Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Pegbar Profile: Frank Tipper

This profile is an update from an old Cartoon Research profile, published in June 2017. Here is a new and improved overview on animator Frank Tipper's career!

 Caricature of Frank Tipper, published in the June 20, 1931
edition of Motion Picture Herald, when he worked as an 

assistant animator for Walt Disney.

Frank George Tipper, the first child of English parents Frank Tipper and Lillian Marrion, was born on August 19, 1909, on the Isle of Man.1 The following year, Frank’s parents shared a residence in Worcester with his grandparents, George and Charlotte—Frank Sr. worked there as a taxi cab driver.2 While still in England, the Tipper family added two daughters: Lillian Margaret was born in 1913, and Joan Eileen in 1915.3 On March 23, 1921, Frank and his family emigrated to the United States. They landed in Los Angeles on April 1, having made the voyage on the S. S. Adriatic from Southampton. Frank Sr. secured a position in the States in the transportation department of the Richfield Oil Corporation.4 

The adolescent Frank first pursued an artistic career by submitting cartoons to the “Junior Times” supplement of the Los Angeles Times as early as November 1925.5 Apart from cartooning, Tipper admired the animation business; he frequented Walt Disney's studio to show Walt his new work.6 Frank graduated from Belmont High School in 1928, where he drew illustrations for Campanile, the school yearbook. Soon after Tipper left high school, his cartoons for the “Junior Times” disappeared.7 Frank then enrolled in the University of California at Los Angeles, Otis Art Institute, Chouinard Art Institute, and the Frank Wiggins Trade School.8

Frank's early work from the March 18, 1928 edition of "The Junior Times."

In 1930, Tipper lived with his parents and sisters, and worked as a sign painter for Foster & Kleiser, then touted as “the leading billboard company on the West Coast.” His youngest sister Joan remembered, “That was the only way you could make money as an artist in those days.” One day, Walt Disney arranged a screening of his cartoons at the Vista Theater at Sunset and Hillhurst and recognized Frank, now employed as an usher. Walt recalled Frank's teenage visits and offered him a job at his animation studio.9

Disney studio records have no definite date for Tipper’s official hiring. By 1931, Frank became one of three assistants to Norm Ferguson, one of Disney’s leading animators.10 Later that year, Ben Sharpsteen recruited Tipper as a junior animator; he handled scenes under Sharpsteen’s tutelage on the Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies cartoons. A year later, Frank shifted to Dave Hand’s crew of junior artists, where he settled during the remainder of his tenure at Disney. One production that Tipper animated, under Hand’s supervision, was Flowers and Trees, the first commercially released film in three-strip Technicolor.11 While still employed at Disney, Frank married Mary Elizabeth Dotzler in Glendale on August 8, 1932.12

Layout drawing from Bugs in Love (1932). 
Note the stamp that credits Frank Tipper for the animation.

In late 1932, Frank left Disney to work at a studio run by Ted Eshbaugh, a producer-director who experimented with color cartoons, which began with a pilot cartoon that starred a character named Goofy Goat. Filmed in the Multicolor process, “Goofy Goat” caught public attention as the first full-length animated film in colorits March 1932 release predated Disney’s Flowers and Trees by four months.13 Tipper joined the Highland Avenue studio while Eshbaugh was busy on his second Multicolor cartoon, The Snow Man; its production finished by the end of January 1933. Tipper involved himself in Eshbaugh’s The Wizard of Oz. Though it never had a theatrical release in the United States, Eshbaugh’s Oz adaptation was the first short subject filmed in three-strip Technicolor.14

Production drawing for Ted Eshbaugh's The Wizard of Oz (1933).

Eshbaugh’s studio went bankrupt after work finished on Snow Man and Oz, leaving Frank unemployed again. Tipper soon found work at Leon Schlesinger’s new animation department, founded after producer-directors Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising broke off their contract with Leon. Tipper received credit on Schlesinger’s first color cartoon, Honeymoon Hotel (1934), filmed in Cinecolor. During his time at Schlesinger’s, on November 11, 1934, Frank was involved in an auto collision with actress-dancer Joan Dix. The actress suffered headaches and dizzy spells after Tipper’s car crashed into Joan’s vehicle. (Joan filed a $7,000 lawsuit for the damages, but Tipper failed to appear for the trial months later on September 1, 1935; she won $2,725 in the settlement.)15

Production background for Honeymoon Hotel (1934), Warner Bros.' first cartoon in color.
Image courtesy: Mike and Jeanne Glad Collection.  

Opportunity called from Frank's home country. On January 8, 1935, Frank and his wife Mary landed in England, where they resided at the Regent Palace Hotel.16 Tipper worked on animated commercials, likely on sponsored films produced by early British animation artists Laurie Price and Christopher Millet.17 Frank’s stay in England was momentary—Frank and Mary returned to Los Angeles four months later, on May 17.18 Frank soon took a job at Harman-Ising; Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising now produced a color series, Happy Harmonies, for distribution by MGM. Surviving production drafts list scenes attributed to Tipper in at least three Happy Harmonies, each directed by Ising: Honeyland (1935), Alias St. Nick (1935), and The Early Bird and the Worm (1936).19 

Harman and Ising often exceeded the budgeted amount of their cartoons and violated their contract with MGM. The studio terminated its agreement with H-I in February 1937, which created chaos for the employees that year. That September, following an altercation with Metro, Harman-Ising went into a three-week shutdown and laid off a few of its animators, including Frank.20  By the end of 1937, Tipper found an open spot at Walter Lantz’s studio.

Months after Frank joined Lantz's studio, he and Mary settled into a new home on Longridge Avenue. Soon, the couple welcomed their only child, Kim, on October 13, 1938.21 At Lantz’s cartoon factory, a rowdy camaraderie amongst the young artists flowed inside and outside work activity, especially during parties and social functions, often fueled by liquor. One day after a studio Christmas party, Frank (who was, as his sister Joan described, “quite a heavy drinker”) sat at his desk with a terrible hangover and placed his eyeglasses atop his desk to take a brief rest; a practical joker swiped Frank’s spectacles and painted red and purple spots on the lenses. When the bleary-eyed Tipper awoke and put on his glasses, he shouted at the sight of these strange flecks: “Oh, my God! What’s happened to me?”22

As an independent producer who sold cartoons to Universal, Walter Lantz's was a risky business. In late 1939, Lantz's weekly advances from Universal (his primary source of capital) ended, so Walter had to fund the cartoons himself. However, Lantz could not provide the necessary finances to keep his studio functioning and closed its doors on February 24, 1940. Lantz's animators volunteered to produce an Andy Panda, Crazy House, for free. This provided Universal with the collateral to bankroll more cartoons.23 Frank received screen credit in Knock Knock (released in November 1940), the film that introduced movie audiences to the zany antics of Woody Woodpecker. Later, in December 1941, Lantz released the first in a series of "Swing Symphonies," $21 A Day (Once A Month), for which Frank also was credited. His last screen credit was on the Woody Woodpecker cartoon, The Loan Stranger (released October 1942), directed by Frank’s brother-in-law Alex Lovy.24

The United States’ involvement in World War II triggered a flurry of government films that illustrated military objectives and instructions through animation. In October 1942, Hugh Harman Productions, formed in 1941 after Harman left Metro, hired Tipper to work on a new series, "History in the Making." These animated government films, intended for release by United Artists, centered on the global battle of the United States and its allied nations in the Second World War.25 Tipper was inducted into the Army in July 1943he remained part of Harman's creative team.26 The Hollywood Reporter, in September 1943, announced a deal between the U. S. Office of Education and Hugh Harman Productions to produce a series of ship-building films. Frank was tasked with an investigative trip to the California Shipbuilding Corporation (CalShip) in San Pedro, acquiring knowledge of the details of ship construction.27

In 1945, Frank volunteered to take his craftsmanship on tour with a USO-Camp Shows troupe to the Pacific area and the Far East—he left for duty that July.28 Frank visited military bases, combat zones, and camps. There, he sketched caricatures of troops and servicemen and painted murals; he also painted portraits of patients housed in neuropsychiatric hospitals during the six-month excursion. On January 19, 1946, Frank sailed on the U. S. Heritage from Nagoya, Japan. He landed in Seattle, Washington on February 5 and verified the government work for his visa so he could retain his legal status.29 A few weeks later, he was back in Los Angeles.30 Frank and his wife Mary divorced earlier on an unspecified date; she married her second husband on January 9, 1946, a few weeks before Tipper returned home.31

Details on Frank’s professional career in the mid-1940s are fragmentary; he dabbled in comic book work for James Davis (The Fox and the Crow), who had a stable of moonlighting animators who wrote, penciled, and inked funny-animal stories for $15 a page ($239 in 2024 US currency).32 Frank signed his work on a trio of stories with humanized fish and mollusks aptly named “Fishy Follies,” each issued between April and October 1946. 

A sampling of Frank's comic book work, from Goofy Comics #14 (June 1946).

Not much is known of Tipper’s career in 1947 and 1948; we can assume he stayed busy on jobs that were unreported at the time. We next hear from him at the end of February 1949, when The Los Angeles Evening Citizen-News reported the following:

“When the Painters and Sculptors Club meets Tuesday night [March 1] at 8 at the Los Angeles Art Association galleries, Frank Tipper, formerly official cartoonist with the occupational forces in Japan, will give a talk on Japanese artists, past and present...”33

Later that fall, Frank helped break new ground in television when Filmtone Studios hired him in their commercial art and animation department.34 The Life of Riley, which first aired on NBC on October 4, 1949, was shot in Hollywood when most sitcoms in New York were broadcast live on kinescope. (The show also featured Jackie Gleason in his first TV role.) A few months later, Frank became the series’ art director.35 The network axed Riley after one seasonits final episode aired in March 1950.

A new studio in Beverly Hills, Century Television Productions, took on Frank as an art director for a television pilot starring popular Western actor Wild Bill Elliott. In mid-June 1950, its first episode “Marshall of Trail City,” was shot at Cudia City in Phoenix, but the pilot never sold.36 In August, Filmtone struck a deal with NBC to produce an upcoming program, You Bet Your Life, hosted by Groucho Marx. Frank was called in again for its art direction.37 It is unclear if Frank stayed in live-action television between 1951 and 1953. However, 1954 gave Frank a chance to work on a major motion picture.

Universal-International’s elaborate Technicolor science-fiction project, This Island Earth, went through much of its principal photography in February 1954. Tipper was brought in to create special animation effects of saucer rays and neutrino rays. The most significant contribution occurred moments after its two protagonists, Cal Meacham (Rex Reason) and Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue), were abducted and taken into a spaceship by an alien species from the planet Metaluna. Moments later, the two humans are sealed in converter tubes to acclimate to the planet’s atmospheric pressure. The viewer watches as their bodies transform, and reveal the layers of their anatomical structure. Frank worked closely with the film’s effects director, David S. Horsley, to supervise the optical effects for this sequence.

John “J. J.” Johnson, author of Cheap Tricks and Class Acts: Special Effects, Makeup and Stunts from the Films of the Fantastic Fifties, described how Tipper achieved this effect:

“After photographing the conversion tubes alone, then with Reason and Domergue inside them, Tipper went to work on the individual matching dissolves. With the aid of anatomy books, Tipper made several layout drawings of muscles utilizing chalk on black cards. These were then photographed in black and white and used as mattes. Once the dissolves with differing parts of human anatomy were organized, Tipper gave them to [optical printer] Roswell Hoffman to have them colored so each dissolve would possess its own unique hue. In the final composite, when the different colored anatomy layers dissolved in and out, it gave the conversion sequence a sensational X-ray effect.”38

The matching cross dissolves, as shown in This Island Earth (U-I, 1955).

Frank (and Horsley) utilized the same technique during the disintegration of the insect-like Metaluna Mutant when it succumbs to the spacecraft’s intense pressure. This Island Earth had a matinee preview for press reviews on April 9, 1955, at the Victoria Theatre on Broadway—the film saw its general release in Los Angeles on June 15.39 This seemed to be Frank’s only foray into live-action features; Phil Monroe remembered Frank working on commercials at Cascade, one of many outfits that provided animated television ads, in approximately 1954, presumably afterhis assignment on This Island Earth.40

Meanwhile, British animation in the 1950s flourished when John Halas and Joy Batchelor’s studio in London produced Animal Farm (1954), Britain’s first color animated feature based on the allegorical novel by George Orwell. Halas & Batchelor offered Frank a position as an animation director. On January 3, 1956, he returned to England. The Daily Film Renter and Moving Picture proclaimed Frank’s “wealth of experience should certainly make its mark on the already high standards of Halas & Batchelor productions.”

Tipper took on a few sponsored films at H&B, including The Candlemaker (1956) for the United Lutheran Church and The First 99 (1958), a history of whiskey distillation sponsored by Seagram that combined live- action and animation.41 Frank served as animation director on The World of Little Ig (1957), involving a caveboy on a mythical planet. Intended for American broadcast on NBC, who funded the short, Little Ig was, instead, shown in British cinemas. The film received a first-prize award at the Venice Film Festival. Tipper planned to stay abroad in England for two years, but changed his mindhe boarded the S.S. Liberte in Southampton on April 2, 1957, and arrived in New York on the S.S. Liberty six days later.42

In the summer of 1957, Frank joined the staff of Le Ora Thompson Associates, a commercial house in Hollywood established by Leora Thompson (formerly a sales director for Playhouse Pictures) and animator Carl Urbano.43 A year later, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera enlisted Frank at their production company for the first season of The Huckleberry Hound Shownot in their animation staff, but as a background painter. Tipper received credit on only four segments: three installments featuring Pixie and Dixie and Mr. Jinks and Pie-Pirates, the first Yogi Bear cartoon in production; presumably, Frank may have only worked at H-B as a freelancer.

In 1958, Frank secured work on more TV commercials at Swift-Chaplin Productions, run by Howard Swift, a former Disney/Screen Gems animator, and Charles F. Chaplin.) He remained at Swift-Chaplin until his passing on September 20, 1963, at 54.44

Special acknowledgments to Jerry Beck, J. B. Kaufman, Hans Perk, Michael Barrier, Mark Kausler, Eric Costello, Tom Samuels, and Frank M. Young for their contributions to this post. 


(1) Frank George Tipper, California, County Marriages, 1850-1953. Courtesy: FamilySearch.

(2) Census of England and Wales, 1911, schedule no. 19, rows 1-5. Courtesy: Ancestry.

(3) Lillian May Tipper. California, U.S., Federal Naturalization Records, 1843-1999. Courtesy: Ancestry.

(4) New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger, and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957. Frank Sr.’s occupation is listed as a “motor mechanic.” Courtesy: Ancestry. Los Angeles Evening Citizen-News, Nov. 19, 1958, p. 17.

(5) The Los Angeles Times, “The Junior Times,” November 8, 1925, p. 6. “The Junior Times” fostered other young cartoonists who later developed their talents in animation: Bob Clampett, Fred Moore, Ed Benedict, Cal Howard, Izzy Ellis, Phil De Lara, and Manuel Moreno, among others.

(6) Joan Eileen Pabian, interview conducted by Martha Sigall, November 28, 1998. Published on March 13, 2017, on Cartoon Research: https://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/a-chat-with-joan-pabian-and-al-pabian/

(7) The August 26, 1928 publication of “The Junior Times” supplement in The Los Angeles Times is the last known mention of Tipper’s name.

(8) 1947-48 International Motion Picture Almanac, ed. Terry Ramsaye, p. 412.

(9) Pabian, 1998 interview. The 1930 Los Angeles census lists Frank’s occupation as a “commercial artist.” 1930 US Federal Census, Los Angeles, Assembly District 55, lines 91-95.

(10) Larry Silverman, interview with Milton Gray, December 3, 1977. Unpublished.

(11) Frank Tipper’s production credits originate courtesy of Hans Perk’s A. Film LA blog (http://afilmla.blogspot.com), JB Kaufman and Russell Merritt, Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies: A Companion to the Classic Cartoon Series, and an email sent to author by Kaufman, May 18 and June 6, 2023.

(12) The Los Angeles Times, July 31, 1932. Frank’s naturalization record, date-stamped November 28, 1962, curiously lists their marriage taking place earlier on August 14, 1931. Frank George Tipper, California, County Marriages, 1850-1953. Courtesy: FamilySearch. Frank George Tipper, California, U.S., Federal Naturalization Records, 1843-1999. Courtesy: Ancestry.

(13) While Ub Iwerks’ Fiddlesticks (1930) predated Eshbaugh’s “Goofy Goat” cartoon as one of the first sound color cartoons, Flip the Frog’s screen debut was released in color only in Britain, while black-and-white prints were distributed in the United States.

(14) The Los Angeles Illustrated Daily News, Jan. 30, 1933. The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, the Evening News, April 7, 1933. Coincidentally, former Disney junior animators Bill Mason and Andrew “Hutch” Hutchinson animated scenes in Flowers and Trees and both Eshbaugh films. JB Kaufman and Russell Merritt, Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies: A Companion to the Classic Cartoon Series.

(15) The Los Angeles Illustrated Daily News, Sept. 2, 1935, p. 4C; The Chicago Tribune, Sept. 3, 1935, p. 6. Joan Dix appeared uncredited as a chorus girl in Warner Bros.’ 1933 musical 42nd Street (1933). She landed herself in a main role in Dwain Esper’s exploitation film Narcotic, released the same year.

(16) Frank George Tipper. UK and Ireland, Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960. Courtesy: Ancestry.

(17) 1947-48 International Motion Picture Almanac, ed. Terry Ramsaye, p. 412. Details on Laurie Price and Christopher Millet’s animated commercials “Following Up on Gifford: The 1930s.” The Lost Continent: Exploring the Art and History of British Animation. August 12, 2010. https://ukanimation.blogspot.com/2010/08/following-up-on-gifford-1930s.html

(18) Frank Tipper. New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger, and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957. Courtesy: Ancestry.

(19) Production drafts of Honeyland, Alias St. Nick, and The Early Bird and the Worm. Courtesy: Michael Barrier.

(20) Michael Barrier, Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in its Golden Age (2003, paperback edition), p. 603 n19. A handwritten employee sheet from Harman-Ising mentions that background painters Don Schaffer and Art Riley were loaned to Disney until November 1 (for the Silly Symphony Merbabies). Frank’s name appears on the roster, but his name is absent in a typewritten personnel record dated December 23, 1937, implying he was no longer employed at Harman-Ising. (A small, handwritten note on the December sheet reads, “Lay off all in 2nd period [of contract], which started 9-1-37 - layoff started 9-11-37.”) Courtesy: Mark Kausler.

(21) Kim Tipper. California Birth Index, 1905-1995. Courtesy: Ancestry. San Fernando Valley Times, October 20, 1938.

(22) Pabian, 1998 interview.

(23) Joe Adamson, The Walter Lantz Story, p. 111-112.

(24) Frank’s wife Mary had a sister, Florence, who was licensed to wed Alex Lovy in Yuma, Arizona, on November 1, 1940. (Florence was also the spouse of animator Carl Urbano from 1932 to 1937.) Florence Burslem. Arizona, U.S., County Marriage Records, 1865-1972. Courtesy: Ancestry.

(25) Daily Variety, Oct. 22, 1942. The Hollywood Reporter, Oct. 22, 1942.

(26) Daily Variety, July 6, 1943.

(27) The Hollywood Reporter, Sept. 13, 1943.

(28) Daily Variety, July 11, 1945. The Hollywood Reporter, Sept. 20, 1945, confirmed that Tipper was stationed in the Philippines as “a USO sketch artist.”

(29) Frank Tipper. Washington, U.S., Arriving and Departing Passenger and Crew Lists, 1882-1965. Courtesy: Ancestry.

(30) Daily Variety, Feb. 25, 1946. Alec Geiss, a Columbia/Screen Gems animation director, also traveled with Tipper on tour. 

(31) Mary E. Tipper. California, U.S., County Birth, Marriage, and Death Records, 1849-1980. Courtesy: Ancestry.

(32) “Excerpts from Jack Bradbury’s Autobiography,” The Comic Art of Jack Bradbury. http://jbrad.org/autobiog.html Every month, after the stories were fully inked, Davis then packaged and mailed the artwork from California to  Benjamin Sangor, owner of the American Comics Group (ACG), in New York.

(33) Los Angeles Evening Citizen-News, Feb. 29, 1949.

(34) The Hollywood Reporter, Sept. 8, 1949.

(35) Daily Variety, Jan. 18, 1950. Frank replaced John DeCuir on Riley, who would later earn eleven Oscar nominations for art decoration (The King and I, Cleopatra, Hello, Dolly!)

(36) The Los Angeles Times, June 16, 1950. Broadcasting Telecasting, June 26, 1950.

(37) Pabian interview, 1998. Variety, August 1950, p. 34. You Bet Your Life’s pilot episode was filmed at Hal Roach Productions, but Roach was underbid by Filmtone.

(38) John “J. J.” Johnson, Cheap Tricks and Class Acts: Special Effects, Makeup and Stunts from the Films of the Fantastic Fifties (1996, McFarland & Company, Inc.), p. 99.

(39) Tom Weaver, David Schecter, Robert J. Kiss, and Steve Kronenberg, Universal T errors, 1951-1955: Eight Classic Horror and Science Fiction Films (2017, McFarland & Company), p. 261.

(40) Phil Monroe, interview with Michael Barrier, Oct. 29, 1976, published on Barrier’s official website, June 7, 2012. <http:// www.michaelbarrier.com/Interviews/Monroe/Monroe1976.html> Monroe mentioned joining Ray Patin’s studio in 1954 after leaving Cascade.

(41) Though Halas and Batchelor both received onscreen director credit on The Candlemaker, period-era film trade stories affirm Frank’s involvement as a director. The Daily Film Renter and Moving Picture (London, England), March 27, 1956. The Hollywood Reporter, April 3, 1956.

(42) Frank’s naturalization petition, date-stamped November 28, 1962, notes the travel dates from his departure to England and return to the United States. Frank George Tipper. California, U.S., Federal Naturalization Records, 1888-1991; Frank Tipper. UK and Ireland, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960; Frank G. Tipper. New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger, and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957. Courtesy: Ancestry.

(43) Broadcasting Telecasting, June 17, 1957. The news piece mentions Frank’s previous association with Anigraph Films, an obscure company that produced short educational films about the Social Security program. Departments of Labor and Health, Education, and Welfare and Related Agencies Appropriations for Fiscal Year 1976, pp. 2238, mentions Anigraph Films and its filmmaking objectives.

(44) Frank’s death certificate mentions Swift-Chaplin Productions as his last employing company. Frank George Tipper. California, County Birth and Death Records, 1800-1994. Courtesy: FamilySearch.

Monday, April 1, 2024

A Long Overdue Update!

Sorry for the radio silence. A new profile will appear tomorrow, but first, a chance to explain what took so long.

After I published the (immense) profile on Emery Hawkins, I admit that it took a lot out of me. I didn't intend to neglect this blog for so long, but film restoration, Cartoon Research, and my Patreon page have taken up much of my time, as many of you know. In thinking about the blog's future, I've realized that I should be more consistent—almost two years without posts doesn't seem acceptable. For now, I did have something in mind: some profiles might be more polished, while others might reflect my notes almost verbatim. Some figures in the animation industry, with very little information about their lives and careers, would be examples of using my notes rather than writing a detailed overview - this would be a more suitable way to present my research. Comments and feedback are encouraged for these posts, too - if I make an error, please feel free to inform me nicely. 

Now, tomorrow: a "Pegbar Profile" on animator Frank Tipper, an artist who worked at nearly every animation studio on the West Coast, traveled to join the British animation business (twice), and worked in television, both live-action and animated. 


An early comic strip by Frank Tipper, published in "The Junior Times," a Sunday supplement of The Los Angeles Times, on May 22, 1927.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Pegbar Profile: Emery Hawkins (Part 3)

Muriel Cigars spot, produced by Shamus Culhane's studio in New York.

Upon his arrival out East, Hawkins found work in film and television ad production houses run by his contemporaries. Lars Calonius, formerly an assistant animator at Disney in the mid-1930s and early 1940s, established Archer Productions, its office located on 53rd Street. After four months at Archer, Hawkins left to work at a studio run by Shamus Culhane, then producing advertisements for Muriel Cigars, featuring a sultry female cigar urging consumers to “Come up and smoke me some time,” a la Mae West. Still, Hawkins was displeased with the time-consuming assignment—which involved hundreds of cut-outs from photostats of a real cigar, with animated features added later—calling it a “horrible thing.” Hawkins left Culhane’s studio after work on a Halo Shampoo commercial based on “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” was finished. One speculates that Hawkins might have endured creative interference from Culhane and ad agencies; the Halo spot exhibits his characteristic drawing style, but the characters’ movement appears subdued. 

1950 Halo Shampoo commercial Hawkins animated for Culhane's TV studio.

By July 1950, Hawkins migrated to Transfilm on 45th Street, where Jack Zander—once an animator on “The Captain and the Kids” at MGM—served as the head of the animation department.1  Hawkins remained with Zander until he returned to California in November.2  It is uncertain whether Hawkins’ quick migration—between three studios in a single year—came about due to his feeling personally unfulfilled, or simply because the ad studios didn’t have enough work to keep him busy, reliant as they were on the rapidly-shifting needs of clients.

In the first half of the decade, Hawkins frequently worked with John Sutherland Productions, which was then releasing industrials sponsored by large corporate organizations: Harding College (The Devil and John Q [1952] and Dear Uncle [1953]), The New York Stock Exchange (What Makes Us Tick [1952]), General Electric (A is for Atom [1953]), the United States Chamber of Commerce (It’s Everybody’s Business [1954]), and the Albert B. Sloan Foundation (Horizons of Hope [1954]). Between assignments for Sutherland, Hawkins moonlighted on a Ford commercial with animator Cecil Surry at a studio space owned by Ade Woolery and Mary Cain, formerly of UPA.3  John Hubley designed the Ford spot; a former director at Screen Gems in the early forties, Hubley had been fired from UPA after he refused to cooperate with HUAC (House of Un-American Activities) for his communist stance in May 1952.4  Hawkins, a strong advocate for worker’s rights himself, became involved in union activities for the Screen Cartoonists’ Guild, and was elected as a trustee to Local 852. Hawkins held this position until 1952, when the Guild appointed him as conductor.5

Main title card featuring Dibujos Animados' characters: the donkey Burrito Bonifacio, Gallito Manolin the rooster, and the treacherous crow Armando Rios, who reflected communist ideology.

The American government’s crusade against communism led to films with a propagandist slant, which often included Sutherland’s films. In December 1952, an animation studio called Dibujos Animados, S. A. (translating to “animated cartoons”) opened in Mexico under the auspices of Richard K. Tompkins, representing the USIA (United States Information Agency).6  Hawkins decided to work for this studio, relocating to Mexico by April 1953.7  Pat Matthews, Hawkins’s cohort from Lantz, also left UPA to try his luck there. Dibujos Animados, S. A. produced twelve cartoons with anti-Communist themes, but only one was theatrically released; Manolín Torero (Manolin the Bullfighter) was screened at the Alameda movie theater in Mexico City on July 1, 1954.8  Hawkins directed the cartoon, with Matthews as part of the animation crew. While it bears his stamp in character design and animation, Hawkins’s third stint as a director fails on a technical level; camera errors abound throughout the film. 

In 1954, John Sutherland opened a second operation in New York on 28th and Fourth Avenue, Sutherland Television Films, to develop industrials and commercials.9  Hawkins went with Sutherland to his New York offices in September for two months, after which he returned to California in November.10  By May 1955, Hawkins received work on commercials for John Hubley at Hubley’s new commercial studio, Storyboard.11  Hubley’s lively commercial for Speedway 79 Gasoline, using a jazz version of “Dem Bones” for its jingle, displayed Hawkins (with animator Arnold Gillespie) adapting significantly to the era’s stylized modern approach to animation design.

Speedway 79 spot, produced and directed by John Hubley for Storyboard. 

The following year, Hawkins animated for Playhouse Pictures, a commercial studio founded by Ade Woolery, while working on at least one industrial for Sutherland (Working Dollars [1956] for the New York Stock Exchange). Meanwhile, Hubley closed Storyboard's West Coast offices in July, transferring services to New York.12  Earning numerous awards for his commercials, Hubley directed the first ad campaign for Maypo breakfast cereal, which became a vast sales booster when it aired on northeast television stations in September.13  As animated by Hawkins, little Marky is obsessed with his beloved, oversized cowboy hat; Marky’s father coaxes him to take off his hat and eat his bowl of the maple-flavored oat cereal. Inadvertently, father’s persuasions lead the spoonful into his own mouth; after savoring the maple flavor, Marky’s father claims the cereal bowl for himself. His son turns his attention away from his cherished hat, crying, “I want my Maypo!”  Hawkins might have handed his assignment to Hubley via mail correspondence (“[I] worked by mail for him for a couple of years,” he mentioned.) In November, Hawkins left for New York to join Storyboard.14

Marky Maypo's father cajoles his son to eat his Maypo cereal in the first commercial that popularized the ad campaign in 1956.

From January to March 1957, with Ed Smith as his assistant, Hawkins involved himself with The Adventures of an *, the first collaborative short by Hubley and his wife, Faith Elliott, commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum.15  As the sole credited animator, Hawkins helped utilize innovative techniques in Hubley’s film, animating figures using a “wax-resist” method, drawing the figures with wax, and adding a touch of watercolor to produce a resisted texture.16  After completing his work on the film, Hawkins traveled back to Los Angeles, where Hubley entrusted him in a different capacity at Storyboard: the 1957 yearbook edition of Television Age magazine lists him as Storyboard’s West Coast manager.17

From The Adventures of an * (1957), produced by John and Faith Hubley.

Hawkins continued his association with Storyboard and John Sutherland Productions while devoting his time to television commercial workshops as a freelancer: Playhouse Pictures, Le Ora Thompson Associates (formed by Playhouse's sales director Leora Thompson and Carl Urbano), and Fine Arts Productions (supervised by former Disney layout man John Wilson).18  For Storyboard, Hawkins’s credits include Hubley’s painterly love story The Tender Game (1958), John and Faith’s third independent film together, and the opening title sequence for the short-lived CBS anthology series The Seven Lively Arts (1957-58).19  At Sutherland, Hawkins served as an animator for Fill ‘Er Up (1959), sponsored by DuPont, and Rhapsody of Steel (1959), the studio's most extravagant film about man's precious metal, funded by US Steel. In addition, Hawkins found love with a woman who worked at Sutherland's, Odette Alice Flood, whom he later married on April 20, 1959.20

Award-winning Jax Beer spot, produced by Pelican Films in 1960. 

1959 also inaugurated Hawkins’s arrangement to regularly send his commercial work through the mail from California to Pelican Films, Jack Zander’s new studio in New York. Among his jobs for Pelican was a series of 60-second spots promoting Jax Beer, written and voiced by the improvisational comedy act Mike Nichols and Elaine May. One example, animated by Hawkins and Bob Perry, involves a talking kangaroo (Nichols) requesting a cold beverage from a human bartender (May). First aired in July 1960, it garnered an award for best advertisement in the Beers and Wines category at the Second Television Commercials Festival in 1961.21 Then, in 1962, Hawkins left the West Coast indefinitely for New Mexico, settling with his wife in Santa Fe. The following year, Emery and Odette purchased a ranch house on La Lorna in Taos County, a town they passed during their travels on their honeymoon.22

TV commercials animated entirely or partly by Hawkins from the late 1950s to the early 1960s.

Bank of America (Storyboard, c. 1955), Speedway 79 Gasoline (Storyboard, 1955 – co-animated with Arnold Gillespie), “The Lion and the Mouse” (Storyboard, 1957, co-animated with Art Babbitt), Desoto Painter (Playhouse Pictures, c. 1956 – co-animated with Bill Melendez), Stop in the Sign of 76 (Playhouse Pictures, 1956, co-animated with Herman Cohen), three Maypo spots (Storyboard, 1956-57), Desoto spot (Le Ora Thompson Associates, 1958), Falstaff “Punt” (Storyboard, 1959), Kingsway Shoes (unknown studio, c. late 1950s, co-animated with Phil Duncan), four Jax Beer spots (c. 1960-61). Thanks to Mike Kazaleh for lending a few of these spots from his collection.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Hawkins settled into a routine of working remotely from his studio in Taos. After maintaining his livelihood in major American cities, he felt serenity in his new abode. “Beautiful blue skies, clean air, and sweet water, and quiet at night—a real nice combination; lots of room and our house is an old house with big rooms, and it's kind of private, and it's very nice. Very lovely place.”

Considered a reliable asset to longtime colleagues, including Jack Zander at Pelican, Hawkins accepted different projects from producers Jerry Fairbanks (We Learn About the Telephone [1965, sponsored by Bell Telephone])23 and John Hubley (A Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass Double Feature [1966]). Later, he moonlighted on commercials for Summer Star Productions, a studio founded by Mordicai “Mordi” Gerstein; Hawkins had previously animated on Gerstein’s short film A Nose (1968) produced at Pelican.24  Hawkins’ association with Jack Zander prevailed when in 1970, Zander’s Animation Parlour opened in New York, with Hawkins hired as a freelancer.25  Bill Melendez, a fellow animator of Art Davis’s unit at Warners and a top animator/director for Playhouse, enlisted Hawkins to work on at least two films with the Peanuts characters, Play It Again, Charlie Brown (1971) and the feature Snoopy Come Home (1972). Apart from animation, Hawkins engaged himself in the New Mexican art scene, showcasing his paintings at cultural events, often with the backing of the Taos Art Association.26

On February 20, 1975, Richard Williams, a producer-director acknowledged for his work on commercials at his studio in London and an Oscar win for his 1971 adaptation of A Christmas Carol, set forth his plans for production on Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure at a meeting with The Bobbs-Merrill Company (then the Raggedy Ann rightsholder), with Broadway producers Richard Horner and Lester Osterman in attendance. During the meeting, Williams mentioned Hawkins’s name as part of the selected group of directing animators assigned to the feature.27  In June 1975, Hawkins traveled by train from Taos to New York to appear at a summit meeting with the key animators. The Raggedy Ann vocal performances, and Joe Raposo’s musical score, had been recorded a month prior; now Williams and his animators held story conferences to establish the personalities of their designated characters.28

Production drawing of the Greedy from the Taffy Pit sequence. Image courtesy Michael Sporn. 

Hawkins’s assignment of the Greedy—an enormous, shapeshifting, living mass of sweets and confections who resides in the Taffy Pit—demanded a metamorphosis unseen in animated films. Hawkins returned to his home studio in Taos to work on the Taffy Pit sequence, using storyboards from the film’s production designer Corny Cole. During the film's production, Hawkins explained the Greedy's constant transfigurations throughout the sequence, “It's obvious that it doesn't matter what his form is, it can go in and out of all kinds of things. He's not only in a viscous fluid environment. He's part of it! And being part of that viscous flowing mass, he ought to flow and change the same way.”

Mike Sanger, a freelance animator on the feature (uncredited), socialized with Hawkins and frequently visited his Taos studio while Emery labored on his scenes. Paraphrasing Mike's recollections, Mark Kausler described the Taos studio as “a real tropical rat's nest.” Mark continues, “Emery was almost always completely disorganized but became instantly sharp when he was animating.” Darrell Van Citters accompanied Mike during one visit to Emery's home studio. Besides the cowboy boots catching his attention, he noticed “[Emery’s] forearm was black from pencil lead because of the soft pencils he used and the 16-field paper he was working on [animating the Greedy].”29

Between June 1975 and January 1976, Hawkins worked the slowest of all the directing animators, rattling the Raggedy Ann producers. As it happened, he reworked the opening portions of the Taffy Pit sequence three times before finding what he considered the Greedy’s essence.30  The laborious sequence required its characters to be drawn on several action levels: Raggedy Ann, Andy, and the Camel with the Wrinkled Knees on one level, the rolling waves of the Taffy Pit—with its mounds of delectable confections and sweets—on another, and the Greedy on the third. With Dan Haskett as Hawkins’ key assistant animator, cleaning up his drawings, an average of only six cleanups could be completed each day, given the meticulous detailing of the sketches and the necessity of maintaining the consistency of each action level. In a rare instance, one day found Dan surpassing his usual quota with ten cleanups instead of six.31

The summer of 1976 saw pencil tests from the directing animators being screened in New York bi-weekly. Emery’s scenes met with unanimous applause from Raggedy Ann’s creative staff after each presentation. The renowned animator Art Babbitt found the Taffy Pit sequence masterful and a “tour de force.” Babbitt said to John Canemaker, “I sent [Emery] a fan letter, the first one I’ve ever sent in my life to anyone, including Mary Pickford.”32  Hawkins animated the introduction of the Greedy and the entire song sequence, leading up to the battle in the Taffy Pit, amounting to five minutes of screen time. In a desperate rush to expedite the production in October 1976, Hawkins was taken off the project, with animators Art Vitello and John Bruno inheriting the remainder of the sequence. Keeping a watchful eye on his character, Hawkins sent a list of proclamations to Vitello and Bruno as a guide:

“Thou shalt not feel that the Greedy has а distinct anatomy. Не is а bag of parts—one big bag of opportunities. Lumps rise and turn into hands. Hands rise and turn into lumps. His dialogue is a flatulent bubble-up. Generally, there are three waves getting darker as they recede. I try to make the waves relate to main Greedy action. It's widescreen, so I've tried to make it look like a three-ring circus, rather than just one ring at a time.” 33 


The Taffy Pit sequence from Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure.

Initially slated for release around the Christmas holidays in 1976, Raggedy Ann and Andy made it to theaters in April 1977. Hawkins found it an enjoyable experience, but the film was not a financial or critical success. “The trouble was that it was a musical, and kids don’t care for sophisticated musicals,” Hawkins said. “Also, I don’t think people cared for it because it wasn’t ‘modern.’”34  Richard Williams next recruited Hawkins’s talents for the passion project Williams would work on for almost two decades, The Thief and the Cobbler. Besides working on Cobbler at his Taos studio, Hawkins involved himself in the hour-long television special Gnomes for Zander’s Animation Parlour, an adaptation of the book by Wil Huygen and Rien Poortvliet, which aired in 1980 on CBS. Hawkins, now approaching his seventies, continued to work on Cobbler as late as early 1982.35  His animation was ultimately cut from the theatrical cut of the film, released a decade later.

Sadly, Hawkins soon developed Alzheimer’s disease, forcing him to retire from the business. From September 15-29, 1988, the 21st International Tournée of Animation organized a benefit for the ailing animator in California, screening animated films in theaters from Encino, South Pasadena, and Newport Beach.36  Unfortunately, he passed away in Taos a few months later, on June 1, 1989. After Hawkins’s death, his peers extolled his work in reverence. In an interview with Michael Barrier nearly two years later, Corny Cole stated that besides Bill Tytla, Emery “is, to me, the greatest animator who ever lived.”37

In his instructional book The Animator’s Survival Kit, Richard Williams immortalized animation techniques and sage advice from Hawkins. As Hawkins once said to Williams, “The only limitation in animation is the person doing it. Otherwise, there is no limit to what you can do. And why shouldn’t you do it?”38

Thanks to Jerry Beck, David Gerstein, Mark Kausler, Keith Scott, Mark Mayerson, Don M. Yowp, Frank M. Young, Dan Haskett, Dean Yeagleand John Canemaker for their help and encouragement. Special acknowledgment to Thad Komorowski for transcribing and sharing John Canemaker's interview with Hawkins on this blog


1 Top Cel, July 1950. Courtesy: Richard O’Connor.

Top Cel, November 1950. Courtesy: Richard O’Connor. Hawkins is listed in state census records on both coasts during 1950. The New York census, dated April 17, lists him rooming at a residence owned by Lillian Stockley, with his occupation listed as a cartoonist for advertising. 1950 US Federal Census, New York, enumeration district 31-350, lines 19-21. The 1950 Los Angeles census lists Hawkins, his wife Mary, his two children, Bruce and Wayne, and Jay Macwilliam (listed as “aunt”) residing in Los Angeles. Since the LA census records have no enumeration date, it is hard to discern when the Bureau compiled its data. 1950 US Federal Census, Los Angeles, enumeration district 66-142A, lines 4-8.

3 Adam Abraham, When Magoo Flew, p. 131; sourced from Ade Woolery, interview by Michael Barrier, September 9, 1986.

4 Ibid; Michael Barrier, Hollywood Cartoons, p. 534.

5 1950 Film Daily Year Book, p. 908; 1951 Film Daily Year Book, p. 833; 1952 Motion Picture Production Encyclopedia, p. 553.

6 Juan Manuel Aurrecoechea, “The Second Conquest,” referenced in Luna Córnea magazine, no. 20, p. 231.

7 The April 1953 edition of Top Cel mentioned Hawkins embarking on a “Mexican venture.” Author’s collection.

8 Giannalberto Benndazi, Animation: A World History, Volume 2: The Birth of a Style - The Three Markets, p. 91.

9 The April 1954 issue of Top Cel mentions a new West Coast studio, Sutherland Television Films, forming in New York. Author’s collection.

10 Top Cel, September 1954 and November 1954. Author’s collection. The October 6, 1954 issue of The Hollywood Reporter reported Hawkins’s hiring at Sutherland’s New York studio, as well.

11 Art Director and Studio News, vol. 7, no. 2 (May 1955), p. 40.

12 Motion Picture Daily, June 20, 1956, p. 2.

13 Scott Bruce and Bill Crawford, Cerealizing America: The Unsweetened Story of American Breakfast Cereal, p. 158. 

14 Top Cel, November 1956. Author’s collection.

15 Top Cel, January 1957; Top Cel, March 1957. Courtesy: Howard Beckerman.

16 Michael Barrier, interview with John Hubley, November 26, 1976; published on Barrier’s website.

17 Television Age, vol. 4, issue 12, (undated) 1957, p. 304.

18 The August 11, 1958 issue of Television Age has a frame grab from a spot Hawkins animated for Le Ora Thompson Associates, p. 47. Likewise, for the April 18, 1960 edition of Television Age, where his credit appears in a mentioning for a Butternut Instant Coffee commercial produced by Fine Arts Films, p. 47. 

19 Art Direction, vol. 10, no. 1 (April 1958), p. 84.

20 California, US, Marriage Index, 1949-1959; The Taos News, June 2, 1977. My research has failed to turn up documentation regarding the divorce, separation, or passing of Hawkins’ first wife. Any information is appreciated.

21 The 1961 American TV Commercials Festival Award Winners program (May 4, 1961), p. 25; Art Direction, vol. 13, no. 5 (August 1961), p. 33.

22 The Taos News, April 25, 1963, p. 3.

23 Mike Kazaleh, comment on Michael Sporn’s blog, October 15, 2009.

24 Television/Radio Age, vol. 18, no. 11 (January 11, 1971), p. 49.

25 The August 10, 1970 edition of Television/Radio Age magazine, p. 36, and its April 5, 1971 issue, p. 38, mentioned Zander hiring Hawkins exclusively. Contrarily, Dean Yeagle, an animator and director at Zander’s Animation Parlour, said Hawkins worked there as a freelancer. Dean Yeagle, phone conversation with the author, August 3, 2022. 

26 “Sixteen Taos Artists In 1965 Fiesta Biennal.” The Taos News, August 5, 1965, p. 6; “Art Auction Special TAA Ball Feature.” The Taos News, November 23, 1967; The Taos News, December 13, 1972; The New Mexican Sun, December 17, 1972, pp. 2 and 20.

27 John Canemaker, The Animated Raggedy Ann & Andy, p. 125.

28 Ibid, p. 145.

29 Mark Kausler, e-mail message to author, July 6, 2022. Darrell Van Citters, e-mail messages to author, June 24, 2019, and July 23, 2022.

30 John Canemaker, The Animated Raggedy Ann & Andy, p. 202.

31 Dan Haskett, phone conversation with author, July 21, 2022.

32 John Canemaker, The Animated Raggedy Ann & Andy, p. 193.

33 Ibid, p. 203.

34 The Taos News, January 7, 1982.

35 Ibid.

36 The Los Angeles Times, September 15, 1988, pp. 6 and 8.

37 Michael Barrier, interview with Corny Cole, February 23, 1991; published on Barrier’s website.

38 Richard Williams, The Animator’s Survival Kit, p. 26.