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Art Babbitt

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Art Babbitt
Arthur Harold Babitsky

(1907-10-08)October 8, 1907
DiedMarch 4, 1992(1992-03-04) (aged 84)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Other namesArthur Babbitt
Years active1928–1992
Employer(s)Terrytoons (1929–1932)
Walt Disney Animation Studios (1932–1941; 1945–1948)
Warner Bros. Cartoons (1941–1945)
UPA (1948–1955)
Lou Bunin Films (1949)
Storyboard/Hubley Studios, Inc./Quartet Films (1955–1977)
Hanna-Barbera (1957–1992)
Richard Williams Productions (1967–1992)
(m. 1937; div. 1941)
(m. 1949; div. 1963)
(m. 1967)

Arthur Harold Babitsky (October 8, 1907 – March 4, 1992), better known as Art Babbitt, was an American animator, best known for his work at Walt Disney Animation Studios. He received over 80 awards as an animation director and animator, and also developed the character of Goofy. Babbitt worked as an animator or animation director on films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia and Dumbo, among others. Outside of Disney, he also animated The Wise Quacking Duck for Leon Schlesinger Productions.

Early life[edit]

Babbitt was born to a Jewish family[1] in the Little Bohemia section of Omaha, Nebraska, but moved to Sioux City, Iowa after he finished kindergarten. After graduating from Sioux City Central High in 1924 at the age of 16, Art decided to move to New York to take on the role of breadwinner after his hard-working father had an accident on duty and became paralyzed as a result.


Art Babbitt began his career in New York City working for Paul Terry's Terrytoons studio. But in the early 1930s he moved to Los Angeles followed by his fellow Terrytoon colleague Bill Tytla, and secured a job animating for the Walt Disney Studio, which was expanding at the time.[2]

Disney Studio[edit]

Babbitt began his career at Disney as an assistant animator, but his talent was spotted and he was soon promoted to animator.[2] His first important work was a drunken mouse in the short The Country Cousin (1936), which won an Academy Award for the studio.[3]

At the Disney Studio, Babbitt animated the Wicked Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, a job described by Disney animator Andreas Deja as "one of the toughest assignments" on the film.[2] While he was working on Snow White, he met his first wife, Marjorie Belcher, a dance model whose live-action performance was used as reference material by the animators for the role of Snow White.[2]

On the film Pinocchio, Babbitt animated the character of Geppetto, and became a directing animator.[3] Of all Disney's films, Pinocchio was the feature which Babbitt most admired, and which he regarded as the finest achievement of the studio during the "Golden Age" of animation.[2] Babbitt also animated the characters of the Dancing Mushrooms, Dancing Thistles, Dancing Orchids, Zeus, Vulcan, and Boreas in Fantasia. On the feature film Dumbo, Babbitt was again made a directing animator,[3] and animated the character of the stork. When animating the stork, he made him resemble his voice actor, Sterling Holloway. Babbitt is also credited with developing the character of Goofy, a character which he later described in the 1987 documentary film "Animating Art":

Goofy was someone who never really knew how stupid he was. He thought long and carefully before he did anything, and then he did it wrong.

He had previously expounded on Goofy’s nature in a 1930s memo:

Think of the Goof as a composite of an everlasting optimist, a gullible Good Samaritan, a half-wit, a shiftless, good-natured colored boy and a hick,” he told his staff. “His brain is rather vapory.[2]

During the 1930s Babbitt rose to become one of Disney's best-paid artists, and enjoyed a lavish lifestyle despite the austerity of the Great Depression:

I was living the Life of Riley. I didn't realize how fortunate I was. I was earning a very good salary. I had two servants, a large house, and three cars. You know, what in the world was I going to do with three cars?[2]

However, despite this prosperity, in 1940 he and his wife Marjorie were divorced.[2]

Cartoonist strike[edit]

Despite being one of the highest paid animators at Disney, Babbitt was sympathetic to the cause of lower echelon Disney artists seeking to form a union. Most of the strikers were in-betweeners, cel painters, and other less-well paid employees, who in 1941 began industrial action in pursuit of better working conditions. As a top animator, Babbitt was one of relatively few well-paid artists to join the strike, and he became one of the strike leaders. One morning, as Disney drove through picketing workers on his way to the studio, Babbitt heckled him through a bullhorn. Disney exited his car to confront him, and a fistfight was only prevented by the intervention of others.[4]

For his part in the strike, Babbitt earned Walt Disney's enmity. Disney was forced to rehire Babbitt after the strike was over, along with many other strikers, but by then the two men disliked one another. Babbitt worked with director Jack Kinney, another "Goofy man" (meaning that they worked together on the Goofy shorts), as Disney began to look for ways to be rid of Babbitt. "If he gets in your way, let me know", Disney said to Kinney. Babbitt was fired more than once but was reinstated, taking his case successfully all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States, and winning a handsome settlement.[5]


After serving with the U.S. Marines in the Pacific War during World War II, Babbitt returned to Disney for a time, following an "unfair labor practices" suit brought by Babbitt against Disney. Disney was forced to rehire him after the war, but Babbitt did not stay long.[2]

Career after Disney[edit]

Along with some other former Disney strikers, Babbitt left Disney and went to join the United Productions of America (UPA), a new studio which pioneered a modern, simplified form of animation. He worked on many of their famous award-winning shorts, including the lead character Frankie in "Rooty Toot-Toot" (1951), and won many awards.[5] In the 1950s he was part owner of Quartet Films, where he worked on television commercials, including the Cleo winning "John & Marsha" spot for Parkay Margarine. Later he was part of Hanna-Barbera's commercial wing.

Known in the animation world as one of the art's most accomplished teachers, in 1973 Canadian animator Richard Williams brought Babbitt to his London studio in Soho Square to deliver a series of lectures on animation acting and technique that subsequently became famous among animators. Some of Babbitt's final work was on the characters King Nod and Phido, the vulture, in Williams' film The Thief and the Cobbler.[3] He also animated the Camel with Wrinkled Knees in William's Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure.[3]

In 1991 Disney Company chief Roy E. Disney, the nephew of Walt, contacted Babbitt and they ended the long feud. Babbitt's former rivals, the pro-Walt animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, gave Babbitt a warm and moving eulogy at his funeral service.[citation needed] He was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills).

Family life and legacy[edit]

His first wife (1937–1940) was Marge Champion, a dance model in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. His second wife was Dina Babbitt, an artist and a Holocaust survivor. He had two daughters with Dina, L. Michele Babbitt and Karin Wendy Babbitt.[6] His third wife until his death was actress Barbara Perry. His step-daughter from Barbara is Laurel James. Babbitt died of kidney failure on March 4, 1992. In the late 1980s, a British television documentary titled Animating Art was broadcast, celebrating Babbitt's life and work. The documentary was produced and directed by Imogen Sutton (Richard Williams' wife), and features extensive interviews with Babbitt and his then employer, Williams.[7] Babbitt was posthumously named a Disney Legend in 2007.[8]

The Academy Film Archive holds a small collection of personal films belonging to Babbitt.[9] The archive has preserved a number of Babbitt's home movies from this collection, including one of the 1938 Academy Awards.[10]


Year Title Credits Characters
1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Animator
1940 Pinocchio Animation Director
Fantasia Animator - Segment "The Nutcracker Suite" / Animation Supervisor - Segment "The Pastoral Symphony"
1941 Dumbo Animation Director
1943 The Wise Quacking Duck (Short)[11] Animator
1947 Bootle Beetle (Short) Animator
Fun and Fancy Free Character Animator
Foul Hunting (Short) Animator
1949 Ragtime Bear (Short) Animator
1950 Giddyap (Short) Director
The Popcorn Story Director
1951 The Family Circus (Short) Director / Animator
Barefaced Flatfoot (Short) Animator
Fuddy Duddy Buddy (Short) Animator
Grizzly Golfer (Short) Animator
Rooty Toot Toot (Short) Animator
1952 The Four Poster (Short) Animator
1953 Job Evaluation and Merit Rating (Short) Director
1958 Date with Dizzy (Short) Animator
1964 The Nut House!! (TV Movie) Animator
1966 The Lone Ranger (TV Series) Director
1969 Of Men and Demons (Short) Animator
1976 Everybody Rides the Carousel Animator
1977 Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure Animator: The Camel with the Wrinkled Knees
1988 Animating Art (TV Movie documentary) Himself
The South Bank Show (TV Series documentary) Thanks - 1 Episode "The Art of Walt Disney"
1993 The Thief and the Cobbler Lead Animator
2012 Persistence of Vision (Documentary) Himself


  1. ^ Art Babbitt at 50mostinfluentialdisneyanimators (by Grayson Ponti) 12 August 2011
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "A real "Goofy" character… | Mickey News". www.mickeynews.com. Retrieved 2022-10-30.
  3. ^ a b c d e Art Babbitt at Imdb.com Retrieved January 2010
  4. ^ Kinney, p.138
  5. ^ a b Kinney, p.139
  6. ^ The New York Times, "Dina Babbitt, Artist at Auschwitz, Is Dead at 86" by Bruce Weber August 1, 2009
  7. ^ Animating Art on YouTube Retrieved January 2011
  8. ^ Art Babbitt Disney Legend Website Retrieved July 2012
  9. ^ "Art Babbitt Collection". Academy Film Archive.
  10. ^ "Preserved Projects". Academy Film Archive.
  11. ^ "Animation Breakdowns #9". Retrieved 1 February 2021.


  • Kinney, Jack, Walt Disney and other assorted characters - An unauthorised account of the early years at Disney's, Harmony Books, New York, 1988

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