Harman and Ising

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Hugh Harman
Born (1903-08-31)August 31, 1903
Pagosa Springs, Colorado, United States
Died November 25, 1982(1982-11-25) (aged 79)
Chatsworth, California, United States
Rudolf Ising
Born (1903-08-07)August 7, 1903
Kansas City, Missouri, United States
Died July 18, 1992(1992-07-18) (aged 88)
Newport Beach, California, United States
Cause of death
Cancer

Hugh Harman (August 31, 1903 – November 25, 1982) and Rudolf "Rudy" Ising (August 7, 1903 – July 18, 1992) were an American animation team best known for founding the Warner Bros. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer animation studios. They are particularly celebrated for Harman's 1939 antiwar MGM cartoon Peace on Earth and Ising won an Oscar for the MGM cartoon The Milky Way in 1940.

Early history[edit]

Harman and Ising first worked in animation in the early 1920s at Walt Disney's studio in Kansas City. When Disney moved operations to California, Harman, Ising, and fellow animator Carman Maxwell stayed behind to try to start their own studio. Their plans went nowhere, however, and the men soon rejoined Disney to work on his Alice Comedies and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit films. It was during this time, that Harman and Ising developed a style of cartoon drawing that would later be closely associated with, and credited to, Disney.

When producer Charles Mintz ended his association with Disney, Harman and Ising went to work for Mintz, whose brother-in-law, George Winkler, set up a new animation studio to make the Oswald cartoons. The Oswald cartoons which Harman and Ising produced in 1928 and 1929 already show their distinctive style, which would later characterize their work on the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoon series for Warner Bros.[1] For example, in Sick Cylinders (1929)[2] there are sequences which were later remade very closely in such Harman and Ising Warner Bros. efforts as Sinkin' in the Bathtub (1930)[3] and Bosko's Holiday (1931).[4] The Oswald cartoons that Harman and Ising worked on are completely different from the Oswald cartoons made before and after Disney and can easily be distinguished by anyone familiar with their work.[1] Late in 1929, Universal Pictures who owned the rights to Oswald, started its own animation studio headed by Walter Lantz, replacing Mintz and forcing Harman and Ising out of work.[5]

Warner Bros. and Van Beuren[edit]

Harman and Ising had long aspired to start their own studio, and had created and copyrighted the cartoon character Bosko in 1928. After losing their jobs at the Winkler studio, Harman and Ising financed a short Bosko demonstration film called Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid. The cartoon featured Bosko at odds with his animator – portrayed in live-action by Rudy Ising; impressed Leon Schlesinger, who paired Harman and Ising with Warner Bros. Schlesinger wanted the Bosko character to star in a new series of cartoons he dubbed Looney Tunes (the title being a parody of Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies). The pair made Sinkin' in the Bathtub in 1930, and the cartoon did well. Harman took over direction of the Looney Tunes starring the character, while Ising took a sister series called Merrie Melodies that consisted of one-shot stories and characters.

The two animators broke off ties with Schlesinger later in 1933 over budget disputes with the miserly producer, and went to the Van Beuren studio, which was making cartoon for RKO Radio Pictures. There, they were offered a contract to produce the Cubby Bear cartoon series.[6] Harman and Ising produced two cartoons for this series which were actually released. These cartoons show their distinctive style and are distinguished from the rest of the series, which was poorly animated. Harman and Ising were in the midst of making a third cartoon when a contractual dispute arose. The pair left Van Beuren, but kept the completed cartoon and finally released it in the 1940s.[7]

MGM[edit]

Private Snafu film 'Seaman Tarfu in the Navy' made by Harman-Ising Studio in 1946

Harman and Ising had maintained the rights to the Bosko character, and they signed a deal with MGM to start a new series of Bosko shorts in 1934. The two maintained the same division of work they had used at Warner Bros.: Harman worked on Bosko shorts, and Ising directed one-shots. They also tried unsuccessfully to create new cartoon stars for their new distributors. Their cartoons, though technically superior to those they had made for Schlesinger, were still music-driven shorts with little to no plot. When the new Happy Harmonies series ran significantly over-budget in 1937, MGM fired Harman and Ising and established its own in-house studio headed by Fred Quimby.

Harman and Ising still found some work as animation freelancers, directing, for example, the Silly Symphony series for Disney in 1938. When Disney later reneged on a deal he had made for two other Harman-Ising pictures, the animators sold the cartoons to Quimby at MGM. Quimby later agreed to hire the animators back to the studio. Ising created the character Barney Bear for MGM at this time, basing the sleepy-eyed character partially on himself. In 1939, Harman created his masterpiece, Peace on Earth, a downbeat morality tale about two squirrels discovering the evils of humanity, which was nominated for an Oscar. The following year, Ising's The Milky Way became the first non-Disney film to actually win the trophy. Despite the success of these and other cartoons, MGM's production under Harman and Ising remained low.

In 1941, Harman left MGM and started a new studio with Disney veteran Mel Shaw. The two took over Ub Iwerks' old studio in Beverly Hills, California, where they created training films for the Army. In 1942, Ising also quit MGM, in his case to join the military.

Later career and legacy[edit]

By 1951, Harman and Ising were back together and making industrial and commercial films such as the 1951 film "Good Wrinkles" made for the California prune industry.[8]

In 1960, Harman-Ising produced a pilot episode for a made for TV cartoon series titled The Adventures of Sir Gee Whiz on the Other Side of the Moon.[9] The unsold pilot for the never produced series was profiled on episode 6 of Cartoon Dump. Rudy Ising was the voice of Sir Gee Whiz.[10]

Harman and Ising are little known, even among some animation fans. Although they contributed to much of what would later be known as the Disney style, they have been dismissed as mere copycats. In reality, Harman and Ising never attempted to imitate Disney; they were attempting to make refined polished cartoons whose quality would shine in comparison to the work of others.[11] Their repeated attempts to make quality cartoons and their refusal to be bound by budgets led to numerous disputes with their producers. Because of this, they were unable to create any enduring characters. Instead, they created studios that would later produce such characters.

Ising and Harman where portrayed in the feature film Walt Before Mickey by David Henrie and Hunter Gomez.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Putterman, Barry, "Le origini: il periodo Harman-Ising (1930-1935)" Griffithiana Vol VII nr 16-17 (June 1984); p 10.
  2. ^ Catalog of Copyright Entries: Motion Pictures: 1912-1939 Copyright Office: Library of Congress, 1951: 770.
  3. ^ Catalog of Copyright Entries: Motion Pictures: 1912-1939 Copyright Office: Library of Congress, 1951: 755.
  4. ^ Catalog of Copyright Entries: Motion Pictures: 1912-1939 Copyright Office: Library of Congress, 1951: 84.
  5. ^ Putterman, Barry, "Le origini: il periodo Harman-Ising (1930-1935)" Griffithiana Vol VII nr 16-17 (June 1984); p 11.
  6. ^ Putterman, Barry, "Le origini: il periodo Harman-Ising (1930-1935)" Griffithiana Vol VII nr 16-17 (June 1984); p 13.
  7. ^ Putterman, Barry, "Le origini: il periodo Harman-Ising (1930-1935)" Griffithiana Vol VII nr 16-17 (June 1984); p 14.
  8. ^ http://www.archive.org/details/GoodWrin1951
  9. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1129366/
  10. ^ http://cartoonbrewfilms.com/cartoondump6
  11. ^ Hugh Harman interview, 1973

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