January 09, 2007

Animator Iwao Takamoto Dies

Created Canine Icon Scooby-Doo

Iwao Takamoto

Los Angeles, CA - Animator Iwao Takamoto, who worked on some of the most beloved animated movies and TV shows of all time, died Monday of heart failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 81.

Although Takamoto’s credits include such animated classics as Cinderella, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp and The Flintstones, his most enduring legacy is his creation of Scooby-Doo's title character.

This timid Great Dane, equipped with an insatiable appetite, helped the teenage crime-fighting team known as "Mystery Inc." to unmask countless ghosts and ghouls in decades of Hanna-Barbera productions.

The son of Japanese immigrants, Takamoto was born in Los Angeles. When World War II broke out, just as he graduated from high school, Takamoto and his family were sent to the Manzanar internment camp in the southeastern California desert, near the Nevada border. It was there that he learned the art of illustration from fellow internees.

Although he had no formal training, Takamoto had become so skilled that he was hired as an apprentice at Walt Disney Studios when he returned to Los Angeles.

Scooby-Doo by Iwao Takamoto

After a lengthy and fruitful tenure with Disney, Takamoto began working for Hanna-Barbera Studios in 1961.

His work there included numerous popular TV cartoons, including Josie and the Pussy Cats, The Great Grape Ape Show, Harlem Globetrotters and The Secret Squirrel Show.

Takamoto said he created "Scooby-Doo" after talking with a Great Dane breeder, and named him after Frank Sinatra’s final phrase in the song “Strangers in the Night.”

As reported by the Associated Press, Takamoto said in a recent talk at Cartoon Network Studios that the breeder “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," he explained. "Even his color is wrong.”

Takamoto’s knack for canine characters led to the creation of two other iconic Hanna-Barbera dogs: Astro, from The Jetsons, and Muttley, from Wacky Races and other productions. In 1973 Takamoto directed the animated feature film version of Charlotte’s Web.

Takamoto is survived by his wife, a son and a stepdaughter.

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