Tuesday 25 October 2011

Garden Gopher

Tex Avery sure loved those toothy takes, didn’t he?

This one is from ‘Garden Gopher’, released in 1950. The credited animators were Mike Lah, Grant Simmons and Walt Clinton. Simmons is responsible for the wildness here where Spike tests a hot pepper that had no effect on the gopher he miserably failed to catch. But on him...

Avery-dissector Kevin Langley explains:

Well with Spike Simmons usually draws those toothy grins and he draws Spike's feet entirely different than Michael Lah. Overall though his animation seems a lot more elastic than the other two.

Simmons arrived in Tex Avery’s MGM unit by way of Columbia, where he worked on some really thankless trying-to-be-Warners cartoons toward the end of the ‘40s. His first Avery cartoon was ‘Little ‘Tinker’ (1948) and his last was ‘The Last Bad Man’ (1955). By then he and Ray Patterson had packed up from MGM and opened Grantray-Lawrence with New York producer Bob Lawrence. The studio worked on two very enjoyable theatricals for Walter Lantz (both released in 1954). His name also appears on some Dick Tracys and Mr. Magoos made-for-TV by UPA, so it would appear those cartoons were done under sub-contract to Grantray-Lawrence. His company’s last hurrah was the 1967 Spider-Man show for ABC. After Spidey couldn’t save the studio from drowning in red ink, Simmons picked up some work directing for DePatie-Freleng.

Prior to all this, he was hired by the Walt Disney studio where he first met Patterson. According to Disneyshorts.org, animator drafts show him working on ‘Officer Donald’ (1939). No doubt the highlight of his career at Disney was ‘Fantasia.’

Grant Alden Simmons was born November 11, 1912 in Pima, Arizona to Wallace and Willmirth (Hundley) Simmons, one of six children. His father was a carpenter who arrived in Los Angeles by 1927. He went into banking as a teenager and his 1937 marriage certificate lists his occupation as a bank clerk. He died in Los Angeles on October 31, 1970, only 57 years old.


  1. I can't help but notice that Grant held his poses more than Clint and Lah did.

  2. Grant's got some wonderful, silly animation. Just perfect for Avery in his heyday. :D

  3. His stint at DePatie-Freleng was really short. His name showed up in 1969, directing on "Here Comes the Grump". Then he directed several episodes of the "Dr. Dolittle" show. Plus two theatrical shorts, "Hop and Chop" (Tijuana Toads) and "The Foul Kin" (Roland and Rattfink), both 1970.

    "Dolittle" debuted on September of 1970. Simmons died the following month. His name is listed in six of the episodes (they credited individual directors under the episode title; each ep. had two directors).

    Do you know what killed Simmons? Was it a long-term illness or something out of nowhere like a heart attack?

  4. No, Charles, I don't know. I haven't found an obit and I'm not in California to root through death certificates.