Monday 10 October 2011

Thanksgiving With Irv Spence

It is said on the internet, and the internet is never wrong, that buried in this scene of Tex Avery’s ‘Jerky Turkey’ (1945) are caricatures of members of the MGM animation units. I can only pick out one with any certainty. The pilgrim on the far left (and again under ‘Ye Vine’ sign) is Irv Spence.

Irven Leroy Spence needs no introduction if you’re a fan of the Golden Age of Theatrical Animation. His career in animation spanned almost 60 years, and he worked with Avery three times—once at Warners in the later ‘30s, then twice at MGM in the ‘40s before being parked in the Hanna-Barbera unit to handle many action scenes on Tom and Jerry cartoons. He ended up at the Hanna-Barbera studio around 1964 and stayed for a number of years (he and Hanna had gone to high school together).

Spence caricatured himself better than whoever did here (whether Ben Shenkman was at MGM at this point, I don’t know). Spence drew a daily diary in 1944 and it’s been on the internet for awhile. You can find the drawings at the Filboid Studge site. You’ve got to love Spence’s sense of composition, especially in the drawings of him golfing with Ed Barge.

As a public service for all animation fans, Thad Komorowski has compiled a “reel” of some of Spence’s best work at Warners, MGM and Iwerks.

Spence suffered from Alzheimer’s in his later years. He died in Dallas on September 21, 1995, age 86.


  1. Irv Spence had Alzheimer’s? Didn't know that. Perhaps thats how he was convinced to work on that horrendous "Tom and Jerry the movie" in the 1990s!

  2. According to Martha Sigall, and she knew Spence and his wife.

  3. Good one Zartok :)

    Irv Spence was known for his rather off-model scenes, but the movement meant a lot to him which was great. The cartoon diary of 1944, was very interesting. He's one of my favorites in the Golden Age. Apparently, his career started as early on Flip the Frog with Ub Iwerks.

    Zartok, I guess that he worked on "Tom and Jerry the Movie" because it was Tom and Jerry and he wanted to do it again. Maybe he was given scenes of the fun stuff before the awful, "friends" scenes take place up to the end of the film.