Harman, Hugh N.

Posted in WB Cartoon Companion on March 22, 2004


    Along with Rudy Ising, a journeyman animator who had the unusual distinction of having a hand in the creation of two great cartoon studios: Warner Brothers in 1930, and MGM in 1933.

    Harman was an associate of Disney until 1928, when he was lured away from Disney by distributor Charles Mintz. After an abortive effort with Mintz, Harman teamed up with Ising. Together, the two produced the pilot Bosko the Talk-Ink Kid (1929). This film secured the financial backing of Leon Schlesinger to produce cartoons for Warner Brothers distribution starting in 1930. While never approaching the level of sophistication achieved by contemporary efforts at the Disney and Fleischer studios, the studio’s cartoons from the early 1930s were popular enough to be profitable. The Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series, as established by Harman and Ising, laid the groundwork for much of the studio’s later success.

    In general, Harman was responsible for the Looney Tunes while Ising worked on the Merrie Melodies. For the sake of simplicity, I give them joint credit here for the 1930-1933 output.

    Harman and Ising broke with Schlesinger in 1933, principally over the issue of budgeting for cartoons. The two went on to establish the first production unit at MGM, where they would create handsome, if perhaps a bit vapid, cartoons through the late 1930s and into the early 1940s. One Harman effort, Peace on Earth (1939) is a noteworthy anti-war cartoon which received a nomination not only for that year’s Academy Award, but also for the Nobel Peace Prize. It remains the only animated cartoon ever so nominated.

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