David Hilberman, one of the co-founders of UPA, passed away on July 5, 2007, at Stanford Hospital in Stanford, California, due to complications from an infection, reports his son Mark. He was 96 years old.
Hilberman began his career as an in-betweener at Disney in 1936 via the studio's nationwide talent search. Later he would move up to layout artist, working on shorts such as THE UGLY DUCKLING and BEACH PICNIC, and later, BAMBI. In 1941, along with Art Babbitt, he organized the now legendary Disney animators' strike, where artists fought to improve wages, working conditions, job security and union representation at the studio. Later Walt Disney would single Hilberman out as a Communist before the House on Un-American Activities Commission.
Following the strike, Hilberman teamed with fellow Disney layout artist Zack Schwartz and Stephen Bosustow to form United Film Production, which would later be renamed United Productions of America, or UPA. The company first found work producing a film called HELL-BENT FOR ELECTION (directed by Chuck Jones), which was funded by the United Auto Workers union to help the re-election campaign of Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1946, UPA produced BROTHERHOOD OF MAN for the UAW. Directed by Bobe Cannon, the racial tolerance film helped launch the signature flat, stylized design of the studio.
After selling their interest in UPA to Bosustow, Hilberman and Schwartz went to New York City to become pioneers in TV advertising. Hilberman and Schwartz teamed with Bill Pomerance to form Tempo Prods. However, after the partners were denounced during the Red Scare, Tempo closed and Hilberman moved to England, and briefly Italy. Upon his return to the U.S., he worked as a layout artist at Hanna-Barbara on such shows as THE SMURFS.
In the late 1960s, Hilberman became the first animation professor at San Francisco State University.
Hilberman's wife, Libby, passed away on July 11, 2006. She was one of the women pioneers in the animation industry, working for UPA, Tempo and Disney. She would later teach at SF State as well.