With an open smile, a twinkle in his eye and a kind word for one and all, Marty navigated through life’s calm and turbulent waters with the same poise and good heartedness no matter what came his way.
A short while ago, without a great deal of fuss, Marty passed away. He was not one of the industry people whose name and work neveryone knew but he was a fine artist and cartoonist who was known and highly respected within the heart of the animation industry. He was a gag guy extraordinaire who worked for all the major animation houses as a layout and storyboard artist but his real love, I believe, was that of a cartoonist. For years his work was featured in Playboy and his singular style can be recognized by generations of readers. His cartoons, like Marty, were a little naughty but never nasty and always funny…
Marty acted as a mentor and life’s coach to many young artists although I think he would dislike the terms. He often had chili parties at his home and those became sort of animation patio salons where people met to enjoy a bowl of Marty’s chili, hoist a few beers and talk about the industry.
Marty’s passing caused me to think about how lucky and privileged I’ve been to know and work with so many wonderful and uniquely talented people. When I began working in animation I was young and had no particular background in the industry – initially it was just a job and so when I worked with people like Tex Avery and Art Babbitt I had no particular appreciation for the part they had played and contributions they had made to the animation industry. As time passed I began to understand what an extraordinary group of people I worked with and I was struck at how very unassuming and down-to-earth, for creative geniuses that is, they all were. Had these people been in the live-action branch of the film business they would have been stars! They would have had entourages and agents and managers and they would have made a ton of money and been idolized and canonized and scrutinized…. But as they were animation artists, like the Wizard of OZ, they worked pretty much behind a heavy curtain out of the audience's view. When any of these folk went out to dinner no one came over and asked for their autograph, and that’s probably the way they wanted it.
All of this has made me take a closer look at myself and to come to feel that those of us in this industry have been honestly blessed by our friendships and the opportunities we’ve had to work with one another and to make a living do things that most of us would do for nothing…. The industry needs more people like Marty Murphy to come to it and to bring a zest for life and for fun and for friendship. At a time when the business has become more structured, we truly need people like Marty to remind us that animation should be about more than just ratings and corporate profits but about fun, taking chances, individual expression, film festivals, gags, and adult children making wonderful films to for everyone to share.
Last month a few old friends gathered at Pantomime Pictures to celebrate Marty and others who were also remembered. This was sort of a bar-b-q, wake, party held in a way that Marty would have clearly approved of, with a big pot of chili, lots of great stories and laughs and a big bucket of cold beer.
Here are a few photos: