All About Charlie (Charles) Byrne All About Charlie (Charles) Byrne

We get letters. From Stacey Byrne-Gibbs

My father, who is now 89 years old had two brothers (Tom and Charles / Charlie) who were both cartoonists (they were 14 and 17 years older then him so were original animators). Tom, the oldest one started out at Pat Sullivan studios in NY. Both brothers (Tom and Charlie) moved to LA. Charlie worked at Disney when it was in Glendale or Burbank (I forget which area but the original studio). My aunt (deceased) had several pictures of the old studio with very few employees growing to more employees in the later pictures. I have a repo of one that has just a handfull of employees including Charlie right next to Walt with the old version of Mickey standing up in front of them. Anyways, I know Tom worked for Disney for a short period, then MGM (worked with Hanna and Barbara there before they left and started their own business) and then he worked with Walter Lantz until retirement. Charlie died a long time ago and my dad said he was “the story department” at Disney before it got big. I don’t think he was one of the original pack that is often writtten about but I can’t seem to find any information about him that pertains to his contributions at Disney. Any ideas?

J.B. Kaufman responded:

I don’t have much of anything on Charles Byrne at the Disney studio, but here are some animation credits for him. These are all from 1930-32, and may very well be incomplete. Byrne was evidently one of the junior animators at this point, sometimes part of the junior crews assigned to Ben Sharpsteen, and he tended to get isolated scenes:Arctic Antics (assisting Wilfred Jackson)
The Chain Gang (cow plays pick)
The Gorilla Mystery (Mickey and the duck)
(Mike Barrier has him in The Picnic animating some of Rover (the formative Pluto)
Pioneer Days (Indian runs into woods with Minnie; Mickey follows)
The Castaway (seagulls)
The Delivery Boy (CU of Minnie playing)
The Busy Beavers (LS beavers run for cover)
Mickey Steps Out (Pluto chases cat under the bed)
The Cat’s Nightmare (cat through knothole in fence)
Egyptian Melodies (opening LS: palm trees in the wind)
The Clock Store (mechanical Dutch windmill clock)
The Barnyard Broadcast
The Spider and the Fly (flies carry and fire Flit gun)
The Beach Party
King Neptune (pirates run up mast)Then I lose him. Your correspondent says he was in the story department, and this may be where he stopped animating and went to that department, although I don’t seem to have anything on him there. Then, for some reason, I pick him up in 1937, animating again in Woodland Cafe (dancing snails, grasshoppers, and beetle couple). At any rate, the draft says “Byrne”; maybe this was a different Byrne. I hope this is some helpIf you’re thinking about posting this exchange, I should clarify something that could lead to a misunderstanding. I made a reference to a 1931 cartoon called The Cat’s Nightmare. This is the film that appears in most filmographies as The Cat’s Out. When Russell and I were working on the Silly Symphony book, we found that The Cat’s Out was the working title, and the company still has a vault print carrying that title, but after that the weight of evidence points to The Cat’s Nightmare. As you know, it was copyrighted as The Cat’s Nightmare, and we found that Columbia distribution correspondence invariably referred to it by that title — suggesting that that was the title that appeared onscreen in theatrical showings. In the company’s TV index, the card for that cartoon has Out crossed out and Nightmare substituted. So we went with Nightmare, and that’s the title I automatically come up with.

I asked JB about his forthcoming SILLY SYMPHONIES book. Where is it? Who’s publishing it? His reply:

The Silly Symphony book, thanks for asking, is — as we’ve been saying for many years now — almost finished. I don’t entirely know why, but this one has had a much more difficult journey than Walt in Wonderland. At any rate, although I can’t swear to it, I think we’re in the final stages now and the book should be out in October. Like the other one, it’s to be launched at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Italy. (Of course the Symphonies are sound films, but the book is published by the same people who run the festival and who published Walt in Wonderland, and we’re making the point that the Symphonies extended the aesthetic of silent films — images combined with music — clear through the 1930s.) If there are further changes in the plan, I’ll keep you posted.

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Jerry Beck

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