Friday, 6 May 2011

Loving Ed Love

Ed Love passed away in Valencia, California 15 years ago today. Like many who began in the Golden Age of Theatrical Animation, he had a long career, thanklessly ending it by working in television on cartoons that, well, you shudder seeing the names of the artists who toiled on them.

I think of him mostly as working in the Avery unit in Tex’s early days at MGM (read Tim Walker’s revelation in the comments about why Love suddenly left Metro) and then eventually moving on to the Lantz studio during its best years in the mid to late ‘40s. Love was the studio’s last animator standing before it shut down at the end of 1948 (it reopened some months later producing inferior cartoons). And he even worked on Bob Clampett’s abortive attempt at a series at Republic, animating on It’s a Grand Old Nag.

On the day Hanna-Barbera Enterprises was formed in July 1957, Love was operating his own company, E.H. Love Sales. It had 17 staff members, according to Daily Variety, and had been providing TV cartoons to Swift-Chaplin Productions. Unfortunately, Howard Swift’s company was struck by the Screen Cartoonists Guild and under the terms of a settlement, agreed not to make television spots. Love’s company quickly signed a deal with the rival IATSE.

Ed arrived at Hanna-Barbera in 1959 and his early work is pretty distinctive. He loves teeth and animated head movements on ones; he seems to be trying to get as much movement as he can out of limited animation. Two or three head positions weren’t good enough for Ed Love. His talking heads moved around more than that. And he was entrusted with a bunch of TV spots in the early ‘60s for Kellogg’s featuring the H-B characters where the animation’s a lot fuller.

Edward H. Love was born in Pennsylvania on May 24, 1910 to William W. and Anne Cecelia Love (maiden name McCabe). They had been married in December 1905 in Pittsburgh. The family was in Chicago by the time Ed was 10; he had an older brother named William R. Love. He left a job in Chicago as a newspaper reporter in 1930 and moved to Los Angeles, selling oil royalties when he got married in October. He quit to work for Walt Disney as an in-betweener within a few months.

Denis Gifford of The Independent wrote a wonderful obit on him in its May 20, 1996 edition.

Ed Love is not a name well known even to those film-lovers who take notes from the creative credits which flash by all too quickly in the cinema. Television is no help, either, often cutting off credit titles or squashing them into unreadable portions of the screen while using the rest of the space to advertise whatever is coming next. This is especially true of cartoon credits, where even resorting to videos and freeze-frames does not always help. This is even sadder for a long-term animator like Ed Love, whose early work was never credited anyway, and whose later work may well be lost thanks to Hanna-Barbera’s latest practice of crediting every name in the company but in ultra-rapid frame flashes.
Fortunately for cartoonists, keen enthusiasts of the genre have in recent times been probing into the men and women behind the scenes, publishing articles, interviews and even books about Hollywood’s golden age of animation, and whilst the bulk of an animator’s work may never now be known, at least a milestone arises here and there to mark the progress of a special talent from rough pencillings to the height of colour and humorous movement. One such master was Ed Love.
Love’s 55-year career in animation cartoons began back in Los Angeles in 1930. It was the height of the American Depression and the 18-year-old college leaver with some talent as a cartoonist waded through the Classified Telephone Directory searching for a real professional to give him some tips on how to get work. He chanced on an animator who worked for the Walt Disney Studio and whose assignment at the time was on a Mickey Mouse short. He gave the teenager a chance to try making Mickey play the violin and then fall over. Young Ed had a go, nervously showed the result to Disney himself, and was promptly hired as an assistant animator at $18 a week.
From Love's Disney days, one short emerges above all others. This was Flowers and Trees, not the first-ever film in the "Silly Symphony" series, but the first to be filmed in glorious Technicolor. It was released in July 1932, and won for Walt his first-ever Academy Award. The director was Burt Gillett, and Love animated an evil tree who kidnapped a pretty young sapling.
Much later, Love’s name cropped up on the credits of perhaps Disney’s greatest ever feature film, Fantasia (1940). This pioneering attempt to bring life to a selection of popular classics was regarded as Disney’s greatest folly, especially by the moneymen of Hollywood, but it has stood the test of time and marks the first film use of stereophonic sound. Leopold Stokowski, who conducts the orchestra behind the picturisation of Paul Dukas’ The Sorcerer's Apprentice, concludes this dramatic sequence by appearing in silhouette and shaking Mickey Mouse's hand. Interestingly, this piece was designed to be a super "Silly Symphony" on its own, and was so successful that during production it expanded into the full-length feature that became Fantasia. And it was on this sequence that Ed Love animated.
Love then moved across to the MGM cartoon studio under producer Fred Quimby. He joined the unit headed by Fred Avery, nicknamed "Tex", one of several animation geniuses developed by Warner Bros who found better self-expression elsewhere. Here Love became a valuable addition to Avery’s unit, right from their first production, Blitz Wolf (1942). This haywire piece of propaganda rivalled Disney’s Der Fuhrer’s Face, which copped the Oscar mainly because of its hilarious anti-Hitler song, punctuated with ripe raspberries. Love animated many of Avery’s best shorts, including the howlingly saucy Red Hot Riding Hood (1943), a top favourite with GIs everywhere and Screwball Squirrel (1944), which established Screwy Squirrel as a mainstream Avery madcap.
At MGM, Love was one of a team of four animators: Preston Blair, Ray Abrams and Irven Spence. Other crazy characters this team brought to life included Droopy Dog, the half-pint hound who introduced himself with "Hello, folks - I’m the hee-ro!", and the large and small bears called George and Junior, who were caricatures of the principal protagonists in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. This pair of bears starred in such titles as Red Hot Rangers (1947), which would prove to be Love's last film at MGM.
Love then moved over to the Walter Lantz studio, where Woody Woodpecker cartoons were made. Once a major force in animation, Lantz had started to sink after Universal closed their distribution deal and United Artists, a leading independent, took over. Love worked with Fred Moore, a famous name in cartooning who had been dismissed by Disney. Serving under the director Dick Lundy, they brought their superior skills to bear on Playful Pelican (1948). Starring Lantz’s second-string hero, Andy Panda, this failed to breath new life into the little animal, who was promptly retired.
Lantz, nearing the end of his UA contract, never knew whether his studio would last into the following week, and the dithering delays unsettled Love. He quit animation for a while, then found a new home in television where Hanna-Barbera, the Bill and Joe who once won Oscar after Oscar for MGM with their Tom and Jerry series, were setting up as kings of limited animation, the newish technique they had evolved, or perhaps revived, to suit the cut-price budgets of television.
Love worked on The Flintstones (1960), the first-ever television cartoon series aimed at an adult audience, and on its futuristic follow-up, The Jetsons (1962). Not the same as Disney’s, or Avery’s or even Lantz’s, but at least it was work.

Regardless, Ed seemed to have fun animating dialogue. He got a chance to work with most of the major characters after he arrived, including Huck’s famous nude scene.

Nowhere Bear, with Ed Benedict.

Two Too Much, with Walt Clinton.

Happy Go Loopy, with Bick Bickenbach.

Nottingham and Yeggs, with Walt Clinton.

Sour Puss, with Bick Bickenbach.

It’s tough to pick a favourite. I really like Jinks’ poses in Sour Puss. His body language is saying “Stick it, meeces!” in the frame above. Sure, it’s not Fantasia, but Ed did what he could under the limitations of early TV animation and came up with some enjoyable cartoons.

This is probably my favourite of Ed’s commercials.


  1. Very nice article on one of my favorite animators, Ed Love. Ed doesn't receive credit for his great animation of Pete, Clarabelle Cow and Clara Cluck in Mickey's Amateurs, nor is his work in great Donald Duck shorts such as The Riveter, Bill Posters and Timber (Pete as lumberjack) cited. Ed was a master of forces in animation, thrust and counter-thrust. He worked very rough, but if you study his animation frame by frame, you will be overwhelmed with his inventive drawing, foreshortening (like in Donald's assault on the goat in Bill Posters with a big brush) and overlapping action. His dialog was masterful in Tex Avery's as well as in the early H-B cartoons. He animated Mickey being stepped on by the runaway brooms in the Sorcerer's Apprentice, and animated the great "Ah'm a havin' RED-EYE!" sequence with Buzz Buzzard and Woody in Wild and Woody. His work is an endless joy, the only people that disliked his work were his assistants! I remember Kimi Calvert (great assistant animator) being extremely peeved at Ed over how much work he left for her to do on "The Three Musekteers", a latter-day Hanna Barbera cartoon show. Mark Kausler

  2. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth,

    The reference which you put of the Loopy de Loop short, Happy Go Loopy (1960, animated by Ed Love), brings Loopy making a show of imitations of various celebrities on a masquerade party. Among them, Charles Boyer and Jimmy Durante (as we see on the scene above).

  3. Mark, I loved your commentary on the Charlie Horse cartoon (I have to find it again). Any idea who cleaned up for Ed in that?

    It's odd hearing about assistants at HB but I keep thinking along the lines of these old cartoons where the animator did everything.

    Hi, Rod. He's doing Chevalier above. As you know, Chevalier caricatures showed up in '30s cartoons but Gigi, released a year or so before the Loopy cartoon, certainly brought him into the spotlight again after a number of years.

  4. Hi Yowp,
    I think Jerry Beck and I did that audio commentary, if memory serves. Ed's key cleanup at MGM was a guy named Stod Herbert. When you find an Ed Love drawing from an MGM scene, the beautiful graphite line is usually Stod's. Ed drew very lightly, almost like toothpick scribbles, with a lot of charts. He animated very fast. I once did cleanup on a spot that Ed animated in a weekend. It took me two weeks to do the drawings that he indicated, and the results looked just like his animation! It's quite likely that Stod did Ed's cleanup on the Charlie Horse as well. These guys were always very loyal and supportive of one another.
    Mark Kausler

  5. How could I forgot the legendary Maurice Chevalier on this Loopy de Loop short from 1960?

  6. Mark Kausler is right Stod Herbert did the cleanup work for Ed on the Charlie Horse cartoon. I used to live near Ed in Valencia and would go over and have a drink and talk animation with Ed.He told me about how he got into the industry at Disneys, and he did inbetweens for four months while also doing personal pencil tests at night and having Norm Ferguson critique them. After four months he started animating and never looked back. Have more info if you want to hear it.
    Tim Walker

  7. Tim, yeah, post whatever you'd like about Ed. I've read part of his interview with Mike Barrier about how he got hired at Disney.
    I've always wondered why he left MGM.

  8. Reguarding Ed Love being fired from MGM. He told me this it was around Christmas time 1946 or 1947. Cal Howard took a bottle of booz into the ink and paint dept. and served the girls some xmas cheer.Somebody told Quimby that Ed was in the I+P dept. getting the gals all boozed up. So Quimby fired Ed on friday, so Ed called Hugh Harmon and was hired on the spot. On monday Tex Avery explained the real story to Quimby and he phoned Ed right away an told him it was all a big mistake and come back to work. Ed explained to Quimby he had already taken a job with Hugh Harmon and could not quite to return to MGM.

  9. Where can I sell an original cell from Ed Love?