Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Letter from Dick Lundy

I wrote a history of MGM cartoons for issue 18 of the film journal The Velvet Light Trap, which appeared in 1978. I don't recommend searching out the article, as it has been done better by many others since then. However, in researching the article, I contacted several former MGM animation staffers who were kind enough to answer my questions.

One who replied in depth was Dick Lundy (1907-1990). The picture of him here is from his time at Hanna Barbera. What's below is his letter in full, which is a summary of his entire career. Anything in square brackets is an annotation by me, the rest is Lundy.

Feb. 6, 1976

Dear Mark,

Thank you for your interest in me and my history. You must have gotten some wrong information on the Woodland Cafe direction. If this was a Disney picture, I probably animated on it and it was probably directed by Jaxon. I have no record of directing a picture by that name. [Lundy is correct. The cartoon was directed by Wilfred Jackson and Lundy animated the Apache dance in it.] It is true I started at Disney in July 1929. I started in the ink and paint dept. Six weeks or 2 months later I was put in as in inbetweener or assistant animator (at that time they were both the same thing). In March 1930 I was promoted to animator. I established the dance in the 3 Pigs going around in a circle singing "Who's afraid." This same routine was used in the other pig pictures which followed. I also established the antics of the Duck in Orphans Benefit [1934]. I animated the duck thru out this picture. They changed the model of Donald and made him more cute. I also animated on Snow White.

In 1937 they made me a director. Here is a list of the duck pictures I directed at Disney: Sea Scouts, [The] Riveter, Good Time for a Dime, Don[ald]'s Camera, Village Smithy, Don[ald's] Garden, Fly[ing] Jalopy, and [Donald's] Tire Trouble. I also directed about 10,500 feet of Navy training pictures. I left Disney's in Oct. 1943.

I started at Walter Lantz in Nov. 1943 as an animator. I animated 6 months and started in direction. Maybe you don't want a list of pictures I directed at Lantz, but if you do here is the list. These were Wooody Woodpecker, Andy Panda and some of Lantz's Silly Symphonies [the Lantz music series were Swing Symphonies and Musical Miniatures]. Sliphorn King of Polaroo, Crow Crazy, Enemy Bacteria (1300 ft 1/2 live for Navy), Poet and Peasant, Apple Andy, Bathing Buddies, Ready [should be Reddy] Kilowatt (a commercial) 1070 ft, Wacky Weed, Smoked Hams, Coo Coo Bird, [Musical Moments from] Chopin, [Overture to] Wm. Tell, Well Oiled, Solid Ivory, Circus Symphony [released as The Band Master], Top Hat [released as The Mad Hatter], Woody and the Beanstalk [released as Woody the Giant Killer], The Story of Human Energy (880 ft commercial), The Egg and I (commercial for live action picture), Banquet Busters, Kiddie Concert, Pixie Picnic, [illegible](344 ft commercial), Wacky Bye Baby, Playful Pelican, Dog Tax Dodgers, Wet Blanket Policy, Wild and Woody, Scrappy Birthday, Droolers Delight, Puny Express [credited to Walter Lantz as director], 12 two minute Coca Cola commercials. I also timed out 3 more pictures when the studio closed down at the end of 1948.

I worked for Raphael S. Wolff Productions as supervisor and director 4-'49 to 5-'50. There I received an award from N.Y. for a Kelvinator 1 minute commercial.

I started at MGM on 5-15-1950. I directed there for one year and a half, leaving there at the end of October 1951. The following titles are the pictures I directed. Caballero Droopy (This is the only picture that wasn't a Barney Bear. Droopy the dog was a Tex Averty creation.), The Little Wise Cracker [released as Little Wise Quacker], Cobs and Robbers, Heir Bear, Busy Body Bear, Barney's Hungry Cousin, Wee Willie Wildcat, Half-Pint Palamino, Impossible Possum, Sleepy-time Squirrel, Bird-Brain Bird Dog.

From MGM I went to Dudleys production managing and directing. Then I freelanced animation for about 9 months and in 1959 (March) I started at Hanna-Barbera animating. I retired the end of 1973 and have been working everyone [everywhere?] I can since. Now to answer some of your questions.

I started at MGM 5-15-1950. Tex Avery and Quimby had a little squabble and Tex left. According to Quimby, Tex would not return. I also knew that Quimby had wanted to start a third unit for a long time. So I thot that even if Tex did come back, Quimby would have his 3rd unit. It didn't turn out that way.

I was working at R.S. Wolff Productions and Quimby called me and offered me more money and a better deal than I had or hope to have had.

I already listed the titles I directed. (I went to MGM as a director.) The first one I directed was a Droopy Dog which was created by Tex Avery (I believe).

Barney Bear was already established when I got there, both drawing and personality wise. I thot the Wally Beery type character was a loveable and sympathetic personality, so I went on from there. I stepped into Avery's unit with the same animators - Walt Clinton, Mike Lah, Grant Simmons with Bob Bentley as a new animator. I also used Ray Patterson from the Cat and Mouse unit every other picture. It was a pretty good crew.

The story men were there also. Heck Allen and Jack Cosgriff. Quimby had a layout man that he thot had a good reputation - Art Heinemann, who I had worked with before at Lantz's, so I said that was okay by me. After about 3 pictures he crossed Quimby in the wrong way and was let go. Then I had Quimby hire Hal Doughty (I think that his how you spell it).

I auditioned for a voice and finally settled for Paul ----I can't remember his last name. [Lundy is probably referring to Paul Frees, who supplied the voice of Barney Bear.] He was very good. He is doing voices for Hanna-Barbera off and on now. As I remember the budget, I think it was around half way between Lantz and Disney, about $30,000?

When I was animating at Disney's I was considered a personality animator. I always tried to give the personality a comedy twist, with a gesture, a body action or a twist of the mouth or head. When I animated dances I tried to put in the same thing. Now with a funny personality leading up to a physical gag which was funny (usually the way a character reacted) you usually ended up with something twice as funny. Tex's pictures were mostly gag type pictures with a good timing, with a little personality thrown in. The Cat and Mice had personality with slapstick gags. Both of these series were set at a very fast pace. I wanted Barney to have a slower pace and likeable appeal to the audiences. Disney has this type of action in the Silly Symphonies. That is what I was striving for in Barney. Sometimes I achieved this and sometimes I failed.

If you look at the history of animation, you will notice as the animated cartoon got into a slump, there was always something that was developed that made cartoons raise up and become in style again. Around 1928-29 the cartoons were in a slump and sound and Disney came along and revived it again. In the 1940's television came along and revived it again. In the late '50's Hanna Barbera revived it with limited animation. Animation had reached a cost per foot which wasn't commercial. The limited animation was the answer. Now it is in the decline and something or someone will bring out something which will bring cartoons into their own again.

I have never had a desire to direct a feature. I guess I never even thot of it. The cost is great even in shorts and a feature would really be up into dough. Nobody ever offered to put up that kind of money - to me at least.

I hope this helps you out and answers some of your questions. I am retired now. I spent 44 years in the industry and am now satisfied to let the younger people take over. I've had my fun, let them enjoy it.

Sincerely,

Dick Lundy

2 comments:

Kevin Langley said...

Thanks for posting this, I love Dick Lundy's Barney Bear cartoons. I've been looking to learn more about him and his career.

Thad K said...

Always great to read original letters from the best of the Golden Age.

Interesting that he lists "Puny Express" in his Lantz filmography, as the story is credited to Ben Hardaway and Heck Allen. Lundy was also probably the original director of "Sleep Happy". I'd love to see material from the unmade "Cat Nappy".