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Hanna-Barbera Veteran Gerard Baldwin Dies at 89

The prolific animation writer, director, producer and artist worked on numerous fan-favorite animated series and won two Daytime Emmy Awards for ‘The Smurfs.’

Animation director, producer and educator Gerard Baldwin passed away April 18th, 2018. Baldwin spent more than 40 years in a variety of production roles on a number of classic animated TV series. He is probably best known for his Emmy Award-winning and nominated work on The Smurfs – he produced or executive produced 94 episodes between 1981 and 1983, as well as, wrote, produced and directed a number of Smurfs TV movies during that period as well.  

Baldwin was a 5-time Daytime Emmy Award nominee, winning twice, in 1983 and 1984 alongside William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, for Outstanding Children’s Entertainment Series, for The Smurfs. He also garnered 7 Primetime Emmy Award nominations for his work on The Clockwork Smurf (1981), The Smurfs Springtime Special (1982), My Smurfy Valentine (1982), The Smurfs Christmas Special (1982), The Smurfic Games (1983) and Garfield’s Thanksgiving (1989).

His directing credits include numerous episodes of Rocky and His Friends (1959-60), George of the Jungle (1967), Super Chicken (1967) and Tiny Toon Adventures (1990). He was an animation timer, animator, layout artist and animation director on dozens of episodes of shows such as Quick Draw McGraw (1959-60), The Huckleberry Hound Show (1959-60), The Dudley Do-Right Show (1961), The Jetsons (1962), The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo (1965), Muppet Babies (1989), Aladdin (1994) and Rugrats (1999).

A note provided to AWN by his children and wife, Frances, reads as follows:

"Gerard Baldwin, 89, passed away in the night of April 18th, 2018 surrounded by loved ones in Kingwood, Texas.

Born the youngest of five on January 7th, 1929, Gerard was a bit of a surprise to Irish-Catholic Harold and Margaret (McGrath) Baldwin.  Growing up in depression-era New York City, his precociousness and creativity irritated countless nuns in school.  Taught to draw from an early age by his older brother Jack, upon graduating high school he studied at Chouinard Art Institute.  After honorably serving in the Army during the Korean War, Gerard had a successful career in southern California as an artist - animating, directing, and producing cartoon characters beloved around the world.  He brought to life countless personalities to programs including Mr. MagooRocky and BullwinkleYogi Bear and The Flintstones, culminating with Emmy Award-winning work on The Smurfs.  

Gerard moved with his family to Kingwood in 1989 and had a second career passing on his extensive knowledge as a popular drawing instructor at Lone Star college.  Unceasing in ambition and creativity, Gerard never retired; he published a memoir, wrote essays, and created drawings and paintings until the end.

Gerard is survived by his wife of 36 years, Frances, his four children, Leslie, Michael, Alison, and John, and his grandchildren, Audrey, Robert, and Julian."

AWN was first alerted to Baldwin’s passing by veteran animation producer Milt Vallas, who shared his heartfelt thoughts about the loss of his good friend.

"Several weeks ago, I received a call and recognizing the number, I answered believing it was Gerard Baldwin ringing me to ask about Fred Crippen, a good friend who had recently passed away.  Sadly, it was Gerard’s wife Frances calling to tell me that Gerard himself had just passed away.

Like Fred, a book could be written about Gerard, his talent and creativity, his joy of life and his insistence that things be done the right way, which of course meant Gerard’s way.   He was a cross between Carl Sagan and Salvador Dali and at times, you never knew with whom you were speaking.  Gerard could declare his greatness one moment then laugh at himself the next.  He could argue about virtually anything if he felt there was a bit of fun to be had by doing so, and then in the blink of an eye, move on to a long and serious discussion about international politics or the future of nuclear power.

I first met Gerard when he started as a freelance director at Hanna-Barbera.  I didn’t know him well at the time, but I remember thinking he was an interesting guy.  He came to HB having produced shows for Jay Ward and immediately showed his versatility by taking on commercials, industrial films, specials or whatever else was needed.  A few years later NBC committed to a new young-kids show and all of the old guard directors had their dance cards filled. Gerard was given the show, which was scheduled to air at seven o’clock Saturday mornings, a slot no one particularly coveted. 

The show of course was The Smurfs and the rest was history.  I am always surprised that many people are unaware of the impact Gerard had on the show’s mercurial success.   He fought relentlessly to keep the show loyal to the creative roots found in Peyo’s Belgian comic books.  He fought for everything including the music; in fact, one of my favorite Gerard stories centers on a development meeting at the network where Gerard played a selection from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” to demonstrate the direction he wanted to go with the music, a direction the network had resisted.  One of the young assistants thought it was pretty good and in an excited and hopeful voice asked, "Can we get him?"

This was far from the last contretemps between Gerard, the studio and the network over the show. But, Gerard was willing to take on the world if need be and often did.

I will miss you Gerard – your braying laugh, your joyous smile and your friendship.  I know many others will miss you as well, so here’s to you pal – wherever you are, keep smiling and may all your Smurfs be blue."

Dan Sarto's picture

Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.