Tuesday, 26 June 2018

It's Higgins, Sir

In Tex Avery’s 1949 cartoon Wags To Riches, Spike reads over a Will leaving everything to him if something should happen to Droopy, and there’s an inside joke by Avery and background artist Johnny Johnsen.

The Will is signed by W. Higgins, and therein lies the joke. “W. Higgins” was Bill Higgins, an assistant animator in the Avery unit who never got screen credit at MGM but did later at other studios.

William Thomas Higgins was born in Indiana on November 2, 1911 to Patrick and Freda Higgins. His father worked in a glass factory, and that’s what he was doing in Los Angeles by 1920. There’s a William T. Higgins who graduated from Los Angeles Polytechnic in 1927, though we don’t know if it’s the same person.

Higgins was in animation by 1933; his name and head shot are found on a Charles Mintz Christmas card that year. It looks like he was an original employee of the MGM cartoon studio that opened in 1937. Variety reported on December 10th that year he was at Metro and had married Jean Glover, who was a painter at the studio. He was getting $35 a week in 1939.

When the war came along, Higgins left MGM and enlisted in November 1942 and was assigned to the animation division of the First Motion Picture Unit at what everyone called Fort Roach. When he was let out is unclear, but Variety reported on June 24, 1947 that he was on the Board of Trustees of the Screen Cartoonists Guild and that he was now working for John Sutherland Productions. Evidently he came and went as his signature is on the1948 Christmas card from the Avery unit.

Higgins was at Sutherland in the ‘50s and he started to receive screen credit. A full collection of Sutherland’s commercial and industrial cartoons isn’t available—oh, where, oh where, did the company’s archives go?—but you can spot his name on The Devil and John Q, What Makes Us Tick (both 1952), It’s Everybody’s Business (1954) and the great Destination Earth (1956).

He moved on to Playhouse Pictures, a commercial studio, where he worked on award-winning cartoons in 1957. After that, he animated some TV Popeye cartoons for Gerald Ray, possibly under TV Spots/Creston Studios. The end of the ‘60s found him assistant animating (and there wasn’t much animation to begin with) on the Hot Wheels series at Pantomime Pictures.

Higgins died in Los Angeles on March 5, 1991.


  1. Congrats on the old time radio reference!

    1. I didn't think anyone would notice.
      I've never actually listened to the show.