Emmy-winning writer, artist Earl Kress dead at 60

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Earl Kress

Earl Kress

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.

Kress shared Emmy wins in 1999 for Out­stand­ing Spe­cial Class Ani­mated Pro­gram for Pinky and the Brain and in 2000 for Out­stand­ing Children’s Ani­mated Pro­gram for Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain.

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.

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