Jack Bradbury working as an animator
at the Disney Studio (c. 1940)
Jack Bradbury (actually named John at birth, but he always went by Jack) was born in Seattle, Washington in 1914, and he spent his entire childhood there. Although he did some drawing and cartooning during his school years, he had no formal art training beyond high school art classes. After graduating from high school in 1932, he was faced with the bleak lack of job possibilities due to the Depression. He spent a year doing odd jobs to help support his family, and then happened to hear that the Disney Studio was recruiting new artists. The Disney cartoon "Three Little Pigs" had just been shown in Seattle, and it had generated a lot of excitement. Jack sent a few samples of his drawings to Disney's, and a couple weeks later got a reply saying that he could, at his own expense, travel to Los Angeles and do a two-week unpaid trial at the studio. The letter included the warning that he should take sufficient funds for his return trip, in case things didn't work out. Borrowing $50 from his grandfather, he got on a bus with a small bag of belongings, and set off for Hollywood. He was just 19 years old.
Realizing that this was his big chance to start a career in cartooning, Jack threw himself into the two-week tryout, which involved learning some basic in-betweener skills. Struggling at first, he kept at it and managed to get accepted into a paid position, starting at $15/week. He worked at honing his skills, and after about 6 months he was offered a seven year contract, starting out as an in-betweener. During the next several years he worked his way up to assistant animator (Snow White), and then made it to animator (Ferdinand the Bull, Fantasia, Pinocchio, and Bambi).
The bitter strike at Disney's, in 1941, brought an end to Jack's animation work at the Disney studio. He had joined the strike, along with most of the animators, assistants and in-betweeners in his unit. After the strike was settled, he was called back in to work, only to be promptly fired. (Walt Disney was not particularly forgiving about the strike.) Somewhat disillusioned about this experience, Jack worked for the next year painting Liberty ships in a San Pedro shipyard. During this time he turned down an offer to go do animation at MGM, but then a few months later got an offer from the Schlessinger studio, which produced cartoons for Warner Brothers. This time he opted out of the shipyards, and spent the next two years working for Friz Freleng, animating Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and other Warner's cartoons.
Towards the end of his time at Warner's, Jack started drawing some comic book stories for Jim Davis, who was acting as a west coast supplier for the Sangor comic outfit. These 'funny animal' comics are the source of many of the comic book stories found on this website. At first Jack, along with some other animators, worked on these comics in the evenings and off hours, while holding jobs in the animation studios during the day. After a while, Jack decided to leave Warner's animation, and to do the comic book work full time. Jack discovered that he also had a knack for writing the stories, as well as doing the drawing. He had a chance to create his own characters, including Footsy Hare, Tuffy the Cat, Bagshaw Bear, Humphrey Hummingbird, Butch O'Sparrow, Li'l Thomas Hippopot, Roofus and Goofus (two Dachshunds), Pansy the Chimp, Fremont Frog, Hucky Duck, Gooligan (a tough dog), "Doc" E.Z. Duzit (a little gnome-like doctor who treated the forest animals), Clem McHedgehog, Boar Brummel, Stanley and Homer (horse and dog), and probably more. Stanley was one of Jack's favorites, and later teamed up with Spunky, Jr. Cowboy. Jack also did some of the drawing, but not the writing, for other characters, such as Spencer Spook, The Hepcats, and Supermouse.
Many years later (1989) Jim Davis sent Jack an album of many of Jack's stories that he had clipped and saved. Jim's letter included the following:
"Years ago during the days of HA HA and GIGGLE comics I collected a lot of tear sheets of Kens's and Owen's and Al's and your work and others. I've assembled yours in a book and am sending this to your for your grandchildren to enjoy. I was always a great admirer of your maintenance of a standard of quality. Some of us sloughed off for the sake of a quicker buck but not you. I well remember going through all that stuff that we sent back to Sangor and you could tell the mood of how the various contributors felt at the time they cranked a strip out. You were all very talented and highly trained and a basic quality was always present but sometimes some of the work was rushed... and whynot? We worked for low pay. Even so, we all did pretty well and there were a lot worse jobs."
The comic market had some major ups and downs during this time. In the slow periods, Jack did a little more animation with Jim Davis, for small studios, and he tried his hand at doing some single-panel cartoons intended for magazines. The magazine cartoons didn't sell, and he realized that he was better at writing comic book stories than single panel gags.
In 1948, Jack started doing comic book work directly for the re-organized Sangor shop (Standard Comics). He was encouraged to work on a comic book series based on two of his own characters--Spunky, previously known as the 'Pronto Kid', and Stanley, the horse. In all, there were seven issues, with all of the stories and artwork done by Jack. (These are all included on this website.) But Spunky, Jr. Cowboy did not sell well, and the publishers decided to discontinue the series. The market was generally in another slump, and Jack wasn't getting enough work with Standard to survive, so he decided to take a job with Western Publishing.
Western produced all of the Disney comics, and Jack was certainly familiar with drawing Disney characters. The work was less creative, in that he wouldn't be doing any of his own story ideas, and the pay was less, but there was promise of regular work. Jack was to spend the next three decades drawing mostly Disney comic books for Western, and later (from about 1968-1977) directly for Disney Studio. One exception to the Disney material was in the early 1950's, when Bob Clampett decided to do a comic book version of his popular 'Time for Beany' tv puppet show. Clampett's arrangement with Western specified that Jack should do the artwork for the comics. The rest of the time, Jack drew comic stories that included the whole range of Disney characters--Micky Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Chip 'n' Dale, Gyro Gearloose, Uncle Scrooge and more. The INDUCKS website lists over 6600 pages of Disney stories that Jack drew.
In later years, Jack did also write some of the stories that he did for Western and Disney. From about 1963 onwards, most of the stories he did were for the overseas market. From about 1969 on, Jack just did the pencilling work, leaving the inking to other artists. His eyesight was deteriorating over time, due to macular degeneration, and in 1978 he pretty much retired from cartooning (except for some occasional larger coloring books for Western).
Even though he was drawing the 'stock' Disney characters, he had a distinctive style that was recognizable by comics fans. In later years, Jack heard from fans from around the world.
For more detail, and to get some of the story in his own words (from the horse's mouth, as it were), here are some extracts from Jack's autobiography, written when he was in his late 70's.