By early August, 1932, Babbitt had successfully proven himself among the ranks of the novice animation talent. Ben Sharpsteen was probably impressed with Babbitt’s Pluto work on the previous assignment, so he gave him a few more Pluto scenes in the new Mickey Mouse cartoon directed by Wilfred Jackson, “The Klondike Kid.”
Many strong animators were assigned to this cartoon. Young men like Les Clark, Hardie Gramatky, Tom Palmer, Johnny Cannon, Frenchy de Tremaudan, Gerry Geronomi and Norm Ferguson didn’t need any supervising. With a seasoned staff like these guys (who had been at the studio up to three years already), it was a safe bet to assign some of the weaker scenes to the newer trainees under Ben Sharpsteen.
Babbitt must have been fast-tracked into this group after having proved himself with the previous tests, because most of the other trainee artists had been there for some time already. Here are the trainees on “Klondike Kid,” in order of who had been there the longest (with film release dates of their earliest known work).
- Charles Couch, (had worked on “Arctic Antics” released 6/5/30)
- Fred Moore, (hired in August, 1930)
- Charlie Byrne, (had worked on “Chain Gang” released 9/5/30)
- Roy Williams, (hired in 1930)
- Harry Reeves, (had worked on “Busy Beavers” released 6/30/31)
- Marvin Woodward, (had worked on “Busy Beavers” released 6/30/31)
- Frank Tipper, (had worked on “Blue Rhythm” released 8/18/31)
- Fred Spencer, (hired in 1931)
- Ed Love, (had worked on “Flowers and Trees” released 7/30/32)
- George Drake, “Klondike Kid” first known assignment
- Archie Robin, “Klondike Kid” first known assignment
- Louie Schmidtt, “Klondike Kid” first known assignment
- Art Babbitt, “Klondike Kid” first known assignment
“And this was about vacation time for the studio staff, but I hadn’t earned my vacation. And the end result of it all was that I ended up doing most of the picture because everybody else was on vacation. And that’s how I got started.”
Babbitt ended up animating a hefty ten scenes of the total sixty-six scenes in the film, or 72 feet and 8 frames (48.3 seconds) of the total 580-foot (6 minutes, 26 second-long) cartoon. He out-produced every other animator on the film. Still, he had not yet developed as an artist. “Most of the guys surrounding me at Disney’s were not any worse or any better than I was at that time.”
The Klondike Kid was released 11/12/32.
[sources are Babbitt’s interview with Bill Hurtz and Disney workdrafts. Special thanks to Hans Perk‘s terrific blog.]