Coar-Toon Rehash
March 28, 2022 posted by Bob Coar

A Quick Look At Quartet Films

Quartet Films is a direct descendant of John Hubley’s Storyboard, Inc. Hubley and Earl Klein began Storyboard in Hollywood, settling in at 8490 Melrose Avenue to make memorable television commercials. Awards and accolades piled up fast. Hubley opened a New York City branch early in 1955. Earl Klein stayed in Hollywood, breaking away to start Animation, Inc. John Hubley’s capable staff were left to run Storyboard’s Hollywood office, until he shut it down in June of 1957. Four Storyboard personnel decided to keep the space and incorporated as Quartet Films to produce animated commercials, as well as live and animated industrial films.

Art Babbitt

Quartet’s president Art Babbitt was the most experienced of Quartet’s founders. He’d entered the business at Terrytoons, crossing the continent because something special was going on at Disney. Babbitt made his mark animating THE COUNTRY COUSIN in 1936. Half a decade later the dancing mushroom sequence in FANTASIA cemented Art Babbitt’s place as one of the all-time greats. He served with the Marines in the Pacific during World War Two. Before Storyboard, Babbitt worked with John Hubley at UPA.

Quartet’s vice president Arnold Gillespie started out with Fleischer Studios in Miami, passed through M-G-M, and spent five years at Disney, after which he did some stuff for John Sutherland Productions.

Stan Walsh art for Disney

Vice president/treasurer Stan Walsh began as an assistant animator at Disney in 1939, spending World War Two as a B-24 machine gunner flying missions from England. He was awarded the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster. Walsh returned to Disney and drew comic books for Dell Publishing. Stan Walsh had a side thing going on as part owner of Sketchbook Films with Al Amatuzio and Phil Duncan. Little is known about Sketchbook other than their making TOM SCHULER: COBBLER STATESMAN for the U.S. State Department in 1954.

Quartet’s secretary/business manager Les Goldman also had side hustles. He came on the scene as either a publicity agent or production manager for Tempo in New York, and stayed when Tempo Productions became Academy Pictures. All that while Art Babbitt was the supervising director at Academy’s west coast wing. This is at the same time Goldman and Babbitt both worked for Hubley at Storyboard. In 1954 Les Goldman was also production manager in New York at Transfilm and publicity manager at George Blake Enterprises. In 1957, as Quartet formed, Goldman still had business in New York as director of advertising for Dynamic Films.

Television commercials were Quartet’s bread and butter. Hanna-Barbera, itself a new studio, hired Quartet to make TV spots for their sponsor Kellogg’s. Cereal ads brought in good money. Other clients included Marlboro Cigarettes; A.C. Spark Plugs; Taystee Bread; National Beer; Amoco Super Permalube; Snowdrift; Bisquick; Malt-0-Meal; Western Airlines; and Peter Pan Peanut Butter.

Probably the only theatrical cartoon Quartet Films worked on was ENERGETICALLY YOURS, produced by Transfilm in 1958. Animation duties on that film were split with Playhouse Pictures.

“Energetically Yours”

Quartet Films moved to 5631 Hollywood Boulevard in 1959. March of 1961 brought bigger changes as Art Babbitt handed the presidency over to Arnold Gillespie. Babbitt still worked at Quartet as a director and consultant but wanted time to devote himself to “special aspects of the animation craft”. He established Arthur Babbitt Films in Hollywood at 1533 Cross Roads of the World to make animated commercials for television.

Ken O’Brien

Ken O’Brien took over as Quartet’s animation supervisor. O’Brien had started at Disney three decades earlier as an inbetweener on THE OLD MILL and animated on every feature from PINOCCHIO to SLEEPING BEAUTY. Ken O’Brien had spent some time at Academy Pictures, and lately was at Hanna-Barbera for THE HUCKLEBERRY HOUND SHOW.

O’Brien came to Quartet with Michael Lah, a big-shot at Hanna-Barbera. Mike Lah’s own teleblurb shop Cinema Ad just closed. As Babbitt stepped down, Lah bought himself a vice presidency in Quartet. Lah also brought his old associate Dan Gordon to head Quartet’s story department. Arnold Gillespie had animated on BARNEY BEAR cartoons Dan Gordon directed at M-G-M. Most recently Gordon had been working with Lah at Hanna-Barbera.

Michael Lah

Les Goldman resigned in August of 1963, citing a divergence of interests. He’d gotten involved with Chuck Jones as production manager on TOM & JERRY cartoons being done for M-G-M. Goldman acted as producer for THE DOT AND THE LINE, which won an Academy Award in 1965. His career in animation would be long and varied, including involvement with THE DOOR, produced by Bill Cosby and released through Warner Brothers. The year after Les Goldman left Quartet Films, animator Carl Urbano came over from John Sutherland Productions.

Carl Urbano didn’t stay that long. In 1966 he joined Hanna-Barbera, where Art Babbitt had just signed on as head of the television commercials department. National Brewing Company, a client of Quartet, bought controlling interest in the Baltimore Orioles baseball team. National asked Stan Walsh to redesign their bird logo in 1966. Walsh assigned the job to Paul Carlson, who’d created the 7 Up mascot Fresh Up Freddie at Disney nearly a decade earlier. Paul Carlson had then gone to UPA as a production manager on MISTER MAGOO’S CHRISTMAS CAROL and GAY PURR-EE. Paul Carlson supervised animation at Quartet Films.

Gary Mooney, first an assistant animator at Disney, then on to Storyboard in New York, split his time between Quartet and Jay Ward Productions. Jay Ward was only four miles away on Sunset Boulevard, a fifteen minute drive. Pete Burness, an ex-UPA director now at Jay Ward, spent so much time hanging around at Quartet that he kept a cot in the editing room.

Mark Kausler’s first animation gig was at Quartet, working on a Jolly Green Giant commercial with Gary Mooney. Hank Ketcham would stop by to check on the progress of an A&W Root Beer commercial starring his character Dennis the Menace. Kellogg’s was still a client. Quartet did ads for Minnesota Federal Savings, Swanson Frozen Foods, Budweiser, Clorox, and Hamm’s Beer.

Pete Burness hired on as a director at Quartet in 1968. Mark Kausler was gone, doing some uncredited assisting on YELLOW SUBMARINE at Fred Calvert’s shop under Duane Crowther’s tutelage. Quartet writer John Bates headed the judge’s panel at the Hollywood Radio and Television Society’s eighth annual International Broadcasting Awards.

Lee Harrison’s Denver-based Computer Image Corp bought Quartet in 1970. CIC was a pioneer in analog computer graphics with their software for Scanimate and Animac. The Production Manager title went to Michael Webster, son of Republic Pictures screenwriter Marriott Coates Webster. Webster had been at Quartet early on, assisting Art Babbitt, then over at Hanna-Barbera animating on THE FLINTSTONES and SPACE GHOST before returning. Michael Webster soon moved on to producing for THE ABC SATURDAY SUPERSTAR MOVIE.

By 1976 all the original Quartet Films officers were gone. Mike Lah was president with George Gordon as vice president. Quartet’s glory days were past. Eventually they faded away. Go to 5631 Hollywood Boulevard today and you’ll meet some very nice people at the Carpet Village Warehouse.

2 Comments

  • Nice to learn at long last who designed the Baltimore Orioles’ logo in the 1960s. I had an Orioles cap when I was little, having got it as a souvenir on one of my family’s annual excursions to Tiger Stadium; my love of birds and dislike of cats superseded any hometown loyalty I might have had. (I also cheered for the Cardinals in the ‘68 World Series.) Therefore it’s rather ironic that this post ends with a “Tiger” baseball game.

    Did Quartet also do the original Froot Loops commercial, with Mel Blanc as Toucan Sam?

  • Tony is certainly livelier, and more believable, than those live-action child actors.

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