Abe Levitow was an animator and director who worked with some of the biggest animation studios in Hollywood during the Golden Age.Born July 2, 1922 in Los Angeles to William Levitow and Sarah Schlafmitz, Abraham “Abe” Levitow began his animation career at the age of seventeen at Leon Schlesinger’s as an in-betweener. He continued working in the film industry when he served in World War II working on training films. During that time, he met and became close friends with future Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee.
Levitow returned to the studio, now known as Warner Bros. Cartoons. There, he worked as an assistant to animator Ken Harris in Chuck Jones’s unit. He married to Charlotte Winifred Lewis in December 1949 – she worked as a painter at the studio. The November 1950 issue of the studio house organ, Warners Club News, reported his promotion to full animator. However, he did not receive screen credit until Wild Over You, released 1953.
In the summer of 1953, Warner Bros. closed its animation department for a six-month period.
Abe returned to Warner Bros. when they opened in January 1954. Throughout his time with the studio, he worked as an animator on some of Chuck Jones’ classic films, such as Beanstalk Bunny, One Froggy Evening, Ali Baba Bunny, What’s Opera, Doc?, Robin Hood Daffy, and Hare-way to the Stars.
Abe was enlisted take over Chuck’s unit during this period, being promoted to director. During this time he directed a trio of cartoons – A Witch’s Tangled Hare, Really Scent, and Unnatural History – each released 1959.
Abe was hired away by UPA to work as an animation director on the Magoo feature, 1001 Arabian Nights. He stayed with the studio after the loss of the Columbia contract directing shorts such as Magoo Meets Frankenstein and Magoo Meets McBoing Boing. Levitow remained at the studio as producer of the TV cartoons of Mr. Magoo and Dick Tracy.
He freelanced at several studios as well during this time, sharing directorial credits with Chuck Jones at Warners on cartoons such as Baton Bunny, Lickety-Splat!, Nellie’s Folly, and Martian Through Georgia. He also contributed some memorable animation to the Jack Kinney Popeye TV pilot Barbeque For Two.
In 1962, Abe directed the NBC Christmas special Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, the first animated Christmas special for television.
That same year, Abe directed the animated film Gay Purr-ee, starring Judy Garland and Robert Goulet. The film was the first animated film released by Warner Bros. and despite positive reviews, it was not a financial success.
During the mid to late 1960’s, Abe was director on several MGM Tom and Jerry short films such as Catty-Cornered, Surf Bored Cat, Guided Mouse-ille, The A-Tom-inable Snowman, and Puss N’ Boats.
In 1970, Abe collaborated with Chuck Jones yet again to co- direct the film The Phantom Tollbooth, an adaptation of the children’s book by Norton Juster. In addition, Levitow contributed to Curiosity Shop (his spots were produced at Format Films), an educational television series for ABC executive produced by Jones. He directed segments directly based on adaptations of the comic strips B.C., Miss Peach, and The Wizard of Id.
In 1972, Abe and producer Dave Hanson founded Levitow/Hanson Films. With that studio, Abe and Dave produced a few animated pieces for the children’s television series Sesame Street, most notably the environmental recurring segment Willie Wimple, which included a song written by Abe and Dave. Levitow/Hanson produced B.C. The First Thanksgiving, which aired November 1973. In 1975, he was intended as the director of Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure. During pre-production, he succumbed to bone cancer on May 9 at the age of fifty-two.
Below, a few clips attributed to Abe Levitow…