Monday, July 21, 2008

Charlie Downs, 1927-2008

Charlie Downs
Charlie Downs, from the June 1960 Peg-Board, by Ric Gonzalez

Animator Charles Downs, Local 839's last known living charter member, first Sergeant-At-Arms and a past president and vice-president, passed away the evening of July 21st of heart failure. He was eighty-one years old.

Charlie "Red" Downs (so nicknamed for his hair, not his politics) graduated from Chouinard Art School after wartime naval service, beginning his animation career at Disney in 1951. Part of Ward Kimball's unit, he worked on both Mars and Beyond and Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom. On working for Kimball he related:

"When you worked for Ward, you did everything. Storyboards, designing, backgrounds. And you animated and painted cels.

"One day I showed him a pencil test. He looked at it and said 'Well, it isn't the way I'd do it, but it works. Cut it in' ..."

After nearly 10 years at Disney (where he assisted on Peter Pan, briefly animated on 101 Dalmatians), Downs moved to U.P.A., to animate on The Mr. Magoo Show and Bob Clampett's Snowball Productions, where he animated on The Beany and Cecil Show. Through a large part of the sixties, he animated on Jay Ward projects, principally Ward's Cap'n Crunch commercials. At the same time, he was a lead animator for DePatie-Freleng, also animating for Hanna-Barbera on television and feature projects.

Returning to Disney, Downs worked in Les Clark's educational unit, then worked as a directing animator on Ward Kimball's uncompleted featurette Bingo.

From the 1970s into the 1990s, Downs moved back and forth between television and theatrical productions. A directing animator on Richard Williams' Raggedy Ann and Andy, he also animated on The Black Cauldron, Coonskin, Heidi's Song and Jetsons, the Movie. Between feature assignments, he worked on t.v. episodes ranging from The Flintstones, to Scooby Doo, G.I. Joe and Tiny Toon Adventures.

Downs retired from the industry in 1992, thereafter receiving the Animation Guild's Golden Award. He leaves two daughters, Janette and Lynda, along with two grandchildren.

From Tom Sito's blog.


Floyd Norman said...

I still remember that laugh. Boy, Charlie could laugh.

We spent a lot of time talking when I was still a kid at Disney. I was young and dumb, and Charlie knew it. You could say he was a mentor to a lot of us young Disney artists with pixie dust in our eyes. Charlie taught us about the "Real World of Animation," and I'll always be grateful for that.

I spent a lot of time in Ward Kimball's unit where Charlie worked as an animator, storyman, and practically everything else. Charlie was right. In Kimball's unit you did everything.

I have a hard time picturing Charlie as an old man. To me he'll always be that "bad boy" with the funny laugh and the red hair. One of Disney's best and a true loss to this crazy, wonderful business.

Anonymous said...

When I got into the biz in the early seventies I worked for Ron Campbell, mainly subcontracting footage from Hanna-Barbera. Charlie was one of the old guys who were in and out of the studio. The old timers were rough on us new little inbetweeners but Charlie always had a smile and a kind word. Other people can speak about his undoubted skill and talent but I'll always remember him as a nice guy with a great sense of humor. He didnt take himself too seriously. One time Ralph Bakshi asked him if he used squash and stretch when he animated and he replied, "Gee no Ralph, what's that?" I worked down the hall from him on 'Rock Odyssey' as Hanna became more and more angry about what the film was looking like. Charlie never let Hanna get his goat-- something few people can say. He had charm, he had class.He was one of the greats.I'm sad to hear that he is dead.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Charlie had a sense of humor.

When Jayne Barbera got married (she was working as an exec and supervisor at H-B at the time), Charlie asked her what her name was now.

She looked at him and said: "Jayne BARBERA."

Charlie instantly replied. "Oh. And how's Mr. Barbera?"

Jayne was not amused.

Andy Norton said...

Charles Downs had an extraordinary career. He worked on various projects and for various studios for many decades.

He has left a rich variety of animated works, ranging from commercials to shorts, to films and TV animation.

I hope to look out for his name the next I stumble on any works he was involved in.

Site Meter