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Interview

Hanna-Barbera background artist Art Lozzi

Readersvoice.com aims to give people a few good reading tips. ART LOZZI painted backgrounds for Hanna-Barbera cartoons like Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, and The Flintstones, in the 1950s and 60s, gaining a reputation for his skilful use of color. Later he worked in architectural interior design, first for the Hilton Hotel chain, and then for about six Greek cruise ship lines, as well as for a series of elegant, upgraded ferries, and three fast ferries. He lives in Athens, Greece, and returns to the U.S. for two month-long trips each year. I asked Art Lozzi about his life, and picked up some interesting reading suggestions.

READERSVOICE.COM: There has been a lot of interest in your backgrounds for Hanna-Barbera cartoons from a lot of animation students on the internet, and the techniques you used in the 1950s and 60s. When did you notice this rise in interest, and what do you find students are most interested in about your work?

ART LOZZI: The rise in interest in my H-B backgrounds actually was there for some time. I had no idea. I learned of it first towards the end of last year (2006) through an article that was sent to me by a Hollywood friend.

In the Animation World Magazine, John Kricfalusi [creator of Ren and Stimpy] spoke of my backgrounds in glowing terms: “…Ed Benedict’s designs, Walt Clinton’s layouts and Art Lozzi’s absolutely amazing backgrounds. He used more subtle, more harmonious colors. Lozzi was an unsung hero and not too many people know about him”…and more. You can see how this completely floored me.

John K. then proceeded to do a few posts on my work, which in turn lit up new interest in the students, etc., making me aware of the rebirth of animation.

Animation students today seem impressed by the idea that backgrounds were actually painted with brushes and paints, using stencils and sponges. “Wow!” they say. Modern day technology doesn’t teach that. Their comments on these posts are astounding. I always thought that when you painted a background, you used paint.

RV: Were there cartoon series that you particularly enjoyed working on and why?

AL: I enjoyed all of the first H-B cartoons. Ruff and Reddy, the Jetsons, Yogi Bear. All of them until 1966, until Scooby Doo. Funny, funny, clever stuff (and great backgrounds).

I’m happy I left for Greece when the human characters were made. To me, around that time, Hanna and Barbera were on the way down. Quality was fading in practically all areas. I even disliked working at Filmation – Superman, Batman, etc.

RV: Hanna-Barbera created the first cartoons for tv. I was wondering if you kept an eye on tv cartoons over the years and what you thought of the way cartoons have gone over the years.

AL: I’m thrilled at the thought that I was able to contribute to the first cartoons for TV. Unfortunately Greece is not a country that promoted them. It seems that no one here has heard of Hanna and Barbera, of Yogi Bear, Boo Boo, the Flintstones (for which I was actually the one who first conceived Dino the dinosaur. We were asked to contribute story ideas and mine needed a house pet. Dino was born. For instance, he’d pick up the morning stone news slab and toss it onto Fred’s lap – “Ouch!”. I was never acknowledged or thanked. I wondered who created his style and looks. Most likely a combination of Joe Barbera and Ed Benedict).

Again, Greece was showing cartoons mostly on Saturday mornings only, usually the made-in-Japan violent monster ones. A couple of times, years ago, I’d see a Flintstone, but it was not a regular thing. Today they have the Sponge guy, and occasional Simpsons and the Cat and Dog ones. Very little else except for Walt Disney 1940s Pluto and Mickey Mouse. Awful!

Because of this I was never able to watch the progress of what was going on in the animation world. And this explains to me my total amazement when J. Kricfalusi wanted to post my work. I came out from behind a dark, closed curtain. (About eight years ago during a lunch with Joe Barbera he asked me what I thought of the Simpsons and how I thought they differed in “funniness” with the H-B cartoons. I didn’t even know who the Simpsons were!)

RV: What were Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera like?

AL: Fantastic. Brilliant, friendly, human, demanding, understanding, forceful…whatever it takes to turn out great shows. I can’t say enough. Have you ever seen a photograph of them when they weren’t smiling? 5 stars each!

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