Thursday, 30 January 2014

Lefty Callahan

Jack Nicholson had to buy his first car from someone. And that someone was Lefty Callahan.

The two worked at the MGM cartoon studio together. Nicholson was an office boy who was told by his boss Bill Hanna he should maybe sign up for acting classes. Callahan was an assistant animator in the Hanna-Barbera unit. At a staff meeting in late 1956 to address rumours of the studio’s demise, they were told by chief Fred Quimby that, no, the operation was “like the Rock of Gibraltar.” Two weeks later, Lefty got his layoff notice because MGM was closing the studio.

We’ve received word from former Hanna-Barbera animator Don Parmele that Lefty Callahan passed away on January 21st at age 84.

Oliver Edward Callahan was born on June 30, 1929 in Fresno, California to La Vaughn and Marjorie (Richardson) Callahan. The family moved to Seattle when Lefty was young but were in Glendale in 1940 where his parents owned a restaurant. At MGM, he assisted Irv Spence and, on the side, sold his ‘49 Chevy to Nicholson for five easy pieces $400.

When MGM closed, Lefty went to Animation, Inc. (Broadcasting magazine, Jan. 21, 1957) animating commercials, apparently including some for Johnson’s Wax. He then spent time at John Sutherland Productions; his name appears on “A Missile Named Mac” (1962). But he ended up working for his old boss again by 1964. He first shows up in H-B credits on “Jonny Quest.” Lefty brought life to characters on “The Secret Squirrel Show” (“Atom Ant” had an entirely different set of animators) and toiled on many of the studio’s shows through the ‘60s and into the early ‘90s , first as an animator and then a director. Lefty did a bit of work on the side as well, including a couple of Peanuts cartoons for Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez.

I profess my complete ignorance on most matters surrounding Scooby Doo, but I understand an incidental character was named for him in one of the Scooby series. He worked on most of them.

Lefty served his country as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps.

He’s survived by older sister Jackie and other family members. Our condolences to his kin, friends and co-workers.


  1. Rest in Peace, Lefty. He was a good friend to many in the industry. Fred Quimby at MGM Cartoons in late 1956? I thought that Bill and Joe had taken over MGM Cartoons by that time, and Quimby was retired. Set me straight on this, Yowp.

  2. And here that character is, courtesy of Scoobypedia. Something tells me cartoon Lefty has little resemblance to the real one:

  3. Oliver Callahan:
    May his memory be eternal!

  4. spent a lot of time hanging out in lefty's office in my h-b days.....he animated a couple commercials that i storyboared and layed of the nicest kindest gentlemen i ever had the pleasure of working with..... i even got to draw his tribute cell that we gave him when he retired from the studio....may he rip....

  5. Mark, the "Rock" date and quote is from the biography on Nicholson, Five Easy Decades.

    There's conflicting contemporary information on Quimby's finish. Variety, in its issue of July 20th, 1956, calls him "former producer of MGM cartoons." But I've found at least one reference in 1957 stating he retired in December 1956.

  6. RIP, Left...nice to see that Secret Squirrel end title. Lefty and seven other animators are credited, four at the top and four on the bottom (I always love, on a side now, the clean fonts HB used on this and others starting around 1962.)SteveC

  7. Lefty Callahan was one of the friendliest, most cheerful animators I ever met in the business. To be near him made you smile. Affable, upbeat, funny -- made Hanna-Barbera a better place to be. God bless him!