Saturday 22 June 2019

Animators at War

Bob Givens was never recognised on screen for his work with Bugs Bunny in 1940, but he was in the press a year later.

When the U.S. entered World War Two, animators were among those who found themselves in the service of Uncle Sam. Some of them, however, spent their days working on films. On the West Coast, the First Motion Picture Unit produced training films, with Rudy Ising overseeing the animation division. Perhaps the best known animated short is Position Firing, starring Trigger Joe.

On the East Coast, the Signal Corps set up a film division at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. Little apparently has been written about what was made there, but there were certainly enough animators sent there.

The first story appeared in both the Red Bank Daily Standard (June 26, 1941) and the Fort Monmouth Signal (July 2, 1941). The second story appeared in the latter edition. You should recognise many of the names in the first one. The second is a brief squib about actor and former New York fur salesman Danny Webb, who can be heard in the cartoons of a number of West Coast studios. The date should give you an idea of the time when he stopped voice work. We wrote a bit about him in this post. In the following story, as well as in the earlier post, he claims to be the voice of Bugs Bunny. I don’t even think he voiced the rabbit in those late ‘30s, still-in-development cartoons, nor do I remember him doing Andy Panda, though he was in at least one Andy Panda cartoon.

My thanks to Mariana Givens for the use of her dad’s photo.

Disney Aides Stationed Here
Other Hollywood Cartoon Artists, Story Directors In The Army Now

Recent additions to the personnel of Fort Monmouth's polyglot Fifth Battalion include Donald Duck, Porky Pig, and Popeye the Sailor. The beloved animated cartoon characters haven't actually joined the Army, but all three are represented at Fort Monmouth by men who helped create them.
The roster of Co. E. of the 5th Signal Training Battalion includes no less than ten artists and story directors from Hollywood animation studios.
Leading with the largest contingent is the Walt Disney Studio, home pond of the irrepressible Donald himself. Disney Men now stationed in the Fifth Battalion include:
Pvt. Berk Anthony, story writer and animator who worked on nearly all of Disney's characters over a six-year period; Pvt. Rodell Johnson, one of the artists responsible for the antics of Jimminy Cricket in "Pinnochio;" Pvt. Victor Michonski, who spent over two years working on "Fantasia," Disney's most lavish production; Pvt. George Paliwoda, whose artistic efforts included everything from portraying Donald's duckiest moments to creating an earthquake for "Bambi;" Pvt. George Peed, who prepared continuity sketches for "Mickey Mouse" and "Donald Duck" shorts, "Snow White," "The Wind in the Willows," and "Pinnochio." Pvt. Robert Perry, a "Goofy the Dog" artist, also worked on the hilarious mushroom sequence in "Fantasia."
Disney's competition from Leon Schlesinger Productions, creators of "Merry Melodies" and "Porky the Pig," is as intense at Monmouth as in Hollywood.
Pvt. Robert Givens, a story sketch man who helped originate tribulations for "Sniffles the Mouse" and "Bugs Bunny," is now drawing his pay through the Fifth Battalion Headquarters.
Pvt. David Monahan is also from the Schlessinger outfit. He helped Ted Cook prepare his "Ted Cook's Cook Coos" before joining the studio. The Max Fleischer Studios, "Popeye's" masters, are represented by Pvt. Alden Getz, who worked on "Gulliver's Travels" and Betty Boop" shorts in addition to "Popeye" himself.
Approximately a dozen additional animators and story directors have transferred from the Fifth Battalion to the Twentieth Signal Service Company and are at present helping produce training motion pictures at the Training Film Production Laboratory.

Dave Weberman, Man Of A Thousand Voices, Arrives
It wasn't so long ago that the arrival at Fort Monmouth of Pvt. Dave Weberman, Co. E, 5th Slg. Trg. B'n, occurred. Before entering the Army he was teaching Leo Carillo, Jeannette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy and a dozen other Hollywood stars the tricks of voice and acting that had made him one of the country's foremost voice impressionists. That was just after the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios lured Dave away from the East and took him to Hollywood.
Between courses in the Co. E Schools, he entertains his fellow students with the impersonations that earned him his reputation as The Man of a Thousand Voices." Under his stage name of Danny Webb, Dave has impersonated vocally at various times President Roosevelt, Hitler and Mussolini on "The March of Time"; Ken Murray's Mad Russian"; the little rab[b]it in "Looney Tunes"; and, his favorite role, "Andy Panda" in the famous animated cartoon. His last assignment before entering the service was with Johnny Downs and Mischa Auer in Columbia's "Sing Another Chorus," soon to be released.


  1. KEN MURRAY's Mad Russian? Bert Gordon on Eddie Cantor's show did that characetr, Ken was active in the medium, though..

  2. Thank you for sharing dad’s military story. I always enjoy your blog… my pleasure on dad’s picture, Mariana Givens