Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Ken Southworth (1918-2007)

As posted by Ray Pointer at
Ten minutes ago, I received a call from Ken's wife, Carol that he had passed away of a stroke this morning.
I had spoken with him two weeks ago, and he had had a bad fall and was getting around by a cane.
My association with Ken began on THE ADVENTURES FROM THE BOOK OF VIRTUES in 1996. The following year we joined forces to produce the popular three volume Home Instruction course, THE KEN SOUTHWORTH ANIMATION Program that consisted of instructional VHS tapes and workbooks.
The origin of this series was based on Ken's desire to pass on his 50 years of experience to the next generation. Since talent for the animation field can come from virtually anywhere in the world, there is the possibility that someone in an isolated area without the means to attend one of the major Animation Schools might benefit from a few basic lessons. As a result we fashion this series of courses designed to spark that raw talent.

THE KEN SOUTHWORTH ANIMATION series was featured in several Video Catalogs including Schlesinger's Educational Library Video, The Whole Toon Catalog, and our web site: as well. While Ken established the original web site, I continued to develop it to what it is today. As a result, we have linked to many people worldwide who have found us, and told us how much they have enjoyed our product.

Ken was employed at The Walt Disney Studios from 1943 to 1951. He was primarily an Assistant Animator
in the Jack Hannah and Jack Kinney units working on numerous DONALD DUCK, GOOFY, and PLUTO short subjects. During this period, Ken developed the "Splat" shock/impact effects that became cartoon conventions in the Disney shorts. Ken also worked on a number of the Disney animated features including THE THREE CABBALLEROS, SONG OF THE SOUTH, and THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW. He assisted Frank Thomas on CINDERELLA, primarily on the STEPMOTHER, and also assisted Milt Kahl on ALICE IN WONDERLAND. In one of our programs, Ken took great pride in stating that he had done considerable work on the Croquet Sequence in ALICE IN WONDERLAND, saying, "Chances are, if you see a drawing with ALICE holding a flamingo, I did it!"

Ken left Disney after ALICE in WONDERLAND to accept an offer as an Animator for Walter Lantz, working under Tex Avery. When the second version of the famous WOODY WOODPECKER opening title was done, it was animated by Ken and LaVerne Harding. Ken then went to MGM during its last two years, with an Animator's credit on several of the Cinemascope cartoons produced by Hanna and Barbera starring TOM AND JERRY and DROOPY. When Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera launched H-B Enterprises in 1957, later to become Hanna-Barbera Productions in 1959, Ken went along with them, as an animatior on HUCKLEBERRY HOUND, QUICK DRAW MCGRAW, THE FLINTSTONES, TOP CAT, JONNY QUEST, SPACE GHOST, DINO BOY, SCUBBY DOO, THE SMURFS, DON COYOTE, and SWAT CATS. Ken was with H-B for 21 years.

In the early 1960s, Ken was also a Stop-Motion Animator and Storyboard Artist on DAVY AND GOLIATH for Clokey Productions. He was also Director and Layout Artist on QT HUSH and YOUNG DANIEL BOONE.
In the 1970s, he was a Storyboard Artist and Animator on STAR TREK, LASSIE, HE-MAN, and BRAVESTAR for Filmation. Ken was also an Animator on Bugs and Tweety for GREMILINS 2 and EARTH DAY TV. His fianl assignment was as a Director on ADVENTURES FROM THE BOOK OF VIRTUES on PBS.

During his active years, Ken taught Animation at the Hanna-Barbera Evening School, The American Animation Institute (Cartoonists Local 839), and since his retirement ten years ago, continued to speak at colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada including VanArts.

Ken was a most unique, generous, and inspiring man. With all of his past experiences with business ventures, he stated that I was the best associate he had ever worked with. That was really a tremendous compliment in light of his rich history, which gives me a great deal to live up to. Always the optomist, Ken had this to say about the future of animation:

" I think the best is yet to come, remembering that the play's the thing...I'm very optimistic for both 2D and 3D animation."
Rest in Peace, Ken,

1 comment:

Chris Sobieniak said...

Though it seems rather pointless I bother to comment on this right now Tom, I just had to think of the fact I missed out on getting those tapes Ken had out years ago I probably could've learned some animation from by now! Annoying tracking down those tapes now. Found a copy of the third volume off eBay a while ago.

Remember watching and enjoyed Adventures from The Book of Virtues. Probably the only thing animated on PBS I could tolerate watching in a LONG time (not saying what they have on now isn't better). Love to see it again, but sucks if there isn't a DVD out of it at all, and have to go eBay hunting as usual. It was nice knowing Ken worked on it too.