Jack King (animator)
According to Jeff Lenburg's assessment of him, King was an early pioneer of animation. His films were nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. He started his career in the silent film era. He spent most of his career working at Walt Disney Productions (later known as the Walt Disney Animation Studios). He directed many well-regarded films.
King was born in 1895 in Birmingham, Alabama. He started his animation career in 1920, working at Bray Productions animation studio. He directed the Judge Rummy series (1920-1921) for the International Film Service. The silent animated series was based on the comic strip Judge Rummy by Tad Dorgan. His early films also included Kiss Me (1920), Why Change Your Husband (1920), and The Chicken Thief (1921). The series reportedly ended in 1921.
King successfully made the transition from silent to sound cartoons and relocated to the West Coast of the United States, where he joined the Disney studio on June 17, 1929 as an animator. His animation film credits include several Silly Symphony animated shorts, which Lenburg describes as "cartoon fables". Among King's Disney film credits was the short film The Three Little Pigs (1933), which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. King remained with Disney until May 17, 1933.
In 1933, animation producer Leon Schlesinger was setting up a new animation studio, Leon Schlesinger Productions, which would continue producing the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series for Warner Bros. The studio was set on the Warner lot on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. Schlesinger was in need of a new staff for his studio and started hiring people who used to work for other animation studios. Among them was King, who "was probably the first Disney animator Schlesinger hired".
By June 1933, Schlesinger had rounded out his staff and started work on producing animated short films. Tom Palmer had been appointed production manager and director, with King as the head animator. Among the staff were two of King's former associates from Disney, animators Paul Fennell and Bill Mason. According to animation historian Michael Barrier, Schlesinger placed former Disney animators in charge of the studio in hopes of effectively competing with the Disney studio.
Tom Palmer left the studio after completing only two short films. He was replaced as director by Earl Duvall, a former story man for both Disney and Harman and Ising. Duvall himself left the studio after completing five short films. Schlesinger was in need of new directors, and even composer Bernard B. Brown received credits for directing two Merrie Melodies shorts. By early 1934, Schlesinger appointed Friz Freleng as the main director of the Merrie Melodies series and King as the main director of the Looney Tunes series. King handled many of the studio's animated short films starring Buddy, and was responsible for the final year of Buddy films.
By 1935, Buddy was being phased out in favor of new characters; among them was Beans, an anthropomorphic cat. King directed A Cartoonist's Nightmare, Beans' first starring role. King directed a total of eight animated shorts featuring Beans. Michael Barrier describes Beans under King's direction as resembling Mickey Mouse's incarnation of the early 1930s. Their designs were certainly similar, with both characters having a white face and black body, but in characterization Beans was a pint-sized hero resembling the plucky, boyish, and heroic Mickey featured in The Klondike Kid (1932) and The Mail Pilot (1933).
Also in 1935, the studio gained a third full-time director working in addition to Freleng and King: Tex Avery, a former inker for the short-lived Winkler Studio and Universal Studio Cartoons. Avery directed a single film starring Beans, Gold Diggers of '49 (1935); he would use Porky Pig as the main star of his following films. Meanwhile, King continued using Beans as the main star of his own films. In 1936, Beans and most of the characters introduced the previous year, with the exception of Porky Pig, ceased being used by the studio. Barrier suggests that Leon Schlesinger may have been giving Avery a vote of confidence, when deciding to keep only Porky as a continuing character and to drop Beans. This decision came at the expense of King and his work.
King directed two films featuring characters Ham and Ex: The Phantom Ship (1936) and The Fire Alarm (1936). The characters were a pair of troublesome puppies and were intended to serve as series stars. In 1936, King started directing films in the new Porky Pig series. Other films in the series were directed by Tex Avery and Frank Tashlin. King directed only three animated shorts starring Porky Pig.
By April 1936, King was hired by the Disney studio again, this time as a director. Part of the reason he returned to Disney was the promise that he would be able to direct cartoons in color, which he had been unable to do previously. Friz Freleng and Tex Avery were the only directors that Schlesinger allowed to direct color films for much of the 1930s.
At Disney, King emerged as the director of a new series of short films, featuring Donald Duck as the protagonist. Lenburg notes that King was one of the principal directors of the Donald Duck series, but not the only one (other directors of this series included Ben Sharpsteen, Dick Lundy, Jack Hannah, and Jack Kinney). King made his directorial debut at Disney with the film Modern Inventions (1937). It was also his first time directing a Donald Duck animated film.
King directed more than forty films featuring Donald Duck, among them were the Academy Award-nominated Good Scouts (1938), Truant Officer Donald (1941), and Donald's Crime (1945). One of his films was a propaganda film, The Spirit of '43 (1943), created in association with the United States Department of the Treasury. King's last film was The Trial of Donald Duck (1948). King retired from Disney in 1948 and spent ten years in retirement. He died on October 4, 1958 in Los Angeles.
- Lenburg (2006), pp. 179-180
- Barrier (2003), Warner Bros., pp. unnumbered pages
- Barrier, Michael (2003), "Warner Bros., 1933-1940", Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199839223
- Lenburg, Jeff (2006), "King, Jack", Who's who in Animated Cartoons: An International Guide to Film and Television's Award-Winning and Legendary Animators, Hal Leonard Corporation, ISBN 978-1557836717