Chatting with Manny Gonzales and Bob Carlson

Emmanuel Martin (“Gonzie”) Gonzales and Robert Wilhelm Moritz Reinhold Carlson, Jr. were both Disney artists who were both hired as inbetweeners in 1936, though their subsequent careers went in rather different directions. While Carlson became a much admired animator—Michael Barrier called him “one of the industry’s good guys”—Gonzales spent most of his time drawing comic strips.

I must admit to have been taken a bit aback by Gonzales’ presence when I did my video interview with him in 1987; the union’s Golden Awards were, after all, nominally meant to honor 50 years in animation. I understand why he was included, seeing as many animation artists also worked in comic strips and comic books, including my father who supplemented his job at Famous Studios by taking such work home with him.

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Gonzales was born in Spain and studied art in New York, where he was recruited by Disney; he noted his initial “claim to fame was doing inbetweens for Snow White.” After “less than two years” he went into comic strips, taking over drawing the Mickey Mouse Sunday page from Floyd Gottfredson from 1938-81. During the war, he served in the Army Air Force’s famed First Motion Picture Unit, where he would have once again been involved with animation. He said he was involved with all the Disney comic strip features “at one time or another,” including Donald Duck and Pluto. He also drew special promotional strips (Disney’s “Treasury of Classic Tales”) for such films as Cinderella, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, The Lady and the Tramp and Ben and Me.

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Bob Carlson worked as a commercial artist after going to art school, when he answered an ad in The Chicago Tribune for a job at Disney. He “began working [there] at the beginning of ’37.” By year’s end he was “elevated to animation status.” He was proud of being Bill Tytla’s assistant (i.e., a junior animator) on Fantasia. Other Disney credits included The Three Caballeros, Alice in Wonderland and Lady and the Tramp, as well as Donald in Mathmagic Land. Leonard Maltin especially singled out his work in a series of 1954-55 Jack Hannah cartoons on a hungry bear named Humphrey, especially Grin and Bear It and Breezy Bear.

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He left Disney in 1958 and “worked for a number of lesser studios around town,” with UPA and Filmation “the two major ones,” along with MGM and “quite a bit for Hanna-Barbera.” However, he doesn’t mention his extensive work for Bill Melendez on any number of Charlie Brown projects or for Ralph Bakshi on Coonskin and Hey Good Lookin’. For awhile he had his own commercial studio in Los Angeles.

When I interviewed him he was still active, noting “I live in Aptos, California, which is in Monterey Bay and I have a studio in my home and that’s where I do [the work].” He noted, “I enjoy animation so much that it would be difficult for me to retire. I just enjoy doing the work.”

Ken Kearney later blogged about working in Aptos as an inbetweener “on national TV commercials such as Green Giant, Tony the Tiger, [and] Monster Vitamins.” (The program book also indicates he worked at the nearby University of California at Santa Cruz, presumably as an instructor.)

There’s not much published about Carlson, though Michael Barrier has indicated the possibility of posting Milt Gray’s interview. In the meantime, there is Jim Korkis’ brief note on Carlson in his “Animation Anecdotes #130” here on Cartoon Research.

Next week: Lloyd Vaughn

3 Comments

  • I’d love to hear what it must have been like to work for Ralph Bakshi around the time of “COONSKIN”, a movie that is not easily available for viewing. And I wish that these interviewees didn’t always gloss over work at MGM during the golden age.

    Someday, I hope we get a really good history of the studio and how it was to work at a studio where budgets were high for animation. It will always amaze me that a studio with that kind of budget never had an animated feature during the 1940′s, when the studio did some of its most amazing cartoons.

  • I remember Bob Carlson taught an animation course at UCSC: as a dim non-artist teenager I didn’t absorb much but recall much of it was basics: stretch and squash, gravity and other essentials. It was a once-a-week deal so there wasn’t time to get heavily into character animation and such. A few years later he spoke at a film studies class about his career and trotted out a few anecdotes.

    Smart, unpretentious guy. The most negative thing I can remember him saying was that Walt Disney lost interest in animation, which is why Carlson decided to leave.

  • Bob Carlson glanced over the Peanuts TV specials……….does Bill Littlejohn’s interview have any recollections of Peanuts?

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