This week moonlighting artist in comics is Frank Tipper, who well find out was more than just a character animator…
Born in 1909 at the Isle of Man around England, Frank Tipper’s family arrived at the United States in 1921. As a young cartoonist, as early as 1925, Tipper submitted his own cartoons to the “Junior Times” supplementary feature for the Los Angeles Sunday Times. By 1931, he joined the Disney studio as a junior animator under Ben Sharpsteen, and shifted to Dave Hands crew the following year. He moved to Ted Esbaughs studio, where he animated on the early color films, The Snowman (1932) and The Wizard of Oz (1933). He left Esbaugh and went over to Warner Bros. shortly after producer Leon Schlesinger opened up his own animation studio when Harman and Ising left. Bob Clampett claimed in an interview that Tipper traveled cross-country from New York by motorcycle, though there is no evidence that Esbaughs studio re-located there until Esbaugh went to Van Beuren in 1934.
Tipper left for England for about five months in 1935, and upon returning back to the States, he went to work for Harman-Ising at MGM and remained at the studio by 1937, according to a state directory. (He is credited in the production drafts for two Happy Harmonies, Honeyland and Alias St. Nick, released in 1935.) He left Harman-Ising to work for Walter Lantz, where he spent a significant amount of time as an animator, from 1938 until around 1942. Tipper was inducted into the Army – as indicated in July and August issues of Film Daily and Variety – and by July 1943, served as an artist at Hugh Harman Productions. He was one of the story men on Winky the Watchman (1945), along with animator Berny Wolf and layout artist Joe Smith.
By the end of the ’40s, Tipper moved away from animation studios, and went to Universal Pictures to work on animated special effects for Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid (1948), with William and Ann Blyth, though he is uncredited for his work.
He might have been responsible for the animation in the opening of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), though there is no substantial evidence for verification. Tipper became a commercial art director for the first series run of the live-action sitcom The Life of Riley (1949-50), with Jackie Gleason. According to Phil Monroe, by the early ’50s, Tipper was at Cascade, a studio that specialized in animated commercials.
He went back to work for Universal on their first science-fiction film in color, This Island Earth (1955), on special optical effects. Again, Tipper was uncredited for his work. He moved back to England to design animated commercials for Halas & Batchelor and Anigraph Films. By 1957, he came back to the United States, performing similar duties at Le Ora Thompson and Associates, a studio established by animator Carl Urbano. Tipper went back into animated shorts, for television, when he served as a background painter at Hanna-Barbera. He passed away in 1963, at the age of 54, with no documentation which to describe the cause of death at his young age.
Tipper briefly freelanced in “funny animal” stories in James Davis comic shop, which he drew a recurring series known as “Fishy Follies,” featuring a community of undersea creatures. Three stories drawn by Tipper appear in different issues of Goofy Comics, each published in 1946. Though these stories are standard – fitting for its young audience of readers – the drawing and inking display a keen “animated” quality.
Goofy Comics #13 (April 1946) – FISHY FOLLIES #1
Goofy Comics #14 (June 1946) – FISHY FOLLIES #2
Goofy Comics #16 (October 1946) – FISHY FOLLIES #3
(Thanks to Yowp, J.B. Kaufman, Mark Kausler and Michael Barrier for their help.)