The Spies Report
October 28, 2019 posted by Kamden Spies

Remembering Myron Waldman: A Talk with His Sons, Bob and Steven

Myron Waldman was one of Fleischer’s most beloved animators. He animated Betty Boop, Popeye, Superman, Raggedy Ann, on Gulliver’s Travels, and many more. I conducted an interview with Bob and Steven Waldman about their father and I asked Jerry to share this to Cartoon Research. I tried to ask questions and gather stories that weren’t already featured on the Myron Waldman Lifepost memorial. I highly recommend checking it out at this link – as well as Devon Baxter’s excellent career overview here. I interviewed Bob Waldman first and Steven followed often sharing more stories and adding to what his brother said. His wife Rosalie also worked at the Famous Studios and is still with us.

Pictured Left to right: Bob, Myron, Steven, and Rosalie

KS: How did your dad get hired at Fleischer’s?

BW: The nurse from the sleep away camp Dad worked at was a neighbor of Dave Fleischer’s. Dave told her for Dad to meet with the studio’s office manager, William Gilmartin. Gilmartin was impressed with Dad’s portfolio and hired him as an inbetweener in October, 1930 at $12.00 a week. Within a year, Dad was made a full-fledged animator after he drew a sample scene of a bird flying. The only mistake he made was drawing the wing action backwards. When asked why he did that, Dad covered by saying he thought it would be funny.

SW: My Brothers response is spot on, Dad was a camp counselor at Glen Spey where the nurse saw Dad’s artwork, He had been drawing since age 3, and had been working for the Long Beach Life Newspaper as an illustrator doing such great cartoons, one in particular was the controversy about the LIRR trestle crossing Reynolds channel

Kamden Spies: Your dad worked at the Fleischer Studios and Famous Studios. How did he adjust to moving? Did he decide to move right away?

Myron’s Xmas Card circa 1934-35

Bob Waldman: In between Fleischer Studios and Famous Studios, Dad was in the Army Signal Corps stationed in Astoria at Paramount’s former East Coast Studios. Just as Fleischer’s was closing in Miami, Dad enlisted. As he told me, he had to help defeat Hitler. In addition to the Signal Corps, he started doing work for Famous around 1943.

Steve Waldman: The Studio relocated to Miami after the 1937 strike, Dad just accepted moves whenever needed, He always took care of his parents and they were included in the moves (His Dad passed away in 1941) When Fleischer closed in Miami, he relocated back to NY with his Mom and later enlisted in the Signal Corp and was stationed in Ft Dix New Jersey (not Astoria NY)

KS: What was your dad like as a dad?

BW: Dad was the greatest father anybody could have. As I said at his funeral, Dad was, is and will always be my hero. When Myron Waldman is your dad, you don’t need Superman.

SW: My Dad was fantastic, the best anyone could ask for, He ALWAYS kept his promise, So Great with mom, extremely honest and ethical in every way, He always put others before himself He was always there for us and had a wonderful sense of humor, His gift of putting over a cartoon gag carried over to his life with us (I miss him so much!!!!!!!!!!!)

KS: Did you watch the cartoons as a kid?

BW: I watched the cartoons all the time on Channel 5 and Channel 11, always looking for Dad’s credit. If it was on a weekend, I’d call him in if one of his was on the air. The first time I went to the movies was to see a reissue of The Wizard of Oz in 1956. Before the movie started, there was a Casper cartoon. (My dad had found out it was going to be playing at our local theatre). There was my dad’s name on the screen! So the very first time I went to the movies, the first thing I saw was one of my Dad’s cartoons! I choke up whenever I see the Director credits on Mr. Bug Goes to Town. He’s listed second.

SW: My brother and I always watched cartoons on Channel 5, 9, and 11 Sometimes Dad would watch with us giving his critique about the quality of the animation or even better giving an anecdote about one his we might be viewing

Myron Waldman drawing Casper on a local kid’s show

KS: Did your dad draw for you? Did he want you to be in business?

BW: My dad drew for me all the time. When I was little, I always asked him to draw pictures of trains. When I was 5 or 6, he painted a toy chest for me (still have it) with a little boy on the front in an engineer’s cap at the helm of a steam locomotive and train. It was my birthday present that year.

“Planet Mouseola” (1960)

Rather than encourage me to be in the business, he was an inspiration to be creative. My dream was to work in television and he always supported that. (“You’ll do it. You’ll do it”, he’d say).

When I was 11, Dad was freelancing on a cartoon for Paramount called Planet Mouseola (1960), all about a cat the was going to be sent into space. The name of the rocket was originally “Feline I”. But being a fan of the space program, I knew that the real rocket booster was called Atlas. So when I saw the storyboard, I said to Dad, “why don’t you call the rocket “Catlas” instead?” He ran it past Paramount, they liked it and I got paid 50 cents. The first time I ever got paid for an idea. At 11, I was in big time show business!

SW: Dad would draw for us anytime, He had this act he did called ‘Try a Line” where you would draw a line on the paper and after studying the line for several seconds, he would tell you what it was and complete a sketch, He was never stumped, He would do this for fundraisers and did this at my daughter’s preschool for her birthday, the teachers had more fun than most of the kids! He did this well into his 90s, When I was younger I wanted to draw just like him

KS: Did your dad have a favorite short or project he worked on?

BW: Dad’s favorites of his work were Betty Boop’s A Language All My Own, Raggedy Ann and Andy, Hunky and Spunky, and Billion Dollar Limited with Superman. He also very proud of Eve, his novel without words and Happy the Humbug, the comic strip he did with Steve Carlin in the late 1940’s.

Myron Waldman’s Favorite Betty Boop Cartoon
A Language All My Own (1935)

SW: So many to list, in addition to what Robert wrote, he was proud of inventing Betty Boops “Pudgy”, reformatting Casper, (That’s when he met mom!), and working on early Popeye cartoons

KS: Do you remember ever going to the animation studios and seeing your mom or dad work?

BW: I went to Famous Studios when I was little and what I remember is a dark room lit only by the fluorescent lights under the animators’ desks and the gooseneck lamps above each desk. At Hal Seeger’s, Sammy Robinson, the camera operator would let me push the button on the remote device that would operate the camera. Every time I get an x-ray, it reminds me of how animation stands are operated. It’s not that different.

SW: I Remember it like yesterday (Mom retired from the studio when they were engaged), we would travel on the LIRR to NY and go to the studio and have a tour of the studio, I remember Hal Seeger Studios seeing the Rotoscope in his office.

Later on Dad would spend more time working from home in his office studio where after school I would watch him animate, he would play the record recording, watching him match the sound to the drawings, I’d always ask questions and marvel in his detail to perfection.

KS: Do you have any stories about memories with he and/or your mom that you could share? This doesn’t have to be animation related. It can be any story or any memory with your dad.

BW: One of my favorite stories about them happened when they were flying out to L.A. for a wedding. At that point, Mom and Dad had been married themselves for 30 years. They were so happy and excited to be going on a trip that a passenger across the aisle asked them if they were newlyweds marrying the second time around. He couldn’t believe anyone married for 30 years could be as happy as Mom & Dad were.

SW: One of my favorite stories was when Dad and Mom were driving back from Upstate and being stopped on the Hutchinson Parkway for a speeding infraction, When the officer asked Dad what he did for a living and he said cartoonist the officer quickly replied, “That’s what I always wanted to be and then officer is asking Dad all these questions about animation, Dad is trying to get him out the way of traffic, and apologizes to Dad for pulling him over and instead gave him a ticket for changing lanes (he had started writing the ticket earlier). The other favorite is when one day in 1944? Seymour Kneitel and Izzy Sparber called Dad at the Signal Corp to come in and look at a bed sheet character Casper for a possible cartoon series, This is when he was introduced to my Mom who was an Opaguer and he once they dated he knew this was his lady! My brother and I are eternally grateful to Casper!) Mom years later became a gourmet chef and taught Adult Education on Long Island.

KS: Did you ever meet Max or Dave Fleischer? If so, do you remember any stories about being with them?

BW: I never met Max or Dave, but I did meet Max’s daughter, Ruth, who was married to Seymour Kneitel. I met all the animators. My favorites were Nick Tafuri and Tom Johnson. Nick lived in Coney Island and took us on a tour when I was a kid. His kids were older than my brother and me, but they let us see their complete collection of Harvey comic books which went further back than the ones we had.

SW: I never met Max or Dave Fleischer

KS: After he retired in 1968, did he miss working? Did your mom miss working after she left the business? What was their life like after retirement?

BW: Dad never retired. In 1968, he left Hal Seeger Production to work as head of production for a startup called New Dimension Films. They had a process that made cartoons look 3-D (sort of) without glasses. They did a few commercials but he left because the commute was terrible from Long Island to New Jersey. He then did commercials for Quaker Cereal, a safety film for NYC schools starring Popeye, a Burlington Mills commercial (for Popeye bedsheets–I went to the last recording session ever with Jack Mercer, Mae Questel and Jackson Beck. It was amazing to see them transform instantly into Popeye, Olive Oyl and Bluto). He also did a cartoon for the American Heart Association which I co-wrote (my first screen credit). Hal Seeger would still often call Dad to work on projects including a series of semi-political cartoons for Newsweek’s television department. I remember one project where Mom did the inking but I can’t recall which one. In the early ‘90s, he transitioned over to drawing the limited editions.

SW: Dad NEVER retired, I agree 100 % with my brother’s response, in the early 90s animation Art was hot and Dad’s career was relaunched with limited edition cells, Giclees and lots of personal appearances, it was great, During the last several years I would be with him some gallery shows and marvel at him and how fans adored him. He would upon request do drawings free for the less fortunate and went to hospitals to draw for terminally ill children.

KS: How about anyone else in particular?

Myron Waldman at New Dimension Films, 1968

BW: I loved going to Hal Seeger’s office because Hal would always offer us Cokes from the refrigerator he had near his desk. That was show biz!

My folks were also good friends with Sid Raymond and his wife, Dottie. Sid was the voice of Baby Huey, Katnip and 100s of characters who would be scared out of their wits by the sight of Casper. Sid was also an actor, and there was nothing better than going to see him at Westbury Music Fair in productions of The Pajama Game, Top Banana (we got to meet Milton Berle), Little Me and Kiss Me Kate. During the curtain calls, Sid would wave to my brother and me from the stage.

Wait…there was something better…it was always an event when Sid and Dot came to our house. We’d always get him to do the voices…what a thrill to hear Baby Huey say your name!

SW: I loved when Sid Raymond could come by and do his voices and the many visits to Hal Seeger studios

KS: What was Myron Waldman do outside of work (hobbies, vacations, etc…)?

BW: Dad’s dream was to own a farm. The closest he came to making it happen was our garden. Our house (Mom still lives there) was originally on 3/4 of an acre. He grew tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, string beans, strawberries, carrots, raspberries. He gardened well into his late 80s.

He loved traveling with my mom to animation art galleries around the country. They had a slogan: “It’s 10 o’clock. Do you know where your parents are?” He also kept sketchbooks and would draw cartoons of things he observed. For instance, riding on the subway one day, he spotted a Santa Claus standing between two Hasidic Jews. My favorite was his drawing of two of my mom’s cousins who had met in Weight Watchers. Instead of a handkerchief peering out of the guy’s breast pocket, Dad put a fork and knife.

SW: Dad loved the farm and had his huge garden in the yard, cucumbers, string beans, tomatoes, potatoes, squash were organically grown, I would always help him maintain his garden and harvesting the crop was GREAT! and of course Mom would prepare them.

Myron Waldman Limited Edition with Betty Boop and Popeye

Betty Boop limited edition Betty Boop Model Sheet

KS: Your dad did many limited editions in his later life. What made him decide to do them? Do you have a favorite one?

BW: I think Dad did the limited editions because it was an opportunity to return to the classic characters he had animated. It was also a chance for him to be as creative as ever. I was always amazed by how inventive he was well into 90s, still coming up zany or charming ideas and situations for the characters. My favorites are the Betty Boop that looks sort of like a model chart, Raggedy Ann and Andy, and of course, Superman!

There’s also an unpublished one of Popeye marrying Olive Oil with Wimpy as the Justice of the Peace that I’ve given as a wedding present.

SW: Dad would actually incorporate his gags to his limited editions, Animation Galleries reached out and he accommodated, my favorite is, Betty walking Pudgy by the fire hydrant and Popeye smoking his pipe.

Myron and Rosalie Waldman at the Annie Awards in 1997 – on the night that he received the Winsor McCay Award for lifetime achievement.

KS: Were you there when your dad won the Winsor McCay Award? Was he excited and do you have anything to say about that night?

BW: Going to the Windsor McCay Award is one of the greatest memories of my life. Dad was thrilled and honored.

My brother and I escorted Dad to the stage and stood on either side of him as he spoke of how much he loved being an animator.

Afterwards, one of the producers or animators for The Simpsons came up to me and said, “The way you and your brother looked at your dad while he spoke. I just hope my kids are as proud of me when they’re grown up.”

The other thrill was meeting one of the other honorees: Paul Winchell. My brother and I loved him as kids. He had the greatest opening line when he got onstage. He said, I know some of you must be wondering where I’ve been these past few years. Well, I died in 1986.”

The laugh went on forever.

SW: Yes, that was a fantastic day, walked him onstage and met and spoke to Paul Winchell and went to an amazing party later on and met June Foray and one of the smurfs! Robs remarks are very true!

KS: Anything else you’d like to add?

SW: My brother and I are very blessed to have such wonderful parents that ALWAYS were so in love, Dad was such a talent and they both set such great examples.

Myron Waldman with Cartoon Research editor Jerry Beck back in the 1990s.

9 Comments

  • What a legend!!
    Thanks for this.

  • Kamden – this is fantastic. I learned so much. So great of these guys to spend the time with you – and their love and admiration of their father is so apparent. Congratulations!

  • I learned so much from reading this! Those were some of my favorite cartoons as a child! You sure have a talent for capturing the very best of people in an interview. Pam C.

  • I was privileged to call Myron my friend. I know that Bob and Steve idolize their father and rightly so. He was a great talent and a great guy.

  • Wonderful interview. (I had to look up what a “giclee” is.) I enjoyed the references to Long Beach, the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), Reynolds Channel, and channels 5, 9, and 11, because I grew up on Long Island and still live there. I recall reading his obituary that said he died in the same hospital where my wife was born!

  • Kamden,
    Thank you so much for allowing Steve and I to share our memories of Dad.
    You did a great job putting it all together!

    Best,
    Rob Waldman

  • I was friends with loving dear Myron & am proud to say Rosalie still is my Queen Bee ! John Carpenter

  • Wonderful piece.

  • I remember those animated political cartoons Hal Seeger made for the Post-Newsweek television company. They were called “Cartoon-A-Torials,” and were syndicated by Post-Newsweek to other TV stations as well as running on their own. KBJR-TV in Duluth was one station which ran them as a feature in their newscasts. They took an editorial cartoon by one of several top newspaper cartoonists, and animated the situation, adding voices. Each one probably ran less than half a minute. I don’t think satellite syndication existed yet, so I believe they were put on a video tape cartridge and airmailed to the station to try to keep them current; probably a week’s worth at a time.

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