Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Animator Jeff Hale Passes On

A still from "Thank You Mask Man"
Animator Jeff Hale, who directed the classic Lenny Bruce short "Thank You Mask Man" and worked on everything from Sesame Street to Heavy Metal (1981, died in late February at the age of 92.

Jeff Hale was born on January 5 1923 in Margate, Kent. He took up drawing as a teenager while in hospital, and later graduated from the Royal College of Art in London. He started his career at William Larkin and Company. In 1954 he co-founded the commercial animation studio Biographic Films with William Larkin, Bob Godfrey, and Keith Learner. In 1956 he moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada where he joined Phillips-Gutkin and Associates. It was in 1959 that he went to work for the National Film Board in Montreal, making short segments for Canadian television. In late Fifties and the Sixties he directed the shorts "Hors-d'oeuvre" (1960), "Pot-pourri "(1962), "Christmas Cracker" (1962), and "The Great Toy Robbery" (1963).

It was in 1964 that he moved to San Francisco, California. It was in 1966 that he founded Imagination Inc.  with John Magnuson and Walt Kramer. As part of Imagination Inc. Mr. Hale worked on a good deal of the animation for Sesame Street for the next few decades.

In the Seventies he directed the short "Thank You Mask Man" (1971), which utilised a comedy routine by the late Lenny Bruce that parodied The Lone Ranger and Tonto. While the short met with controversy on its first release (to the point that many theatres would not book it), it would later find an audience, particularly after it had been aired several times on the USA Network show Night Flight. In the Seventies Mr. Hale also directed the short "Why We Tell the Truth, or No More Squareburgers in Straightalk" and served as animator on the TV shows The New Shmoo and The Flintstone Comedy Show.

In the Eighties Jeff Hale directed episodes of G.I. Joe: The Revenge of Cobra and the TV movie My Little Pony: Escape from Catrina. He served as an animator on the feature film Heavy Metal (1981), the TV movie Stanley, the Ugly Duckling (1982), and the TV specials Here Comes Garfield, Peter and the Magic Egg, and What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown?. He also worked a an animator on the TV shows The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, The Transformers, and Muppet Babies. In the Nineties he worked on the TV show Garfield and Friends.

Mr. Hale retired to Talent, Oregon where he continued to sell his paintings and drawings.

Jeff Hale was one of the most talented animators to emerge during the Fifties and Sixties. He had a very basic style, so much so that it was sometimes nearly primitive (as with "Thank You Mask Man" and some of the animation he did for Sesame Street). Over a long career he worked in nearly every medium of animation there was. He created award winning theatrical shorts, worked on feature films, worked on television commercials, worked on television specials, and worked on Saturday morning cartoons on television. He was both prolific and talented. While his may not be a household name, Jeff Hale will always be remembered by fans of animation.

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