Monday, September 19, 2011

Earl Kress 1951-2011

This is a sad day for animation fans. Earl Kress died early this morning at the age of 60, from a combination of cancers.

Over the years we had featured Earl's blog on our sidebar, a blog that we now know because of health he had to lay aside from time to time. (We'll be putting it back in our Hall of Fame soon. Earl's blog is no longer available)

Kress had a diverse career. One of his first media jobs was as a puppeteer for a kids' show that aired on the four-station network that is now known as NJTV, which is now under the operational guidance of WNET. The puppets' human co-star was the former Miss New Jersey, Hela Young, who later became the hostess for the New Jersey Lottery and who herself lost a similar battle with cancer years earlier.

Cartoons came calling next. Friz Freleng gave Kress his first job in cartoons as a writer for the 1975 ABC series "The Oddball Couple", which was a Neil Simon-sanctioned takeoff on "The Odd Couple" featuring a neat cat and a slovenly dog who were roommates and best friends, with Frank Nelson and Paul Winchell. At 24, Kress found himself working alongside writers and animators who were at least 25 years his senior, if not more. Over the years Kress added several other animated series to his résumé, including "Transformers", "Pound Puppies", "Taz-Mania" and most recently "Baby Looney Tunes".

Kress was perhaps best known for his love of animation and his willingness to ply his considerable expertise to enhance several video and audio releases of animation. Kress wrote the liner notes for "The Hanna-Barbera Pic-A-Nic Basket", a 4 CD box set compilation of the best theme songs and sound effects from the studio's productions. He was a popular talking head on many DVD commentaries and with his friend Mark Evanier (here is his tribute to Kress) hosted panels of voice actors and actresses at San Diego Comic-Con International and other similar forums.

In Evanier's essay, he sums up the man that was Earl Kress quite nicely: "In an industry where jealousy and resentment sometimes seem as prevalent as nitrogen, Earl was utterly undespised. I don't know anyone who didn't like the guy. He was smart. He was funny. He had good, honorable motives for every single thing he did."

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