Saturday 16 March 2019

The Two Handed Artist

Quick! Name the Hanna-Barbera artist who won $327,094 in the lottery!

You can cheat. The answer is in the story to the right from the Signal of Santa Clarita, California published June 22, 1988.

Alex Lovy had been in animation for more than 25 years when he jumped over to the Hanna-Barbera studio in 1959. He started as a story director; he’d draw the finished, nine-panel storyboards with dialogue, camera instructions, scene numbers and so on marked on each story sheet. He moved upward for there.

He and Joe Barbera went back to the 1930s when they were both working for New York City’s B-list cartoon studio that wasn’t named Terrytoons. A man by the name of Paul Maher interviewed Lovy in 1988. The interview is on this page if you want to see it. I won’t transcribe the whole thing, but let me glean some facts from it.

Lovy was born in Passaic, New Jersey on September 2, 1913 to Igor and Charlotte Mohr Lovy. Where his father disappeared to, I don’t know, but his mother raised him herself. He got into animation quite by accident. After graduating from high school, he wanted to be a flyer. He enrolled in the Curtis-Wright Institute where he met a chap by the name of Bill Littlejohn. Lovy had a problem like many others in the Depression—no money. So someone got him and Littlejohn a job at the Van Beuren cartoon studio. That was in 1933.

Van Beuren was releasing its cartoons through RKO, which had a stake in the studio. Van Beuren died in 1936 when RKO decided to release cartoons made by Walt Disney instead. Lovy and Littlejohn, coincidentally, moved west to work at Disney before Lovy got a job at the Walter Lantz studio. Lovy’s first directorial credit was the final cartoon in the Oswald series, Feed the Kitty (1938). Lantz’ most successful character came along in 1940 in the Andy Panda cartoon Knock Knock. It really starred Woody Woodpecker and Lovy came up with Woody’s original stubby-legged, long-billed design.

Alex left the Lantz studio in November 1942 to serve in the Navy. He also had time for two marriages to fall apart, one to Monte Maxine Harwood in 1938 and another to Florence Dotzler Burslem in 1940; her sister married Lantz animator Frank Tipper.

He left the Navy by December 1945. It’s unclear when he arrived at the Columbia Screen Gems cartoon studio, but he directed five cartoons there before it shut down; the first was the Daffy Duck/Elmer Fudd knock-off Wacky Quacky.

It seems Lovy bounced around. A syndicated column in the Cincinnati Enquirer of July 1, 1948 talks of Lovy “heading a new outfit with a revolutionary pastel color process.” Another syndicated column, this one in the Battle Creek Enquirer of January 17, 1949, reveals Lovy was the artist for columnist and writer Leo Guild. The article says “He did some great war drawings and is considered by Disney and Metro to be an outstanding talent,” though I’ve seen no proof he ever worked for Fred Quimby at the MGM cartoon studio. Considering the arbitrary nature of cartoon screen credits and the short stops some people made at various studios, it is quite possible.

Lantz finally brought him back; he directed before and after Tex Avery’s brief time at the studio in 1953-54 before bolting to Hanna-Barbera in March 1959. The studio was working on The Huckleberry Hound Show and would soon have Quick Draw McGraw on the air. What was the transition from full animation (such as it was at Lantz) to the limited variety of television like?
“Oddly enough, I sort of had a warm feeling for it. It was very natural for me to go into their type of animation, which was trying to minimize moment as much as possible. We relied on dialogue rather than motion to make it funny.”
Did Daws Butler influence any of the writing because of the way his voiced the characters?
“Daws would come up with certain expressions which would lend itself idea for writing something so we could utilise that particular attitude or particular expression. He was very helpful to us.”
What of Huck?
“Huckleberry Hound was a creation of Bill and Joe. The other characters developed from Mike Maltese, myself, Bill, Joe, and a few other fellows whose names I can’t think of right now. But the end result of refining of the characters was always Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna. They had the knack of really putting a personality into a character.”
Lovy had his own company, Alex Lovy Productions, on the side while he worked at Hanna-Barbera. He left in 1966 (or perhaps early 1967) to direct theatrical cartoons for Warner Bros., including the less-than-immortal Cool Cat and Merlin the Magic Mouse. By 1968, he was back at Hanna-Barbera.

What about a certain Great Dane? Lovy was the co-producer on the original series in 1968. Why was it so popular?
“I guess you’ll have to ask the kids. I don’t know...whereas my heart belongs to Yogi Bear.”
A wise answer, Mr. Lovy.

Lovy oversaw voice sessions during part of his career. Who was the most fun to work with? Sally Struthers as the teenaged Pebbles, was his surprise answer. What about Jack Mercer in the weak Popeye series that Hanna-Barbera inflicted on kids? What about Joe Besser?
“He was all right, but he took on a character, then when we stopped recording he was back to being Joe Besser, whereas Sally was constantly who she was. [Mercer] was very professional. I just let him do it because he knew the character better than I, as a matter of fact. All I did was listen for diction.”
One thing that has been mentioned by a number of people is that Lovy could draw with both hands. And both layout artist Jerry Eisenberg and writer Tony Benedict say that Lovy was an excellent storyboard man; Jerry says his boards could be funnier than the actual cartoons but the artists had to stick to the model sheets. (That’s Lovy and Jerry at Hanna-Barbera to the right from a grainy home movie. I wonder who owned the Buick in the background).

Lovy produced the revival of the Yogi Bear Show in 1988, and then came back to Hanna-Barbera in 1990 as a storyboard artist on the Jetsons movie and on some episodes of a series called The Adventures of Don Coyote. In the meantime, Lovy married and divorced Vivian Jean twice. He died on Valentine’s Day 1992 at the age of 78.

Alex Lovy wasn’t one of the originals at Hanna-Barbera, but he arrived at the studio in its first expansion in 1959 to get Quick Draw McGraw on the air. He seems to have been well-liked and respected, and contributed in his own way to some very enjoyable cartoons.


  1. Not really a surprise--The Lovy Machine was "involved" with Ms. Struthers at the time. If her scenes from then-current films, Five Easy Pieces (1970), and The Getaway (1972) are any indication, one can see why he found her "fun to work with". Yabba-Dabba-Doozie, indeed.

  2. Just finisht listening to another AL interview - the 1978/79 audio one.
    Nice outlay of what I now like to call the "Ms CutItOut" era of TV Animation.