Charles Alfred Taliaferro (August 29, 1905 – February 3, 1969), known simply as Al Taliaferro, was a Disney comics artist who produced Disney comic strips for King Features Syndicate. Taliaferro is best known for his work on the Donald Duck comic strip. Many of his strips were written by Bob Karp.

Al Taliaferro
Al taliaferro.jpg
BornCharles Alfred Taliaferro
(1905-08-29)August 29, 1905
Montrose, Colorado, United States
DiedFebruary 3, 1969(1969-02-03) (aged 63)
Glendale, California, United States
NationalityAmerican
Area(s)Cartoonist, Penciller, Inker
Notable works
Donald Duck

Contents

Family backgroundEdit

The Taliaferros trace their origins to Northern Italy and were one of the early families who settled in the Colony of Virginia during the 17th century. The family name, originally Tagliaferro, literally means Ironcutter in the Italian language.

Early careerEdit

After his family moved to Glendale, California, Taliaferro studied at the Art Institute of Los Angeles, California. Following his graduation, Taliaferro was hired as a designer for light fixtures. In January, 1931, Taliaferro was hired by Walt Disney Studios as an animator, but soon transferred to the comic strip department. [1]

At the time, Disney comics were limited to the Mickey Mouse comic strip, with Floyd Gottfredson as its main artist. Taliaferro was hired as an inker for Gottfredson's drawings. Taliaferro also served as the inker for a model sheet for the Mickey Mouse character. The model sheet would later be featured in Disney merchandising. [1]

Disney soon launched a Silly Symphonies comic strip (1932-1939), based on the Silly Symphony short film series. The stip debuted on January 10, 1932 as a Sunday comic strip. It would appear on a weekly schedule, in full color. The original writer and penciller for the comic strip was Earl Duvall, with Taliaferro serving as his inker. In 1933, Duvall quit the strip and the Disney studio, as he was hired by Leon Schlesinger Productions. Taliaferro replaced him as the comic strip's penciller. The new main writer of the comic strip was Ted Osborne, but the comic strip also featured a number of stories written by Merrill De Maris.[1]

The comic strip had started by introducing a new character, not based on any previous Disney animated short. The character was Bucky Bug, an anthropomorphic insect whose creation is credited to Duvall and Taliaferro. Bucky Bug would continue to be the star of the comic strip until March 4, 1934. He was the second Disney character (after Mickey Mouse) to become the star of his own comic strip series. [1] The Bucky Bug stories were typical for a funny animal series, though every character was either an insect or another type of invertebrate. [1]

The initial storyline of Taliaferro's comic strip was a coming-of-age story. Bucky Bug is introduced as a boy, the only son of his family. He has 16 sisters. He departs the family home to see the world, eventually settles down in the city of insects called "Junktown", and marries a local girl, called June Bug. June is the daughter of the town's mayor. The city which Bucky inhabits was built on human garbage, every building or structure was once an item discarded by humans. [1]Besides Bucky and June, the most prominent character of these stories was Bo Bug, Bucky's best friend and sidekick. Bo was depicted as a hobo and always wore a top hat. [1]

While Taliaferro did not draw more Bucky Bug stories following 1934, the Bucky Bug series would eventually be revived in comic book form by Western Publishing. Bucky and his supporting cast have since appeared in Disney magazines and newspapers in many countries. [1]

In the 1930s, the Silly Symphony film series was at the height of its popularity, due to its innovations in storytelling and professionalism in production methods. Other animation studios launched imitations with similar names, such as Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies, and Happy Harmonies. [1] Taliaferro and Ted Osborne started producing comic strip adaptations of specific short films, as a tie-in to whichever Silly Symphony the Disney studio was trying to promote. In 1936, the comic strip started featuring the main cast of the hit short Three Little Pigs (1933). Taliaferro was the first artist to adapt Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs into comics, as characters of serial fiction. While in animation the characters soon faded away, in comics they had staying power. The Big Bad Wolf series would be continued by other artists, long after Taliaferro stopped producing new stories for it. [1]

Donald DuckEdit

In 1934, Taliaferro and Osborne adapted the short film The Wise Little Hen (1934) into comic strip form. Their adaptation was published in newspapers between 16 September and 16 December, 1934. The most prominent character introduced in the film was Donald Duck, and Taliaferro was the first artist to depict him in comics. [1] Taliaferro's depiction of Donald preceded Donald's appearances as a supporting character in the Mickey Mouse newspaper comic (under Floyd Gottfredson and Ted Osborne), the adaptation into a British comic strip by William A. Ward (in 1937), and the adaptation of Donald into a full-length Italian comic book by Federico Pedrocchi (in 1937). [1]

Between August 30, 1936 and December 5, 1937, Taliaferro and Osborne depicted Donald in gag-a-week comic strips for the Silly Symphonies series. The strips were in pantomime style. On October 17, 1937, Taliaferro and Osborne introduced three new characters: Huey, Dewey, and Louie. The three were Donald's nephews, sons of his sister. [1] The trio were counterparts to Morty and Ferdie Fieldmouse, the nephews of Mickey Mouse. [1]

Taliaferro and Osborne introduced the origin story for Donald's nephews. The three boys had sent their (unseen) father to the hospital, by having a firecracker explode under his chair. So their mother Della Duck sends them to live with their uncle Donald until their father recovers. This was an excuse for child abandonment, as the boys' parents never returned to reclaim them. In subsequent stories, Donald himself is the boys' legal guardian and surrogate father. [1]

Taliaferro came up with the idea of a solo comic strip for Donald Duck, but had trouble convincing his bosses to support his idea. He initially pitched the idea to Roy O. Disney, who rejected it. Taliaferro then produced three weeks-worth of episodes for a Donald Duck comic strip, brought them to Roy Disney, and asked him to offer the strip to King Features Syndicate for publication. King Features had syndicated all Disney comic strips up to this point. Roy Disney was not particularly interested in the project, but his brother Walt Disney could see potential in the project. Taliaferro's original sample stories were rejected due to having "weak gags". Taliaferro co-operated with writer Merrill De Maris to create new sample stories, but these were also rejected. Taliaferro then co-operated with writer Homer Brightman, and this time the sample stories were approved. Taliaferro's idea was greenlighted and the new Donald Duck comic strip was about to begin.[1]

On February 2, 1938, the Donald Duck comic strip started appearing in daily newspapers. A Sunday version was added on December 10, 1939. Taliaferro's was the strip's main penciller, while Homer Brightman was its writer and came up with the gags. But Brightman was mostly a screenwriter, and soon quit the comic strip and returned to writing plots for animated short films. Brightman was replaced by Bob Karp, who would serve as Taliaferro's main creative partner for the rest of his career. [1] The inkers for the comic strip included Karl Karpe, Dick Moores, George Waiss, and Bill Wright. Taliaferro also relied on a number of assistant artists, including Ellis Eringer, Frank Grundeen, Al Hubbard, and Kay Wright. [1]

While the Mickey Mouse comic strip was an adventure series, the Donald Duck comic strip continued to be a daily comedy series. Each episode featured Donald dealing with problems and humorous situations. Most of the strips featured stand-alone gags, although some ongoing plots were introduced. The strips often lacked dialogue. [1]

Taliaferro and Karp started expanding the Donald Duck universe by introducing new supporting characters for the protagonist. On March 17, 1938, they introduced Bolivar, Donald's pet St. Bernard. The strip found humor in the fact that Bolivar rarely listens to his owner. Taliaferro reportedly drew inspiration from his own pet dog, which was a Scottish Terrier.[1] Gus Goose, the "lazy and gluttonous" cousin of Donald, was introduced on May 9, 1938.[1] On 4 November 1940, Taliaferro and Karp introduced a comic strip version of Daisy Duck, as Donald's new neighbour and love interest. The character had been created by Carl Barks for the short film Mr. Duck Steps Out (1940).[1] Grandma Duck, Donald's grandmother, was introduced on September 27, 1943. Taliaferro based the character on his mother-in-law and her old-fashioned ways. Taliaferro's version of Grandma is a hard-working farmer, but out of touch with the technological progress of the world surrounding here.[1] A comic strip version of Scrooge McDuck was added by Taliaferro on February 13, 1951, and a comic strip version of Ludwig Von Drake on September 25, 1961.[1] Donald's car, the 313, was designed by Taliaferro on July 1, 1938. It has been associated with the character ever since.[1]

Taliaferro retired from the daily comic strip on October 10, 1967. He kept working on the Sunday version of the strip until his death in February, 1969.[1] Since 1967, Taliaferro's duties on the comic strip had mostly been handled by Frank Grundeed, who replaced Taliaferro as the main artist upon his retirement and death. Bob Karp remained the strip's main writer until his retirement in 1974. The Donald Duck comic strip continued with new writers and artists over the following decades: Greg Crosby (writer, 1974-1979), Frank Smith (artist, 1976-1986), Bob Foster (writer, 1980-1989), Jim Franzen (artist, 1986), Daan Jippes (artist, 1986-1987), Ulrich Schröder (artist, 1986), Jorgen Klubien (artist, 1986), Tony Strobl (artist, 1986-1987), Bill Langley (artist, 1987), Pete Alvarado (artist, 1987-1989), Larry Mayer (artist, 1987-1989), and finally Larry Knighton (artist, 1990-1995). In 1995, King Features decided to end the production of new episodes of the comic strip, and to start publishing reprints of older episodes.[1]

Comic book reprintsEdit

While many of Taliaferro's strips were reprinted in Disney comic books, in only a few instances did he do original artwork for comic books. Among these was the Cheerios Premium Giveaway Donald Duck: Counter Spy (1947) and the cover of Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #107 (August 1949) [1] plus two Bucky Bug stories in WDC&S #39 (Dec. 1943) and #60 (Sept. 1945) and a one-page Donald and Goofy gag based on No Sail in the latter [2]. Two children's books with Disney characters he illustrated are Donald and His Cat Troubles (1948) and Donald Duck and the Hidden Gold (1951).

ReprintsEdit

LegacyEdit

Animation historian Jim Korkis noted that Taliaferro designed the mascot Litternaut in 1967 who adorned the public trash receptacles in Glendale into the 1970s and to this day is the official mascot of the Committee for a Clean & Beautiful Glendale.

Taliaferro was posthumously honored with a Disney Legends award in 2003.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa "Al Taliaferro; Lambiek Comiclopedia". Lambiek.net. Retrieved October 27, 2018.

External linksEdit