Full Name:

Hugh Harman

Occupation / Title:

Date of birth:


Date of death:



Pagosa Springs, Colorado


Hugh Harman was a three time Oscar nominated animator who founded the MGM Animation Studios as well as Warner Bros. Cartoons departments with his partner Rudy Ising

Career outline

He was one of the animators hired by Disney to animate Laugh-O-Grams, one of the first cartoons produced by Disney. When Disney formed a new studio in Hollywood, he hired Iwerks as well as Harman and Ising to animate the Alice Comedies (1924-27). 

Due to a budget dispute, Charles Mintz seized control and fired Disney, taking the rights for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Mintz allowed Harman and Ising to stay on for another year until they were replaced by Universal, and then Walter Lantz.

In 1929, Harman and Ising founded their own studio, hiring other Disney animators such as Friz Freleng, they created Bosko, The Talkink Kid, a black minstrel character who sings and dances with his dog and girlfriend.They showed this cartoon in attempts to sell it to Leon Schlesinger, who was the president of Pacific Art and Title at the time, and successfully sold it to WB using his contact there.

In 1930, Harman and Ising were the pioneers of the first talkie cartoon, and Bosko was the first character subsequently taken up for the new Warner Brothers show Looney Tunes, debuting with the short Sinkin’ in the Bathtub, becoming the first cartoon with synchronized dialogue. Harman was left to direct Looney Tunes, and Ising was assigned to direct Merrie Melodies. By 1933, due to financial disputes with Schlesinger, who was a notorious miser and did not want to meet with Harman and Ising‘s demands to upgrade into color cartoons, the duo left from WB and formed their own company.

MGM took the chance to recruit Harman and Ising to their side, giving them color cartoons that would be co-produced and released through MGM. Together, they worked on Happy Harmonies, with technicolor musical cartoons, such as Tales of Vienna Woods (1934), The Old Mill Pond (1936) and The Calico Dragon (1935), which was directed by Ising and nominated for an Oscar. Harman and Ising tried to revive the Bosko character, with little success from 1934-1938. In 1937, with the Happy Harmonies series repeatedly over budget, MGM fired Harman and Ising, and established itself with Fred Quimby who started up the in-house animation department.

Harman and Ising freelanced their services to other studios and animators, before being rehired back by Fred Quimby in 1939. Until 1942, Harman wrote, produced and directed his own series of musical cartoons, which included Goldilocks and the 3 Bears (1939), The Blue Danube (1939), and The Alleycat (1941), and his most renown production from this period was Peace on Earth (1939), an anti-war animated short that was nominated for a Nobel Prize, as well as an Academy Award.

Following the success of MGM in the 40’s by the Bill Hanna and Joseph Barberra unit, as well as the legendary animator Tex Avery, Harman and Ising were forced out of the studio.

Harman started another studio called Hugh Harman Productions with veteran animator Mel Shaw, and they animated training films for the Army, before working for the United States Army Air Corps Motion Picture Unit, in charge of animation.

In 1946, Harman reteamed with Ising after the war, creating educational cartoons until the early 50’s before retiring. During the 60’s and 70’s, Harman made many public appearances for retrospectives of his work, and was honored by the ASIFA to receive the Winsor McCay lifetime Achievement Award in 1976.

He died 6 years later.  


  • Lenburg, Jeff. Who’s Who in Animated Cartoons . New York : Applause Theatre & Cinema Books , 2006 . Print.

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