Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Above: Roy Williams in a photo from The Mickey Mouse Club TV series. More at The Mickey Mouse Club Cast Web site here.

"Here's a great big guy that spends his days wearing a mouse hat and drawing cartoons for kids. What do you suppose he thinks of when the kids are asleep?"

I don't know a lot about The Mickey Mouse Club. I didn't watch it growing up. I did know there was a large guy who smiled a lot on the show. His name was Roy. He was an animator and a gag guy for Disney. This is a collection of his gag cartoons, copyright 1957 by Bantam Books.

I got as big a kick out of the fun hyperbole on the book as I did the cartoons.

Above: Roy's dedication page, in Roy's handwriting.

In 1925 Roy was hired by the Hyperion Studio after a short conversation with someone he took for the office boy (it was Walt). This was the beginning of Roy's lifelong personal loyalty to Walt Disney. Walt paid for Roy's training at the Chouinnard Art School, and took him on in the Art Department. As Roy's skill and experience grew, he was moved to the Animation Department, first as an in-betweener, then as a full-fledged animator. Roy's strength was judged to be as a story and gag man, and by the start of the fifties he had moved away from animation.

-- a snippet of Roy's bio from The Mickey Mouse Club Cast Web site. Now you know why he dedicated the tome to Walt.

A lot of the gags in the book are just zany. His line work is very breezy and bold. There's an ease to the line that comes with lots of years of drawing behind him.

Some of the ideas here are tinged with some sad truths, like the cartoon above. Both men look nonplussed about this chance encounter.

Some are racist, bad puns in today's light. As you can see, most of these are in the "stand 'em up, shoot 'em down" school of composition. The figures are posed in full view, usually in an establishing shot of sorts, with some locale details here and there.

OK, like the one above. I always admire wordless gags, but it took me a few seconds to notice the wee size of the shoe to get the gag here. Their clothes, the framed windmill, are all the clues to where these people live.

I thought a lot of these gags would look fine in Collier's or the Saturday Evening Post. So far as I can tell, none of the cartoons in this book had been published previously.

The above cartoon, with the fellow doing the double-take, exhibits Roy's animation drawing ability. The fellow's left leg, jutting out, askew, is a nice touch. (Dig the pedestal ash tray.)

What's interesting is that none of the cartoons are signed. Every gag cartoonist from the period signed their work. I liked the above gag a lot.

A lot of his gags depend on his drawing ability. The bold lines would be a big plus in today's market where print cartoons are usually shrunk mercilessly.

Like I said, some of the gags are just odd.

... And some are prescient today. Again: the clothing, the doorway -- these are all the clues to where we are -- something we must know to get the cartoon.

What an evil grin on the policeman's face!

Related: Roy Williams risque cartoons at Arflovers.


Mark Anderson said...

Wow! That's an incredible find! Wehe do you get such wonderful stuff?!

The two wordless gags are my favoites!

Unknown said...

Great article. Wish I could have found more reference photos of Williams when he became a character in the alt-history graphic novel I illustrated recently, Roswell, Texas. But I think I did him justice.