Arthur (Art) Babbitt
Arthur (Art) BabbittOccupation / Title:
10/08/1907Date of death:
Omaha, Nebraska. USA.
Art was born in Omaha of Russian Jewish ancestry. Soon after High School he took himself to New York where he slummed around doing odd jobs and eating stale food to put himself through Columbia College Pre Med. He tried some jobs drawing cartoons and found he had a knack for them. A lifelong animator, union activist and teacher. He died in his eighties in 1992.
Family and early life
Married Three times, first to Marge Belcher, the model for the Blue Fairy in Pinnochio. After divorcing, Marge became Marge Champion, the famed dancing partner of Gower Champion Second wife—Anne-Marie Gottleib, they had two children Laura and Lisa. Third wife—Barbera Perry, actress.
Babbitt first worked as an animator for Medical Films and Commericials in 1924. He got a job at Van Beuren Studio then became an animator at Terrytoons. After he saw Disney’s Skeleton Dance he decided that was the place and went out and got a job there. By 1941 he was one of the top artists at the studio. He took the little known character of Dippy Dog and developed him into Goofy, one of the stars of the studio.
He animated Geppetto in Pinnochio, the Wicked Queen in Snow White and the Stork in Dumbo. He put himself at the head of the union organizing movement at Disneys and led the bitter strike of 1941 there. Walt Disney tried to fire him four times in defiance to Federal Law. Walt and he were enemies thereafter. He was president of the Screen Cartoonists Guild for several terms. Babbitt was a master sergeant in the Marines fighting in the Pacific in World War Two.
After the war he returned to Disney’s but the climate was against him, he quit and went to Lou Bunin, then UPA where he was a main animator on the award winning short Rooty Toot Toot and many Mr. Magoo shorts. He partnered with MGM animator Mike Lah for a time with their company Quartet, then ran the advertising commercial department of Hanna Barbera. His spots won him many awards. In the 70s he worked with Richard Williams Studio in London until his retirement in 1983.
Art had a no-frills style that stressed performance. His timing was often even, yet he brought to his work his prodigious study of dance and theater. He studied the acting theories of internalization of Constantin Stanislavsky and Richard Boleslavsky, as any actor of his time would. He took classes in dance and learned to play the piano to make himself a better animator. He taught that an animator should be a student of everything.
Art said he was inspired to become an animator when he saw Ub Iwerks animation on Skeleton Dance (1930). Don Graham the art instructor was a big influence on him also.
Honors and awards
Annie Award: Winsor McCay Award 1974 MPSC 839 Golden Award
- Art Babbitt interviewed by Karl Stysz in Cartoonists Profiles
- John Canemaker The Animated Raggedy Ann & Andy, Bobs&Merrill Pub Lenburg, Jeff. Who’s Who in Animated Cartoons. Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, 2006.