The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the gift of the Abe and Charlotte Levitow Collection featuring animation art and related production materials documenting the career of animator Abe Levitow. Donated in their parents’ honor by the Levitows’ three children, Roberta, Judy and Jon, the collection features animation cells, backgrounds, storyboards, graphic art materials and related film prints – hundreds of items that represent Levitow’s accomplishments as an artist, animator and director for Warner Bros., UPA and MGM, including his work on features such as Gay Purr-ee (1962) and The Phantom Tollbooth (1970).
The collection, which will be housed in both the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library and the Academy Film Archive, is a significant addition to the Academy’s holdings in the animation field. “We are honored that the Levitow family has entrusted the preservation of their father’s legacy to the Academy’s archivists,” Margaret Herrick Library director Linda Mehr said, “And you really can’t go wrong when Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck are in the mix, can you?”
Levitow began his career at Leon Schlesinger Productions, where he served as a publicity artist and animator on cartoons released through Warner Bros. He worked primarily as a member of the Chuck Jones unit, contributing to many of Jones’s films in the late 1940s and early 1950s, including the Academy Award-winning animated short, For Scent-imental Reasons (1949). He was promoted to director on several Warner Bros. cartoons before moving on to UPA in the late 1950s, where he served as animation director on the studio’s first feature, 1001 Arabian Nights.
At UPA, Levitow had two career directing milestones: first, on the animated feature Gay Purr-ee, featuring the voices of Judy Garland and Robert Goulet with original songs by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, and then with Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol, an animated musical version of the Charles Dickens tale. Following his stint at UPA, Levitow joined the animation unit at MGM, where he directed a number of the later Tom and Jerry cartoons, including “The A-Tom-inable Snowman” (1966), “Guided Mouse-ille” (1967) and “Rock ‘n’ Rodent” (1967).
In addition to the more than 500 pieces of original production art, which will join more than 15,000 such items already held by the Margaret Herrick Library, the Levitow Collection includes scripts, sound recordings and other documentation related to Levitow’s work in film, television and commercials. All of the production materials may be accessed by filmmakers, historians, journalists, students and the public at the library, located in the Academy’s Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture Study in Beverly Hills.