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STAN LEE & ME at the SEATTLE CON 1991 JACK "KING" KIRBY STEVE DITKO
I have worked in the animation industry for 25 years and my career started in 1979 at Hanna Barbera Studio. The animation studios system worked similar to TV in that you worked on a show and when the episodes were completed you then went on hiatus until either the show was picked up for another season or the studio signed with the networks to do a new show. If it wasn't picked up you scrambled to get hired by the studio that signed up with the networks first. I always called this the "call back in a week or two" syndrome. Eventually the studios have new shows to do and the hiring began... that is until 1980 when the studios threatened to send all the animation work overseas so we went on strike and we won and after a few months we went back to work but the storm clouds were building on the horizon. The studios were not prepared to set up overseas and they had to meet the networks deadlines to get the shows on the air by September so they had to settle the strike or lose a lot of money in fines to the networks. However, as soon as we signed they started to set up operations overseas so they next time we had to strike we had to cave because the work was no more!!! I was lucky enough to get on at Filmation Studio which was the only studio that was doing the animation in the U.S... Lou Schiemer (the studio founder) was determined to keep the work in the U.S. despite having to compete with overseas studios that could pay their animators pennies on the dollar compared to what we were making. That lasted until 1987 after a great run on He-man and the Masters of the Universe, She-Ra princess of Power and Bravstarr. A very special thanks to Golden Age artist Don Rico. . . He was the man responsible for my career in the animation industry. I showed my portfolio to him and he suggested I look into becoming an animator at Hanna-Barbera Studio where he was working on Super-Friends as a storyboard artist. Hanna-Barbera had an animation workshop that was open only to those recommended by someone at the studio and Don recommended me to Joe Barbera and within three weeks I was working as an assistant animator. I was privilidged to work along side such animation greats as Tex Avery, Dave Tendlar, Kenny Muse and Ben Washam . . . I was in awe as I watched Mel Blanc record an episode of the Flintstones. He went from being Barney Rubble to being a wise cracking elephant vacuum cleaner without missing a beat. I also had a chance to meet my favorite Warner Brothers cartoon director Bob Clampett and he sent me a number of autographed Beany and Cecil items just because I said I loved the show so much as a kid.
I also ran into my comic book hero Jack Kirby who worked at Ruby-Spears on Thundarr the Barbarian and later was designing and doing storyboards for Hanna-Barbera. I was an assistant animator on Thundarr, and any time I looked out and saw Jack Kirby heading across the bridge that joined the two Hanna-Barbera buildings together I ran out and pretended I had to go to the other building just so I could get a chance to talk to him. He was one of the nicest people you could possibly meet and would always take the time to answer any question I had about art. One of my biggest regrets to this day is that he invited me out to his home in Thousand Oaks, California a couple of times and even gave me his address and phone number but I was too intimidated to take him up on it... what a shame, I would have loved that!!! He was the "KING" after all. . . I later found out that he was always having people over to his house and he was sincere when he invited me over.
ANIMATION INTERVIEW AND PODCAST
I was recently interviewed by PKD Black Box hosted by Shawn Pryor in a Podcast about my career in the Animation Industry and my love for comic books. If you would like to listen to the interview you can find it at the link below... just click on it and learn more than you ever wanted to know about the Animation Industry.