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Arthur Babbitt

Arthur Babbitt

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Also Known As: Arthur Babitsky, Art Babbitt Died: March 4, 1992
Born: September 28, 1907 Cause of Death: kidney failure
Birth Place: Omaha, Nebraska, USA Profession: animator, animation instructor, director of commercial department of Hanna-Barbera

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A master of character animation, Art Babbitt's career spanned the early days of sound animation at Terrytoons and Disney; the glory days of the lavish pre-war Disney features; the 1950s innovations of UPA; the limited commercial animation of Hanna-Barbera in the 60s; and the big-budget animated features of the late 80s and 90s. He was significant both for his extraordinary artistic achievements and for his central role in the fateful Disney animators' strike of 1941. As a leader in the cartoonists' union which clashed with management over wages and working conditions, Babbitt gained the lasting enmity of the paternalistic Walt Disney, with whom he nearly came to blows on the picket line during the height of the strike. Legend has it that Walt's bitterness over the strike motivated the waning of his interest in animated features in the 1940s and forever changed his attitude toward his staff. As an animator, Babbitt is best known for developing the personality of Goofy, one of the most beloved Disney characters. He also animated the Big Bad Wolf for the classic 1933 short, "The Three Little Pigs" and worked on such landmark Disney features as "Snow White", "Pinocchio", and "Dumbo". Perhaps his most...

A master of character animation, Art Babbitt's career spanned the early days of sound animation at Terrytoons and Disney; the glory days of the lavish pre-war Disney features; the 1950s innovations of UPA; the limited commercial animation of Hanna-Barbera in the 60s; and the big-budget animated features of the late 80s and 90s. He was significant both for his extraordinary artistic achievements and for his central role in the fateful Disney animators' strike of 1941. As a leader in the cartoonists' union which clashed with management over wages and working conditions, Babbitt gained the lasting enmity of the paternalistic Walt Disney, with whom he nearly came to blows on the picket line during the height of the strike. Legend has it that Walt's bitterness over the strike motivated the waning of his interest in animated features in the 1940s and forever changed his attitude toward his staff.

As an animator, Babbitt is best known for developing the personality of Goofy, one of the most beloved Disney characters. He also animated the Big Bad Wolf for the classic 1933 short, "The Three Little Pigs" and worked on such landmark Disney features as "Snow White", "Pinocchio", and "Dumbo". Perhaps his most celebrated work at Disney was his animation of the dancing mushrooms in the "Nutcracker Suite" sequence of "Fantasia".

Babbitt also did memorable work for Warner Brothers, UPA, and Hanna-Barbera. He won more than 80 awards for independent TV commercials in the 1950s and 60s, including spots for the Ajax Cleanser elves and a popular ad involving a man who could not pronounce "Worcestershire Sauce". Babbitt headed the commercial department of Hanna-Barbera from 1966 to 1975 and taught master classes in animation at Richard Williams' London studio beginning in 1973. Babbitt's last work was on "The Thief and the Cobbler", a major animated feature not yet released.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

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Milestones close milestones

:
Studied the writings of Freud as a youth in hopes of becoming a psychiatrist
1924:
Turned to commercial art at age 17 when his parents were unable to afford medical school 9date approximate)
1929:
Worked on some of the earliest sound cartoons at Paul Terry's Terrytoons studio in Long Island NY
1932:
Went to California to work for Walt Disney for $35 a week
1933:
Helped animate the Practical Pig and the Big Bad Wolf in Disney's classic Oscar-winning cartoon short, "The Three Little Pigs"
1934:
Assigned to a Mickey Mouse short, "Mickey's Service Station", to animate "The Goof", a previously undeveloped character that soon become known as "Goofy"
1934:
Wrote "Character Analysis of the Goof", an essay used as a guide by his fellow animators when working on Goofy (now regarded as a classic text on character animation)
1937:
Animated the Wicked Queen in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", the first Disney feature
1940:
Animated the character of Gepetto in "Pinocchio"
1940:
Contributed to several sequences in "Fantasia", most notably animating the dance of the mushrooms sequence to the music of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite"
:
Was active as a leader in the company union at the Disney studio.
:
Confronted Walt Disney over a wage differential between himself and his assistant
:
Became active in new Screen Cartoonists Guild, recognized as the studio's bargaining agent following federal mediation
1941:
Fired by Disney in direct violation of the Wagner Labor Relations Act thereby prompting the union to go out on strike (May 29)
:
Served in the US Marines as an animator on training films during World War II
:
Filed suit against Disney with the National Labor Relations Board, which subsequently ordered the studio to reinstate him
1945:
Returned to Disney studio after the war but no longer received interesting assignments; snubbed by Walt and some other animators
1946:
Left the Disney studio
:
Worked for the Warner Brothers animation unit
:
Worked at the innovative UPA (United Productions of America) studio
1949:
Assisted on the first Mr. Magoo cartoon, "Ragtime Bear"
:
Won more than 80 awards for independent TV commercials in the 1950s and 1960s
1966:
Served as director of the commercial department at Hanna-Barbera
:
Worked on John and Faith Hubley's TV special "Everybody Rides the Carousel"
:
Taught animation at the University of Southern California
1973:
Brought to England by animator Richard Williams for master classes in animation at Williams' London studio
1992:
Worked on "The Thief and the Cobbler", scheduled for release in late 1992
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Notes

Babbitt's approach to character animation can be found in his classic essay, "Character Analysis of the Goof": "In my opinion the Goof, hitherto, has been a weak cartoon because both his physical and mental makeup were indefinite and intangible. His figure was a distortion, not a caricature, and if he was supposed to have a mind or a personality, he was certainly never given sufficient opportunity to display it. Just as any actor must thoroughly analyze the character he is interpreting, to know the special way that character would walk, wiggle his fingers, frown, or break into a laugh, just so must the animator know the character he is putting through the paces. In the case of the Goof, the only characteristic that formerly identified itself with him was his voice. No effort was made to endow him with appropriate business to do, a set of mannerisms, or a mental attitude..." (From "The American Animated Cartoon" edited by Gerald Peary and Danny Peary.)

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Barbara Babbitt. Dancer, actor. Survived him.

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