Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Bob Givens' War Stories
I dropped by the ASIFA Hollywood Animation Archives this afternoon to find animation legend Bob Givens regaling Steve Worth and Mike Fontanelli with insights and memories from his past 95 years, including going to grammar school with John Wayne, assisting on Disney's SNOW WHITE, storyboarding and doing layouts on countless classic LOONEY TUNES and TV shows for Hanna-Barbera, Depatie Freleng and others. Somewhere in there he found himself drafted into World War II as well, where he wound up tagging along on covert ops and doing Kitchen Patrol with author William Saroyan before being tapped by Rudolf Ising to return the Culver City and participate in animating training films that saved the lives of countless Allied soldiers.
This was the first time I have met Mr. Givens and I only wish I could have spent much longer listening to him today than time allowed. Vigorous and lucid as any man at least three decades younger, he is the epitome of the unassuming, "no-bull" professionals who plied their talent in Hollywood long before they even suspected inventions like TV, DVD's and the internet would be keeping their classic films alive for new generations. No name is too famous or too obscure for Bob not have crossed paths with at some point in prolific career and his anecdotes range from his hilarious exploits with Rich Hogan and David Swift in their early incarnations at Disney, to his pioneering efforts in TV advertising (he did the first RAID spots, which ran for decades), to the tragic tales of trying to help design genius Tom Oreb during his decline into alcoholism and dementia.
I couldn't wait to ask about his layout work on the 1963 TV cartoon LINUS THE LIONHEARTED, a show that was ultimately banned due to regulations involving advertising and product placement (the characters on the series were all mascots for various Post Cereals). Mr. Givens was quick to credit Irv Spector with creating the characters for an East Coast agency, before spending a stint in Los Angeles to help set up the studio that produced the series for two seasons before being disbanded. Too bad, it was a fun cartoon and I am living proof it did not brainwash kids--I hated the cereal but enjoyed the show anyway.
Here's to those like Bob Givens, who serve both their art and their country with the equal measures of talent and determination.