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Earl Kress (1951-2011)

That’s Earl Kress (above left) with me at the Van Eaton Galleries in May 2010.

My friend, animation writer and Hanna-Barbera historian par excellence, Earl Kress passed away early this morning, succumbing to liver cancer. He had just turned 60 years old.

Earl’s credits are so numerous – I don’t know where to begin. For theaters he worked on story for Disney’s The Fox and The Hound, and the great Looney Tunes short Little Go Beep. In comic books, Earl penned many stories for Hanna-Barbera as well as The Simpsons for Bongo Comics and Looney Tunes for DC. The list of his television credits is too large to recount here (check IMDB), but highlights include various episodes of Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, Tom & Jerry Tales – not to mention a pilot I produced called Hornswiggle.

He was also a devoted animation historian, and he produced several DVD and CD compilations that are indispensable: His Rhino Records’ Pic-a-nic Basket of Cartoon Classics and Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Sound FX are important preservations of these classic television soundtracks. His expertise made Warner Home Video’s Hanna Barbera DVDs as great as they could be: The Flintstones – Seasons 2, 4, 5 and 6, Top Cat – The Complete Series, Wacky Races, Huckleberry Hound – Volume 1, Yogi Bear – The Complete Series and Magilla Gorilla – The Complete Series. Without Earl, The Flintstones laser disc that John K. organized would not have been half as good.

Earl also served as a Vice President of the Animation Guild and was a founding member of the Writers Guild Animation Caucus.

But of course, Earl was more than a great writer and historian – he was a true friend and a great lunch buddy. He really helped me out on more than one occasion, eagerly sharing his knowledge and film collection when I needed help on several of my books regarding Looney Tunes and Hanna Barbera. His work on Hornswiggle and several other projects we did together was top notch, and thoroughly professional. That’s what he was – a top professional and one of the good guys – make that one of the best guys – in the business.

I’ll mourn his loss. This is a very sad day. He will be sorely missed. Rest in Peace, my friend.

POST SCRIPT: Internet radio program Stu’s Show aired a tribute to Earl Kress on Monday with Mark Evanier and I sharing our memories. It is available to download at no cost for the next two weeks. Scroll down near the bottom of Stu’s main page to locate the link.

  • Steve Gattuso

    I remember meeting him a few times at various events. A very nice person who will be missed.

  • Bill

    I liked Earl a lot. He will be missed. My deepest sympathies to Denise.

  • Earl was a terrific person and a brilliantly creative guy! My condolences go out to Denise….

  • Dave Alvarez

    It was an honor working in the comics with you, sir. You will be missed. Thank you for all your tales and advice.

  • This is indeed a sad loss, not only for those of us who can treasure the time and love of animation with Earl, but also for the vast knowledge he had of animation, particularly Hanna-Barbera. You knew when it was an Earl script on a cartoon because it was so lovingly and reverently — and funnily — faithful to the source material.

    His fine work lives on — it was so wonderful to see his name on the opening titles of Fox and the Hound. And say what you want about direct-to-DVD releases, Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes was a feast for MGM animation fans. Everything he did for Rhino Records is golden and most of it would not be there for us otherwise. Who would have believed, as a kid, that you could have the background music to shows like “The Jetsons” and “Jonny Quest?” And if you haven’t heard his “The Flintstones Story,” released only on cassette, it’s a love letter to the show, with Earl doing some of the voice work, too.

    He left us far, far too soon. But he left us rich with what he created, archived, studied and shared.

    I’ll bet Daws is glad to see him again.

  • With his incredible output, Earl made a difference like few others in our field. He’ll really be missed—even, unknowingly, by those who wish certain products were as good as they used to be, and don’t realize he made them that way.

  • Tom Minton

    Earl was an experienced, talented writer and, more importantly, a genuinely decent human being. He will be missed.

  • Kirk

    Jerry! Sorry for the loss of your friend. Lots of obits these days, it seems.

    On another note, did you see the cover to the Sunday NY Times? The cover story involves the attempt to integrate autistic young adults into the working world, and focuses on an autistic young man who has a passion for cartooning. The Times printed a detail of two pages of a ruled notebook filled with ink sketches which average about a 1/4th of an inch high! This kid has filled these pages with everything from Mickey Mouse (middle period), characters from Avery’s King Size Canary, Blitz Wolf, Northwest Hounded Police, as well as Homer Simpson, and Sesame Street, Br’er Bear from song of the South -etcetry, etcetry. It’s pretty wonderful stuff. The lad has done his homework, and contrary to most hardline cartoon nostalgists, he embraces contemporary cartoons indiscriminantly, it seems. Unfortunately, this artist would most likely be unable to function in the field of commercial animation. I would hope he would continue to be able to draw freely, and perhaps sell his works for what they are: marvelous, obsessive drawings.

  • Anthony D.

    He was one of the good ones. RIP. :(

  • Mike Kazaleh

    Earl was a wonderful person. I’m thankful for the all conversations we had. I can’t believe he’s gone.

  • Greg Chenoweth

    Boy, Earl Kress was a great advocate for all of us Hanna-Barbera fans on how these cartoons should be treated on DVD. I still think that the complete Top Cat box set was the best of the bunch. Not only were the shows complete, but all of the bonus features and a rebuilt end credit that tried to give homage to all the people that worked on the show.

    Earl, you will be missed, and I absolutely loved your Yogi Bear book that came out to tie in with the Warner Brothers 3-D feature. Enjoy your renewed time with Daws Butler and Don Messick; you’ve earned it.

  • Bob Bergen

    So, so sad! Such a sweet, talented person. Earl and I both studied with Daws Butler together for many years. I will miss his passion for this business, and his passion for life. Truly a terrific guy!

  • My pal Earl Kress is gone, dammit. He was a sweet, knowledgeable, multi-talented fella who was a bit quiet and understated but always struck me as a man of incredible inner strength. I loved and respected Earl as a person but what impressed me the most about him was, although he hadn’t drawn much since he was young, Earl the “righter” (as he sometimes spelled “writer” as a joke) thought like a cartoonist, and a very funny one at that. I hope Earl knew how much we’ll all miss him.

  • Rusty Mills

    Wow, Hard to believe Earl is gone. I came on here this morning and saw this headline. He was a real friend and I enjoyed working with him for many years. He is a true talent (I say is because so much of his work will live on for ever).
    Thanks Earl! we’ll miss you.

  • Mark Walton

    A fine tribute to an exceptional man who contributed much valuable work and plussed the presentation of even more great material by others – well done, Jerry. So sorry for the loss of your friend – a loss to animation fans everywhere.

  • I remember watching a DVD extra in which Mr. Kress talked about writing for the Transformers. It was an informative and intelligent interview with a writer who really seemed to care about the quality of his work. I’m sorry he’s gone.

  • So sorry to hear this news. Those of us at GoldenAgeCartoons send our condolences and prayers to his family and many, many friends.

  • Our Friday noontime conversations were the best, and Earl always had a funny story to tell in his own understated manner. Fridays will never be the same. Thanks for the good times, Earl.

  • mike schlesinger

    He was one of the first people I knew when I moved out here in 1981 (gasp, 30 years ago). An enormous shock, as I hadn’t even known he was ill. What a sadness…

  • Oh man, this news truly shocked me upon reading it this morning. I only knew Earl in brief correspondences, but I felt that Earl was there in spirit, always willing to give out answers to some of my usually obsessive bits of trivia with a question mark! If the remainder of the earliest Hanna-Barbera TV cartoons ever see the light of day on DVD, I sure hope that there are still more bits and pieces that Earl Kress might have recorded as background or commentary in anticipation of those projects. Earl, you are a legend and a gentleman…and a true talent. I know I’ll miss your expertise!

  • Earl was a great writer who gave all his spare time in the service of the animation community. He was The Guild’s Vice President, and worked for the Anim Writers Caucus of the WGA and supported ASIFA events. None of this stress and extra labor ever benefited him a dime. He could have just sat on his ass in front of the TV and complained about things. But he did it all because he believed that kind of work helped us as a whole.

    Some love their family, some their neighborhood, some love their Church. To Earl Kress the Art of Animation was his family, his community and his church. We are all better because of him. Rest in Peace, friend.

  • I can’t beleive he’s gone. All of those episodes of “Stu’s Show” where he talked (and read studio e-mails written by me) and HE’S GONE. Now all we got is Jerry Beck to rely on. Warner Home Video will have a difficuilt time having a consultant for any future H-B releases.

    Now, whenever surviving voice actors of Hanna-Barbera shows discuss their experience (like “Josie and the Pussycats” did), there’s NO Hanna-Barbera historian, to talk with. Bill and Joe was (and now, is), there to talk Hanna-Barbera with him.

    I have the Yogi Bear complete series DVD, and now it’d be tougher to get clearence from the Battle Creek-based foodmaker to show old Kellogg’s commercials from various sources ALL BECAUSE EARL ISN’T THERE!

    Not only that, but he wrote stuff for Animaniacs.

    Including “Taming Of The Screwy”, and “Jokahontas”!

    He wrote for a lot of my favorite Silver Age WB cartoons.

    And not to mention Hornswiggle. I wonder who wrote the “restraining order from Zantar” joke, Earl or Jerry?

    Jerry Beck did Hornswiggle with him, and as a Sidney reboot! Even with a few changes, you know how STUBBBORN VIACOM IS TO REBOOT A TERRYTOON THESE DAYS?

  • Chris Sobieniak

    I’ll certainly miss him.

  • I was so sad to hear of Earl’s condition several months ago, but constantly felt that he would pull through it. His loss has hit my wife and me like a ton of bricks. Earl was a great friend and puppeteer. We here planning to work together on a film that we’ve been working on for the last couple of years (Earl was one to be one of the lead puppeteers), but sadly this just wasn’t meant to be. I’ll always treasure the input he gave to the project and the life he brought to it and everything he’s ever been associated with — or interested in — over the years. The cast and crew have decided that our film will be dedicated in his memory.

  • So long, gentle Earl. For a man with so much talent, Earl was always soft-spoken and understated. He was actually a shy person who changed into a performing extrovert when doing voice acting or puppeteering. I loved the extras he did on the Top Cat DVD, and have been a loyal subscriber to the DC Looney Tunes book, mainly to keep up with Earl’s funny writing and Dave Alvarez’s loose and energetic cartooning. Earl was so self-effacing that you could easily take him for granted. We’ll all miss him as he slips away from the cartoon scene he loved so much.

  • C. Stulz

    I met Earl only once, but we talked now again on the Muppet Central forums where he was known as “Was Once Ernie”. Many may not know this but in addition to being an animation Historian we was also a huge fan of Jim Henson and the Muppets and gave himself the “Was Once Ernie” moniker do to the fact that he operated Ernie during the final scene in “The Muppet Movie”.

    His knowledge and candor of both the animation and Muppet world will be missed.

    RIP Earl!

    His story of his time during “The Muppet Movie” can be read here:

  • James Ciambor

    Why does the Grim Reaper keep robbing us of industry greats? Earl was a Hanna Barbera historian extraordinaire, can’t name anyone who has a more profound understanding of Hanna Barbera history.

  • This is very sad news. I worked with Earl about 5-6 years ago where he helped write a draft of a show bible and episode outlines for a TV series I was creating with Cartoon Network UK and he was an absolute joy to work with – always professional and always very very funny.

  • Sounds like he was integral in alot of my favorite stuff. :(

  • A great talent and a great guy. We’ll miss you Earl.

  • Funkybat

    Very sad to hear of the passing of this talented man who helped to both create and preserve the legacy of animated cartoons. We need more of his kind in this world. I hope he is at peace.

  • Eric Homan

    This is such sad news. Just this past weekend I was emailing someone Earl Kress was not only the primary source of Hanna-Barbera information but also the nicest man you could hope to meet. Phoning him always raised the question, “Will I get Earl or Gene Chandler?” Either result was special. My sincere condolences to Denise.

  • Animation could sure use an awful lot more like him. TO absent friends… <:,^(

  • Inkan1969

    How terrible. :-( I followed the read news groups very closely during the ’90’s. Mr. Kress was working on “Animaniacs” back then. I remember him posting about the show every now and then on the newsgroups. My deepest sympathies to his family.

  • It’s hard to believe Earl is gone. The way I found out about his personal hell was when I saw him joking about it. That shows you how pure a comedy writer Earl was. An amazing talent who gave everything he had to an industry that was too stupid to utilize him to his fullest potential. My heart goes out to Denise. R.I.P.

  • Rob Davies

    Was I ever shocked to hear the news, on local Vancouver radio of all places! That shows you how many people were positively affected and influenced by Earl. What reach! Truly a humble but major contributor to this generation of animation. It was a privilege to have worked with him at Warner Brothers and although I am saddened by his passing I am happy to have met him.

  • Mark Evanier has posted on his blog:

    “Getting back to Earl: There will be a funeral and memorial service this coming Friday, September 23 commencing at Noon at Forest Lawn in the Hollywood Hills. It’s at The Old North Church , a location that is sadly familiar to folks in the animation community. Earl and I said goodbye there to lots of cartoon folks who were loved and admired. If you knew Earl, come and say goodbye to another.”


  • Pedro Nakama

    Very sad. I met him at a union meeting years ago.

  • Martin Molitz

    I met Earl Kress by accident…seriously. I was supposed to take my freshman orientation at Temple University in June of 1969. On the day driving there from home, I had a bad tire blowout and totally missed that session. HOWEVER…I was able to go to the next week’s session and I sat next to Earl and we became lifelong friends. We did What’s Up With Dr. K; a pilot we shot and tried to shop. We tried to be a stand-up team before stand-up was a career destination!. He went all the way west. I went to Detroit, first as a musician and then as an Ad Man.
    There wasn’t one time when we were together that we didn’t make each other laugh until tears streamed down our faces. Even the most obscure joke references would convulse us. He was a kind, sweet mensch and I miss him very much.