Frames of Time...
076_04 - Grim Natwick...
Grim is one of the originals. He is credited with the creation of Betty Boop. He worked at the Disney Studio on SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS and continued working up through RAGGEDY ANN AND ANDY and other ventures. In fact, he worked regularly at various studios during the entire "history" of animation.
Almost as legend as his work, were the attempts to gain credit for him as a creator of Betty Boop. In an industry famed for working behind a famous name, Grim was one of the few who triumphed past the studio to be known by his peers and the world.
By the 1980s, he had mostly given up art and had become a grand speaker on a time long gone. Animation professionals and fans alike would gather around to hear him talk, such as the picture from an ASIFA-Hollywood event. His stories were full of what the business was like at the beginning, during the golden age, and beyond.
Happily, despite the many reasons he could have for being bitter, he kept his life in perspective. He freely gave of his time and advice. Though we had chatted on various occasions, I wrote him regarding an article I was writing on the Crusader Rabbit TV series. I asked if we might have a short one-on-one about the series. He hand-wrote a note back stating he probably had little to say (gracious, but likely untrue). Even so, he would be glad to get together and talk. The article was cancelled, so I never had a "private" meeting with Grim.
When Grim reached 100 years, he was given the royal treatment via a banquet. Many a prominent name in the business got up to speak of this icon in the field of animation. However, the man himself topped all. For nearly an hour Grim recalled, with amazing detail, the projects, people and absurdities he had dealt with. The evening's moderator attempted to end Grim's talk, so as not to "tire" Grim. The audience reacted angrily. Grim grinned and said he would continue. Like those in the audience, Grim knew such occasions would not be repeated. In fact, Grim died shortly after the event.
Grim Natwick was a pioneer, an artist, a professional and a human being. His spirit is one of the binding forces of this business. Hopefully younger generations will not forget his impact, nor his understanding.
In an odd irony, during the 100th birthday bash, I was looking through the tribute book. There was a model sheet from a Fleischer feature film, drawn by Natwick. The name on the sheet was of the director who "approved" the art. That director, Bernie Wolf, was currently working for me at Film Roman, and was sitting at the table with me!
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