Renowned animator Iwao Takamoto, the designer of such beloved characters as Scooby-Doo, has died at the age of 81 in Los Angeles.
At the time of his death, Takamoto served as vp of Special Projects for Warner Bros. Animation. Most recently, Takamoto storyboarded the 2005 Tom and Jerry animation short, THE KARATEGUARD, and was instrumental in the design of many characters in the current Cartoon Network and Kids' WB! animated series KRYPTO THE SUPERDOG. He also served as a consultant on Warner Bros. Animation's ongoing SCOOBY-DOO direct-to-video series, including the 2006 release SCOOBY-DOO! PIRATES AHOY! and the upcoming CHILL OUT, SCOOBY-DOO.
"Iwao Takamoto was not only a tremendously talented designer and artist, he was a beautiful human being," said Warner Bros. Animation president Sander Schwartz. "Iwao was always ready with a wide smile, a firm handshake and a warm welcome. Iwao's designs will be his legacy for generations to come. Those of us who had the privilege of working closely with him will miss his mentoring presence, his good counsel and his unparalleled talent and spirit."
Born April 29, 1925, in Los Angeles, Takamoto graduated ahead of his class at age 15 from Thomas Jefferson High School. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Takamoto and his family were sent to the Manzanar Internment Camp. Takamoto was able to depart the camp by picking fruit on a farm in Idaho, but not before he received some informal illustration training from fellow Japanese-Americans in the camp.
Returning to Los Angeles, he landed an interview with the Disney Studios, despite his lack of a portfolio or any formal artistic training. In the few days prior to the interview, Takamoto quickly filled two newly purchased sketchpads with every image he could imagine. Disney hired him on the spot as an apprentice in-betweener on June 5, 1945 --just two months before the end of World War II.
Takamoto trained under Disney's legendary "Nine Old Men," including Ollie Johnston, Marc Davis, Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, Frank Thomas and Eric Lawson. While at Disney, Takamoto worked on animated shorts as well as such features as CINDERELLA, PETER PAN, LADY AND THE TRAMP, SLEEPING BEAUTY and 101 DALMATIANS.
In mid-August of 1961, Takamoto moved to Hanna-Barbera Studios, where he helped reinvent cartoons for television. Virtually all the characters and cartoons released by Hanna-Barbera over the following four decades were touched by the design and artistry of Takamoto. As a character designer, it was his job to create the look and images of the characters based on an idea for a proposed cartoon show.
Takamoto designed the beloved Scooby-Doo, Shaggy and the rest of the Mystery Machine crew. He named the popular Great Dane after Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night" rendition where, at the end, Sinatra sings "Scooby Dooby Doo." At a recent chat with Cartoon Network Studios personnel in Burbank, Takamoto offered some tidbits regarding his approach to creating the Scooby-Doo design.
"There was a lady at (Hanna-Barbera) that bred Great Danes," Takamoto explained. "She showed me some pictures and talked about the important points of a Great Dane, like a straight back, straight legs, small chin and such. I decided to go the opposite and gave him a hump back, bowed legs, big chin and such. Even his color is wrong."
Takamoto was the primary designer of the THE SECRET SQUIRREL SHOW (featuring both the title character and Atom Ant), THE GREAT GRAPE APE SHOW, HARLEM GLOBE TROTTERS and JOSIE AND THE PUSSY CATS series. Takamoto also designed the popular Muttley, who was featured in a number of animation productions. In addition to the family dog Astro, he was also responsible for much of the space-age architecture and vehicles seen in THE JETSONS. THE FLINTSTONES character the Great Gazoo was another of Takamoto's cosmic designs.
Takamoto actually designed Penelope Pitstop in less than two hours. During a meeting with Joe Barbera, a client said that THE WACKY RACES show had a problem because it did not have a female character. Barbera told the client it wasn't a problem and then left in the middle of the meeting to get Takamoto to create Penelope Pitstop.
For the award-winning 1973 theatrical release CHARLOTTE'S WEB, Takamoto was an animation director.
In 1996, Takamoto was honored by ASIFA-Hollywood with the Windsor McKay's Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the field of animation. In 2001, the Japanese American National Museum heralded Takamoto for his achievements in entertainment. In 2005, he received the Golden Award from the Animation Guild, to honor his more than 50 years of service in the animation field.
A resident of Beverly Hills, Takamoto is survived by his wife, Barbara; his son Michael and step-daughter Leslie; and his brother Robert and sister Judy.