Mike Lah once said that if you were trained in Disney-style full animation, adjusting to Hanna-Barbera’s limited animation was fairly easy. But it was still a grind nonetheless. Ask Alex Lovy and Dan Gordon.
Lovy (in the centre of the photo) and Gordon (standing) both worked at the Van Beuren studio in New York in the mid-‘30s before ending up out West by the end of the decade. So they had plenty of experience working in full theatrical animation. Gordon was hired when Hanna-Barbera opened in 1957 to make story sketches (though story man Charlie Shows was quite capable of drawing). Lovy came aboard H-B in March 1959 as a story director, working on storyboards. Both talked about their jobs in this brief newspaper feature story that appeared in the Binghamton Press on September 30, 1961.
Monotony Is Biggest Peril to Cartoonists
It’s a well established fact that a daily comic strip artist leads a rugged life, but the daily hassle of turning out animated cartoons for television is equally as hectic.
Dan Gordon and Alex Lovy, story directors for Hanna-Barbera Productions, churn out close to 100 cartoons a day for The Flintstones.
“We get the rough story idea from the writer," explains Alex, “then it’s up to us to bring it to life with pen and ink. We average 500 cartoons a week, all with dialogue, in order to keep up with production schedules.”
The work demands precision and patience for one imperfect drawing can ruin an entire sequence and everyone down the line, from inkers to painters, gets thrown off their deadline.
The biggest occupational hazard in a cartoonery is monotony, according to Dan Gordon.
“It isn’t that you get bored,” Gordon points out, “but you can feel bogged down after a while when you’ve worked on one sequence too long.”
If this happens, the fellows switch jobs, completing what the others had started.
“Here’s an example of what we mean,” says Alex. “Imagine an artist having to sit at a desk and draw one figure on a celluoid [sic] plate. Then, when the basic picture is drawn, he has to draw a movement of an arm, leg or even the twitching of an eye. If a character points a pistol at an object, fires, then lowers his arm, an animator has to draw the various movements of the arm, which might be 25, 30 or even 40 frames. And the rub is that each movement has to be perfect. By the time you reach the 40th frame you’re a likely candidate for sillyville!”
“What do you mean candidate?” injected Dan. “You have to live in sillyville to be a cartoonist!”
When Lovy says “cartoons,” I suspect he doesn’t mean a completed, 6½ minute cartoon. He must mean a story drawing. Still, if you have nine panels on a sheet and 16 sheets per cartoon, that’s a lot of drawing. And, of course, an awful lot more work is involved in a half-hour cartoon.
Lovy had a long career at H-B after spending time directing at Walter Lantz and Columbia in the ‘40s and ‘50s, as well as opening his own company with Sid Marcus in 1947 called Scientalks. After story directing at H-B, he was promoted to Associate Producer in August 1960 and retired in 1988. Lovy died February 14, 1992. Gordon, too, directed cartoons in the ‘30s at Van Beuren and the ‘40s at Paramount’s Famous Studios in New York. He spent some time drawing comic books. By November 1950, he was hired by John Sutherland to work in New York with agencies on prepping TV material. After a stay at Jack Zander’s Transfilm in New York, he ended up back at Sutherland in April 1954 dealing with commercial clients. In 1957, he was working for Bill and Joe. He left Hanna-Barbera around February 1961 to head the story department at Quartet Films but returned to the studio by the time Magilla Gorilla was in development in 1963. He provided story sketches for “Hey There, It's Yogi Bear” and his last job at the studio appears to have been on a 60-minute, Secret Squirrel/Atom Ant special that aired in September 1965. Gordon was born in Philadelphia in 1902 to John J. and Margaret Gordon but grew up in the Bronx. T.R. Adams’ book on the studio, quoting Bill Hanna, says Gordon died in 1969, other sources say 1970, but I’ve found no record of it.