Iwao Takamoto, the renowned animator responsible for designing Scooby-Doo and a number of other beloved Hanna-Barbera characters, has died at the age of 81. Like long-time colleague Joe Barbera, who passed away just weeks earlier, Takamoto was still active in the animation industry right up to the end, serving as VP of special projects for Warner Bros. Animation.
Yakamoto’s recent credits include storyboarding the 2005 Tom and Jerry short The Karateguard and aiding in the design of many characters in the current Cartoon Network and Kids’ WB! toon series Krypto the Superdog. He also served as a consultant on Warner Bros. Animation’s ongoing Scooby-Doo direct-to-video series, including the 2006 release Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy!, and the upcoming Chill Out, Scooby-Doo.
“Iwao Takamoto was not only a tremendously talented designer and artist, he was a beautiful human being,” says Warner Bros. Animation president Sander Schwartz. “Iwao was always ready with a wide smile, a firm handshake and a warm welcome. Iwao’s designs will be his legacy for generations to come. Those of us who had the privilege of working closely with him will miss his mentoring presence, his good counsel and his unparalleled talent and spirit.”
A young Takamoto picked up illustration skills from fellow Japanese-Americans in an internment camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and eventually made it back to Los Angeles, where he was able to land an interview at Disney. He was hired on the spot as an apprentice and in-betweener, learning the animation craft from the legendary ‘nine old men.’ He worked on such classics features as Cinderella, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty and 101 Dalmatians before moving to Hanna-Barbera Studios in 1961.
Over the next four decades, Takamoto would be heavily involved with the design of nearly all Hanna-Barbera charaters, putting his stamp on Scooby-Doo, Shaggy and the rest of the Mystery Inc. gang. He recently told employees of Cartoon Network Studios in Burbank that breaking the rules often pays off, commenting, “There was a lady at [Hanna-Barbera] that bred Great Danes. 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.”
Other Hanna-Barbera shows Takamoto served as primary designer on include The Secret Squirrel Show, The Great Grape Ape Show, Harlem Globe Trotters and Josie and the Pussy Cats. He also designed Muttley, the muttering dog in The Wacky Races and other cartoons, as well as Jetson family dog Astro. Other characters that owe their screen presence to him include The Great Gazoo from The Flintstones and Penelope Pitstop from The Wacky Races. He reportedly designed Penelope in less than two hours after a client told Joe Barbera that the show needed a female character.
After an illustrious career in television, Takamoto returned to the world of theatrical features as animation director on the Hanna-Barbera-produced 1973 animated version of E.B. White’s classic children’s book, Charlotte’s Web.
ASIFA-Hollywood honored Takamoto with the Windsor McCay Lifetime Achievement Award during the 1996 Annie Awards. He was also recognized for his contributions to entertainment by the Japanese American National Museum in 2001 and received the Golden Award from the Animation Guild in 2005. He is survived by his wife, Barbara; his son, Michael; his step-daughter, Leslie and his siblings Robert and Judy.