Classy 1930s Animators

Fritz Willis and Leo Salkin

I stumbled upon this scan tonight and had to share. It’s a photo taken in 1936 by Ed Benedict at Walter Lantz Productions. It’s pure class, and at the height of the Depression no less. From left to right are Jack Dunham, who sadly ended up homeless in Montreal a few years back; Fritz Willis, who went on to become a famous pin-up artist; and Leo Salkin, who enjoyed a long animation career as a writer and storyboard artist. Fast forward 75 years, and the fashion evolution of the animator is not a pretty sight.


  • Old Man Father Time

    I tried to find out what was ‘classy’ about these guys in the photo, but other than them wearing casual slacks and sweaters, not much. Can’t the same kind of person wear sweaters AND T-shirts?! Forgive me but I can’t really see the point of this point.

  • http://zeteos.blogspot.com/ mick

    It’s classy because it’s classic. It is beyond the whims of fickle fashion. You could wear that same clobber today and you’d appear just as sharp as them lads back then. Fashion is for morons, take a look around.

    I blame the hipsters

    • http://pickledperfection.blogspot.com Andrea

      People are wearing a hell of a lot more clothes than they are watching animation. They’re paying lots of money for lots of clothes as well. Disregarding fashion is as ignorant as an adult saying that “cartoons are for kids”. If you put the clothes on today that the men in the photo are wearing, you would not look classy, rather costumed and dated. Disregarding fashion is equivalent to disregarding painting or sculpture or any form of artistic expression.

      • http://zeteos.blogspot.com/ mick

        People are wearing a hell of a lot more clothes than they are watching animation

        thank you

      • axolotl

        Clothes and fashion aren’t really the same thing, though…Fashion seems to be mostly arbitrary restrictions on what people should be wearing at any given time. Also a source of anguish for teenagers.=p Why shouldn’t people just do what they want?

      • axolotl

        PS, I’m not saying the guys in the second pic look good or anything. They should probably hit the gym.

      • http://zeteos.blogspot.com/ mick

        Surely we should seek our own personal style. Fashion is an insidious invention that basically says ‘Pay us to tell you what to wear’. It is indefensible.

  • http://www.animatorisland.com/ J.K. Riki

    Well they say animation reflects society from when it was created, and I guess in this instance animator fashion does as well. :P

  • Morongo

    This photo could be wall decor at Abercrombie and Fitch, except all three guys would have to be naked.

  • The Gee

    It’s a nice photo. And it is nice to see nice, high contrast B/W photos on this wonderful cartoon blog.

    But, your telling me that we should focus on the Fashion? ffft!

    The unspoken wonder of that photo is Fritz Willis’ unbelievably long right arm!

    It just brings up more questions than answers. And, quite honestly, it is to early to wonder why about anything.

    • Jonah

      I noticed that too, but it’s just an optical illusion. The forearm belongs to Leo. :)

  • http://www.cartoonsolutions.com Ryan Simmons

    Really, fashion? It’s not about what they wear, it’s about what they make/produce/create.

  • http://web.mac.com/nquebedeau/Norman_Quebedeau/Welcome.html Norman Quebedeau

    The snapshot of today’s animators is a rarity: Not one of them has their tongue hanging out and “bugout” eyes for the camera, no Hawaiian shirts. Those guys are downright stodgy.

  • http://www.adamoliver.com Adam

    Nostalgia much? I do like it, but it’s just a personal opinion of something I never experienced first hand, so it no doubt will always be through rose tinted glasses.

    That link to the guys in t shirts is not really that bad, I think what you’re really broaching on is why are people so unhealthy these days? That not just animators…society in general! We don’t do much, we get fat. I understand animation can be the kind of job that leads to poor physical health, but it doesn’t need to be. I miss team sports at lunch, that’s all..!

    This gets on my wick more than any other animation attire that I see people in though: http://bit.ly/A6kLCJ

  • http://metcalflovesyou.com Arthur Metcalf

    Fascinating post, Amid! I’m curious what your thought process is like when you decide to publicly bully likely readers? Have you run short on pictures of Ward Kimball playing with trains? Can’t think of a new angle from which to dump on mainstream films? Or just needed a little pick-me-up on a dreary winter’s night?

    • amid

      For a guy whose website address is MetcalfLovesYou.com, I’m not sensing a lot of love in your comment. But I still love you.

      • http://metcalflovesyou.com Arthur Metcalf

        Amid, you’ve picked on some guys who’ve done nothing wrong and invited readers like Adam to pile on for the hell of it. If those guys are animation fans, it’s likely they’ll see this article, recognize themselves and feel bad. “Classy” has multiple meanings, dressing well is the least of them.

        And no, I have no love for bullies.

      • http://www.adamoliver.com Adam

        Taking it a little too serious I think! I don’t think those guys will mind that they don’t wear suits…it’s meant to be a comparison, isn’t it?

        Surely there are things you have opinions on..? The world is a very public place because of the internet, let’s not run for the moral high ground on a few pictures and comments.

  • http://www.cartoonretro.com Shane Glines

    Isn’t it all design?

    It seems kind of strange that artists interested in art, design, shape color and proportion wouldn’t be interested in nice clothes and shoes.

    • http://www.bencanfield.com Ben

      This is exactly what I came in here to say.

      It’s a package.

    • Dino

      You must be kidding. Do you actually know any artists? A good many of us don’t give a flying f about “nice clothes and shoes,” however strange that seems to you.

      • http://www.shaneglines.net Shane Glines

        I know a couple of artists. Many of the better ones admire all kinds of good design- furniture and auto, classic architecture, and even nice clothing.

        I agree that many of you “don’t give a flying f about “nice clothes and shoes,” – or any other kind of aesthetic appeal because I see the proof everywhere I look.

      • The Gee

        There’s a chance what he’s trying to say is:
        that For Him, or For Some Artists, it isn’t about looking snazzy in what is worn.
        The absent minded genius thing…or an artist thing….

        But, even for a artist who isn’t a snazzy dresser, coifed to the nines and all that,
        as a visual person they should appreciate niceties on some level, if only to be more aware and informed. Most of us are gonna draw, paint or sculpt people wearing clothes every once in a while.
        —-
        If he *IS* generally and outright dissing fashion or chic or whatever, hopefully that doesn’ t show up in his art in a bad way.

  • http://blackwingdiaries.blogspot.com Jenny

    Never seen a candid of a young Fritz Willis before. How neat. Love his work.

    At Dreamworks there’s an animator named Tyler Phillips. From all appearances he dresses for a circa 1918 look every day of the week. Unusual, yes-but he owns it and it’s a visual breath of fresh air to see someone look this sharp on campus: http://www.animationmentor.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Alumni-Tyler-Philips.jpg

    Sure, it’s “retro”, but it also looks terrific. I say this as a longterm member of the tshirt and jeans crowd.

  • http://whataboutthad.com Thad

    Yeah, dem were the gold ol’ days. Then again, brilliant storyman Heck Allen looks like he has more in common with the photo taken at Comic-Con, and he actually had his name attached to some funny cartoons. Same with these guys. Thanks for the history lesson.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/ariville Ariel

    LOL! The fashion evolution of today’s SOCIETY doesn’t measure up to the classy ’30′s I’d say ;)

    Classy photo though. Thanks for sharing!

  • Jorge Garrido

    Salvador Dali, Clark Gable and Billy Wilder.

  • victoria

    Clothes aside, the 30′s animators look a little better to me cause they are clean shaven, thats all.

  • Brian O.

    There’s a lot of fashionably-dressed executives running animation into the ground, too.

  • Gray64

    I agree that these fellas look sharp but, for the ’30′s, that’s the kind of stuff you wore to clean out your garage.

  • http://juanmanimation.blogspot.com Juanma

    Funny you should mention it. I´m not alone then, someone else had noticed it too:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/58772833@N04/6065810408/

  • Marian

    Thanks for sharing this great group of Gentleman, that made my Saturday mornings great, Great Class and talent in this photo. Just love this site and bringing back many, many happy Childhood memories….

  • Kevin

    Man Amid, I hope you don’t get too discouraged by some of these bum hole troll comments. I think most of us get what you were posting about. Deja does the same with his blog and those great old Disney photos.