Saturday, 24 November 2012

He Helped Make Tom Scream

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 MacAlpin, who started the department in 1937, Jim Faris, 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.


  1. Most enlightening! - And I know it's a typo... But "Ben Hurt" would be a great cartoon title.

  2. This is great! I never knew you did the sound FX for MGM.

  3. I didn't realize how far back Norman's MGM credits went (also, using MGM cartoon yells and SFX during the chariot scene in "Ben Hur" would have truly been an interesting experiment in sound cutting, though it probably would have cost the film at least one of it's Oscar nominations...)

  4. Martin, thanks. I assume the mistake was mine. I no longer have access to any of the newspaper stories I've posted on the blog to check (the post was actually written four months ago and archived to be posted on this date).
    J.L., I found this interview while hunting for stuff on Emery Hawkins and knew nothing about Norman's past.

  5. So than Lovell Norman was the one, not Bill Hanna, doing all those OOCHES and the classic YEEEEEAGH (which found its way into the uber-inspid 1992 Mirxamax(!!) TOM AND JERYR MOVIE)? Wow..BTW Lovell is name of an old record store we have here in Whittier. So Yowp, you claimed to have done the sound effects there..:) .Thanks for the article.

  6. And Bert Hurt?:) Gteat cartoon title, I'll have to agree with Martin in this.

  7. I don't understand your logic, Steve. Lovell Norman was a sound engineer. He and several others put together sound effects, much like Treg Brown did at Warners. I don't see anywhere in the story that said he recorded voice tracks.

  8. Thanks for clearing it up, so that means BIll did do the voice (much like Paul Julian at WB did the Roadrunner's voice after that Klaxon horn was used, and Treg Brown just cut those togther.Steve C.

  9. My late associate, Ken Southworth did indeed follow Bill and Joe when they started their own company. He was an Animator and Director there for 25 years. He spoke of how "poor" they were when they started out. I believe he started working for them again around 1960 or "62. I first met him there in 1976 when he was a Directing Animator on SCOOBY-DO.

  10. The above article brought back many great memories of my Grandparents, Lovell and Estelle. They were the best Grandparents a kid could have and I think my siblings and cousins would agree. My Grandfather was a very humble person and seldom offered up stories of working at MGM, but the stories that he did share were very interesting and impressive. The big name, creative people he knew, the actors and actresses he knew was a very impressive list.
    Even though he did animation for many years (and that's what impressed us kids), his passion was sound effects. He was a very a talented, creative person and both of my Grandparents were loved by all that met them and still missed today.