Iwao Takamoto

Iwao Takamoto: My Life with a Thousand Characters

Iwao Takamoto
with Michael Mallory
Foreword by Willie Ito
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tvj26
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  • Book Info
    Iwao Takamoto
    Book Description:

    Iwao Takamoto (1925-2007) spent a lifetime in the animation industry and was influential in the creation of some of the most beloved characters in the medium's history, including Scooby-Doo, Atom Ant,The Jetsons'Astro,The Flintstones'Great Gazoo, andThe Wacky Races'Penelope Pittstop and Muttley, all of whom he designed.Iwao Takamoto: My Life with a Thousand Charactersis the story of this legendary American artist, told in his own words.

    Takamoto records his experiences growing up in the heart of Los Angeles as a self-described "street kid" and his wartime ordeal of being sent to a government internment camp for Japanese Americans. He recalls stories of how he and his teenaged friends still managed to function as normal teens despite the confinement of Manzanar.

    The book chronicles his career, first with the Walt Disney Studios, where he worked directly with the famous "Nine Old Men," and later for Hanna-Barbera, where he was a key artistic force. Packed with memorable stories of working in the trenches of two of Hollywood's most notable animation studios and filled with photographs and artwork, much of which has never before been published, this book is essential for any fan of animation and twentieth-century popular culture.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-477-5
    Subjects: Performing Arts, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. vii-x)
    Willie Ito

    In 1945, the war was still raging in the Pacific but the inevitable end was near. One hundred twenty thousandNikkeis—Japanese Americans—were incarcerated in a string of concentration camps set up in remote, sand-swept locations in the desert. Many young citizens in their teens were greatly affected by being forced into these camps. Their quest for a good education, which had been impressed upon them by their parents, and the pursuit of a productive future was all but interrupted. However, life went on through making the most of a bad situation.

    One young man whose life was greatly...

  4. NOTE TO THE READER
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction: I AM LEGEND?
    (pp. 3-8)

    In animation, the field in which I have worked over the course of sixty years, the smallest, seemingly most inconsequential differences between one drawing and another can sometimes result in the most telling effect. That, in fact, is an important component of animating a scene: lining up all those small differences, one after another, until the desired result, whether comedic or tragic, or something in the middle, is achieved. The funny thing is, sometimes life works that way, too.

    Mine, for instance.

    The direction of my life changed course almost overnight as the result of a telephone call I placed...

  6. Chapter 1 A KID OF THE CITY
    (pp. 9-21)

    There’s a Japanese term that is difficult to translate into English:shikata ga nai. It is frequently spoken with a shrug of the shoulders or a hand gesture, and it can also go with a little sound made by sucking in a breath, like atsk. Probably the closest to an actual translation would be somewhere in between, “So be it,” and “Yeah, okay, cool.” Shikata ga nai basically sums up the philosophy of accepting what comes, of adapting to the situation, of going with the flow. If I had to sum up my life so far, I would have...

  7. Chapter 2 A JAPANESE AMERICAN IN THE TIME OF WAR
    (pp. 22-28)

    I cannot recall having any strong opinion one way or the other regarding the attack on the United States from Japan. That may sound surprising given the significance of the events at Pearl Harbor, but the results of these events had yet to happen. On December 8, 1941, when I and the rest of the world had just learned of the attack, it simply seemed unreal.

    The truth is, for a good part of my life, particularly my youth, I have always seemed to be a few years behind where I possibly should have been in terms of awareness. In...

  8. Chapter 3 MANZANAR
    (pp. 29-43)

    There’s an old saying that goes something to the effect of, you make your own bed, you have to lie in it. Its meaning is, whatever you’ve done with your life or situation, you have to live with it, because you created it. Those of us being bussed into Manzanar, or any of the other Japanese camps located between California and Arkansas had not done anything to create our present situation … but we did have to make our own beds—literally.

    Immediately upon arrival at the camp we were handed a bag-like mat made of canvas and led to...

  9. Chapter 4 NINE OLD MEN AND A GUY NAMED WALT
    (pp. 44-56)

    In 1944 President Roosevelt signed the order to begin the process of closing down the internment camps, but they did not shut down immediately. Understandably, a good many of the internees showed a great deal of reluctance to leave the camps. These had, after all, been their homes for three years or better, and since they had been forced to leave so much of their previous lives behind in order to be transported to places like Manzanar, Tule Lake, Heart Mountain in Wyoming, and Gila River in Arizona, there was not a lot to go back to. Even though I...

  10. Chapter 5 MILT
    (pp. 57-65)

    Milt Kahl was only about a dozen or so years older than I was, but when I started working with him in the 1940s, it seemed like he had the wisdom of the ages. He also had an enormous amount of talent as an artist, and a lot of what might today be termed “attitude.” Milt had very little patience for people who he felt were not working hard enough to achieve their best. Because of that, and because he felt there was no excuse for not achieving one’s best, he developed a reputation for being an ogre. But he...

  11. Chapter 6 TALES FROM D-WING, AND ALL THAT JAZZ
    (pp. 66-74)

    Drawing was, of course, our primary activity at the Walt Disney Studios, but there were plenty of other things that occupied our attention. In the case of Ward Kimball, his distraction became music. Ward used to have a set of drums in his assistant’s room, and there were several guys who were totally hung up on New Orleans jazz. Clark Mallory, with whom I had perpetrated the tape-recording gag on Milt and Al Bertino, was one of them. They would gather around maybe twice a week and just blow jazz, eventually becoming known even outside of the studio as the...

  12. Chapter 7 CHANGES
    (pp. 75-86)

    As the 1950s progressed, the Disney studios were pulled in many different directions, and even the Disney physical plant was changing and expanding rapidly. Walt was erecting live-action soundstages and creating a backlot, which included such permanent sets as a downtown street, which he used in many contemporary films, and an old Spanish town at the very back of the lot that was the set for theZorrotelevision series. He also built a good-sized circular pool in order to test a miniature model of the submarine ride he was developing for Disneyland.

    One of the new soundstages was leased...

  13. Chapter 8 BILL AND JOE
    (pp. 87-102)

    It is hard to imagine two more different personalities than those of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. I think the word to describe Joe is “cool.” His clothes were cool, and he was very conscious of style and dress. He handled his personnel in the same fashion: he was almost unflappable, and he possessed a quick, disarming wit. There’s a story about an incident between Joe—who in the early days usually directed the recording sessions for the shows—and a voice actor, who shall remain nameless. Apparently during a session, Joe had said or done something to get this...

  14. Chapter 9 HARDWORKING ARTISTS AND ʺLAZY LUCYʺ
    (pp. 103-111)

    In the early 1960s, just as our television output was really heating up and the studio was busier than ever, Bill and Joe decided to take the plunge into an area in which they had virtually no experience, but I did: features. The first was a full-length film calledHey There, It’s Yogi Bear. That film established a method of working between Joe and I that would increasingly be repeated over the years. He appeared in my office one day and announced that he was not satisfied with the way “Cindy Bear,” Yogi’s love interest, had been drawn in the...

  15. Chapter 10 TAKING ON RESPONSIBILITY BY DESIGN … OR OTHERWISE
    (pp. 112-122)

    I get a little frustrated whenever I hear the phrase “the Hanna-Barbera look.” Funny animal characters like Atom Ant or Squiddly Diddly were all well within the traditional anthropomorphic cartoon character look and far removed from the shows that immediately followed, such as “Space Ghost,” “Dino Boy,” or “The Herculoids.” Those, in turn, bear no resemblance to the character of Scooby-Doo. Some of the special programs we did had unique looks all their own.

    After I became more heavily involved in supervising the design for shows, I worked very hard to broaden the parameter of styles, not only with the...

  16. Chapter 11 REINVENTING THE TV TOON WITH ʺJONNY QUESTʺ AND ʺSCOOBY-DOOʺ
    (pp. 123-133)

    Innovation was traditionally a key element of Hanna-Barbera. It was the whole point in the earliest days of the studio, when the whole concept of planned animation was being devised, and the concept of prime-time animation was also quite an innovation. But stylistically, one of the biggest innovations we did was the move to the comic-book style of cartoons, led off by “Jonny Quest.”

    Doug Wildey had originally brought in the idea of animating the old radio show “Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy” to the studio, and Joe was completely taken with it, particularly after Doug was able to show...

  17. Chapter 12 INTERNATIONAL EXPANSION
    (pp. 134-143)

    By the time “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” went on the air, organizational changes had already taken place at Hanna-Barbera Studios. In 1967 the studio was acquired by Taft Broadcasting. The effect of that was not earth-shaking: Joe Barbera continued doing what he was doing as the president of the company, and Bill Hanna remained the senior vice president. Even though the order of their billing in the studio’s name might indicate that Bill was the top man, Joe had always been in charge, at least from an organizational standpoint. The official story as to why the studio was called “Hanna-Barbera”...

  18. Chapter 13 FALLING INTO ʺCHARLOTTEʹS WEBʺ
    (pp. 144-151)

    The path thatCharlotte’s Webtook in getting to the screen had so many twists and turns that it might have been calledTangled Web.

    It all started with a millionaire named Edgar Bronfman, who was dabbling in the movie business. His son, Edgar Jr., seemed to dabble a little bit better: for a while he ran Universal Studios. But Ed senior had the rights to E. B. White’s beloved book and wanted to make an animated film of it, which back then in the pre-digital era, was about the only way to do it.

    The first pass at the...

  19. Chapter 14 HANNA-BARBERA BRANCHES OUT
    (pp. 152-158)

    Nineteen seventy-three, the yearCharlotte’s Webwas released, was one of our busiest seasons ever. Hanna-Barbera had nine series split between the three networks, though without question, the breakout series was one called “Super Friends.” Basically the show was a campy spin on DC Comics’ “Justice League of America,” which combined Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman. We added three new characters: “Marvin,” “Wendy,” and “Wonder Dog.”

    Viewers loved this show. It was one of the top-rated programs on Saturday morning. And the writers and the story editors at Hanna-Barbera loved doing the show. They got a huge kick out...

  20. Chapter 15 THE BUSIEST PLACE ON EARTH
    (pp. 159-166)

    Throughout the 1970s, things were coming in and going out of Hanna-Barbera so rapidly that it was sometimes hard to keep track of them, and on too many occasions, we would be asked to execute the near impossible.

    One such assignment involved “The Harlem Globetrotters.” Someone at the studio decided they wanted a series of pictures of the team to run under the closing credits—and they wanted them finished over the weekend! I took the assignment home on Friday and vowed that I would hand it in first thing Monday, and if somebody didn’t like it, to hell with...

  21. Chapter 16 A STUDIO IN FLUX AND A NEW ROLE AS ʺAMBASSADORʺ
    (pp. 167-184)

    In one sense, the Great American Broadcasting takeover of Hanna-Barbera in 1987 signaled the end of the studio as we had come to know it. It certainly came with a price tag: Joe and Bill would only be the heads of the company on paper, and they would increasingly be forced to take their marching orders from others. For Bill, whose responsibilities were chiefly in the production area, this was not a major change. But for Joe, who had always been the key idea man, it was.

    The first new leader to come in was David Kirschner, a very nice...

  22. Chapter 17 AN ERA ENDS; A LEGACY LIVES ON
    (pp. 185-194)

    By the time of the Warner Bros. takeover of Hanna-Barbera, both Bill and Joe were in their mid-eighties. Men of lesser energy, creativity, and enthusiasm would have retired long before, but they were both still coming in to work every day, helped by a very dedicated young man named Carleton Clay, who served as personal assistant to both of them.

    Of the two, Joe was the one who acted more like a CEO. In the one-time bank building that Warners had converted into their animation operation, he was given an office suite that was large enough to contain all his...

  23. INDEX
    (pp. 195-206)
  24. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)