Morris Zukovsky and Albert Bertino are two more relatively unsung animation artists; the former’s career was overshadowed by his older brother and adopted daughter, while the latter made much of his mark working on various Disneyland attractions.
Zukor started in animation in 1935 at Tat’s Tales, a small West Coast studio as an assistant animator. In described his work day there, he noted that, “After the assistant work was done, I went to inbetweening; after inbetweening was done, I went to inking and then painting the cels, and then washing cels. That’s the way it was in those days.” After a year, he moved to Ub Iwerks, working on its ComiColor cartoons. It was there that he became involved in an early effort to organize what would become the Screen Cartoonists Guild. He recalled, “They used to hold our meetings in a beer joint, unbeknownst to the bosses. At the meetings, we would vote on who we would call back to the next meeting, until we finally built up a little following. At the same time, I understand Warner Bros. was also doing something similar. Finally, we got together and formed this one big union.”
He then went to Walter Lantz before joining the large contingent of West Coast artists recruited by Fleischer for their new Miami studio. There he worked on Gulliver’s Travels, briefly returned to Los Angeles before going back to Florida; however, his second stay was cut short when he was drafted into the Army. “At that time, they didn’t have an animation unit, so I got shipped off elsewhere for four years.” After the war he became an inbetweener and an assistant at Disney, but was able to move over to MGM (because it was a much shorter commute) until they closed down. He subsequently landed at Animation Inc., where he spent seven years. “I enjoyed working there better than I did anyplace else, because it was such a small unit.” He ended up at Filmation, where he had been working for 10 years when Dan McLaughlin interviewed him at the 1986 Golden Awards Banquet. Along the way, he also worked on John Wilson’s Shinbone Alley feature as an assistant.
His older brother was animator Lou Zukor and he was the adopted father of actress-singer-songwriter-clothing designer Donna Loren (who once appeared as a guest on The Mickey Mouse Club).
Bertino started at Mintz in 1934 and moved over to Harman-Ising after a year, “trying to get [into] what I thought was a better studio.” But after the company lost their MGM contract, he ended up at Disney, going from an assistant to animator and finally to the Story Department. He was still an assistant during the 1941 Disney strike, at which time he was making $47.50 a week. His animation credits included Hockey Homicide and Make Mine Music. As a storyman, he boasts of helping create, in films like Grin and Bear It, the “the Bear and Ranger characters before Hanna and Barbera stole it.” When TV came along, he worked on various episodes of the Disneyland/Disney’s Wonderful World of Color show for five years.
He got caught in the layoffs following the closure of Disney’s Shorts Department, leading him to “freelance” for such companies as UPA (Dick Tracey and Magoo TV cartoons), Walter Lantz (Doc and Champ), Terrytoons (Hashimoto and Hector Heathcoate), Bob Clampett (Beany and Cecil) and Grantray-Lawrence (Spiderman). He ended his career at WED, working on such Disneyland attractions as The Country Bear Jamboree (where he created the Big Al character, which he named after himself) and America Sings. He retired in 1977, but later helped create what is now the Monster Mansion attraction for Six Flags Over Georgia.
Unfortunately, outside of McLaughlin’s interviews, there seems precious little available on either man, especially for Zukor.
Next week: Johnnie Vita and Ed Aardal.