Monday, 7 July 2014

Scent For Armstrong

A faux UPA background from a faux Chuck Jones cartoon greets viewers at the start of “Really Scent” (released 1959). You can click on the picture to enlarge it.

In this case, the cartoon was directed by Abe Levitow with members of Jones’ unit. Phil De Guard painted the backgrounds, while Sam Armstrong handled the layouts. The book Washington State Art and Artists (Trip/Cook, 1992) contains a brief biography of Armstrong; the rest is snipped from other sources.

Samuel John Armstrong was born in Denver on November 7, 1893 to John and Nettie (Williams) Armstrong. His father was a travelling salesman. By 1900, the family was in San Francisco. Armstrong studied art at the Philadelphia School of Industrial Art, Rochester (NY) Mechanics' Art Institute and under J.L. Ferris and Albert Hurter. In 1917, he was a photographer for the Los Angeles Express Tribune. He lived in Tacoma from 1918 to 1929, where he was employed as the art editor for the News Tribune. In 1923, he founded the Armstrong School of Art in Tacoma. By the 1930s, he had moved to Santa Barbera where he painted a mural for Amy C. du Pont’s home in nearby Montecito. Other mural work included the Ferry Museum (Tacoma); Temple of Justice (Olympia, WA); Fox Arlington Theatre (Santa Barbara); Doheny Library (USC). His work was exhibited at the Pacific NW Expo, Seattle, 1927 (1st prize); Santa Barbara Art League, 1930s; NW Independent Salon (Seattle), 1928 (3rd prize) and Gardena (CA) High School, 1933.

Armstrong joined Disney in 1934 and eventually worked on the early features, including the Nutcracker Suite in “Fantasia.” He seems to have left around the time of the strike. Armstrong designed covers for Sunset magazine and drew backgrounds for a number of books featuring animated cartoon characters. His tenure at Warners was brief; a few cartoons in the late ‘50s. Armstrong apparently died in Los Angeles on January 24, 1977; there are conflicting dates depending on the source.

A late P.S. – Edward Cox of New Orleans sent me this note about the background: “And what a lovely stylized version of Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral and other aspects of our French Quarters all rolled into a fantasia of New Orleans shapes and colors.”

1 comment:

  1. Sam Armstrong was a background painter on Snow White, and on Fantasia he directed Tocatta and Fugue, The Nutcracker Suite and the live-action sequences. I guess he was the first person who Disney trusted with directing live-action, but he doesn't seem to have broken into live-action films.