Friday 3 May 2024

Some Notes About Ray Favata

A birthday notification came in to my Facebook account that Ray Favata would be 100 years old today.

Ray passed away about 5½ years ago. You can read his obit here. By the way, neither of the characters to the right are Favata. They are Bert and Harry Piel. They sold beer. They worked for Ray. Or vice-versa.

I feel very flattered and honoured whenever someone in the animation industry sends a friend request on social media. I never worked in animation, but admire the people who did, though I may not be crazy about some of their cartoons.

About all I knew about Ray was he worked in commercial studios in New York, and his name appears in some credits in the Gene Deitch-era Terrytoons. As a little memorial, and because I had a bit of spare time to reappear on this blog, I thought I’d go through some clippings.

Ray grew up in New York and after graduating from high school, he worked for a glass company in Paterson, New Jersey. He was stationed at Camp Lee during the war and drew a comic strip in the camp’s weekly newspaper. It starred quartermaster trainee Homer E. Jones, who hailed from Okmulgee, Oklahoma. That would seem to be an odd choice of a home-town, but Homer’s co-creator, Staff Sgt. Paul Lefebre, had lived there and liked it. The Okmulgee Daily Times was delighted, and profiled the two on its front page of October 22, 1943.

Favata was promoted to sergeant and received more notice near the end of the war. The Richmond Times-Dispatch featured several Camp Lee artists in a story on May 20, 1945. The story described Ray as “a black-haired, energetic lad who paints posters for the Technical Training Servicre of the Army Service Forces Training Center. The non-com evoked camp-wide splitting of seems recently by depicting the plight of camp officials when a shortage of green paint developed. Green, being General Horkan’s favorite color, the ‘brass’ were shown gnashing their teeth, pulling their hair and committing suicide. To a civilian, cartoons of this type may have little meaning: to a soldier at Lee, it is a funny-bone tickler.”

Ray found work in 1951 at Tempo Productions, a New York commercial studio run by Dave Hilberman and Bill Pomerance. Art Direction magazine of May 1953 mentioned among his commercials being exhibited were for Plymouth, Standard Brands and Jackson Brewing (Jax beer). It became a victim of the insidious blacklist. He spoke a bit about his career and commercial animation philosophy with Art Ross of Back Stage, a trade tabloid, in its July 17, 1981 issue.

Ross: How does animation work to create and motivate product purchase?
Ray Favala: Animation art, especially the kind that employs characters as salespeople, becomes a playful but powerful tool to sell products. Fantasy entertains, fantasy creates an innocent world in which consumer disbelief is suspended. In such a playful environment you can sell just about anything, providing, of course, the product lives up to the “Promise.”
Ross: How do you arrive at the correct character design?
Favata: We analyze the copy and the storyboard, confer with the agency creatives, and then start to develop characters in keeping with the message we wish to convey. We generally have to go through lots of experimentation and dozens of sketches, before the final character emerges.
Ross: How did you get into animation, Ray?
Favata: I started as a freelance artist doing storyboards and designs for one of the large animation studios in New York. When, in an emergency, their layout designer had to leave, he gave me a one week cram course in layout and film techniques. That’s how it began.
Ross: What is the basic advantage of regular animation over the computer?
Favata: Regular animation is an art form that depends primarily on the particular artistry and acting ability of the animator. Each animator imparts a very personal quality to his work that cannot be duplicate. The work of Steig, Blechman, Tytla, Pintoff—to name a few—is unique, giving their commercials (and the products advertised) a “specialness” that consumers react to at the sales register. Computer animation has its advantages, to be sure, but it is still a highly cold, mechanistic approach compared to regular animation.
Ross: What commercials are you currently working on that you feel are special?
Favala: My two most recent favorites are the Yoo-Hoo Chocolate Drink “New Wave” tv spot “introducing the Yoo-Hoos,” which features a great New Wave rock group track singing the praises of Yoo-Hoo. The visual is the funniest and most colorful we’ve done in years, playing an animated Yogi Berra off against the rock group. The other one we’ve just completed for Magic Mountain Iced Herb Teas is a very soft romantic fantasy approach called “From The Land of Magic Mountain.” For this campaign, we created a lovely Disney-esque fairy princess who gathers her herbs and spices in this mythic animation land for Magic Mountain No-caffeine All-natural Iced Herb Teas. It’s what we call “soft hard sell”—and it has a fantastic music track created by Bernie Hoffer of Mamorsky, Zimmerman and Hamm. Both of these spots should do tremendous selling job—the first, to kids and teenagers the second, to women who prefer the tasteful benefits of natural herb teas.

Here are a few clippings that track parts of his career:

● April 28, 1954: Sutherland Productions’ new studio in New York “has signed Dan Gordon, formerly with Transfilm, and Ray Favata, ex-Tempo, as a liaison team to assist agencies in planning commercials.” (Variety)
● Nov. 3, 1956: “The Screen Cartoonists Guild has assigned a couple of committees for its upcoming ‘Animation One’ festival . . . The design committee has Ray Favata, Paul Kim and Earl Murphy.” (Billboard)
● April 10, 1957: “Terrytoons, the CBS animation subsid, is completing a $300,000 modernization and expansion of its New Rochelle plant, and expanding the personnel side as well. Added to the staff are Dave Tendlar, formerly with Famous Studios; Eli Bauer, ex-Ray Patin Productions; Tod Dockstader of UPA Burbank; Ray Fatava or Academy Productions and Jules Pfeiffer, ex-Transfilm.” (Variety)
● August 10, 1959: “Ray Favata forms and assumes presidency and creative directorship of Ray Favata Productions, Inc., commercial film firm. Carleton Reiter joins him as vp and manager. Address: 165 W. 46 St., N.Y. 36.” (Broadcasting)
● May 19, 1961: “Every three years or so (and there’s a sound explanation for it) a rash of new animation studios start up . . . this year’s crop includes Gryphon, with Carlton Reiter and Ray Favata, at 40 East 49th. (Back Stage, Lew Gifford column).
● Sept. 1, 1961: “Look for some waggish animation commercials selling Charming Tissue, executed by Gryphon Studio’s Ray Favata. Very nice track work got the spots off to a good start (voices by Alan Swift, Charlotte Rae, assorted real kids) and the production, supervised by Benton & Bowles’ Bill Mc Hale, brings home the bacon. Spots have been tested on Bonanza. (If test is successful, Ray Favata will be allowed to keep his new-born-last-week, 8 pound son, Ronald. Otherwise it’ll be Ronald Charmin! Harsh deal perhaps, but animation is a rough business.)” (Back Stage, Lew Gifford column).
● Dec. 15, 1961: “Animation director Ed Seeman [who worked at many New York commercial houses, including Ray Favata Productions] has joined Gryphon Productions Inc. as a partner, it was announced by Ray Favata, President of Gryphon Productions, an animation studio located at 40 E. 49th st.” (Back Stage, Stanley Kreshower column)
● Oct. 19, 1962: “Ray Favata of Gryphon Prods. Inc., reports that his firm has been very busy. Recently they have turned out three spots for Proctor & Gamble plus institutional documentary one minute spots for the First National Bank of New Haven. Now they will be turning their attention to some Millbrook Bread spots. Gryphon Prods are at 40 East 49th st.” (Back Stage, Stanley Kreshower column)
● June 28, 1963: Back Stage listing to right. The studio moved again in 1966.
● May 13, 1966: 68 Clio awards handed out. Favata and partner Seeman (as designers) with an award for Beech-Nut “Hot Shots.” Jerry Friedland is the art director. (Back Stage)
● Dec. 17, 1968: “At Gryphon, designer Ray Favata got the task of adapting [independent designer Tomi] Ungerer’s drawings into animation layouts and Seeman handles overall art direction.
“Some of the other commercials that have been recently produced by the Seeman-Favata team at Gryphon are the award-winning Luden’s ‘Big Squeeze,’ the Tang ‘lettering and live’ campaign, Ocean Spray ‘Election’ commercials for Cranapple and many others.” (Back Stage)
● June 5, 1970. Favata signed by 25th Frame Film Production Company in Canada. (Back Stage)
● Sept. 4, 1970. Favata directs an animated spot for Texaco through 25th Frame. (Back Stage)
● Aug. 22, 1980. “Ray Favata, designer/director, has joined Fandango Productions. . . . His accounts have included Sugar Bear, Honeycombs, Alpha Bits, Livesavers and Hardies.” (Back Stage)
● June 10, 1982: Daytime Emmy “Outstanding Individual Achievement In Children’s Programming—Graphic Design. Ray Favata, Michael J. Smollin, graphic designer, Opening Animation, The Great Space Coaster #93, October 9, 1981, Syn.” (Hollywood Reporter)
● Jan. 31, 2008: “McCartee’s Barn, 23C East Broadway, Salem. An opening reception for a new exhibit, ‘RED HOT,’ featuring the work of Cambridge animation artist Ray Favata and Hebron ceramics sculptor, Bob Nopper.” (Glens Falls, Post-Star)

We end this post with something I had completely forgotten about when I started writing it. Morten Eng has posted a documentary on Favata. You can see it (with all the stuff I didn't mention here) at this link along with a number of of his commercials.