Thursday, 26 August 2010

Bob Givens

“Someone, somewhere, should interview Bob Givens,” yowped I in some on-line venue recently. There are so few people around who animated on cartoons in the 1930s, and Givens is one of them. He was a part of animation history, for after Tex Avery developed a certain Bugs Bunny in ‘A Wild Hare’ in 1940, Givens was the first one entrusted to draw a model sheet of the wabbit.

Bob vanished from Warner Bros. in 1941 thanks to the draft but returned in the ‘50s to work in Bob McKimson’s unit. Then when Hanna-Barbera expanded in 1959 in the wake of the success of The Huckleberry Hound Show, Joe and Bill grabbed people from everywhere. And while you think of Ed Benedict, Dick Bickenbach, Walt Clinton and Tony Rivera as the layout guys, for a brief period the name ‘Robert Givens’ shows up, especially in the Augie Doggie cartoons.

Anyway, someone was apparently reading my mind. They got ahold of 92½-year-old Bob Givens and sat him down for 93½ minutes to discuss his life in the animation industry. And, better still, a chap named Andrew Dickman was given the okay to record the session on his cell phone camera. Hmm. In animation, shouldn’t it be a “cel phone camera”?

With that weak attempt at humour (no Mike Maltese, I), I’ve linked to the video from one of Andrew’s web pages. The sound quality isn’t great and it’s difficult to make out what Bob says at times, but it’s worth trying to listen to.

Here’s some of what Bob said about his arrival at Hanna-Barbera in 1959, with ellipses in places where I can’t make out the words:

Mike Maltese and I went over from Warners as a team to work for Hanna-Barbera...and they were having money problems, this is before the big-time network stuff. So they were missing payrolls there for awhile, so I said “the hell with that; I’ve got a couple of kids, I’m getting’ out of here” so I went over to TV Spots to do the commercials again. I’m there a week and Joe calls me, he says, the phone rings and he says “Hello, this is Joe.” I said “Joe who?” And he said “Barbera!...kid, come on back” so I packed up and went on back.

Kenny Muse? Oh, yeah. We were over there on La Brea. And Ken’s sittin’ next to me and he was doing something like a hundred feet a day, and a dollar a foot...There I am doing seven [?] feet a day and a buck a foot....There I am sitting with an assembly line making a layout and handing them to Ken and he’s turning his hearing aid down and he’s doing a hundred feet a day for a hundred bucks a day. Augie Doggie. And he’s sittin’ there with his bottle of booze and he’d take a sniff [Bob indicates with his hand that Muse took a swig then made a drawing]...That’s how he got his footage.

Augie Doggie. Yeah, it was a fun little show because it was very limited but it was very good.

The cartoon could be Pup Plays Pop, about Augie and Doggie Daddy switching roles for the day. It’s the only one I can find that’s animated by Muse that Bob worked on. The others with Bob’s name in the credits are Fox Hounded-Hound, In the Picnic of Time (both animated by Lew Marshall), Tee Vee or Not Tee Vee (Carlo Vinci) and Big Top Pop (Gerard Baldwin).

Bob has another interesting revelation about Mike Maltese. He says when he arrived at Warners (for twice as much as he was making at Disney, where he started at $16 a week), he was put in the story department and got Maltese a job there; Maltese had been in the lower rungs of the animation department. Maltese used to make postage-stamp sized sketches and Givens had a way of using a magnifying glass to “decipher” them and create a storyboard.

He reveals that Ed Benedict dated his sister in high school.

And he jokes that he “started Filmation” because Lou Scheimer’s first job in animation was doing backgrounds for Bob at the Kling studios for five years. Anyway, you can hear all this for yourself in the interview.

Andrew made the fine caricature of Bob Givens in this post. You can check out Andrew’s DeviantArt site
HERE, where there are links to a bunch of his other sites.


  1. So Kenny drank on the job, eh? I guess that could impare his draftsmanship.

    Glad to see Bob is still around, and telling his stories to people.

  2. The Kling studio in Hollywood was Charlie Chaplin's old studio on LaBrea Ave between Sunset and DeLongpre; today the home of Henson Productions. Did H-B rent space there in the early days prior to opening their own place on Ventura in North Hollywood?

  3. Yeah, that's where they started. Somewhere on the blog, there's a newspaper story about the move to Cahuenga.

  4. I promise I'll never say another unkind word about Ken Muse after this, but, excluding some of his work on Tom and Jerry, Ken Muse ruined just about every cartoon he animated. His cartoons are just plain ugly.

  5. I've been looking to talk to Robert for quite some time; well 5 years, which is when I found out that him(or his brother Haha"nick name"...i can't remember which one) was married my grandmas's sister. Would anybody know how to get a hold of him?