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American Animation Pioneer (1903–1982)

Although not many people remember the name Hugh Harman outside the esoteric world of animation fans, he and his collaborator, Rudy Ising, were among the most influential minds in the early history of cartoons. Their influence can still be seen in today's animated films and television shows.

A self-taught cartoonist, Harman got his start in Kansas City in the early 1920s, working on a cartoon series entitled Newman's Laugh-O-Grams. His boss was a little-known local producer named Walt Disney.

Harman and Ising started their own studio when Disney moved to California, but he soon sent for them and the duo traveled west. In 1925, Disney assigned Harman to design a cartoon mouse character, this became the prototype for the most famous cartoon character of all time.

Harman and Ising created a character named Bosko and, along with the help of collaborator Friz Freling, they created a cartoon. Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid was the first sound cartoon with dialogue. Famed producer Leon Schlesinger took this piece to Warner Brothers. Within the year, these men were founding the famed animation house at Warners, working with some of the early giants of the industry. There, Harman directed a series of cartoons featuring Bosko—the first Looney Tunes.

The two men broke with the infamously parsimonious Schlesinger in 1933. They felt they could make much better cartoons with more time and money, something they proved many times in their careers. After a brief stint with another studio, they took Bosko (whom they'd had the foresight to copyright, something not many creators did at the time), to MGM, where they created a series of new cartoons. They also created the Happy Harmonies* line for that studio. Between gigs with animation houses, Harman and Ising teamed up under the studio name Harman-Ising.

In 1939 Harman created Peace on Earth, a beautifully animated story about war, peace, and survival. It gained many awards including an Academy Award nomination and a citation from the Nobel Prize Committee, and it is considered by many to be one of the best animated shorts ever made.

Harman and Ising parted company in 1941, but it seems to have been amicable and the two remained friends for the rest of their lives. Harman to take over a studio with Disney's Mel Shaw. He continued in the industry for many years thereafter, occasionally collaborating with his old partner.


*It's no coincidence that all these competing products—Merrie Melodies, Looney Tunes, and Happy Harmonies have such similar names. Disney also had one called Silly Symphonies which Harman and Ising worked on.


References:
Beck, Jerry, editor, "the 50 Greatest Cartoons" (Atlanta, Turner, 1994).
Hugh Harman's Obituary, New York Times, online at http://www.nytimes.com/1982/11/30/obituaries/hugh-harman-79-creator-of-looney-tunes-cartoons.html
Wikipedia
Harman and Ising at Answers.com http://www.answers.com/topic/harman-and-ising
Harman's bio at Turner Classic Movies: http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/participant.jsp?spid=353984