Remembering Corny Cole

Corny Cole

The outpouring of love and affection after Corny Cole’s passing has been tremendous. In the past three days, over one hundred artists have shared their appreciation for Corny’s friendship and teaching on our obituary post. Take a few minutes to read through the comments in that post. You may be touched, as I was, seeing the profound effect he had on the lives of so many artists.

Dozens of former students have shared lessons they learned from him, such as these words from Scott Morse:

Man, what a punch in the gut. Corny was one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met. As an 18 year old kid I learned so much from him…the basics of timing, which end was up on an animation disc, how pans worked. I learned how a seasoned professional can pay reverence to another seasoned professional by watching him interact. I also learned that it’s OK to take the wind out of the sails of a cocky professional through Corny’s playful outlook on the world. I learned that it’s OK to draw with a pencil taped to a stick using your left hand. I learned that sometimes art can be about someone you love by watching how Corny would invest years in ballpoint pen drawings on frosted cells to pay tribute to his late wife. I learned that even if my drawings sucked, Corny still thought I was great and had potential. I learned that a studio can sometimes be nothing more than a place to work: it’s about the people.

Rest in peace, Corny, you’ve earned it.

It’s not just younger artists expressing admiration either. Bob Inman first met Corny over fifty years ago:

Good bye dear friend. You have had a huge influence on my life. I met you when we were both students at Chouinard School of Art in the 50’s.

One day you called me and said “Get over here there is an opening in the background dept at UPA.” I got the job thanks to you and it changed my life. I was working at the place in a boring technical art dept & very frustrated. Thanks to you Corny, I spent next 17 years working in animation as a key background painter. Then I had the courage to devote myself full time to fine art painting.

Yes, Corny, old friend, you were the big reason I became the artist I am today. Thank you for being you.

Dan Haskett perhaps put it most succinctly:

Corny spent a lifetime smashing holes in the boundaries of Hollywood animation. He did this with a devastating talent, a good heart, and a devilish wit. No more pain, Corny. Just loving memories. God Bless.

Cole’s death has also spurred some wonderful tributes. Legendary director Bob Kurtz posted Corny’s animation reel:

Also, historian Michael Barrier posted a fantastic interview that he conducted with Corny Cole in 1991. It’s packed with fresh insights about the early years of Corny’s animation career, and especially about working at Warner Bros. For example, I never knew Corny was Abe Levitow’s inspiration for the animation of Daffy Duck in Robin Hood Daffy. In the interview, Corny also offered the following thought about how he felt he differed from his boss Chuck Jones:

[Chuck Jones] was so much into reading, and my artwork was based on what was actually out in the street. I was drawing people on the street, going down to Skid Row and drawing; my idea of art was to draw what was out there, and his idea was that you had to be well-read. I used to have to drive him home, because I was living in Manhattan Beach at the time; he would go visit his mother on Thursdays and Fridays, and stay with his mother down there. So I would drive him home, down to Manhattan Beach, and he would give me a long lecture about reading, that I had to read. I’d argue with him; I’d say, “The art world is out there in the street.” We had arguments on this. Of course, I didn’t read that much, and he didn’t go out and draw from life that much. He was living in this fantasy; he was like Ralph Phillips.

The image at the top of this post shows Corny (at far left) surfing at Malibu in the late-1950s. The photo is from Tom McBride’s website about vintage SoCal surfing.


  • Vineet

    That is one impressive demo reel.

  • http://allofmyheroes.blogspot.com/ jeaux janovsky

    This is great Amid. Thanks for sharing and finding these. RIP Corny.

  • http://www.animationguild.org Steve Kaplan

    Dave Brain wrote a touching remembrance of Corny which we posted on the TAG Blog.

    http://animationguildblog.blogspot.com/2011/08/remembering-cornelius.html

    • bob kurtz

      dave,you wrote a touching true remembrance of our friend corny.you did good!!!

  • Eddy

    I’ve worked in animation for 20 years and I’ve never seen an animator with a six pack.

    You will be missed Corny.

    • eeteed

      that’s because the six pack stays hidden in the desk drawer

  • http://www.gfxalchemist.com/ Eric Oliver

    Corny had this amazing visual mind, and imagination. I remember being blown away when ever I saw anything from Corny. Thank you Bob for providing a reel for all to see a sample of his great work. Thanks for providing the link to the interview with Corny.

  • Sylvia Leduc

    Corny was such an amazing and beyond talented artist. As one of my very close friends, we shared many hours of happiness and creativity together. He never wanted anything for himself but gave to others on a constant basis, sharing his passion for animation, his genius talent and more importantly his wonderful personality and friendship. I will miss him forever as will the people who’s lives he touched. Love you dearly, Corny

  • Carolyn Bates

    Thanks, Amid. Great posting! And, thanks for sharing his reel, Bob. I’d forgotten so much of this. Re: six pack abs –I thought he was really handsome when I met him at Fred Calvert’s in ’73. He was laid back & lanky in a James Taylor sort of way, ambling in wearing flip flops, Hawaiian shirt, straw hat, clutching his old briefcase full of wonderful storyboards for the show. He was the ultimate, cool, surfer art dude.

  • Scarabim

    Hey! Was that the Greedy from Raggedy Ann and Andy?

    • eeteed

      yes, it was.

      if i recall correctly corny animated the amazing pirate ship sequence of raggedy ann and andy virtually by himself.

  • http://www.kustomonsters.com Craig Clark

    Thanks for posting Amid. Corny will be missed, he was one in a million. Rest in peace.

  • James Madison

    Incredible. Wow!

  • http://www.DUCK-WALK.com Marc Deckter

    Thanks for sharing the animation reel and 1991 interview link, Amid.

    Corny was my strongest supporter ever since I first moved to LA and has been an enormous inspiration as an artist, teacher and friend ever since. I am deeply saddened about this news – already miss sitting on the ground with him at CalArts drawing models and their pets, listening to his stories about Emery Hawkins, and having him bark “DRAW GODDAMMIT” to us all – RIP Corny.

  • Matt Crowther

    Corny and my father Duane started Duck Soup back in the 70s, sorry to hear about his passing. I only met him a few times, I remember tales about his surfing.

  • Rufus

    I miss him.

  • David Ingham

    Corny crossed over August 8th, 2011.

    Corny Cole was my older cousin (20+ years senior) and a profoundly enlightening influence in my life. One of the most enjoyable times of my life started when Corny invited me to work with him as Assistant Animator when I was 20…I had no interest in “commercial” art, I was a “fine artist”, but I loved my cousin Corny, so how could I refuse and…it was $150 bucks a week!

    For a short while, I had the joy of drawing Directly on frosted cels with Write Brothers ball points and painting on the back, but mostly, I learned from the “World of Corny”, a magical other realm of possibilities, and from the unconditional acknowledgment and encouragement of one of the most pure artists ever.

    He was a true artist, which could at times bear upon his family and “real” life, but he was lucky to be surrounded be loving people who recognized that he was an eccentric, wonderful, inspiring artistic angel, and we were so blessed by his mastery, humbleness and respect…he was so respectful and uplifting.

    He will live always in my heart.