Legendary Toon Designer Gene Hazelton Dies

Famed animation designer/comic strip artist Gene Hazleton passed away on April 6, 2005 at age 85.

Born in 1919, Wesley "Gene" Hazelton began an extensive and diverse career in his teens as an assistant to Jimmy Halto, working on the popular newspaper panel They’ll Do It Every Time. He jumped on board at Disney in 1939 and climbed the ranks from an entry-level position to become an animator for the studio. During his years at Disney, he animated the goat kids in Fantasia as well as several sequences in Pinocchio.

With the onset of the 1941 strike at Disney, Hazelton moved to Warner Bros. where he designed characters for Bob Clampett’s controversial short, Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs. He also began working on many magazine gag cartoons and commercial art assignments.

Hazelton later spent many years at MGM working with Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera on Tom & Jerry, and with Tex Avery on his highly acclaimed shorts. He also designed "Sinbad the Sailor," the animated sequence that appeared in Gene Kelly’s Invitation to the Dance. During the 1950s and 60s, Hazelton did commercial and magazine work, including design for Grantray-Lawrence Prods. and I Love Lucy.

At Hanna-Barbera Hazelton played a key role in establishing the style of the studio’s programs in the early years. He is credited for the creation of beloved Flintstones’ tots Pebbles and Bamm Bamm, and in 1961 he began supervising the syndicated newspaper features of Yogi Bear and The Flintstones. As of 1974, he took over writing and drawing both strips full-time, and continued creating content and design for them through 1988.

In his later years, Hazelton taught several classes, continued to draw Hanna-Barbera cels, which are sold at many animation art galleries, and spent a good amount of time playing golf. He was well-loved by his peers and often sited as a huge influence on the younger generation of cartoonists and animators.

Donations in his memory may be made to Canine Companions for Independence, Southwest Regional Chapter, P.O. Box 4568, Oceanside, CA 92052-4568.