Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol

A blog dedicated to the making of the first animated Christmas special, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Rocky & Bullwinkle in Mexico

Frank Hursh, head of background dept at Gamma
If you grew up with Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, it's a good bet you watched Rocky &
Bullwinkle and all the rest of Jay Ward's series.  For the next few weeks, my Jay Ward blog takes you behind the scenes at the Mexican studio, Gamma Productions, that actually produced those series.  This week, meet the ex-pat American head of the background department, Frank Hursh, and in the ensuing posts see some more rare photos and art from that era. Take a gander here.  And if you need a guidebook for your tour, get one here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Bob Inman, 1927-2016

I'm sorry to report that Bob Inman, one of the two main background painters on Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, has passed away.  Bob was one of animation's unsung talents, largely because he spent his career painting for television animation which has never received the kind of recognition theatrical animation has.  He was part of a generation of highly trained artists who were nominally known in the industry as background painters but who might be more properly defined as color stylists, using color boldly and expressively, oftentimes outshining the low quality animation that served as the foreground.

Bob started at Bob Clampett's Snowball Productions, churned out BGs by the dozen for Hank Saperstein's UPA TV productions of Mr. Magoo and Dick Tracy, painted numerous backgrounds in the manner of various French Impressionists for the stylish feature, Gay Purr-ee and served as one of two main color stylists and painters on Christmas Carol

Stylish yet spartan BG from an unknown Magoo TV short
When work at UPA dried up, he followed Christmas Carol producer Lee Orgel over to Cambria for The New Three Stooges and then moved to Chuck Jones' incarnation of the MGM studio, working under Maurice Noble on such productions as Tom & Jerry and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  Bob later styled and painted The Pogo Special Birthday Special and reunited with Christmas Carol director Abe Levitow for We're Off to See the Wizard.
Moody BG likely from a Magoo GE comercial
He had brief stints with Jay Ward on the George of the Jungle series and with Abe Levitow on B.C.: The First Thanksgiving.  Later years were spent on seasonal work at Hanna-Barbera along with stints for Bosustow & Associates and freelance for most of the commercial houses in LA.  Bob returned to UPA in 1970 to once again work for Lee Orgel and Abe Levitow on Uncle Sam Magoo, where he was chief color stylist for the special.

Shortly before retiring, he freelanced for Chuck Jones on his stylish TV special, Mowgli's Brothers, below is one of his color keys for the show.  He finally left animation in 1976, tiring of the on again, off again nature of the industry and spent the rest of his time pursuing his passion for fine arts painting.

Bob's unorthodox approach to color in Christmas Carol
While the Saperstein years at UPA were without a doubt a factory system, the painters were left alone to style and paint as they saw fit.  Being able to paint using various techniques and unusual color schemes were the hallmarks of Bob's time at UPA as evidenced by his work on Christmas Carol and The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo.

Right, one of Bob's more painterly backgrounds from the 4 part Robin Hood episode of The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo. Below, a background from the Cyrano De Bergerac episode from the same series. You can read a little more about Bob and see some more of his work here from a profile I did over 5 years ago here on this blog. 

Bob, like so many of his contemporaries in TV animation (David Weidman, Gloria Wood, Jack Heiter and Sam Clayberger among many others) has remained "in the background" of animation history.  I was fortunate to have met and interviewed Bob Inman and, because he saved so many examples of his work, highlight his legacy for future generations.  Thanks for the memories, Bob.