He’s been staying at the hospital for testing – and it looks like he’ll have open heart surgery in the next couple of days. He asked if you would get the word out so people know he’s safe and keep him in thoughts and prayers.
Prior to his medical emergency, Jim provided us with his Animation Anecdotes/Suspended Animation column for this week and next – and we will post them according to his wishes. We’ll also provide a further update on his condition next week.
Jim does not use social media – but he will see this post, so if you’d like to send a message please place it in the comments below.
Get well, Jim. We’ll be here when you return to full health. All my best wishes for a speedy recovery. – Jerry Beck
Suspended Animation #409
While reading today’s column, it may help if you remember that the character of Yosemite Sam—a short, fiery-tempered outlaw who was known to shoot himself in the foot—was directly based on animator and director Friz Freleng himself.
Freleng joined the United Film Ad Service (the same company where Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney himself had learned to animate) shortly after his high school graduation.
Hugh Harman who was working there was leaving soon to join Walt Disney in Hollywood. Freleng desperately tried to learn as much technique as he could from the animator before he left. Harman also suggested Freleng get a copy of the book Animated Cartoons by E.G. Lutz. Freleng ran down to the library and checked out the very same copy that Walt Disney had checked out years before to learn the art of animation.
He began a correspondence with Walt Disney, who was looking for new animators for his expanding studio. Hugh Harman had told Walt that Freleng had shown a lot of promise when they worked together briefly at the United Film Ad.
Walt offered Freleng ten dollars more per week than Freleng was currently earning. So, in January 1927, Freleng boarded a train and headed to California.
In Los Angeles at Union Station, Walt Disney in his newly purchased Moon Roadster automobile picked up Freleng and drove directly to the Disney Studio on Hyperion. Freleng was greeted by Walt’s entire staff including Hugh Harman, his brother Walker Harman, Ub Iwerks, Rudy Ising, and Roy Disney.
The studio was finishing up its commitment to producing the final Alice Comedies before beginning work on Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Freleng did bits and pieces of animation on at least nine of the last “Alice Comedies” that he didn’t remember clearly when I talked with him. He did, however, remember a compliment that Walt had given him in front of the rest of the studio on a scene he had animated in Alice’s Picnic.
The script had said merely a “mother cat bathing her kittens.” Freleng came up with the personality animation gag of a little kitten crawling out of the tub to escape the bath and hanging on the edge of the tub before dropping down to the ground and being scooped up by the mother and put back into the tub.
“That’s what I want to see in my pictures,” said Walt. “I want the characters to be somebody. I don’t want them just to be a drawing.”
The Disney Studio was so small that Freleng sat right next to animation legend Ub Iwerks. Freleng remembered Iwerks as a quiet person but very helpful. When Freleng struggled with animating an army tank that had to turn and go off into the distance, Iwerks just took a pencil and drew one tank after another in perfect perspective in less than five minutes as a guide for the aspiring animator.
By March 1927, Freleng was listed on the studio records as a top animator and animated a large amount of footage on the very last of the Alice Comedies known as Alice in the Big League.
Freleng recalled, “(Walt) would flip a scene to see what was wrong but he was very intolerant. If I made a mistake, he might get very angry and, of course, that would make me angry. I reminded him that I had written him that I was just learning so I was bound to make mistakes. He had written back that he was willing to patiently teach. That’s why I decided to move to California, which was a big decision.
“I told him that a good teacher points out the good as well as the bad but he always seemed to concentrate on the bad. He told me he appreciated me having enough guts to tell him what was on my mind and for a while things ran smoothly. But days later, he started in on me again.”
Freleng worked on the first theatrical released Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon, Trolley Troubles. Freleng was given the scene to animate where Oswald pulls off his “lucky” rabbit’s foot to rub it. In the days before storyboards, the description was typed but not illustrated.
A frustrated Freleng went to Walt to ask how to stage the scene. When the foot was removed, should Freleng show the bone or what? Should it screw off like a table leg or just pop off? According to Freleng, Walt was very dismissive and just said, “Oh, you know what to do,” and left.“At that point,” Freleng told me, “I knew he didn’t know what to do either and was bullying me to come up with something that would work.” (In the final animation, the leg quickly pops off and pops back on.)
One morning, Freleng woke up with a small but painful boil on his rear end. He realized that sitting in the hard chairs at the Disney Studio would only aggravate the pain so he decided to call in sick.
However, it wasn’t much better at home so he decided to go see a movie in the hopes that the padded seats and air conditioning might take his mind off the pain.
He was going to catch a movie playing at the Carthay Circle Theatre (where both Skeleton Dance and later Snow White premiered) on Wilshire Boulevard. Since he had no car, Freleng took one of the double-decker buses that ran down the street. The upper deck had no roof and gave a panoramic view of the city.
That is where Freleng decided to sit.
At a stop, Freleng noticed that behind the bus was Walt Disney himself in his Moon Roadster. When Freleng returned to work the next day, he found that his desk had been cleared off and everything he had been working on was gone.
Freleng went to see Walt, who was angry that Freleng had taken the day off when he wasn’t sick. Freleng’s explanation to the contrary fell on deaf years.
“I had a boil on my butt!” yelled Freleng over and over, and in a fit of temper offered to give two weeks notice.
“You don’t have to give me any notice. You can quit now,” Disney supposedly responded.
Walt called Roy and Ub and told them that Freleng wanted to quit. Roy felt that if Freleng was unhappy, he should be allowed to leave. Freleng insisted on getting a fifty dollar bonus that had been promised him because he needed that money to get back home to Kansas City.
Walt insisted that Freleng had forfeited the bonus because of his actions, but reportedly with some influence by Roy and Ub, Walt relented. Freleng and his brother (who was working at the studio in ink and paint) took a bus home, where Freleng got his old job back at United Film Ad Service.
The hard feelings between Walt and Freleng lasted until their deaths. When Walt would screen Warner Bros shorts at the studio and the name “I. Freleng” appeared on the screen, he would make the same Midwest farmer boy joke that the cartoon had been directed by “I. P. Freely.”
Shortly before his death, Freleng grudgingly admitted in an interview about Walt Disney that, “Now I know he was a genius, and it’s pretty hard to work for a genius because you’ve got to think and do things like he wants.”
Best wishes for a successful surgery and a swift recovery, Jim!
I’ve seen that caricature of Walt Disney before. Does anyone know who drew it?
Friz Freleng’s younger brother Allen would later follow him to MGM, where they both worked on the Captain and the Kids cartoons. Allen Freleng passed away in 1943 at the age of 35.
I hope Friz’s boil healed before he took that long bus ride back to Kansas City.
Jim, Another great article today…but most importantly, hope you’re doing well. Wishing a speedy recovery to you.
All my best wishes, Jim. Hoping for a full recovery, and for many more Suspended Animation columns.
Jim: Best wishes and much prayer go with you. In the postings and writings, so much informative material, you have become like a true friend, and I’m sure others feel the same.
Regarding this post: Genius and genius often clash and have a hard time residing together. There were many people of genius who adapted to the somewhat subservient status of working under Walt, but I’m sure there was compromise involved much of the time. He certainly was not always the genial host he showed himself to be in his weekly television series, and this is another instance of how harsh he could be at times. Freling doubtless would have been unhappy if he had stayed. And he certainly proved his own genius in the mark he made on the animation industry.
I look forward to these weekly Animation Anecdotes! Long may they continue!
Get some rest, Jim! Feel better and catch up on your to-watch list!
Many wishes for a swift, troublefree recovery! We need you — and your friendly, knowledgeable columns — more than ever these days.
Good luck and speedy recovery, Jim!
I’m sorry to hear this. I was wondering why Jim hasn’t been posting articles on “Mouse Planet” recently. I wish him well.
I have never heard of that boil story before. I guess it’s something you wouldn’t talk about that much.
I hope you get better, Jim. These are the kind of stories I look forward to reading every week.
All my best wishes, Jim. I look forward to Fridays not for the end of the work week, but for the chance to read your wonderful column!
Prayers for success in the operating room, an easy recovery, and a stronger heart to hold all your love for animation!
Best wishes for a speedy recovery Jim!
Speedy recovery, Jim.
Hey Jim… got my fingers tightly crossed for you. My crossed fingers have yielded great results in the past.
(Simpsons disclaimer) “Not an actual guarantee”
Re: article… with this kind of 20/20 hindsight, it’s not so hard to predict a labor strike at The House Of Mouse.
Jim—I’ve been out of touch with the cartoon world since, I dunno, maybe the Boer War, but I follow Cartoon Research and your columns and books. You have all my best wishes for a quick recovery. We old-timers have to watch out for each other!
Jim — As a grateful reader of your columns, I am praying for your full and swift recovery.
Friz told me in 1980 in Toronto that everyone thought Walt would go broke and that Disney fooled them by going broke in reverse. Friz was a genius, That genius shows in his work. Get well, Jim. Best.
Jim – Have loved all your stuff over the years, dating back to Mindrot! Best wishes for that quick recovery!
Wishing Jim well. Glad he is going to be okay!
I did not know Freleng animated a lot on ALICE IN THE BIG LEAGUE! Hopefully, more of the later Alice “Comedies” may surface so we can see the improvements the team made before work on the Oswalds began completely
Dear Jim, So sorry to hear about your heart problems, please get well soon. Every good wish for your surgery. Did you read THE DISNEY REVOLT? I wanted to hear what you thought about it.
Your Pal, Mark K.
Hi Jim– Rest, recuperate and get well, your efforts here on Cartoon Research are always enjoyable and of high interest. All best wishes, Keith Scott
Amazing story. Get well, Jim.
get well jim!
Best regards and hopes for everything going well with Jim. I usually don’t comment that much, but for matters like this, I make an exception. Always respected his wide range, revealing info not well known, and getting right to the point of cartoon research since he first posted on the site.
This article alone is a good example of that: not too much is known about Friz’s time at Disney. Understandably so, since I doubt it’s memories Friz would of been eager to talk about in his later years. I’m just glad some people like yourself did ask: Friz’s candid-ness and sense of perspective shines through as it usually did in interviews.
Friz was a good animator. Shame that it’s only nowadays that people are slowly realizing that. And it’s thanks to people like Jim helping us to realize that. Again, wishing for all the best.
Hi,Jim.. hope you get better!
I love your writing, Jim! Informational and humane, just like this column. Best wishes for your recovery.
Get well, Mr. Korkis!
I love Friz with all my heart, but he’s being a hypocrite here. He was just as much a perfectionist as the Diz was! Maybe that’s why he hated him.
Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Mr. Korkis!
Best wishes for a speedy recovery!
Please take care of yourself and follow doctor’s orders! I hope you feel better soon!
As for today’s column, I find it odd that Friz seemed to get along well with most of his associates in animation, but Walt Disney was the odd exception.
Friz was known for his temper. Maybe he and Walt Disney were too much alike to get along!
Best wishes for a speedy recovery!
Anyone who doesn’t use social media already has a heart of solid gold, which is what it probably feels like right now. May Jim Korkis get through this, make a full recovery, and avoid the daffy doc (except the cartoon itself, which is a great one).
Wishing you all the best, Jim. We are thinking of you and wishing you a speedy recovery!
Get well soon, Jim!
Your voice and dedication are precious to your readers.
A speedy recovery, Jim. My thoughts are with you.
Maybe Friz was born with a short fuse, but if I didn’t know better, I’d say Walt was deliberately cultivating the Donald Duck/Yosemite Sam temperment that Freleng became famous for.
Jim big fan of your work Your devotion to the animated art is an inspiration Please know kind sir the entire Cartoon Research nation is praying 🙏 God Bless
I’ve known of you/your works since the early 1990’s, when you were with John Cawley.
And you responded to me once on this site; I wholeheartedly appreciated it.
Gift yourself patience and time while you work to recover. I hope each day brings more comfort and strength.
I had heart bypass surgery 20 years ago, and I’m so thankful for medical science. It’s like having a new life. Good luck with the procedure, and looking forward to reading your columns in the future!
Best wishes Jim – there are lots of us pulling for you!
Wishing you a speedy recovery, Jim. You are in my thoughts and prayers. God bless.
We’ve never spoken, Jim, but you still never want to hear this. Get well soon!
Best wishes from a long time fan – get well soon Mr. Korkis!
Best wishes for a full and speedy recovery, Jim – and thanks for your fantastic work going back to the MINDROT/ANIMANIA days.
Get well soon, JIm!
Jim, always appreciate your content. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.
Praying for you, Mr. Korkis. Can’t wait for you to get better!
Get well soon, sir
Jim, you have long been one of the best and most entertaining sources of information and history for comics, animation, and theme parks. You are such a treasure that I sometimes wish it were possible to put you in a Mylar sleeve to keep you safe and protected. I hope you prevail over the “situation at hand” and, with the help of your medical team, get your health restored and get animated again!
Get well, Jim! Now! We need you!
Jim: Get well and be well!
Dan in Missouri
Jim, it’s in the sprit of a true champ that you have banked the extra columns, As always, a great read. I join everyone in hoping for what matters most: a recovery and lots of hope that you prevail and are soon well again. Lots of blessings to you.
Sorry for being a bit late to the party, but I want to add my wishes for a complete, swift, and complication-free recovery! I’ve always looked forward to your columns, whether they’re full-length essays on one topic or collections of miscellaneous snippets collected through the years; you’ve done an excellent job documenting not only major moments of animation history, but the smaller personal touches that bring that history alive decades after the fact.
This particular column on Friz and Walt is a definite high point, showcasing a little-remembered turning point in early animation history; thanks!
Get better soon!