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IWAO TAKAMOTO: 1925-2007

A look at the life of Iwao Takamoto:

Born April 29, 1925 in Los Angeles, Takamoto graduated ahead of his class at age 15 from Thomas Jefferson High School. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Takamoto and his family were sent to the Manzanar Internment Camp. Takamoto was able to depart the camp by picking fruit on a farm in Idaho, but not before he received some informal illustration training from fellow Japanese-Americans in the camp.

Returning to Los Angeles, he landed an interview with the Disney Studios, despite his lack of a portfolio or any formal artistic training. In the few days prior to the interview, Takamoto quickly filled two newly purchased sketchpads with every image he could imagine. Disney hired him on the spot as an apprentice in-betweener on June 5, 1945 -- just two months before the end of World War II.

Takamoto trained under Disneyıs legendary "nine old men," including Ollie Johnston, Marc Davis, Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, Frank Thomas and Eric Lawson. While at Disney, Takamoto worked on short animated cartoons as well as full-length films, including Cinderella, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty and 101 Dalmatians.

In mid-August 1961, Takamoto moved to Hanna-Barbera Studios, where he helped reinvent cartoons for television. Virtually all the characters and cartoons released by Hanna-Barbera over the following four decades were touched by the design and artistry of Takamoto. As a character designer, it was his job to create the look and images of the characters based on an idea for a proposed cartoon show.

Takamoto designed the beloved Scooby-Doo, Shaggy and the rest of the Mystery Machine crew. He named the popular Great Dane after Frank Sinatraıs "Strangers in the Night" rendition where, at the end, Sinatra sings "Scooby Dooby Doo." At a recent chat with Cartoon Network Studios personnel in Burbank, Takamoto offered some tidbits regarding his approach to creating the Scooby-Doo design.

"There was a lady at (Hanna-Barbera) that bred Great Danes," Takamoto explained. "She showed me some pictures and talked about the important points of a Great Dane, like a straight back, straight legs, small chin and such. I decided to go the opposite and gave him a hump back, bowed legs, big chin and such. Even his color is wrong."

Takamoto was the primary designer of the The Secret Squirrel Show (featuring both the title character and Atom Ant), The Great Grape Ape Show, Harlem Globe Trotters and Josie and the Pussy Cats series. Takamoto also designed the popular Muttley, who was featured in a number of animation productions. In addition to the family dog Astro, he was also responsible for much of the space-age architecture and vehicles seen in The Jetsons. The Flintstones character the Great Gazoo was another of Takamotoıs cosmic designs.

Takamoto actually designed Penelope Pitstop in less than two hours. During a meeting with Joe Barbera, a client said that The Wacky Races show had a problem because it did not have a female character. Joe Barbera told the client it wasnıt a problem and then left in the middle of the meeting to get Takamoto to create Penelope Pitstop.

For the award-winning 1973 theatrical release Charlotteıs Web, Takamoto was an animation director.

In 1996, Takamoto was honored by ASIFA-Hollywood with the Windsor McKayıs Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the field of animation. In 2001, the Japanese American National Museum heralded Takamoto for his achievements in entertainment. In 2005, he received the Golden Award from the Animation Guild, to honor his more than 50 years of service in the animation field.

A resident of Beverly Hills, Takamoto is survived by his wife, Barbara; his son Michael and step-daughter Leslie; and his brother Robert and sister Judy.

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