Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Frank Hursh: Painting backgrounds for Rocky & Bullwinkle in Mexico, Part 2

Frank Hursh at Gamma, ca. 1961
This week, Frank Hursh takes up where he left off, describing what it was like to be in the thick of production on the Jay Ward shows in Mexico:

As a painter, I had been using oil paints, but in Mexico City I met José Luis Gutiérrez, the inventor of acrylic paints and the owner of the Politec Paint Company. The great Mexican muralists – Siqueiros and Orozco -had been using acrylic paints for their murals – being exposed to the elements, this was an excellent paint because the color was fast, and it resisted water, heat, and wind damage.  José Luis had told me that I could even paint with it on glass. So, I had started to use acrylic paints in my personal artwork, a long time before it ever got to the U.S. 

Fingers Scarnose from "The Louse on 92nd St."
At Gamma, when we had trouble importing the Cartoon Color paints, I suggested that we switch to acrylic. Even Politec Paints were expensive at the time, so we eventually used ICI acrylic paints, and Sherwin Williams Super Kem-Tone, which was an excellent acrylic paint for the exterior of homes. They would mix up special batches of colors just for us.  In the long run, it was a good option: today the Cartoon Colors have peeled off a lot of cels, but the acrylic paint still adheres well.  (In addition to the paint, there were other art supply issues at Gamma involving both cels and ink; for further detail, read pages 52-53 in The Art of Jay Ward Productions where you can also see images of the studio's exterior.)  Note the proprietary color call outs in the color model cel below; American call outs identified the color followed by a number indicating the shade or tint.

Fingers' mob from "Louse on 92nd St."
Cel from the Fractured Fairy Tale, "Slow White and Rose Red"
Cel from the Bullwinkle "Mucho Loma" adventure
Publicity cel of the same vintage, painted in the US with Cartoon Color paint
As the above examples show, the latex house paint has outlasted the old Cartoon Color gouache paint in use at that same time in the US; very few American cels from that period have survived intact.  Shortly thereafter, in the early 60s, Cartoon Color came out with vinyl-based cel paint which, like the latex house paint, does not crack or peel from cels.

Seated, left to right, Sergio, unknown, Papy.  Standing, middle row, Jesus Chucho, Roberto, Guillermo Aguilar, Raul Vilchis, Tio, unknown.  Standing, back row, Mau Mau Arellano, Frank Hursh, Nacho Brambilla.
Above, Frank Hursh with his background crew surrounded by dozens of background paintings for various Jay Ward shows.  On the table, cans of latex paint used to paint both the backgrounds and cels.  Frank has attempted to name as many people as possible although in many cases, his recall is limited to their nicknames.  

Of his crew, Frank recalls:

“Mau Mau” Arrellano was a body builder, Jesús Chucho was a television actor and did some promotional advertising for TV, Guillermo Aguilar, my assistant later became a medical doctor.  Raúl Vilchis later became the only painter out of the group (besides Frank).  “Tío” (which means “Uncle”) was the oldest guy working in the background department, and was so named because he was the uncle of someone at Gamma although I can´t remember who.  Nacho (short for Ignacio) Brambilla was a football player and later became a director of television programs.

The top two photos were staged by a Life magazine photographer for a proposed story on the Gamma studio which never materialized; Frank is sitting at someone else's desk and the backgrounds were pinned up around him for the photo.  Below, photos of how the background department really looked at Gamma:

(L), Frank's desk as head of the department, his assistant Guillermo sat to his right, (R), reverse angle on the same room with unknown, Nacho Brambilla, Tio and Raul Vilchis
Next week, more rare production art from Frank's years at Gamma.

1 comment:

  1. Hahahaha! I remember watching Jesús Chucho in several TV commercials and in some movie newsreels doing a funny character named "Cuco Pelucho"!