Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera liked to tell the story about how all the main people involved with them in making cartoons at MGM merrily joined them at their new TV animation studio. Well, not everyone tagged along with them in 1957. Animators Jim Escalante and Ken Southworth did not and neither did the unneeded assistant animators. Of course, musician Scott Bradley didn’t for obvious reasons. And another one who didn’t was Lovell Norman.
Norman spent a good 20-plus years in the animation business but his credits are few. That’s because he was in the sound department and the sound guys never did get credit at MGM. It’s a shame because Fred McAlpin, who started the department in 1937, Greg Watson (who did go to Hanna-Barbera) and Norman were the ones who built the studio’s sound effects library, some of which found its way into the old Hanna-Barbera cartoons. He’s credited on an occasional Chuck Jones-produced Tom and Jerry (on compilation shorts using old MGM footage) and on the seemingly-immortal “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
The Kingman Daily Miner in Arizona published a feature story on Lovell and his wife Estelle on September 2, 1992. It’s a shame you can’t see the early ‘50s-era Tom and Jerry model sheets being held up in the photo accompanying the story.
Couple built career on cartoons
By K.M. Hall
Miner Staff Writer
Kingman residents Lovell and Estelle Norman get a Christmas card every year from Bill Hanna from Hanna and Barbera cartoon fame.
No, they aren’t relatives of the Tom and Jerry creator, but they did work for him for years in Hollywood.
As a matter of fact, Lovell put in almost 40 years working for such companies as Columbia and MGM, doing a variety of jobs, including drawing, photographing and editing cartoons and creating sound effects.
When he worked with Hanna, Hanna and Barbera worked under the auspices of MGM, Lovell, 79, said.
“When they closed the cartoon department at MGM, Hanna and Barbera started on their own and I got an offer to work for them. I got a job in sound effects on the main lot at MGM instead,” Lovell said.
Lovell’s whole odyssey in the business began in 1934 when his good friend and animator Emery Hawkins got him started in cartooning.
According to Lovell, Hawkins was one of the best animators in the business and his work is still looked up to.
Coincidentally, famous movie actor and Kingman resident Andy Devine used to baby sit Hawkins when Devine lived here, Estelle, 74, said.
Lovell got Estelle a job painting the cartoons onto transparent cells after she graduated from high school. It was a career she kept for at least eight years, including years spent working for Hanna-Barbera and MGM.
Some of the cartoons the Normans worked on together included Tom and Jerry, Droopy and Barney Bear. Estelle also worked for the company that created Woody Woodpecker.
Surprisingly enough, the career Lovell enjoyed the most was not the cartooning, but doing sound effects.
“It was the most fun and the most challenging because we had a very efficient crew and our services were sought out,” Lovell said. “I don’t know anything about sound, though. I just know how to make it.”
A lot of times his services were sought by other film companies to make noises many thought impossible to make.
In Rod Taylor’s movie “The Time Machine” Lovell helped design the sounds of the creatures. The sounds are actually the squealing of pigs slowed down and put into a reverb chamber.
The Normans had a great deal of fun when they worked at the studios.
The Normans have souvenirs of their Hollywood years, including sheets of Tom and Jerry Cartoons, but they also have two Oscar-type awards for best sound editing that Lowell helped win for his work in two classic motion pictures—“Ben Hur” in 1959 and “Mutiny on the Bounty” in 1962.
Lovell Burch Norman was born in Oklahoma in November 12, 1912 to Lester Claude and Margaret March (Mallet) Norman. By 1920, the family was living in Spokane and seven years later, they were in Los Angeles where his dad was a mailman. After retiring, Lovell and Estelle apparently had a place in Florida. He died in Lincolnville, Maine on August 5, 2000.