Today’s episode from Martha Sigall’s fascinating series of video interviews, “Tales from Termite Terrace and Other Tooneries,” features veteran ink and paint artist-production manager Irene “Peewee” Wyman. The chat, with Sol Sigall also chiming in, is from May 27, 1998, just a few months shy of Wyman’s 93rd birthday.
In her rather chatty talk, Wyman provides a rather quick overview of her animation career, which began in 1930 at Mintz, which had just moved—lock, stock and animators, assistants and inbetweeners—from New York. As she points out, there were few trained animation artists out on the West Coast at the time. (New York City had been the center of the industry.) After about a year, she moved over to Harman and Ising, which were then making cartoons for Schlesinger. She stayed with them through their move to MGM, then to MGM’s own unit. During this period, she was promoted to animation checking/scene planning. The cartoon studio, she points out, was on the Metro lot and recalls seeing such classic films like Singin’ in the Rain being shot.
Wyman left Metro in 1954, when they “cut down from three separate contracts [i.e., units].” Thinking she would take it easy and go on unemployment for awhile, she got a call from John Sutherland, who was making industrial and training films, where she first met Bill Melendez. She then followed Melendez over to Ade Woolery’s Playhouse Pictures and eventually became a production manager. Her description of this period reflects the very real energy and enthusiasm felt by people in the animation industry during the time when theatrical cartoons seemed to be fading into the sunset. However, Wyman’s fondest memories seemed to be from the Golden Age, including the practical jokes Tex Avery and others staged. She also makes an interesting observation about Tee Hee’s problems as an animator at Schlesinger’s.
The video ends with a display of studio photos, birthday cards and caricatures from her career, which unfortunately cry out for a much higher resolution camera.
Wow, she saw some of the best days of MGM, including so many memorable cartoons produced there. I only wish there were memories of specific pictures, perhaps taking pride in what was done, because MGM cartoons looked good on the big screen, and the colors were so vibrant. When I hear about Tex Avery’s “pranks”, though, I get the impression that animating is an incredibly stressful field, indeed!
Great personality and a very wise women. Thank you to share something about her.