Search form

Saying Farewell

The animation industry has had to say good-bye to a number of its members in 1998. Amid Amidi recounts this year's losses...

Who can forget sayings like "Boop-oop-a-doop" and "Hi, I'm Troy McClure...". Or wonderfully animated characters like Daffy Duck and Dumbo. While these images and sounds will live on in our memories, it's also imperative to remember the behind-the-scenes people that helped bring these characters to life and promote animation. 1998 saw the loss of many such talented and skilled people working in the animation field who we remember here:

Bob Kane, 83,was responsible for creating one of the most famous and groundbreaking superhero figures of all time, Batman. The world of Batman has transcended all media resulting in a continuously published comic for fifty years, a live-action TV series, four live-action features, two animated features, at least five animated Batman series, and merchandising galore. Animation fans may also be interested to discover he created TV cartoon characters like Courageous Cat & Minute Mouse, and Cool McCool.

Jean-Luc Xiberras. Photo © Animation World Network.

Jean-Luc Xiberras, 57, was the director of the celebrated animation festival, Annecy. Animation World Network's General Manager, Annick Teninge, who worked closely with Xiberras as Annecy's Assistant Director for six years, said, "Throughout my tenure working with Jean-Luc, I admired how he created the world's largest and most prestigious animation festival, building on each year's successes with only a small staff and his dedication to and belief in the cause." Xiberras began his career in the 1960s as an organizer and director for various cultural associations. He started as director of the prestigious Annecy Festival in 1982 making the now yearly gathering the largest animation festival in the world complete with a buyer's market, MIFA, and an array of programming and exhibits. Lillian Bounds Disney, 98, widow of Walt Disney, came to Los Angeles and became a cel painter at Walt Disney's fledgling studio in 1923. Approximately two years later, Lillian and Walt were married on July 13, 1925, near her birthplace in Lewiston, Idaho. It is believed that Lillian suggested the name "Mickey" for Walt Disney's character originally named "Mortimer Mouse." Since Walt's death, Lillian has been active in charitable activities, and in 1987 she made a landmark gift of US $50 million to the Music Center of Los Angeles County, to build the Walt Disney Concert Hall which is set to open in 2001 in downtown Los Angeles. She has also made numerous donations to the Cal Arts animation program.

Mae Questel. Photo courtesy of Leslie Cabarga.

Mae Questel, 89, was a true original -- best known as the voice of cartoon characters Betty Boop and Olive Oyl. Questel was born in 1909 in the Bronx, New York. At age 17 she started her career in entertainment as a vaudeville performer. Then New York-based animator Max Fleischer discovered Questel in her capacity as an impersonator of Helen Kane, and signed her as the giddy, childish voice of his emerging character Betty Boop. One of the first Betty Boop cartoons, Stopping the Show, drew from Questel's stage experience, depicting Betty as a vaudeville impersonator of popular performers such as Maurice Chevalier. In all, she performed Betty Boop's voice in more than 100 cartoon shorts produced between 1931 and 1939. In the Popeye cartoons, which started at Fleischer Studios in 1933, Questel performed the voice of Olive Oyl, and when the Popeye shorts were produced by Famous Studios from 1942 to 1957, she voiced most of the studio's female characters, including Little Audrey. On occasion, she even filled in for Jack Mercer as the voice of Popeye! Some may also remember her as the voice of the `50s interactive TV cartoon character, Winky Dink. In 1988, Questel performed the voice of Betty Boop in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Also, on the screen, she acted in numerous live-action films in the 1960s-80s, including the role of Woody Allen's mother in New York Stories (1989). Leslie Cabarga, author of The Fleischer Story, said about Mae: "Whereas other people had at times provided the voice, Mae was the classic Betty so much so that she claimed to have lived the part. She said she walked and talked the role of Betty Boop, and even affected a high voice in normal life. We have lost another of the great figures in cartoon history." Phil Hartman,49, was a well-known actor/comedian who provided many voices in the animation world. His most famous roles were on The Simpsons -- first appearing as inept ambulance-chasing lawyer Lionel Hutz in the second season of the show. He also played a variety of other characters including B-actor Troy McClure and one-shot characters including Lyle Lanley (monorail salesman), Evan Conover (Undersecretary of State) and Moses. Other cartoons to utilize his unique vocal talents included Animaniacs, Droopy Master Detective, Tom and Jerry Kids, Talespin, Dennis the Menace, The Ren & Stimpy Show, The Critic, Tiny Toon Adventures, The Brave Little Toaster, Pagemaster, and the U.S. release of Hayao Miyazaki's Kiki's Delivery Service. His numerous live-action roles included parts in the motion pictures Small Soldiers, Sgt. Bilko, Jingle All the Way and Coneheads. On television, he first hit the big time on Saturday Night Live, and, at the time of his death was on Newsradio.