Vladimir William (“Bill”) Tytla
Filed under: People, Animator, Artist, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, Casper the Ghost, Color, Inkwell / Fleischer Studios, Little Lulu, Musical, Popeye, Terrytoons Animated Shorts, U.S.A., Walt Disney, Walt Disney Studios,
Vladimir William (“Bill”) TytlaOccupation / Title:
25/10/1904Date of death:
Yonkers, New York, USA
Vladimir Tytla worked as an animator for several studios, including his own. His happiest times, and best work, were done at Disney Studios where he felt a certain atmosphere of artistry and care for the animated product, which fed his deep interest in both fine art and animation. Animator Chuck Jones called Tytla “the Michelangelo of animators,” for Tytla excelled in skill and sensitivity for the form.
Family and early life
When Tytla was nine years old, he saw Windsor McKay’s presentation of the Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) animation, which inspired him to pursue animation as his career. Throughout high school he attended evening art classes at the New York Evening School of Industrial Design. He soon quit high school so that he could more freely pursue his artistic studies. His first work in 1920 was doing the title cards for movies produced by Paramount Studios. He then moved on to do work for Raoul Barre on the Mutt & Jeff cartoons and for John Terry. John Terry’s brother, Paul, was extremely influential in Tytla’s career, getting him a secure job at Terrytoons.
In 1932, Art Babbitt decided to head out to California to join Disney Studios. Once there, he recommended to Walt Disney that he hire Tytla. Such began a great back and forth, with Terrytoons continually raising Tytla’s salary in order to get him to stay. Tytla ended up taking Disney’s offer though, despite the fact that his starting salary at Disney was much less than he had been making at Terrytoons. Disney soon realized how strong of an animator Tytla was, however, and he soon became a core component of Disney’s staff. In 1935 Tytla started out at Disney Studios working on a handful of animated shorts. As planning for Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937) came to the fore during this time, Tytla was made animating supervisor with Fred Moore, thus quickly moving to the inner circles of the animation team.
After work on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Tytla was in charge of a string of larger-than-life characters. He animated the giant in Brave Little Tailor (1938) and the sorcerer in Fantasia‘s (1940) sequence The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. He then worked on Stromboli, one of the three villains in Pinocchio (1940). Finally, he was asked to animate Chernabog, the god of evil in the Night on Bald Mountain section of Fantasia (1940). At Tytla’s request, he was given a strikingly different character for his next assignment, and received the lead role of Dumbo (1941).
Work on Dumbo was interrupted by the 1941 strike at Disney Studios, in which Disney fired Art Babbitt, who had brought Tytla to the studios and remained his oldest friend there. Perhaps for this reason, Tytla never crossed the picket lines and held the strike until it was over. Though he was welcomed back into the studio, he began to feel as though his time at Disney was over. He did some work on animated shorts and the propaganda feature Victory Through Air Power (1943), then left that year to rejoin Terrytoons in New York.
He worked as director of animation at Terrytoons, but found it hard to transition back to the fast-paced churning out of animation. He then left to work at Paramount/Famous Studios, where he unhappily worked on small projects featuring Popeye, Casper the Friendly Ghost and Little Lulu. He then did some work for Tempo Studio, but it was soon shut down during the McCarthy era. He worked at Academy Pictures for a while, then opened his own studio. William Tytla Productions did well but quickly diminished, and Tytla moved on to do some work for Hanna-Barbera and then for Warners, as director of animation for The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964).
Tytla was already very unwell by this time, then additionally suffered some unfortunate minor strokes, leaving him blind in his left eye. In 1968, he approached Disney again, asking for work and pitching an idea for an animated film, but the studio did not want to take any extra work.
Vadimir Tytla died three months later, on December 30, 1968, aged 64.
Canemaker, John. Vladimir Tytla – Master Animator, Catalogue essay for exhibition at The Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, N.Y. September 25, 1994 – January 1, 1995.