Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Art Goble

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. Prior to that, he got a job as a clerk for Western Auto Supply.

Goble arrived in Los Angeles about 1931. The 1933 City Directory lists his occupation as “card writer” while the following year he is recorded as a “cartoonist.” He 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.


  1. One of the unsung heroes of animation. Just off the top of my head, I'd say the "tites" position was a requirement of television union rules of the day. Goble's background in ink and paint was perfect for this kind of work. Yes, titles were inserted via an optical printer, rather than filmed with the animation under the H-B camera. In the event that a last minute change had to be made to the credits, or if various episodes required unique credits, it could be done easily in post production, rather than having to re-shoot the animation. Optically inserted titles were rare in "golden age" theatrical cartoons because of the added expense. And you'll notice H-B switched to cards ("full screens," as we say in TV biz) during the 70's when budgets grew tight.

  2. I remember that guy, too, from that SAME TEX AVERY BOOK! Had to do with a Coca-Cola bottle or something, at the time, due to the "Gobel" spelling, I just thought that it was George Gobel, the radio/TV personality.

  3. Steve F., yeah, as the end titles on the first H-B cartoon series dissolve, there's no way they would have been shot with the animation. And with the action underneath, a roll wouldn't have worked.
    As far as I know, there were end titles made for each individual half-hour show. I don't know when the odious gang credits started being used. Maybe with Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel?
    Remember that he got a "titles" credit on the theatrical Loopys. There's no animation underneath. There's just a series of lettered cards (except for the opening one with Loopy on it).
    Chris, alas, I have very little information about him. I don't know if he ever animated or drew backgrounds in Kansas City. I've only seen his name in relation to supervisory positions out west. You have to figure he drew something at one time.

  4. As luck would have it, I just watched a Magilla Gorilla Show on DVD and noticed they used a title card at the end in a novel vertical pan design. If memory serves, Secret Squirell and Atom Any had opticals at the end; they used the same animation from the opening. Guess it depended on the budget of a particular show.

    1. Correct: Magilla's holding balloons.The credits are listed on thsoel.SC

  5. That's a great cell with the " life Membership " certificate hanging on the jail wall. Always love inside jokes like that. The " poisoning " story was also priceless. Great post

  6. If my memory serves me correctly, optical titles on end credits ended around 1971 or 72. I recall H-B shows from 73 on such as Superfriends, Speed Buggy, Jeannie and other used title cards.

  7. It is noteworthy to mention, Art Goble was first Hanna-Barbera employee to retire as is indicated in this Hanna-Barbera Exposure Sheet newsletter obit for him in 1968.

  8. Wayne, thanks for the note. I hadn't paid attention to that before. It would have saved me a lot of digging if I had.

  9. Lawrence is a 2x great Uncle of my daughters. When their Dad was young Uncle Lawrence used to draw cartoons for him and his brothers. This article filled in a lot about his professional life that we never knew.