Animation veterans Lloyd Lincoln Vaughan and Thomas Archer Ray both began their careers at Leon Schlesinger’s around the same time and both later worked with Chuck Jones, though not necessarily at the same time.
For his part, Vaughan began his career in 1936 as an inbetweener, “the lowest form of animation …at $6.00 a week. This isn’t a salary; this is just something to defray expenses for bus fare and lunch until we found out if your work was acceptable.” Prior to that, he worked at various jobs, including a stint at Greyhound Bus Lines. He was determined to be a cartoonist and work for Disney, even though he had lost the sight in his right eye. He arranged an interview at Disney’s through Frank Heacock, a publicity agent, but was turned down due to both the quality of his work and because at 26 he was considered too old to start.
At Schlesinger he became a full animator around 1944-45, ending up in Chuck Jones’ unit. His most iconic work there was probably the flower scene in Duck Amuck. However, a cartoon which shows off his abilities more extensively is The Cat’s Bah, a parody of the French Pépé Le Moko and its American remakes (Algiers and Casbah), which he animated with Ben Washam. In 1953, Warners shut down its animation unit for 6 months to work off its accumulated cartoon surplus, which led to Vaughn to leave the studio after 17 years.
“In those 6 months,” he recalls, “I started shopping around. That’s when cartoon commercials were at their heyday. So I opened up a studio of my own and subcontracted [work]. I never worked at a studio since then.” He told Paul Maher that he was able to earn twice the money in half the time working on his own. However, as he points out in my interview, he also ended up putting in some rather crazy hours.
In addition to commercials, his later credits include work for Chuck Jones (How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and The Phantom Tollbooth), Walt Kelly (The Pogo Special Birthday Special), Ralph Bakshi (Heavy Traffic), Hanna-Barbera (Scooby Doo, Where Are You!) and Phil Roman (A Garfield Christmas Special).
There’s not much in print about Vaughan, though Steven Hartley’s posting on his Likely Looney, Mostly Merrie blog, which includes an obituary from The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, is very useful.
Tom Ray actually began his film career as a child actor in a John Ford silent film (possibly 3 Bad Men). He started in animation at Schlesinger in the “spring of 1937 through the courtesy of Tex Avery.” After about 6 months, he moved to MGM when they opened their studio, initially working on Friz Freleng’s The Captain and the Kids. By the time he was called up for service during World War II, he had become “a journeyman assistant working for Irven Spence.”
After MGM, he worked for John Sutherland and UPA, before ending up at Warner Bros. working with Bob McKimson and Chuck Jones. And it was there that Jones gave him an opportunity to direct. “From there,” he recalls, “we moved on back to MGM trying to continue the Tom and Jerrys, and remake some of the old [cartoons] that had offensive blackfaced gags; we tried to change them and they lost their sense of humor—the gag wasn’t there anymore!”
His credits as a director (including sequence director and timing director) include the My Little Pony TV movie, as well as episodes of The Transformers, Fraggle Rock, Garfield and Friends, Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs. As an animator, he worked on Bakshi’s Heavy Traffic and Coonskin, as well as the cartoon in Mrs. Doubtfire.
Though Vaughn passed a year after my interview, Ray lived until 2010, when he was 90. Though he formally retired in 1998, he moved to East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania and opened Tomstone Animation Art Gallery & Studios, later relocating to Virginia Beach, Virginia. Tomstone was an animation art gallery (including original watercolors by Ray) and the production of traditional 2D animation. IMBD lists his last credit as A ForesTale (2004), which he directed and his wife Brenda wrote.
Both men seemed to have been active in union affairs, with Vaughn serving as Editor of The Animator, the newsletter of the Screen Cartoonists Guild, while Ray served several terms on The Animation Guild’s Executive Board.
Next week: Lillian Friedman Astor.