Puppetoon is a registered trademark of Arnold Leibovit Productions Ltd. All Rights Reserved © 1987.

A Brief Biography of George Pal

George with the dragons from "Brothers Grimm"

George Pal was born in Cegled, Hungary on February 1, 1908, into a theatrical family. Both parents were famous stage celebrities. George attended the Budapest Academy to train as an architect, but a clerical error put him in illustration classes... as they say, the rest is history. George graduated with an architectural degree when Hungary was in no need of architects... but there were jobs for animation illustrators at Hunnia films!

Pal convinced his girlfriend Zsoka to marry him, and only then found that his new job was un unpaid apprenticeship. They migrated to Berlin (Zsoka's excellent idea), where he found similar (but paid) work at the famous UFA studio. Within sixty days, he was in charge of their cartoon production.

George with a mess of puppets, including Jasper

The Pals managed to save half of his salary, which was of dire import when, in 1933, the Gestapo came snooping around just because the Pals were foreigners. The Pals left for Prague where George set up a one-man shop... unfortunately, there was not a single cartoon camera in all of Czechkslovakia. Finally, while looking desparately at some old motion-picture cameras, Pal was struck with the idea that if he used puppets, he could film his cartoons with ANY camera.

An amiable publicity shot

Since animated films at the time were generally for advertisement, Pal wanted to start by animating cigarettes. The Czech tobacco world was not interested in animated advertisements, but the French were, so the Pals moved to Paris. The first company approached bought the idea, the ad was a huge success, and Pal was famous.

George in a 1977 interview

Pal relocated to Einhover, Holland where opened his "Dollywood" studio, which was partly financed by an investor who wanted numerous ads made for $7000-$8000 each. In the mid 30s, Philips Radio in America saw Pal's films and started sponsoring their own, breaking his client base out of Europe.

In 1939, the Pals were on a lecture at Columbia University when the Nazis invaded Poland, which was a little too close to home. They never went back.

George riding "The Time Machine" at a convention in the late 70s...

Paramount Pictures signed Pal to a long-term contract to produce a new series of non-advertising Puppetoons. At these studios, some of his now-famous animators included Gene Warren, Wah Chang, Bob Baker, and a very young talent named Ray Harryhausen, who would later become possibly the most famous stop-motion animator of all time (see REALLY RELEVANT LINKS).

George and Zsoka in Holland

Pal produced dozens of Puppetoons for Paramount, and they were pleased enough to let him try feature films starting with "Destination Moon" in 1949. The film was a success with the public and critics (and won an Academy Award for special effects), so he was allowed to make another: "When Worlds Collide", which Cecil B. DeMille had planned to film earlier. This film also did quite well, and won another Academy Award for special effects.

Puppets created or inspired by Pal... from "The Puppetoon Movie"
The Puppetoon Movie is copyrighted Arnold Leibovit Productions 1987.

Pal was now concentrating solely on feature films, but had many problems with the studio system and their multi-tiered approach to film-making, so much slower than when Pal called all the shots at his own studio. He made numerous other films throughout the 50s and 60s, including the classics "War of the Worlds," "The Time Machine" and "The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao," but eventually fantasy films became unpopular at the box office... and so did Pal. "The Power" (1968) and "Doc Savage" (1975) , his last two films, were huge flops.

Pal died of a heart attack in his California home on May 2, 1980. Those who worked with him describe him as "a rare individual who had a vision and was able to follow it through; and did so without disrupting everyone's life" (Gae Griffith). People enjoyed working for him, and he enjoyed employing them. The good feelings come out quite clearly onscreen, and his films are some of the most purely optimistic ever made.

More Pal/Puppetoon Info from Animation of Heaven & Hell in 3-D!:

Back to Animation of Heaven & Hell in 3-D! Home Page

Most of this information was derived from:

Frank J. Taylor's "Pal of the Puppets," Collier's, January 16, 1943
Samuel J. Maronie's "George Pal 1908-1980," Starlog, September 1980

Many of these pictures were taken from the excellent book "George Pal in Holland: 1934-1939" which was provided by Paul Kusters of the Netherlands Filmmuseum.

This page was first posted December 1, 1996.