Walter Crawford Kelly, Jr
|Birthplace:||Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA|
|Death:||Died in Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA|
|Cause of death:||Diabetes mellitus|
|Occupation:||American animator and cartoonist|
|Managed by:||Eldon Clark (C)|
Historical records matching Walt Kelly
About Walt Kelly
Walt Kelly Walter Crawford Kelly, Jr. (August 25, 1913 – October 18, 1973), or Walt Kelly, was an American animator and cartoonist, best known for the comic strip, Pogo.
Kelly was born of Irish-American heritage in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Walter Crawford Kelly, Sr., and Genevieve Kelly (née MacAnnula). When he was two years old, the family moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut. After graduating from Warren Harding High School in 1930, Kelly worked at odd jobs until he was hired as a crime reporter on the Bridgeport Post. He also took up cartooning and illustrated a biography of fellow Bridgeport native P. T. Barnum. Kelly was extremely proud of his journalism pedigree and considered himself a newspaper man as well as a cartoonist.
Relocating to Southern California, he found a job at Walt Disney Productions as a storyboard artist and gag man on Donald Duck cartoons and other shorts, requesting a switch to the animation department in 1939. Starting over as an animator, Kelly became an assistant to noted Walt Disney animator Fred Moore and became close friends with Moore and Ward Kimball, one of Disney's Nine Old Men. Kelly and Kimball were so close that Kimball named his daughter Kelly Kimball in tribute.
Kelly worked for Disney from January 6, 1936, to September 12, 1941, contributing to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Dumbo and The Reluctant Dragon. Kelly once stated that his salary at Disney averaged about $100 a week. During 1935 and 1936, his work also appeared in early comic books for what later became DC Comics.
Kelly's animation can be seen in Pinocchio when Gepetto is first seen inside Monstro the whale, fishing; in Fantasia when Bacchus is seen drunkenly riding a donkey during the Beethoven/"Pastoral Symphony" sequence; and in Dumbo of the ringmaster and during bits of the crows' sequence; and his drawings are especially recognizable in The Reluctant Dragon of the little boy, and in the Mickey Mouse short "The Little Whirlwind" when Mickey is running from the larger tornado.
During the 1941 animators strike, Kelly did not picket the studio, as has often been reported, but took a leave of absence—pleading "family illness"— to avoid choosing sides. Surviving correspondence between Kelly and his close friend and fellow animator Ward Kimball chronicles his ambivalence towards the highly charged dispute. Kimball stated in an interview years later that Kelly felt creatively constricted in animation, a collective art form, and possibly over-challenged by the technical demands of the form, and he had been looking for a way out when the strike occurred.
Kelly never returned to the studio as an animator, but jobs adapting the studio's films Pinocchio and The Three Caballeros for Dell Comics—apparently the result of a recommendation from Walt Disney himself—led to a new (and ultimately transitional) career.
On May 25, 1960, Kelley wrote a letter to Walt Disney regarding his time at the studio:
"Just in case I ever forgot to thank you, I'd like you to know that I, for one, have long appreciated the sort of training and atmosphere that you set up back there in the thirties. There were drawbacks as there are to everything, but it was an astounding experiment and experience as I look back on it. Certainly it was the only education I ever received and I hope I'm living up to a few of your hopes for other people".
Kelly began a series of comic books based on fairy tales and nursery rhymes along with annuals celebrating Christmas and Easter for Dell Comics. Kelly seems to have written or co-written much of the material he drew for the comics; his unique touches are easily discernible. He also produced a series of stories based on the Our Gang film series, provided covers for Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, illustrated the aforementioned adaptations of two Disney animated features, drew stories featuring Raggedy Ann and Andy and Uncle Wiggily, wrote and drew a lengthy series of comic books promoting a bread company and featuring a character called "Peter Wheat", and did a series of pantomime (i.e., without dialogue) two-page stories featuring Roald Dahl's Gremlins for Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #34–41. Kelly also wrote, drew, and performed during this period on children's records, children's books, and cereal boxes.
So highly regarded was his work that the introduction (likely written by Dell editor Oskar Lebeck) to Fairy Tale Parade #1 spoke of him as "the artist who drew all the wonderful pictures in this book".
Although his health would not allow him to serve in the military, during World War II, Kelly also worked in the Army's Foreign Language Unit illustrating manuals, including several on languages, one of his favorite topics. One manual depicted his friend Ward Kimball as a caveman.
This period saw the creation of Kelly's most famous character, Pogo, who first saw print in 1943 in Dell's Animal Comics. Pogo was almost unrecognizable in his initial appearance, resembling a real possum more closely than in his classic form.
Kelly's work with Dell continued well into the successful run of the newspaper strip in the early 1950s, ending after 16 issues of Pogo Possum (each with all-new material) in a dispute over the republication of Kelly's early Pogo and Albert stories in a comic book titled The Pogo Parade.
He returned to journalism as a political cartoonist after the war. In 1948, while serving as art director of the short-lived New York Star, Kelly began to produce a pen-and-ink daily comic strip featuring anthropomorphic animal characters that inhabited the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. The first Pogo strip appeared on October 4, 1948. After the New York Star folded on January 28, 1949, Kelly arranged for syndication through the Hall Syndicate, which relaunched the strip in May 1949. Kelly eventually arranged to acquire the copyright and ownership of the strip, which was not common at the time.
The Pogo comic strip was syndicated to newspapers for 26 years. The individual strips were collected into at least 20 books edited by Kelly. He received the Reuben Award for the series in 1951.
The principal characters were Pogo the Possum, Albert the Alligator, Churchy LaFemme (cf. Cherchez la femme), a turtle, Howland Owl, Beauregard (Houndog), Porkypine, and Miz Mamzelle Hepzibah, a French skunk. Kelly used the strip in part as a vehicle for his liberal and humanistic political and social views and satirized, among other things, Senator Joseph McCarthy's anti-Communist demagogy (in the form of a shotgun-wielding bobcat named "Simple J. Malarkey") and the sectarian and dogmatic behavior of Communists in the form of two comically doctrinaire cowbirds.
Additionally, Kelly illustrated The Glob, a children's book about the evolution of man written by John O'Reilly and published in 1952. Death
Kelly died in 1973 in Woodland Hills, California, from diabetes complications, following a long and debilitating illness that had cost him a leg. During his final illness, work on the strip had fallen to various assistants (and occasionally reprints), and Kelly characteristically joked about returning to work as soon as he regrew the leg. He is sometimes listed as having been interred in the Cemetery of the Evergreens in Brooklyn, New York, but there is no grave for him there. He is believed to have been cremated.