One of the unfortunate disadvantages your friendly Yowp has when it comes to getting specific material for this blog is I’m neither in the animation industry nor anywhere close to southern California where the cartoons you read about here were made. So I’m at a loss to help when people ask for information, especially biographical information that’s not available on-line.
I’ve received an e-mail from Maria Enriqueta Guardia at, I think, the University of Costa Rica looking for anything on background painter Fernando Montealegre for an essay. I’m afraid I’m not too helpful. So this is, as the kids say, a shout out to anyone who can provide even a snippet of information about him (I don’t mean the films he worked on; that’s easily found on the web).
You can either post a comment here, or if you wish to e-mail Ms Guardia, send me a note and I can pass on an e-mail address.
John Kricfalusi is one of a number of readers here who is a big fan of the backgrounds in the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Monty, Bob Gentle and Art Lozzi were the studio’s main painters in the 1950s and all brought their own particular styles which enhanced the cartoons. John and Art have been in correspondence for a number of years and here’s what Art told him in a comment after this post:
Monte? Fernando Montealegre, Costa Rican, a charmer (at times), a good artist, funny guy, sort of conceited and family-proud. We started the same day at MGM and became close friends. He had studied classical painting in San Jose. When Bob needed assistance, Monte was sent in to help out, following the oldish MGM technique. As I already mentioned, because of the fact that in the new Hanna/Barbera set-up, we had to work fast and simple, we established a style that allowed us both to work on one cartoon without noticeable differences. When we each had a complete cartoon to do, which became more and more frequent, then our styles began to show. But we managed to keep it all Hanna-and-Barbera-identifiable.
Presuming I have the right person in the California death records, Monty was born June 23, 1926. It’s unclear when he arrived in the U.S. He seems to have begun his animation career working on six cartoons for Mike Lah at M.G.M. Then the studio closed and he moved with a number of the artists to H-B Enterprises. He seems to have preferred being credited as ‘Montealegre’ at the newly-formed studio, at least at the outset.
His artistry graced the backgrounds of all the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons and all the studio’s half-hour series—the Flintstones, the Jetsons, Top Cat, Jonny Quest—on features like Charlotte’s Web and The Man Called Flintstone and even the combined live action/animation shows like The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. His last work in animation, according to one internet site, was on a 1983 TV special called The Great Bear Scare, directed by Hal Mason, an animator for Walter Lantz in the ‘40s, with animation by Virgil Ross and some other familiar names. Oh, and music was by a chap named Bill Loose.
Monty passed away in Los Angeles on April 29, 1991.
Kevin Langley did a blog post some time ago of some of Monty’s early backgrounds at Hanna-Barbera. You can see them here.
Monty was one of countless talented, but virtually unknown, artists who jumped into the nascent world of television animation from the autumnal years of the Golden Age of Hollywood Animation. Handiwork which provided memories for countless youngsters of several generations is not a bad legacy. And it would be nice to be able to read more about them because there are probably some fascinating stories waiting to be told.