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Deitch on Pintoff

Gene Deitch recalls Ernie Pintoff and a character named Flebus from his Terrytoon days.

When Gene Deitch joined Terrytoons in 1956 he brought into the studio a number of new faces. Ernie Pintoff was one...

Flebus by Ernie Pintoff. Artwork courtesy of ASIFA-Hollywood.

Flebus by Ernie Pintoff. Artwork courtesy of ASIFA-Hollywood.

Flebus was created by Ernie Pintoff, another new talent I had recruited. He came in from UPA Hollywood. He originally called the character "Willy," but I didn't think that name funny enough. On my way to work one day I heard a talk on my car radio about the disease, Phlebitis. Never having suffered from the pain of that ailment, I thought the word was funny, and suggested the name Flebus as a funny and original non-sequiter name. Ernie suddenly left the studio while the film was still in the early pencil test stage, so I had to take over and finish it according to the color models Ernie had left. Jim Tyer did some of the funniest animation in the film, and of course it was a totally new image for Terrytoons. Weiss hated it.

Ernie was a "Rara Avis" in the Terrytoons studio. He had little to talk about with the majority of the old guard, and pretty much kept to himself in his little director's cubicle.

He always had his trumpet with him at work and would play the blues while waiting for inspiration. Of course I didn't care how crazy or other-worldly he seemed to the older animators. What was important to me was the new breath of creativity he brought to the place. One animator with whom he bonded, and who caught the challenge Ernie presented, was Jim Tyer. As I said, Jim did the key animation on Flebus.

I was saddened when Ernie suddenly decided to leave. I took over the Flebus project, and even over Bill Weiss's dead body, I was determined to see it brought to completion just as Ernie had laid it out. I still feel it was one of our landmark productions at CBS-Terrytoons (1957).

You can read more about Gene's time at Terrytoons by reading How To Succeed In Animation (Don't Let A Little Thing Like Failure Stop You!). An AWN exclusive.

Gene Deitch is one of the last surviving members of the original Hollywood UPA studio of 1946 and the instigator of the CBS-Terrytoon "renaissance" of 1956-1958. He was also: Animation Department Chief of the Detroit Jam Handy Organization, 1949-1951, Creative Chief of UPA-New York, 1951-1954, Director at John Hubley's Storyboard, Inc. New York, 1955, President of Gene Deitch Associates, Inc. New York, 1958-1960, Creative Director for Rembrandt Films, 1960-1968, and star director for Weston Woods Studios, Inc., Weston, Connecticut, 1968-1993. He has worked for over 40 years with the Prague animation studio, "Bratri v Triku."