I felt it important to mention the passing of another great creator, IWAO TAKAMOTO. He was also a part of the Hanna-Barbera animation team during its television prime.
IWAO TAKAMOTO R.I.P. (1925-2007)
Another H-B Legend Exits
by Steve Fritz
It’s been a hard year for Hanna-Barbera fans. First, legendary designer Ed Benedict died. Then the incredible Alex Toth. If that wasn’t enough, just before the year end we lost Joe Barbera. You’d think that be enough.
Now, the sad news comes that another legendary H-B designer, Iwao Takamoto, passed away Monday night of unreleased causes. He was 81 years old and is survived by his wife Barbara; his son Michael and step-daughter Leslie; and his brother, Robert, and sister, Judy.
To put things in perspective, look at it this way. Benedict established the early style of H-B designing characters as Ruff & Reddy, Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound. Toth went a long way towards creating the studio’s superhero front with characters like Space Ghost, Birdman and such. Of course, there would be no H-B without Joe Barbera.
All one has to say about Takamoto is one (hyphenated) name: Scooby-Doo. While we’re at it, let’s add Atom Ant, Secret Squirrel and just about every other comedic H-B character from about 1962 on, with the possible exceptions of Tex Avery’s Kwicky Koala, the Smurfs and the Two Stupid Dogs. In fact, according to the just released obit from Warner Bros, Takamoto was still quite active up to his last days, including design work on Alan Burnett and Paul Dini’s Krypto and the Tom & Jerry short “The Karate Guard.” That’s over four decades of constant creation. Not a bad run by anyone’s standards.
Then again, if anyone not only had the tools, but the training, it was Takamoto.
Born April 29, 1925 in Los Angeles, Takamoto graduated ahead of his class at age 15 from Thomas Jefferson High School. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Takamoto and his family were sent to the Manzanar Internment Camp. Takamoto was able to depart the camp by picking fruit on a farm in Idaho, but not before he received some informal illustration training from fellow Japanese-Americans in the camp.
Returning to Los Angeles, he landed an interview with the Disney Studios, despite his lack of a portfolio or any formal artistic training. In the few days prior to the interview, Takamoto quickly filled two newly purchased sketchpads with every image he could imagine. Disney hired him on the spot as an apprentice in-betweener on June 5, 1945, just two months before the end of World War II.
Takamoto trained under Disney's legendary "nine old men," including Ollie Johnston, Marc Davis, Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, Frank Thomas and Eric Lawson. While at Disney, Takamoto worked on short animated cartoons as well as full-length films, including Cinderella, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty and 101 Dalmatians.
In mid-August of 1961, Takamoto moved to Hanna-Barbera Studios. Virtually all the characters and cartoons released by Hanna-Barbera over the following four decades were touched by the design and artistry of Takamoto. As a character designer, it was his job to create the look and images of the characters based on an idea for a proposed cartoon show.
Still, if Takamoto earned his pass for animation immortality, it was for his work on Scooby Doo, Where Are You?. He even named the Greatest Dane…after one of his favorite songs, Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers In The Night.” Still, it was his designs of not only Scooby, but the entire Mystery Gang and the Van that set him apart from the rest of the pack.
“There was a lady at (Hanna-Barbera) that bred Great Danes," Takamoto explained in a recent interview he did for Cartoon Network. "She showed me some pictures and talked about the important points of a Great Dane, like a straight back, straight legs, small chin and such. I decided to go the opposite and gave him a hump back, bowed legs, big chin and such. Even his color is wrong."
Then again, it appears dogs were a Takamoto specialty. Among other H-B creations were Astro, Muttley, Penelope Pitstop and Josie & The Pussy Cats (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist). Not bad for a guy whose earliest characters included The Great Gazoo and all that beautiful super-deco tech and background designs of The Jetsons. He also was quite good at much more naturalistic designs, including the film Charlotte’s Web, which he served as animation director in the original H-B production of 1973.
Among the many awards Takamoto got during his lifetime were the Windsor McKay Lifetime Achievement Award by ASIFA-Hollywood for his contributions to the field of animation in 1996 and the Golden Award from the Animation Guild in 2005, to honor his more than 50 years of service in the animation field. The Japanese American National Museum also heralded Takamoto for his achievements in entertainment.
Even in his last days, Takamoto was hard at work on Scooby-Doo. He held the position of Vice President of Special Projects for Warner Bros. Animation. In that position he supervised the work on the films Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy! and the upcoming film Chill Out, Scooby-Doo!.
"Iwao Takamoto was not only a tremendously talented designer and artist, he was a beautiful human being," said Warner Bros. Animation President Sander Schwartz. "Iwao was always ready with a wide smile, a firm handshake and a warm welcome. Iwao's designs will be his legacy for generations to come. Those of us who had the privilege of working closely with him will miss his mentoring presence, his good counsel and his unparalleled talent and spirit."
On a more personal note, I never met the man, but never heard a bad word spoken about him. Most pros that I had talked to about him in the past talked about his charm, natural warmth and artistic generosity.
As I said before, it’s another sad day for Hanna-Barbera fans, as well as for the world of animation in general.Interesting to note, I was once flipping through channels and I remember seeing a 'anime-styled' version of scooby-doo and thought, "That'll never work!"
Not realizing that scooby-doo was actually Japanese influenced anyway!
Thanks a lot, Newsarama
for the info!