout the year, we’ll be offering up incredible, thought provoking material that can change the way you think and help you grow as an artist. If you are a creative person, you should be a member of Animation Resources.

For a rundown of all the perks of Animation Resources membership, seeā€¦

JOIN Animation Resources today!

The world of animaton owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Reg Hartt for sharing this incredible video with us.

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Friday, November 1st, 2019

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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