Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ed Benedict , 1912-2006

This looks like a caricature of Ed. So does the guy in Tex Avery's Field and Scream.

It's amazing to me that a guy with such a crusty exterior can make drawings this cute!

Well I have some really sad news today. Ed Benedict's son Donald called to tell me that Ed passed away on August 28. He was 94.

Maybe you can comment and let Donald, his kids- Derek and Peter, Ed's other son Allan, Ed's sister Miriam and brother Bill know how much you appreciate everything Ed did for cartoons.

Ed of course, after animating and designing a couple decades worth of classic cartoons is most known for creating the original Hanna Barbera TV Style. Ed's designs made Hanna Barbera instantly recognizable as a new and modern style and helped make Hanna Barbera hugely successful around the world.

These frame grabs are from the original 1960 season of the Flintstones. Ed did all the character and background layouts. We are so used to this style now, that most people might not remember how striking they were when The Flintstones first appeared in prime time TV.

By the way, these background paintings are great, aren't they? I think they are painted by Art Lozzi. I wish I knew more about the guy. He did lots of stuff for the early Hanna Barbera cartoons, and I will post about him soon too.

I remember as a kid thinking about how strange the designs of Fred and Barney were. They were futuristic even though they were cavemen. Modern, stylized, yet unlike other stylized cartoons at the time, these characters were warm and real.

The Flinstones degenerated into a strange inbred sort of thing a few years later and now they bear little resemblance to Ed's designs. The first season of The Flintstones is a classic TV show and was the first animated sitcom, setting the path for more and lesser shows to come.

I have a million funny stories about Ed. I first met him in the mid 80's when Lynne Naylor, Bob Jaques and I went on a trek to northern California to meet him. He was a super curmudgeon who couldn't believe anyone even knew who he was, let alone loved his cartoons. We brought up tapes of his work for Tex Avery, his Hanna Barbera cartoons and he was completely disgusted by them! But then he demanded copies of them all so he could write me letters telling me everything that was wrong with them.

Over the last couple decades I kept visiting him and rifling all his files of fantastic cartoon drawings he did for cartoons, commercials and comic strips. He also would show me lots of photos he took of the MGM studios in the 1950s. He would point to an animator and tell me all about him. "See that guy with the suave mustache? That's Ken Muse, a nice guy, a real slick operator. Couldn't draw worth a crap! Hanna loved him cause he could really 'pump out the footage'! But a good guy to go bowling with, one of the guys." (By the way the animation in this clip is by Ken Muse! Ken really watered down Ed's designs and poses-I remember recognizing his style as a kid and thinking of him as the 'bland animator'.)

Ed had a great collection of Golden Books and magazine illustrations and we would pour over them and he'd give me all kinds of design theories.

Every time we visited we would watch old cartoons. Ed loved UPA and Disney (he pronounced it "Dissney".) He didn't think anyone else did anything else worthwhile and we had some great arguments. He would sometimes put his fists up and threaten to beat some sense into me. He had a huge pointy tuft of grey hair sticking out of his chest and it would stand erect and fill with blood when he was in scrapping mode.

It's funny, 'cause he would crab all weekend about everything and then when we'd leave he'd be all choked up, which would always kill us. He was the soft-hearted curmudgeon.

I showed him a bunch of Clampett cartoons and he was amazed at how wild and inventive they were. "Damn ugly though!"

He could still draw really well into his eighties and I got him to do many background layouts for Boo Boo Runs Wild and Day In The Life Of Ranger Smith. After we finished the cartoons and brought them up to show him, he stared at me for about five minutes getting madder and madder. He said, "Well there was some funny stuff and really inventive things in there, but why in Hell can't you draw on model?!"

Ed and his wife Alice (who passed away a few years ago) used to watch Ren and Stimpy together and actually became big fans of it to my surprise and delight.

Ed is one of the true giants of animation. I think he was the greatest character designer in the whole history of the medium.

He was a wonderful guy to boot and always lots of fun to hang out with. I had an awful day yesterday after I got the news. I sure am gonna miss him.

Uploaded by chuckchillout8

I have lots of interviews I did with him on tape. I need someone to transcribe them though. Anyone out there do that? Preferably in LA.