Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Art Babbitt at Warners...

After the famous Disney strike of 1941; there were a group of animators of course that went over to Warner Bros. such as Cornett Wood, Bill Melendez, Basil Davidovich and even very briefly Howard Swift. A famous Disney animator of the time who was the leader of the strike even went over to Warner Bros. but only stayed there for roughly a few weeks - and yes; this is Art Babbitt.

Of course; Art Babbitt was an animator at Disney throughout the 1930s and was known for the creator of Goofy, Gepetto in Pinocchio, and the drunken mouse in Country Cousin. Art Babbitt was fired from Disney in 1941 for his union activities when animation unions were restricted back then, and became a leader of the strike and held a grudge on Disney and the studio for many, many years (almost the remainder of his life).

After Babbitt left Disney in 1941; he would've briefly went over to Warner Bros. a little while later around 1942 and was sent to work for Bob Clampett. Bob Clampett was probably the wildest director the Schlesinger Studios had by that point and Babbitt was brought to his unit. Despite working there for at least only a month; he managed to contribute quite a fair bit of animation. His most notable animation he did was on The Wise Quacking Duck where he animated the striptease sequence and 'Wise Quacking Duck' is probably the craziest Daffy Duck cartoon ever.

He also did some scenes in Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs a parody to Disney's 'Snow White' but with a black cast; which is ironic since Babbitt worked on both productions. The only shot that I know of Babbitt did is Coal Black eating the poisoned apple but I'm not sure about the other scenes. He also did some animation on Tin Pan Alley Cats which is a pretty fun cartoon but mediocre and cheap - but I won't go into details since I haven't reviewed them yet.

Judging by the way that he animated the strip-tease animation; he also did some animation of Mr. Meek in the beginning as he worryingly tells the audience, "Oh, I hate to do this folks but Sweetiepuss says if I don't cook a duck for dinner, she'll cook my goose". I don't think the walk-cycle of Mr. Meeks is Babbitt but it's likely to be McKimson. Babbitt also did a brief scene of Daffy placing his head under his neck.

Art Babbitt got a fair share although I personally find 'Wise Quacking Duck' rather interesting in trying to discover animation I.Ds since Phil Monroe recieved screen-credit for that cartoon but most of us have no idea on what he worked on since his style isn't really visible for this cartoon but he may have done a fair bit though. The only styles that appear to be certain in this short is Art Babbitt, Bob McKimson and Rod Scribner even though Scribner did little animation; although Virgil Ross likely did some scenes.

There is an interesting Mike Barrier interview with Art Babbitt where he briefly talks about his stay at Warners; and I hope Michael Barrier doesn't mind me posting this:

BARRIER: Another cartoon that I've heard you used some live action as reference for, or used in some way, was when you were at Warner Bros. briefly, in the Clampett unit, and animated the fan dance with Daffy Duck [in The Wise Quacking Duck, released in 1943].
BABBITT: I was there for only a month, and that's a little story in itself. Dave Hilberman got this job for me, and I didn't want the job, because I knew I was going to win my case against Disney. Whatever I earned elsewhere would be deducted from the final settlement, so I wanted as little deducted as possible. When the guy who handled the payroll there at Warners wanted to know how much I wanted, I said, "Minimum." He said, "You know you can get more." I said, "No, I just want minimum." The next week he called me in again and said, "You can get more." I said, "I don't want more, I just want minimum."
BARRIER: Was that Henry Binder?
BABBITT: I think so. I did this duck—God, I don't have any live action for that. I mean, where the hell am I going to get live action for a duck doing a strip tease?
BARRIER: But you could have had live action of a real strip teaser.
BABBITT: But I didn't.
BARRIER: Obviously not to copy it, but just as a reference—
BABBITT: No! I never even looked at any
 It's interesting about how he wanted a small salary when at Warners when knew he would win a lot of money against Disney; when Walt finally had no choice but to briefly bring him back in 1946 but was very, very harsh on him, and warned all colleagues that anyone who spoke to Babbitt or seen near him would get fired.

In the striptease sequence; which is Babbitt's notable sequence he got at Warner Bros. as it was really the only major sequence he got; he shows some nice subtle acting of when Daffy Duck strips although Babbitt denies on using live-action on it; and I wouldn't doubt his words since it makes me think would Schlesinger even pay money for live-action in a cartoon as he never wanted to go over-budgets and the budgets weren't as ambitious as Disney would be.

Although Babbitt often denies about using footage in interviews and mentioned about not rotoscoping any scenes of the Wicked Queen in Snow White.

Art Babbitt draws Mr. Meek different from the other animators as he gives him a larger forehead than the other animators and also draws Daffy's bill different from the other animators. There is good timing on when Daffy bends Meek's middle finger to whack him on the face and when he exits. The sequence is the type of assignment to be given to Art Babbitt as it's fluid movement and to what he would use at Disney; but at least he gives some cartoony looks to it. Looking later on in the cartoon; I think Babbitt did the shot of Mr. Meek placing Daffy inside the stove before turning it on which is Scribner's scenes.

During Babbitt's tenure at Warner's; Clampett had an entire top-notch quality bunch in his cartoons: Bob McKimson, Virgil Ross, Rod Scribner and Art Babbitt - that MUST have been a priviledge as he had one of the best animators at the studio; while Chuck Jones had Ken Harris and Ben Washam; and Friz Freleng had Gerry Chinniquy, Phil Monroe and later; Virgil Ross. Greg Duffell spoke to me, who knew Art Babbitt well back in the 1970s when working for Richard Williams in London, spoke to Babbitt about his brief stay at Warners and mentioned that Art Babbitt wasn't too happy being over at Warners saying all the animators did crude stuff, or drew crude and only had respect for Bob McKimson by acknowledging him as an animator. He also drew with a ruler to measure the limbs, according to Greg.

 That's all for now; but I want to try and go into animation analysis on 'The Wise Quacking Duck' soon since it's tempting and to try and find out the animators scenes.


  1. A very interesting and informative blog post. I, for one, had no idea Art Babbitt worked on Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs – it would be fascinating to know what were the scenes he worked on, apart from the apple-eating scene. It makes me wonder if he also worked on A Tale of Two Kitties – a precursor of sorts of Coal Black, since it was the first cartoon where Rod Scribner employed his "Lichty style" – and whether the name "Babbit" in "Babbit and Catstello", apart from being an obvious pun on Bud Abbott, might have been a reference to him. It doesn't seem unlikely.

    What does seem unlikely is that Babbitt wouldn't have worked with live action footage in the Daffy Duck striptease sequence, since that sequence is in many parts nearly identical to the lizard's striptease in Tex Avery's 1940 cartoon Cross Country Detours, and that was rotoscoped – the footage of the stripper that was used was even included in one of the Schlesinger Productions Christmas Party newsreels (found on disc 3 of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection vol. 6), with Henry Binder doing a distinctly Avery-like take at the sight of the stripper's bare ass. Of course it's possible that Babbitt could have based his animation on the earlier animated sequence instead of the live action footage, but given the vehemence with which he denies this in the Barrier interview as well as his tendency to deny using such footage, which you mentioned, it seems likelier that he simply didn't want to admit to the fact, as if it would somehow lessen his worth as animator.

    To end in a bit of (hopefully constructive) criticism, you seem to have some problems with punctuation in this post. I've only read a few of your previous posts, so I'm not sure if this is a recurring feature, but about a half or more of the semicolons (;) you use in this post are not used right and should be replaced by commas. In a few places they are all right, but even there they could be replaced by commas without doing any harm to either grammar or style. The semicolon can be an effective punctuation mark when used right, but if you're in doubt whether you should use it in a given place or not (as it seems that you are), I would suggest refraining from using it altogether, as such a large number of misplaced semicolons as you have in this piece tends to hamper seriously the reading of a text (and generally you write in a very readable style). Anyway, congrats on what you've done in this blog so far, and keep up the good work!

    P.S. Only after writing the above I checked out your "About Me" box; I presume that your problems with punctuation stem from the same source as the mix-ups with words and grammar errors that you write about, so they may not be as easy to solve as I supposed. However, I would suggest getting someone to "clean up" your blog posts before publishing them (which would only entail getting rid of the most glaring errors, so it wouldn't be too much of a task), or then simply avoiding certain punctuation marks, as I wrote above.

  2. "he managed to contribute quite a fair bit of animation" is conjecture. Babbitt himself only spoke about animating on one cartoon.

  3. The information that Babbitt animated the apple-eating scene in Coal Black (not really "a fair bit of animation", it's true, since the scene lasts about a second) comes apparently from some interview with Bob Clampett, which is referred to here. Someone posting in that thread also mentions that Babbitt did some uncredited animation for A Tale of Two Kitties.

    1. Babbitt did not animate in 'A Tale of Two Kitties'. Thad K. posted a breakdown a while back based on an actual draft from Mark Mayerson.

  4. Real interesting stuff. Thanks for posting this!
    Check out my research on animation history as it relates to Art Babbitt -

  5. I think he animated the second half of the dance club sequence in Tin Pan Alley Cats. That trumpet-playing cat had a gangly-Goofy quality to his movements which was Art Babbitt's signature character/style at Disney.