Who was “Paul J. Smith” (1906-1980)? He was a pioneering animator who started with Walt Disney on the Alice Comedies, then joined Harman-Ising on the Bosko Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies – and stayed with Schlesinger till 1939. In 1940 he began a 32 year career with Walter Lantz – graduating from animator to director, working to the bitter end directing the antics of Woody Woodpecker, Chilly Willy and The Beary Family.
This past weekend I met Smith’s daughter, Sheryl – herself a veteran of the animation business, having worked in ink-and-paint at DePatie-Freleng and Disney. She attended my screening of Fleischer shorts at the Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo California and after the show we had a brief chat about the golden age of cartoons. Sheryl said she had a few photographs she as willing to share with my readers – and here they are with her comments in italics:
I’m sure you’ve seen this photo before in all your knowledge and research. That’s my dad, Paul J. Smith, standing next to Walt Disney, 2nd from the right. This was taken in 1926 during the Alice Comedies (little “Alice” is in front). This was Dad’s first animation job, and he would have been only 20 years old. The other guys, from L to R are Walker Harmon, Friz Freleng, Rudy Ising, Roy Disney, Hugh Harmon, Ub Iwerks, Norm Blackburn, then my Dad and then Walt. ( I’m sure you know who’s who, but in case you don’t! )
When I was working on the Disney lot in the late 1980s I went into Archives and talked to Dave Smith, and told him about my dad. He carefully removed an old ledger volume from the shelf and opened it up to show me my Dad’s name on the payroll, all handwritten in columns all the employees there in 1926, and showing their pay. I somewhere have it written down, but I’ve forgotten off hand, but I think my dad was making something like $25 a week, and Disney was paying himself $100 a week, and I think Roy was getting $75 a week. Don’t quote me but that’s what I’m remembering! Also, on the ledger my dad was on line 17, and Dave Smith said Dad was Disney’s 17th employee. (ever!)
Not work photos, but nice photos of my Dad in the early days. The woman is my mom, whose real name was Mildred but was called Dixie. She was a cel painter at Warner Brothers in the late 1930s and that’s where she met my dad who was an animator then. She was Dixie Mankameyer before she became Dixie Smith. They married in 1941. My mother’s cousin, Raynelle Bell (married name Day) was a cel painter at WB too, and she also worked on Gulliver’s Travels in Florida (so did my dad’s brother, my Uncle Frank Smith, who is the father of Charles Martin Smith, (the kid in American Graffiti.) Raynelle also worked on the Beany and Cecil cartoons. She worked in animation all her life too, and got the 50 year award. (The Cartoonist Union’s Golden Award)
By the way, my cousin Charlie (Charles Martin Smith), is still acting and directing. He’s living in Vancouver now because that’s where his work is. You can google him and see what he’s been up to if it interests you. He directed a real interesting film a few years ago called “The Snow Walker”. It was only released in Canada, but can be gotten on DVD here in the US. At the end there’s a lot of footage of the “making of” and interviews with Charlie.
This photo was taken at a Warner Bros. party in 1939, my parents, Paul and Dixie are in the front. They won first place for their costumes. I’m wondering if my dad was supposed to be Rhett Butler, since that’s the year Gone With The Wind was released. This was taken while they were still dating, in 1939, they married in 1941. I don’t know who the other people are but you probably do!
Paul J. Smith in 1943
This is my mom, Dixie (Mildred Mankameyer) taken at WB, late 30’s probably, because she quit working when she married in ‘41. This was probably taken in the Ink & Paint Dept.
My dad Paul Smith, at Walter Lantz Productions in 1953.
The photo above shows Smith directing possibly his first film at Lantz – a theatrical Coca-Cola commercial called Ali Baba and The Theives. Note the bottle of Coke at his side. The scene he’s checking is at :54 in the video below:
And finally, before we go, here is my favorite Paul Smith cartoon. From around the short time Tex Avery was at the studio and his influence rubbed off on all the artists – Arts and Flowers (1956)