Document details

Ub Iwerks
And The Animated Film
Mark Kausler
The place is the Wirthman Building, 31st and Troost, Kansas City, Missouri. The date is 1920, and behind a small office door three men, Walt Disney, Ub Iwerks, and Rudolph Ising are discussing selling ads to the Newman Theaters. They have banded together under the banner "Arabian Nights," a much more romantic title than their former Kansas City Film Ad Company. These men are about to make film history, but at this time their pockets are empty and they are contemplating a move to cheaper offices at 1127 East 3lst St. There they will found the Newman Laugh-o-Gram Corporation to produce animated advertising. Jumping ahead in time, to Hollywood, at 2719 Hyperion Avenue, we find these same men establishing Walt Disney Enterprises. Their chief products now are ALICE IN CARTOONLAND films for the Raytone Pictures Corporation in New York. Doing most of the animation for ALICE is a young man named Uh Iwerks. His cat star for these films bears a striking resemblance to Felix the Cat. The whole premise of the Alice series employs one discarded idea from the Felix series, using live actors (in this case a little girl) in conjunction with the cartoon characters. Pat Sullivan, creator of Felix, dropped the idea after only one film, because the matte work of his time was unconvincing. After finishing the Alice series, Universal becomes interested in the low cost which Walt Disney bid on his new series OSWALD THE RABBIT. In this series, Ub Iwerks is again chief animator and his design for Oswald begins to show his increasing concern with a bunching of the white areas of eyes and mouth with the black areas of ears and body. He is using a pair of little white pants for a highlight on the rabbit's body. Apart from this new approach to figure design and a general roundness of the limbs, Oswald still copies most of his gag repertory from Felix. He takes off a foot for good luck and kisses it, uses his long ears to row a boat, and sometimes goes so far as to stretch his lips around a corner to kiss the heroine! In trying to develop these simple antics into higher comedy, Walt Disney loses his contract with Universal, which is unwilling to pay any more money for Oswald. Walter Lantz assumes production duties and gives the rabbit a theme song and a new animator, Tex Avery. Under Avery, Oswald becomes quite sadistic. In a cartoon called THE BARBER SHOP, Oswald turns a customer inside out until his teeth bite his pants! Walt Disney, without a new character to keep his little studio going, invents Mickey Mouse, as the popular story is told. Bill Mendelez, producer of the PEANUTS cartoons, has something to add to the story: "Ub Iwerks, a very creative animator, was the top man on the ALICE IN CARTOONLAND series. It is said that Columbia had scored a hit on the series and had suggested to Walt Disney that he try a different character. Walt asked Ub to think up a few other possibilities: Ub happily set to work and designed a frog, several cats, a mouse, etc. He suggested that 'Flip the Frog' would be the best one. He felt it had real possibilities as animatable shape and character. The drawings were sent back to Columbia studios in New York and the models came back with a circle around just one, a mouse, Mickey Mouse. Ub was very disappointed." (quote from International Photographer, September, 1963) […]


Primary location: Michael Sporn Animation



Film Fan Monthly
Source type Magazine
Volume 79
Language en
Document type Feature
Media type text
Page count 3
Pages pp. 17-19


Id 2329
Availability Free
Inserted 2016-03-24