Walter "Walt" Kelly (American, 1913 - 1973), illustrated letter and envelope with additional pencil drawing/ sketch, letter post marked 1935, written to "Pally's" family after a visit, figural cartoons throughout, envelope with mapburn and worn edges, very slight wear to letter, minor spots of foxing and mapburn, creased, 10 1/4" h. x 7 1/4" w.; along with separate paper containing two cartoons, one with bug and elf driving a stagecoach pulled by caterpillars, second a boxing elf, torn out lower section, artist address verso, creases, all pieces with toning. These are original and unique cartoons from the creator of Pogo, one of the best known and best loved cartoonists of the 20th Century.
Walter Crawford Kelly, Jr. (August 25, 1913 – October 18, 1973) or Walt Kelly, was an American animator and cartoonist, best known for the comic strip Pogo.He began his animation career in 1936 at Walt Disney Studios, contributing to Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Dumbo. Kelly resigned in 1941 at the age of 28 to work at Dell Comics, where he created Pogo, which eventually became his platform for political and philosophical commentary.
Mr. Kelly worked for Walt Disney Productions as a storyboard artist and gag man on Donald Duck cartoons and other shorts, requesting a switch to the animation department in 1939. Starting over as an animator, Kelly became an assistant to noted Walt Disney animator Fred Moore and became close friends with Moore and Ward Kimball, one of Disney's Nine Old Men. Kelly and Kimball were so close that Kimball named his daughter Kelly Kimball in tribute. Kelly worked for Disney from January 6, 1936, to September 12, 1941, contributing to Pinocchio, Fantasia, The Reluctant Dragon, and Dumbo. Kelly once stated that his salary at Disney averaged about $100 a week. During 1935 and 1936, his work also appeared in early comic books for what later became DC Comics.
Kelly's animation can be seen in Pinocchio when Gepetto is first seen inside Monstro the whale, fishing; in Fantasia when Bacchus is seen drunkenly riding a donkey during the Beethoven/"Pastoral Symphony" sequence; and in Dumbo of the ringmaster and during bits of the crows' sequence. His drawings are especially recognizable in The Reluctant Dragon of the little boy, and in the Mickey Mouse short The Little Whirlwind, when Mickey is running from the larger tornado (the tornado even blows a copy of The Bridgeport Post into Mickey's face).
Kelly never returned to the studio as an animator, but jobs adapting the studio's films Pinocchio and The Three Caballeros for Dell Comics—apparently the result of a recommendation from Walt Disney himself—led to a new (and ultimately transitional) career.
On May 25, 1960, Kelly wrote a letter to Walt Disney regarding his time at the studio:
"Just in case I ever forgot to thank you, I'd like you to know that I, for one, have long appreciated the sort of training and atmosphere that you set up back there in the thirties. There were drawbacks as there are to everything, but it was an astounding experiment and experience as I look back on it. Certainly it was the only education I ever received and I hope I'm living up to a few of your hopes for other people."
Kelly began a series of comic books based on fairy tales and nursery rhymes along with annuals celebrating Christmas and Easter for Dell Comics. Kelly seems to have written or co-written much of the material he drew for the comics; his unique touches are easily discernible. He also produced a series of stories based on the Our Gang film series, provided covers for Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, illustrated the aforementioned adaptations of two Disney animated features, drew stories featuring Raggedy Ann and Andy and Uncle Wiggily, wrote and drew a lengthy series of comic books promoting a bread company and featuring a character called "Peter Wheat", and did a series of pantomime (i.e., without dialogue) two-page stories featuring Roald Dahl's Gremlins for Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #34–41. Kelly also wrote, drew, and performed during this period on children's records, children's books, and cereal boxes.
This period saw the creation of Kelly's most famous character, Pogo, who first saw print in 1943 in Dell's Animal Comics. Pogo was almost unrecognizable in his initial appearance, resembling a real possum more closely than in his classic form.
Kelly's work with Dell continued well into the successful run of the newspaper strip in the early 1950s, ending after 16 issues of Pogo Possum (each with all-new material) in a dispute over the republication of Kelly's early Pogo and Albert stories in a comic book titled The Pogo Parade.
He returned to journalism as a political cartoonist after the war. In 1948, while serving as art director of the short-lived New York Star, Kelly began to produce a pen-and-ink daily comic strip featuring anthropomorphic animal characters that inhabited the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. The first Pogo strip appeared on October 4, 1948. After the New York Star folded on January 28, 1949, Kelly arranged for syndication through the Hall Syndicate, which relaunched the strip in May 1949. Kelly eventually arranged to acquire the copyright and ownership of the strip, which was not common at the time.
The Pogo comic strip was syndicated to newspapers for 26 years. The individual strips were collected into at least 20 books edited by Kelly. He received the Reuben Award for the series in 1951.
The principal characters were Pogo the Possum, Albert the Alligator, Churchy LaFemme (cf. Cherchez la femme), a turtle, Howland Owl, Beauregard (Houndog), Porkypine, and Miz Mamzelle Hepzibah, a French skunk. Kelly used the strip in part as a vehicle for his liberal and humanistic political and social views and satirized, among other things, Senator Joseph McCarthy's anti-Communist demagogy (in the form of a shotgun-wielding bobcat named "Simple J. Malarkey") and the sectarian and dogmatic behavior of Communists in the form of two comically doctrinaire cowbirds. The setting for Pogo and his friends was the Okefenokee Swamp. Today the Okefenokee Swamp Park near Waycross, Georgia has a building housing Walt Kelly's relocated studio and various Pogo memorabilia.
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