Writer and storyboard artist Earl Kress, the winner of two Daytime Emmy Awards for his work on animated shows, died early Monday from the liver cancer that he had been battling since earlier this year, cartoon historian Mark Evanier wrote on his “News From ME” blog. He turned 60 last month.
In 1998, he shared an Annie for Outstanding Individual Achievement for Writing in an Animated Television Production for the Pinky and the Brain episode “The Family That Poits Together Narfs Together.”
He shared Daytime Emmy nominations for Outstanding Children’s Animated Program in 1997 and 1998 for Pinky and the Brain, and in 1999 for Animaniacs.
A story writer for the 1981 Disney feature film The Fox and the Hound, Kress wrote the last Road Runner short, 2000’s Little Go Beep.
Besides Disney and Warner Bros., he worked for DePatie-Freleng, Hanna-Barbera, Marvel, Filmation and Universal.
Kress wrote for a huge range of TV series, starting with 1975’s The Oddball Couple. “At 24, Kress found himself working alongside writers and animators who were at least 25 years his senior, if not more,” observed blogger Dave Mackey.
Other series included Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids and The Flintstone Comedy Show (both 1980), Space Stars (1981), The Little Rascals (1982), Transformers (1984-86), The Berenstain Bears (1985), Yogi’s Treasure Hunt (1985-87), Ghostbusters and Ewoks (both 1986), Pound Puppies (1986-87), DuckTales (1987), The New Yogi Bear Show (1988), Wake, Rattle & Roll (1990), Tiny Toon Adventures (1990-91), Mother Goose and Grimm and Yo Yogi! (both 1991), The Addams Family (1992), Taz-Mania (1994), Road Rovers (1996), Baby Looney Tunes (2002), Kim Possible (2003), Krypto the Superdog and Brandy & Mr. Whiskers (both 2005), Monster Allergy and The X’s (both 2006), and Random! Cartoons (2008).
In addition, he wrote the direct-to-video productions Wakko’s Wish (1999) and Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes (2010) — the latter being his final project to be released.
Kress was a story editor for The Kwicky Koala Show (1981). According to Evanier, he had the occasional voice acting jobs, such as on the Disney movie The Rescuers Down Under. (He had studied as a voice actor with Daws Butler.)
He was a producer, director, writer and researcher for many cartoon-related albums and DVD collections. These included The Flintstones Story, Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Sound FX, Pic-a-nic Basket of Cartoon Classics: H-B Classics Vol. 1 & 2, Modern Stone-Age Melodies, The Flintstones – Seasons 2, 4, 5 and 6, Top Cat – The Complete Series, Wacky Races, Tom and Jerry – Spotlight Collections Volume 1 and 2, Huckleberry Hound – Volume 1, Yogi Bear – The Complete Series and Magilla Gorilla – The Complete Series. He spoke on many DVD commentaries as well.
The author of the book Life Is a Pic-a-nic: Yogi Bear’s Tips and Tricks For the Smarter Than the Av-er-age Bear, Kress co-wrote Did You Grow Up With Me, Too? The Autobiography of June Foray. He was a contributing writer for 100 Greatest Looney Tunes and Looney Tunes: The Ultimate Visual Guide.
Kress came from Philadelphia, where he worked in broadcasting before moving to Los Angeles in the mid-1970s to widen his creative potential.
He joined the executive board of The Animation Guild in 1995 and was elected vice-president in 2004.
“As a union officer he was known as a tireless champion of animation writers’ rights,” recalled Steve Hulett, the guild’s business representative. “In the 2006 contract negotiations, Earl championed a proposal to guarantee health benefits for any writer who wrote at least one half-hour script in a coverage period, thus greatly increasing benefit coverage for freelance animation writers.”
At age 38, Kress had a heart transplant. Surgeons installed one that had belonged to a teenage girl. He made a strong recovery after a rough time.
He was diagnosed with cancer several months ago after complaining of aches in one hip and elsewhere. One of his kidneys was removed at the end of March. By early June, a test had shown that the cancer had reached his brain; later, it spread to his liver.
“He wasn’t anyone’s enemy,” Evanier said of him. “In an industry where jealousy and resentment sometimes seem as prevalent as nitrogen, Earl was utterly undespised. I don’t know anyone who didn’t like the guy. He was smart. He was funny. He had good, honorable motives for every single thing he did.”
Earl Kress is survived by his wife Denise.
Services are pending.