Full Name:

Rudy Ising

Occupation / Title:

Date of birth:


Date of death:



Kansas City, Missouri


Ising began his animation career first working for Walt Disney, and was the lifelong business partner of Hugh Harman, producing Oscar-winning cartoons together for various studios such as Warner Bros. and MGM.

Career outline

In 1921, Ising found a job through a newspaper ad seeking animators in Kansas City. At the time, a teenage Walt Disney was producing with Ub Iwerks the series Laugh-O-Grams for producer Charles Mintz. Walt hired on the additional animators to this project, which included Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising, as well as Hugh’s younger brother, Walker, to animate six new cartoons for the series. In the next year, Disney was contracted for another batch, and sold these cartoons successfully to Charles Mintz, who owned Newman’s Theatre chain in Kansas City.

After the bankruptcy of Disney‘s first company, Ising and Harman from 1923-25, with Carmen Maxwell attempted to create their own cartoon series, Arabian Nights, but they could not find the proper financing.

After Disney moved to California to start up a second company, and he hired Ising as well as Harman on again on June 22nd, 1925 to animate his new series The Alice Comedies, and later Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Due to a pricing dispute with Charles Mintz, Disney ended up getting fired from his own company, but Ising and Harman were kept on for another year to work on animations, but were replaced by Walter Lantz a year later.

In 1929, Ising and Harman founded their own company, Harman-Ising, with other Disney animators including Friz Freleng, and produced the first “talkie” cartoon, Bosko the Talk Ink Kid, the first animation to have synchronic speech. Leon Schlesinger, the president of Pacific Art and Title, loved the pilot they produced and convinced Warner Bros. to distribute the series.

In 1930, Bosko emerged in the new Warner Bros. series called Looney Tunes, animated by Ising and Harman, and becoming a theatrical hit with moviegoers. The classic Looney Tunes sign off emerged from the first Bosko cartoons, ending with the self-aware farewell, “That’s all, folks!,” a sign off associated later on with Porky Pig classics.

In 1931, Ising left Looney Tunes to work on the musical series green lit by WB, Merrie Melodies, a show featuring popular songs, and the character Foxy. Merrie Melodies premiered in 1932, and It’s Got Me Again (1932), animated by Ising was nominated for an Academy Award. Conflicts arose between the Harman and Ising team against Schlesinger, who resisted their demands to create higher quality cartoons. Ising and Harman wanted to create “color” cartoons, and when their needs weren’t being met, they decided to leave to be independents once more.

Just at this time, Van Beuren studios in New York contracted Harman and Ising on to create three black and white cartoon shorts for their Cubby the Bear series, resulting in The Gay Gauncho (1933), Cubby’s World Flight (1934) and Mischievous Mice, which was eventually not released.

In 1934, Ising and Harman made a deal with MGM to produce cartoons that were to be released by the studio, creating what would become their animation department in later years. For MGM, Ising and Harman animated Happy Harmonies, a series modelled on Merrie Melodies that they had previously worked on at WB. At this time, Ising and Harman also tried reintroducing Bosko back into the theatres under the Happy Harmonies series, but the second time around, the character was not quite as successful. Ising and Harman’s tumultuous relationship with the big studios would not end, and two years after working with MGM, they severed their ties due to repeated problems going over budget. This prompted MGM to create their own in-house animation department, run by producer Fred Quimby.

Ising and Harman again went back to freelancing, and working through their own company, doing contract work again for Disney when he lacked the necessary animators to create enough Silly Symphonies cartoons. When this deal fell through, Ising and Harman sold the three cartoons back to MGM, and Quimby marketed them as Happy Harmonies cartoons. These were Merbabies (1938), Pipe Dreams (1938) and The Little Bantamweight (1938).

In 1939, Quimby rehired Ising and Harman back to MGM, where they were for the next three years. Harman worked on directing his own series, and Ising produced and directed a musical cartoon named after himself. This led to the creation of Barney Bear. 

Ising won his first Academy Award for “Best Short Subject” for his cartoon The Milkey Way (1940), becoming the first non-Disney studio to do so. Ising was nominated again in 1941 for his cartoon The Rookie Bear.

With the dawning of what is now-known as “The Golden Age of Animation”, MGM found themselves with veritable stars in their hands, in the form of the animation team Hanna-Barbera and Tex Avery. These animators produced face-paced, crazy cartoons that strongly contrasted with the now out of date slower and more musically driven Ising and Harman cartoons. Ising and Harman subsequently found themselves being pushed out of fashion, and Harman left in 1941, and Ising left a year later.

In 1943, Ising joined the Army Air Corps’ First Motion Picture Unit to head the animation department, and was at the government’s service until 1945. After the war, Ising and Harman reteamed together to form a new company, and together through the 50’s, they produced educational cartoons, as well as a series helmed by Ising, Football Forecasts. This series featured live-action and animation, and was one of the first television shows to do so.

Ising and Harman freelanced their services through the 40’s and 50’s, working for various different studios, including Walter Lantz.

In 1965, Ising, who had already retired by that point reemerged to direct and produce segments for MGM’s The Tom and Jerry Show, a series broadcast from 1965 to 1972.

Ising retired fully in the 70’s, and spent the rest of his days in his southern California beach house, on Newport Beach.

In 1976, Ising and Harman received the Winsor McCay Award for Lifetime Achievement from ASIFA.

Ising died at the age of 88 in 1992. 


  • Lenburg, Jeff. Who’s Who in Animated Cartoons: An International Guide to Film & Television’s Award-Winning and Legendary Animators. New York: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, 2006. Print.

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