Hugh Harman (August 31, 1903 – November 25, 1982) was a groundbreaking animator. He started his career in the early days of Walt Disney’s Laugh-O-Gram Studio in Kansas City. Harman and his partner Rudolph “Rudy” Ising went on to found the animation divisions of Warner Bros and MGM.
Harman’s brother Fred worked with Walt Disney at the Kansas City Film Ad Company. When Disney left to start his own animation company, Laugh-O-Gram Studio, Fred was his first employee. The studio hired additional local animators, including Hugh.
Laugh-O-Gram Studio eventually went bankrupt. Disney left for California, but Hugh Harman, Ising, and Carmen Maxwell stayed behind, attempting to start their own studio. Eventually, however, they made the move to California. During his tenure at the Disney Studio, Harman drew pictures of mice around a photo of Walt Disney. These sketches later inspired Ub Iwerks to create Mickey Mouse.
Harman and Ising left Disney when the studio lost the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. They joined the studio producing new Oswald cartoons. After they were forced out by a shake up at the company in 1929, Harman and Ising developed the character Bosko with the help of Friz Freleng. Bosko impressed Leon Schlesinger who brought the animators to Warner Bros. Harman and Ising built the new animation studio with Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons.
In 1933, Harman and Ising moved briefly to Van Beuren Studios. In 1934, they signed a deal to produce cartoons for MGM, including new Bosko cartoons. That relationship lasted through 1937. Harman and Ising began freelancing as animators, working both together and apart through the rest of their careers. In 1941, Harman formed a new animation company that produced films for the Army.
Awards and Achievements
- 1936 – Academy Awards; Nominated for Best Short Subject, Cartoons
- 1937 – Academy Awards; Nominated for Best Short Subject, Cartoons
- 1941 – Academy Awards; Won Best Short Subject, Cartoons for “The Milky Way” (MGM)
- 1975 – Annie Awards; Windsor McCay Award