Jack King (animator)
According to Jeff Lenburg's assessment of him, King was an early pioneer of animation. His films were nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. He started his career in the silent film era. He spent most of his career working at Walt Disney Productions (later known as the Walt Disney Animation Studios). He directed many well-regarded films.
King was born in Alabama. He started his animation career in 1920; working at the Bray Productions animation studio. He directed the Judge Rummy series (1920-1921) for the International Film Service. The silent animated series was based on the comic strip Judge Rummy by Tad Dorgan. His early films included Kiss Me (1920), Why Change Your Husband (1920), and The Chicken Thief (1921). The series reportedly ended in 1921.
King successfully made the transformation from silent to sound cartoons. and relocated to the West Coast of the United States, where he joined the Disney studio in 1929. He was hired on June 17, 1929 as an animator. His film credits as an animator include several Silly Symphony animated shorts; which Lenburg describes as "cartoon fables". Among King's film credits was the film The Three Little Pigs (1933), which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. King remained at the Disney studio until May 17, 1933.
In 1933, animation producer Leon Schlesinger was setting up a new animation studio, Leon Schlesinger Productions. The studio would continue producing the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series for Warner Bros. The studio was set on the Warner Bros. lot on Sunset Boulevard. Schlesinger was in need of a new staff for his studio and started hiring people who used to work for other animation studios. Among them was animator Jack King, who "was probably the first Disney animator Schlesinger hired".
By June 1933, Schlesinger had mostly finished hiring staff and started producing animated short films. Tom Palmer had been appointed production manager and director, with Jack King as the head animator. Among the staff were two former associates of King from Disney, animators Paul Fennell and Bill Mason. According to animation historian Michael Barrier, Schlesinger placed former Disney animators in charge of the studio in hopes of effectively competing with the Disney studio.
Tom Palmer left the studio after completing only two short films. He was replaced as director by Earl Duvall, a former story man for both the Disney studio and Harman and Ising. Duvall himself left the studio after completing five short films. Schlesinger was in need of new directors, and even composer Bernard B. Brown received credits for directing two Merrie Melodies shorts. By early 1934, Schlesinger appointed Friz Freleng as the main director of the Merrie Melodies series and Jack King as the main director of the Looney Tunes series. King handled many of the studio's animated short films starring Buddy. He was responsible for the final year of Buddy films.
By 1935, Buddy was being phased out in favor of new characters. Among them was Beans, an anthropomorphic cat. King directed A Cartoonist's Nightmare, Beans' first starring role. King directed a total of 8 animated shorts featuring Beans. Michael Barrier describes Beans under King's direction as resembling the Mickey Mouse version of the early 1930s. Their designs were certainly similar, with both characters having a white face and black body. But in characterization Beans was a pint-sized hero, resembling the plucky, boyish, and heroic Mickey featured in The Klondike Kid (1932) and The Mail Pilot (1933).
Also in 1935, the studio gained a third full-time director, working in addition to Freleng and King. He was Tex Avery, a former inker for the short-lived Winkler Studio and the Universal Studio Cartoons. Avery directed a single film starring Beans, Gold Diggers of '49 (1935). He used Porky Pig as the main star of his following films. Meanwhile, King continued using Beans as the main star of his own films. In 1936, Beans and most of the characters introduced the previous year, with the exception of Porky Pig, ceased being used by the studio. Barrier suggests that Leon Schlesinger may have been giving Avery a vote of confidence, when deciding to keep only Porky as a continuing character and to drop Beans. This decision came at the expense of King and his work.
King directed two films featuring characters Ham and Ex: The Phantom Ship (1936) and The Fire Alarm (1936). The characters were a pair of troublesome puppies, and were intended to serve as series stars. In 1936, King started directing films in the new Porky Pig series. Other films in the series were directed by Tex Avery and Frank Tashlin.
Jack King directed only three animated shorts starring Porky Pig. By April 1936, King was hired by the Disney studio again. This time as a director. Part of the reason he went back to Disney was the promise that he would be able to direct cartoons in color, which he had been unable to do previously. Friz Freleng and Tex Avery were the only directors that Schlesinger allowed to direct color films for much of the 1930s.
At Disney, King emerged as the director of a new series of short films, featuring Donald Duck as the protagonist. Lenburg notes that King was one of the principal directors of the Donald Duck series, but not the only one. Other directors of this series included Ben Sharpsteen, Dick Lundy, Jack Hannah, and Jack Kinney. King made his directorial debut at Disney with the film Modern Inventions (1937). It was also his first time directing a Donald Duck animated film.
King directed more than 40 films featuring Donald Duck. Among them were the Academy-Award nominated Good Scouts (1938), Truant Officer Donald (1941), and Donald's Crime (1945). One of his films was a propaganda film, The Spirit of '43 (1943). It was created in association with the United States Department of the Treasury. King's last film was The Trial of Donald Duck (1948). King retired from Disney in 1948 and spend ten years in retirement. He died on October 4, 1958 in Los Angeles.
- Lenburg (2006), pp. 179-180
- Barrier (2003), Warner Bros., pp. unnumbered pages
- Barrier, Michael (2003), "Warner Bros., 1933-1940", Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199839223
- Lenburg, Jeff (2006), "King, Jack", Who's who in Animated Cartoons: An International Guide to Film and Television's Award-Winning and Legendary Animators, Hal Leonard Corporation, ISBN 978-1557836717