Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Patron of The Clock Store

Even in the very early years of the Disney Studio, animators were paying homage to themselves and other studio personalities in the very cartoons they were producing. In the 1931 Silly Symphony The Clock Store, two pocket watches appear, marked with the engraved initials of their supposed owners. The initials W.E.D. are a quite obvious reference to Walter Elias Disney, but the initials of H.G. are a bit more mysterious.

Digging into the the film's credits, as provided by Russell Merritt and J. B. Kaufmann in their book Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies, we discover that this particular sequence was animated by a gentleman named Hardie Gramatky.

Gramatky worked at the Walt Disney Studios from 1929 until 1936. On the website, Gramatky's daughter Linda Gramatky Smith notes:

"He went to Chouinard art school at night and to the Studio during the day. His first job was to do a Disney comic book, but he finished six months of drawings in three days when Walt asked him, 'Gee, Hardie, what would you like to do now?' Dad told Walt that he'd like to try animation. There were only fourteen animators there when he arrived (and 250 when he left for New York in 1936)."

In a 1938 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Walt Disney said of Gramatky, "There was a boy working for us who had a great future in our Studio. But his heart wasn't in his work and he decided to chuck it all and paint what he wanted to paint. We gave him a great send-off because we admired his spirit. He had a struggle, but he arrived. Even when he was struggling he was happy for he was doing what he wanted to do."

Gramatky would go on to become a well known artist and illustrator, perhaps most famous for his series of Little Toot childrens books. Disney would adapt Little Toot for the 1948 feature Melody Time. Gramatky was especially celebrated for his work with watercolors. In a 2006 magazine article, artist Andrew Wyeth named Gramatky as one of America's twenty greatest water colorists.

A footnote to the sequence from The Clock Store: The timepiece in the center is marked with the letter M, the meaning of which, if any, is a bit harder to decipher. The film's credits only list two individuals with names beginning with M: background artists Carlos Manriquez and Mique Nelson.

The Clock Store is available on DVD as part of the Walt Disney Treasures - More Silly Symphonies (1929-1938).


Anonymous said...

Is that perhaps Mickey's pocketwatch in the middle?

Linda Smith said...

I loved finding your blog, Jeff, and seeing this info about my dad, Hardie Gramatky. You're a good detective.

If 2719 is the original WDS location, my cousin took me there a few years ago. It felt so good to see the walls in that front room.

Found the "More Silly Symphonies" on DVD and will order it. Do you know where I can get a list of which shorts Dad worked on from 1929 to 1936. I've found Russell Merritt & J. B. Kaufmann's book on Walt and his silent films.