Many of the artists that worked in the animation industry from the 1930s through the 1960s were graduates of the highly regarded Los Angeles art schools-Chouinard, Art Center, Otis and Jepson. The first wave of animation talent to go through these schools was during the 1930s due to Walt Disney’s drive to increase the quality and quantity of artists available for his rapidly increasing production needs. The second wave in the 40s and 50s was driven by the GI Bill as many returning vets opted for an art education before rejoining the work force.
One of those returning vets to benefit from this training was Robert Inman, one of the key background painters on Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. Bob had joined the Navy just before the end of WWII but saw limited duty. After he was discharged, he attended college but unhappy with the art program there settled on Chouinard Art Institute instead. One of his favorite instructors there was Disney legend, Don Graham, whose philosophy according to Bob was, “You don’t draw what you see, you draw what you know.” Upon graduation in 1952, he took a test at Disney where he was offered a job for $30 a week for the first year (approx. $245 in today’s dollars) but declined the position for a higher paying job at Douglas Aircraft doing technical drawings.
His first job in animation wasn’t until 1959 at Bob Clampett’s Snowball Productions, filling in for a few months for a staffer on vacation. Bob’s career in animation really took off, though, when longtime friend and former roommate, Corny Cole, who was working at UPA, told him of an opening in the background department. UPA paid better than Douglas and Inman spent the next five years there, working on The Mr. Magoo Show, The Dick Tracy Show, Gay Purr-ee, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol and finally leaving in 1964 when production shut down after the completion of The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo. When I asked Bob what he thought of his tenure there, he replied, “UPA was the only animation studio I worked for that really let me be creative. They never held your hand and made being creative impossible.” (Above, one of Bob's paintings for Gay Purr-ee)
Corny’s recommendation had long term ramifications for Bob as he spent much of the rest of his career working with people he met while at UPA-Lee Orgel, who produced the animated series, The New Three Stooges at Cambria Studios; Abe Levitow at Chuck Jones’ MGM Visual Arts where Bob painted backgrounds for Tom & Jerry shorts, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Horton Hears a Who, The Phantom Tollbooth, Off to See the Wizard and The Pogo Special Birthday Special (for which he painted every single background despite being stricken with the Hong Kong flu); and fellow painter Gloria Wood, at Jay Ward, painting on George of the Jungle and Super Chicken. He briefly returned to UPA in 1970 to once again work with Abe Levitow on Uncle Sam Magoo (produced by Lee Orgel and scored by Walter Scharf, also veterans of Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol).
Bob also painted for Hanna Barbera on many of their late 60s, early 70s TV shows like Arabian Knights, It’s the Wolf and The Roman Holidays (above, one of his paintings for Hanna Barbera). He left the animation business in 1973 to devote his time to fine art painting but continued to pick up freelance work from Bosustow Productions as well as many of the local commercial houses like Film Fair, Quartet and even working again with Abe Levitow at Levitow Hansen Films.
Since devoting his full time to fine art painting, Bob has sold many of his pieces to both private and corporate collections. The Art Rental & Sales Gallery of Los Angeles County Museum of Art has been representing his art over 20 years. You can find some of Bob’s abstract work here. Reflecting on his life as a painter, Bob had this to say:
“I’ve gone through three different stages in my painting career. I started out doing realistic works and ended up an abstract painter. People sometimes ask me “Why did you put that color there?” or “What were you thinking about when you did that painting?” I tell them I don’t think a lot about those decisions when I’m working. I work emotionally not intellectually. After so many years I’ve learned to trust myself---to just let it out. If I think too much about what I’m doing my work will get fussy or stiff. I work from the belly.”