Tuesday, February 2, 2010

February 02: One Of A Kind

He was the only animator to work on all of the first 4 animated feature cartoons in history - Snow White in 1937, Gulliver's Travels in 1939, Pinocchio in 1940, and Mr. Bug Goes To Town in 1941. Who was he?
A pioneering animator named Shamus Culhane.

On this day in 1996, Mr. James "Shamus" Culhane passed away at his home in Manhattan, New York at age 87. Born in Massachusetts in 1908, he began drawing as a young teen, winning medals for his work while still in high school. In a career that spanned six decades, Culhane worked for 18 cartoon studios ... including his own!
First joining the Disney Studio in 1935, he worked on many shorts such as Hawaiian Holiday. But his big moment at Disney came when he was asked to devise the dwarf's musical march ("Heigh-ho!") from diamond mine to cottage home. This was followed by animating the fox and cat selling Pinocchio to the Pleasure Island coachman in Pinocchio (though Culhane left the studio before the feature was released and his scene was revised).
Meanwhile the success of Snow White had inspired the Fleischer brothers to setup an animation studio in Florida to embark on their own feature Gulliver's Travels. A former Fleischer employee, Culhane rejoined the brothers' studio to help them - later directing the opening sequence to Mr. Bug Goes To Town (the Fleischer's last feature film, released in 1941).
Culhane's career included animating such famous characters as Betty Boop, Popeye, and Woody Woodpecker and writing and directing television commercials.
At Expo 67 (the 1967 World's Fair in Montreal) the Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome, which was the site of the American pavilion, contained artifacts including Culhane's celebrated Seven Dwarfs film sequence. (Ironically this geodesic would be the inspiration for Epcot's Spaceship Earth.)
Later in life he authored two books - "Talking Animals and Other People" and "Animation From Script to Screen." Culhane was also one of the first teachers at the School of Visual Arts in New York City (then called the Cartoonists and Illustrators School).

Click HERE for more February 02 Disney history.

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