When you watch an old movie and see the credit “Gowns by Adrian” or “Music by Bernard Herrmann,” you have a pretty good idea what that entails. The same can’t be said for the credit “Titles, Lawrence Goble” on the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons.
It’s logical to think that this would apply to the title card in front of each cartoon, like the ones Iraj Paran drew for a later generation of H-B cartoons. But that’s not the case. Dick Bickenbach, I’m told, was the one who designed all of the early cards. So what exactly did he do? And who was Lawrence Goble?
There’s a bit of confusion in who he was because he only seems to have gone by his given name in the credits of Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Everyone knew him as Art Goble, at least in adulthood. What he was known as a boy is unclear.
Census and death records show Lawrence Samuel Goble was born on August 12, 1897 in Bates, Missouri to Edward C. and Mary E. Goble, the sixth child in the family (three more followed). The 1900 Census lists him as “Samuel L.,” but future census reports have him as “Lawrence S.” By age 12, he was living in Allen, Kansas. Some time in the 1920s, he moved to Kansas City where he married his wife Beryl. More importantly, he got into the animation business there. Yes, at the same Kansas City Film Ad company that employed all the early names of Hollywood animation—Disney, Iwerks, Harman, Ising. Bugs Hardaway worked in Kansas City. So did Carl Stalling. And Friz Freleng. And many more.
Goble arrived in Los Angeles between 1930 and 1932 and was the ink and paint supervisor at the Leon Schlesinger studio by 1936. But, like Freleng, he got a call from Fred Quimby the following year. And the Motion Picture Herald quotes from an MGM news release naming 31 key employees of its new cartoon studio. It announces the hiring of Bill Hanna as a director, Joe Barbera as a storyman and “L.S. Goble is inking and painting head.” Interestingly, the article names the former studios of most of the hirees, but not Goble.
He seems to have remained at Metro until its cartoon studio closed in 1957, with his name never appearing on a theatrical short. Well, with one exception.
There’s Goble’s name on that certificate on the jail cell in Tex Avery’s ‘Cellbound’ (1955). Incidentally, the other name is Vera Ohman, who married Howard Hanson, the first Production Supervisor of the Hanna-Barbera studio.
It’s because of Avery that I first heard of Art Goble to begin with. More specifically, Joe Adamson’s interview with Avery in his book Tex Avery, King of Cartoons. Writer Mike Maltese is in the room with him:
Avery: Remember the Coke machine that would let you almost get the next bottle out, but you couldn’t? So we took the cap off. . . .
Maltese: . . . and put in a straw. . . .
Avery: . . . and we siphoned it. And we sent the mail boy to get a double shot of booze, and poured it in there. . . .
Maltese: . . . put it in the Cokes. . . .
Avery: . . . double shot of bourbon. . . .
Maltese: . . . then we replaced the cap. . . .
Avery: . . . and found a sucker. It was Art Gobel [sic]. Art took that drink, and he went over to the sand pot and spit it right out. He felt this hot stream going right down, you know. He said “I’ve been poisoned!”
As Maltese arrived at Schlesinger from Fleischer’s in 1937, the “poisoning” had to take place that year.
When the MGM studio closed in 1957, Hanna and Barbera took some—but not all—of its key employees. Art Goble came along but not as the head of inking and painting. His former assistant, Roberta Greutert, got that job. Instead, he credits a credit under “Titles.” Considering Bickenbach did the main title card and the only titles on The Flintstones were calligraphic, it may simply be that Art Goble took care of the lettering of the credits superimposed over the animation at the end of each show. Or, in the case of Loopy de Loop and the other shorts, lettered some title cards.
Art Goble would have certainly been in animation longer than anyone else at the studio at the time it began (Dick Lundy arrived almost two years later; his career started in 1929), even longer than Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera themselves. Goble’s last credit was on Top Cat, which was the first to use a rectangular, slightly-shadowed lettering. Daily Variety of July 30, 1962 announced his retirement from Hanna-Barbera. Goble died in Los Angeles on February 25, 1968.