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Forgotten Disney Legends: Jack Bradbury

Forgotten Disney Legends: Jack Bradbury

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John "Jack" Morin Bradbury was born in Seattle, Washington on December 27, 1914 and passed away on May 15, 2004 at the age of 89. Comic expert and nice guy Mark Evanier had a short tribute based on information supplied from animator and long time Bradbury friend, Dave Bennett. Thanks to Dave, I met Bradbury briefly while I was standing in line waiting to go into the San Diego Comic Book Convention and was at least able to tell Bradbury how much I enjoyed his work. While Disney fans may not recognize his name, if they grew up reading Disney comic books, his distinctive style was probably on many of their favorite stories.

"I first got interested in cartoons when I was in grammar school," Bradbury revealed to Dave Bennett in 1986, "Because I liked cartooning, I started looking through all the fields. I wasn't much interested in commercial art, but from what I had seen of the newspaper strips, I knew that was at least the direction I wanted to head. Then, about 1933, I saw Disney's 'Three Little Pigs' which was playing at the Fifth Avenue theater in Seattle. It took the whole town by storm and this opened up another area of interest for me. The entire town was going around singing the theme song.....I heard through a friend that they were looking for new art talent at Disney's. I wrote and sent down some of my work. They sent back an answer and said for me to come on down and take a two week tryout. Of course, they did that for everybody. They said to be sure to have enough money to take care of yourself and enough money to get back home if necessary. So I did. I had about $50.00 which was enough to get there and live on for a couple of weeks. I passed the test, and then went to work for Disney at the great high salary of $15.00 a week."

At the age of twenty, he joined the Disney Studio and worked as an inbetweener from 1934-1938 on such cartoons as "The Band Concert," "Through The Mirror" and even "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.? He worked as Bob Wickersham's assistant. (Wickersham's nickname was "Wick" and he later did comic book work under the name "Bob Wick".) Ken Hultgren, Don Lusk and Bradbury were the clean up men for the funny animal stuff being animated by Eric Larson, Milt Kahl, and Jim Algar. Those three animators did much of the animal animation in "Snow White."

"When we were getting through with that, I started doing some personal tests for animating which you could do at any time. You had to draw, do some animation, set it up and have it filmed. Then you could run it on the movieola to see how it looked. It could then be corrected, changed, whatever. I did some stuff and gave it to Ham Luske, who was then directing. He took it up to Walt Disney who approved it, and that started me animating," Bradbury told Bennett. (Bradbury worked with Ham Luske on "Ferdinand the Bull" and "Fantasia" and always said he considered him a major influence, "I loved working for Ham. One of my real joys of being at Disney was working for Ham.")

Bradbury was soon made a full animator at the studio from 1938-1941 where he worked on several key scenes in Disney animated features, including the stag fight in "Bambi", the Pegasus family gliding in to a watery landing in "Fantasia," and Figaro walking across Gepetto's bed in "Pinocchio." He also continued to produce animation for the shorts including "Ferdinand the Bull" (the sequence where the young bulls were fighting in the field and the scene where Ferdinand sits on the bee) and "Barnyard Symphony."

"I started working on 'The Wind in the Willows.' Jack Kinney was directing some of the sequences. I had just gotten started when the strike happened. We all went out on strike, and were out for about six or seven weeks. When it was all over, I got a telegram to come back. I came back to work for awhile, then Disney started to lay off a bunch of guys." remembered Bradbury.

After a short time working in an aircraft factory, he worked in Friz Freleng's unit at Warner Brothers from 1942-1944 on a variety of shorts including those featuring Bugs Bunny. In 1944, he started illustrating comic book stories featuring Fremont Frog, Spencer Spook and others for ACG and also providing artwork for Bagshaw Bear, Hucky Duck and others for Nedor/Standard. He continued working for these comic book companies until around 1951-52. (This work was done as part of the Jim Davis shop that utilized animators to moonlight doing comic book stories for extra money--roughly $15.00 to $25.00 a page to write, pencil and draw--and included such folks as fellow animators Al Hubbard, Hubie Karp, Bob Wickersham, Owen Fitzgerald, Ken Hultgren and Davis himself.)

In 1947, Bradbury also started doing work for Western Publishing where he illustrated coloring books, activity books, big little books ("Goffy in Giant Trouble"), and hundreds of comic books for the Dell/Gold Key labels. He drew practically all the Disney characters from Mickey Mouse and Goofy to Little Hiawatha, Gyro Gearloose and Li'l Bad Wolf not to mention all the Disney ducks. Bradbury also produced Disney material featuring Mickey, Goofy, the Ducks and Chip'n'Dale among others for overseas use.

As Mark Evanier wrote in his tribute, "He was the main artist on PLUTO stories but could and did draw almost every animated character they published. His renderings of the Disney characters were so 'alive' and so faithful to the source material that Walt Disney himself reportedly told the Western editors that they didn't need studio approval of anything that Bradbury drew."

In addition to the Disney characters, Bradbury also drew comic books featuring the Walter Lantz stable of characters, the Warner Brothers characters and Bob Clampett's "Beany and Cecil." Yet, Bradbury never wrote any of the stories that he illustrated. His characters, while on model, could often be distinguished by looking a little taller and thinner than some other artists.

"There was plenty of work over at (Western) but the only trouble was that you couldn't write your own material. By only doing the drawing you couldn't make as much money. Your work couldn't be as fast either, because it all had to be okayed by some editor before you could ink it. Western's comics also had eight panels to the page instead of six (like for the Davis Studio material). Tom McKimson was the art editor there. I continued to draw for Western until about 1969. Then I started having some eye trouble. Towards the end, I was only penciling with somebody else inking the stuff. So they asked me if I would prefer just getting into the writing. I had never written for Disney before, except I had contributed an occasional story to Western and sold a few. I had never gone into it seriously. So I said, 'yes' and wrote for awhile with sort of on and off success. Toward the end of that time, I was getting close to retirement age, so I got to the point where I quit. I was getting tired of everything, and just stopped," Bradbury told Bennett.

Bradbury's eye problem was called "macula degeneration" which is basically degeneration of the retina where "the little protein spots in the center of the retina move out and your center vision goes with it".

If you are looking for a nice collection of Bradbury's work, I would recommend tracking down the ACE Comics (Ron Frantz's comic company from 1986-1987) which published ACE COMICS PRESENTS (No. 2)THE ANIMATED ART OF JACK BRADBURY which included cover art by Dave Bennett of a caricature of Bradbury surrounded at the drawing board by some of his characters. That issue also featured the following Bradbury illustrated comic stories: Butch O'Sparrow; reprinted from Coo Coo Comics #25; May 1946. Bagshaw Bear; reprinted from Coo Coo Comics #37; January 1948. Tuffy; reprinted from Coo Coo Comics #37; May 1947. Supermouse; script by Richard Hughes. Reprinted from Coo Coo Comics #37; January 1948. (And the inside back cover had "The Daisy Test" a previously unpublished cartoon by another Jack, Jack Kent.) Plus an extensive interview with Jack Bradbury by Bennett which was reprinted from "Ace Comics Spencer Spook" #4 which in addition to three reprinted Spencer Spook stories by Bradbury there was a fourth new story written by Bradbury and illustrated by Bennett in the Bradbury style. I believe copies of both issues and more can still be ordered from Frantz at this link for only a very little more than cover price. A great bargain!

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