Wednesday, July 22, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Rudolph Ising, 88, Co-Founder Of `Looney Tunes,' `Merrie Melodies'

Los Angeles Times

Rudolf Ising, one of Walt Disney's original artists who became better known for creating famous animation studios than celebrated animated characters, is dead.

The co-founder (with the late Hugh Harman) of the prolific "Looney Tunes" and "Merrie Melodies" cartoon factories died at age 88 Saturday in Newport Beach, Calif., where he had retired in the 1970s.

Mr. Ising's animation career began in Kansas City where he answered a newspaper advertisement for a cartoonist. He met Disney, who hired him to ink the drawings for the "Newton Laugh-O-Grams," Disney's initial attempt at animation named for the Newton Theater in Kansas City where they were screened.

It marked the beginning of a five-decade career.

Mr. Ising followed Disney to California a few years later to work on "Alice in Cartoonland" and the "Oswald Rabbit" series. Later, he, Disney, Harman and Ub Iwerks churned out the Laugh-O-Gram Films.

He and Harman split from Disney to pursue their own careers and, like their mentor, their work, including their first cartoon - "Bosko, the Talk-InkKid" (1929) - featured appealing characters and sophisticated - for its time - animation. "Bosko" was an ink-blot tyke who signed off by saying "That's all, folks," a phrase later made immortal by a stuttering pig named Porky. It came in the infancy of sound pictures and was the first animated film that synchronized movement to speech.

The film's success brought Ising-Harmon to the attention of Warner Bros. where their first "Looney Tune" was released in 1930. It also starred the cheerful Bosko and his enthusiastic girlfriend, Honey.

By 1931 the two men had added a cartoon line, Merrie Melodies. Mr. Ising concentrated more on the Merrie Melodies, which were structured around music, while Harman produced the Looney Tunes segments. Warners and Ising-Harman parted company when the studio's animation chief, Leon Schlesinger, resisted their demands for a bigger budget.

They moved to Metro Goldwyn Mayer in 1934 where over the years the characters they introduced included Barney Bear, a languid soul considered the forerunner of Yogi Bear. Barney was said to have been based on Mr. Ising himself, who had a tendency to fall asleep during meetings.

In 1940 Mr. Ising's "Milky Way," about three coy kittens, became the first non-Disney cartoon to win an Academy Award.

He left MGM to head the animation division of the Army Air Corps' First Motion Picture Unit, worked on a postwar animated treatment of "King Arthur" that was never completed because of lack of financing and spent the rest of his career on commercial and TV projects. In 1976 the International Animation Society of Hollywood gave him its Annie Award for distinguished contributions.

Mr. Ising is survived by his wife, Cynthia, and their son, Rudy.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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