Wednesday, September 06, 2006

R. I. P. Ed Benedict (1912-2006)

This past week the animation world lost yet another one of the all-time greats, and a cornerstone of the Hanna- Barbera style, Mr. Ed Benedict --He was 94. During Ed's long and versatile career he was a firebrand, a maverick, a boon to his craft. To say that he was the world's most proflic animation character designer would not be much of a stretch.
Ed started his animation career in the 1930's animating at Universal for Walter Lantz. He worked on various shorts and eventually wound up doing a stint at Disney working on Make Mine Music in 1946.
In the 1950's Ed found work at the MGM cartoon unit working with the legendary Tex Avery. Eerily one of the first projects he worked with Avery was a cartoon about cavemen in a stone-age modern society. (that being The First Bad Man, 1955) His next project with Tex had him doing a 1950's-style redesign of his perennial favorite, (and oldest of the Avery stable of characters still getting new ink and paint) Droopy Dog in 1955's Deputy Droopy. (Basically a remake of an earlier Avery Rock-a-bye Bear (1952)--But this cartoon is a standout because of Ed's great designs, snappy timing, crazier gags than it's predecessor, and some dynamite animation by usual H-B animator Irv Spence!)
It wasn't long though before Tex was off to Universal and Ed became chief layout artist on a series of cartoons with Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna in what would be his best-known and longest professional association.
Starting with the Cinemascope Tom & Jerry Mucho Mouse (1957) Ed would go on to redesign the Droopy character even more for some new animated outings helmed this time by Joe and Bill. (below)

Ed worked on half a dozen Droopys before the MGM unit closed it's doors. But he never missed a beat as he started work almost immediately doing layouts for Joe and Bill on The Huckleberry Hound Show (1958) and the following year on The Quick Draw McGraw Show (1959). From there he worked on countless shows and character designs up through the Hong Kong Phooey Show in 1974. (Actually he did return to the biz to help out John K, with some layout on his late 1990's Ranger Smith and Boo-Boo cartoons.)
As much as I admired Ed as an artist, I never actually got a chance to meet him. That in mind, I feel like there's only so much I can say that won't just be an echo of everyting else that has written about him in the last week.
John Kricfalusi, on the other hand knew Ed quite well and has many kind words for the animation pioneer on his Blog (calling him among other things "one of the true giants of animation...the greatest character designer in the whole history of the medium).
Since, according to John, one good Ed design is worth about a hundred-million dollars, here's about a BILLIONS worth of Ed's ingenious and deceptively simple character designs and sketches. (...And while some of these images have been been xeroxed half to death...I still couldn't find the majority of 'em anywhere else on the 'net.)

With Ed's importance to the birth of the Flintstones I can't help but start there --Most people who know anything of Ed's work know he was the main designer of the series --however turns out I have so much material on that subject decided I wanted to use to save it for an "Ed and Fred" post sometime soon. Here I just wanted to pay tribute to some of his other work and show a little more of the true scope of Ed's talent and his importance to the animated medium.

Okay, I just said no more Flintstones hell, first you gotta see these cool Ed cave-chicks!

Now check out the evolution of some of Ed's first Yogi designs...

Almost there...

Bingo! --I know that crazy kleptomaniac Bear!

And the other one...ah, there he is...good show.

Oh yeah...Those Yogi Bear Scribble trees? Totally Ed.

See? Here's the same type designs from the 1955 Avery cartoon Field and Scream.

Likewise for the origins of Huckleberry Hound...just a few lines and suddenly there he is...the germ of a merchandising juggernaut.

And heeere's the Big Blue Dog! (wearing the hat he wore in only one cartoon, to my recollect.)

Some of Ed's earliest Top Cat cat sketches and designs...

So...ol' Jinksy boy was Snooper briefly...hmmm.

And Snooper was...Snooper.

The first Quick Draws and Baba Louies.

Oop...did I say Baba Louie? ...I guess I meant Poco...(?)

Some Snagglepuss Concepts.

...He's got him!

I rather like this Lippy over the one Joe and Bill went with. If you imagine it with the same voice it seems much more appealing.

Early Magilla Gorilla...

The original Crusader Rabbit Show designs were courtesy of Ed as well.

Ed's Wacky Wildlife and Barnyard Animals.

Ed's Advertising Art

Happy Housewives. (They just loves to iron!)

The Ipana Chipmunk was Ed's design too!
Anybody for Flapjacks?

...And the list goes on and on....

Obviously this still just scratches the surface of the total of Ed's artristic output, but hopefully it might help provide some fresh insights as to his versality and the true proportion of his loss as a designer.
My heartfelt condolences to go out to Mr. Benedict's family and friends, and special thanks on this post to John K., Joe S., and Jordan R. for inspiration, info and artworks.


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