Earl Kress, animation writer and historian and Vice-President of the Animation Guild, passed away September 19 of liver cancer, a month past his sixtieth birthday.
Since 1975 he worked for DePatie-Freleng, Disney, Hanna-Barbera, Marvel, Filmation, Universal and Warners Bros.
Earl was a true Renaissance man of animation. He won two Emmy Awards and an Annie Award for writing episodes of Pinky and the Brain for Warner Bros., and was nominated for an episode of Animaniacs. He wrote the last Road Runner short, Little Go Beep. He produced several DVDs of Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros. classic cartoons, and wrote comic books for The Simpsons and Looney Tunes.
Among the series for which he wrote were Transformers, Pound Puppies, Taz-Mania and Baby Looney Tunes. He collaborated with Mark Evanier on June Foray’s autobiography, and contributed to the special features of many DVDs such as thr recent Top Cat. He also worked as a voice actor and as a puppeteer for the Muppets.
Earl joined the TAG Executive Board in 1995 and was elected Vice-President in 2004. As a union officer he was known as a tireless champion of animation writers’ rights. In the 2006 contract negotiations, Earl championed a proposal to guarantee health benefits for any writer who wrote at least one half-hour script in a coverage period, thus greatly increasing benefit coverage for freelance animation writers,
Services are pending; we will post when they are announced.
Earl Kress was the guy I knew longest in the animation business.
When I started at Disney, he was already on staff, working on “The Fox and the Hound.” For the first year I was there, his office was next to mine on the third floor of the old animation building. I was in a space the size of a broom closet. Since Earl was the senior guy, he occupied the office with the square footage of one-and-a-half broom closets.
Years later, Mr. Kress and I were both freelancing for Warner Bros. Animation at the same time when the studio was launching "Tiny Toon Adventures." Shortly thereafter, I abandoned the writing game and became Business Representative for Local 839, but Earl stuck with his first love of creating animated cartoons. It wasn’t long before he was on the WBA staff full-time, writing "Pinky and the Brain" and winning Emmys.
And it wasn’t long after that Earl became a board member of The Animation Guild, and then Vice-President. He was on the TAG negotiating committee every time negotiations rolled around, adding his passion and expertise. (As noted above, the fact that animation writers under TAG can write two half-hour shows and qualify for health benefits AND a qualified pension year is largely due to Mr. Kress, who pushed for improvements in writers’ benefits and wages tenaciously and energetically.)
Earl kept writing almost to the very end of his life. His devoted wife Denise told me that even after he fell ill, he was still in the game, waiting to hear back from producers on an outline he’d completed. He left us way too soon, but the fact that he continued as a professional writer from his entry into the business in 1975 to 2011 is cause for celebration. Very few talents stay employed for thirty-five years in a field they love, particularly when the field is the movie business. But Earl made it happen.
Wherever you are now, Mr. Kress, I expect you’re doing funny voices for the other angels, and writing funny dialogue. And telling the winged denizens about the history of the cartoon business that you had such a hand in shaping.
-- Steve Hulett