The AWC’s lifetime achievement award was presented to McDuffie’s and Kress’ widows, Charlotte (Fullerton) McDuffie and Denise Kress, at the AWC’s 2011 meeting, reception and awards ceremony Thursday night at WGAW headquarters in Los Angeles.
Mark Evanier, the 2003 honoree, presented this year’s award to Kress, and AWC member Matt Wayne made the presentation to (Fullerton) McDuffie. WGAW vice-president Howard A. Rodman introduced the evening.
“This year, animation lost two talented, hard-working people who have given much of themselves and their talent to our field. Dwayne McDuffie was a talented writer and creator of comics and animation who worked hard for others, particularly for minority writers. Earl Kress was a writer whose career included both feature and TV animation and hard work on behalf of all animation writers as a member of the WGA Animation Writers Caucus and the Animation Guild Board of Directors,” said AWC chair Craig Miller.
“Both were people I was glad to call friend and colleague, and whose efforts, it can truthfully be said, made all of us the better for them. They left us much too soon and too young, and I’m pleased we can commemorate their work and their memory with this year’s award,” Miller added.
“Earl Kress spent 30-plus years working tirelessly to improve the lot of animation writers. He leaves behind a legacy of iconic cartoons and well-deserved awards, along with scores of fellow animation writers who have health and pension benefits because of Earl, and Earl alone,” commented AWC member and 2009 AWC Animation Writing Award honoree Stan Berkowitz.
“Dwayne McDuffie came to L.A. to work on Static Shock, the animated adaptation of an African-American comic book hero he co-created, and it wasn’t long before he was one of the leading lights of superhero animation. Though his stories were often set at the edges of the universe and in other dimensions, they invariably reflected Dwayne’s all-encompassing humanity,” added Berkowitz.
Born on August 22, 1951, and a WGAW member since 1994, Kress died September 19, shortly after turning 60, of complications due to liver cancer.
Kress launched his career in 1975 with The Oddball Couple, his cartoon adaptation of The Odd Couple. His animation writing credits over four decades include Transformers, Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, Pinky, Elmyra and the Brain, Tom & Jerry Tales, The Smurfs, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, The Little Rascals, The Berenstain Bears, Ghostbusters, DuckTales, Pound Puppies, Tiny Toon Adventures, Kim Possible, Krypto the Superdog, and the memorable, final “Road Runner” Looney Tunes short Little Go Beep (co-written with Kathleen Helppie-Shipley), among many other animated programs.
Kress’ animated feature co-writing credits include story work on Disney’s The Fox and the Hound (1981), as well as several direct-to-video animated features, such as Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes (2010) and Wakko’s Wish (1999).
In 1998, Kress earned an Annie Award for his work on the Pinky and the Brain episode “The Family That Poits Together Narfs Together” (shared with co-writers Charles M. Howell IV and John Ludin). A five-time Emmy nominee, Kress shared two Daytime Emmys over the course of his career, one for Pinky and the Brain in 1999 (Outstanding Special Class Animated Program), the other for Pinky, Elmyra, and the Brain in 2000 (Outstanding Children’s Animated Program).
Over the course of his career, Kress worked at studios such as Warner Bros., Universal and Disney, and animation production companies including Hanna-Barbera, Marvel, DePatie-Freleng and Filmation.
In 1995, Kress joined the Animation Guild’s executive board and was elected vice-president of the Animation Guild (Local 839) in 2004, a position he held until his death earlier this year.
In addition to writing comic books for The Simpsons and Looney Toons, Kress most recently “ghostwrote” Life is a Pic-a-Nic: Tips and Tricks for the Smarter Than Av-er-age Bear with Yogi Bear, published in 2010 as a tie-in for the recent big-screen animated feature Yogi Bear. He also co-authored the 2009 autobiography of voiceover legend June Foray, Did You Grow Up with Me, Too?, with co-writer and close friend Mark Evanier.
A man of diverse talents, Kress worked as a voice actor and a puppeteer for The Muppets, in addition to serving as a sought-after animated programming historian, playing a key role in producing several DVD box sets of classic Warner Bros. cartoons and contributing “special feature” supplemental materials to many animated TV series DVD collections, as well as working with Rhino Entertainment to release several CDs of vintage Hanna-Barbera cartoon soundtracks, among other animation-centric industry projects.
Well-respected comic book and animation writer McDuffie, who died February 21 at 49 of complications after undergoing emergency heart surgery, was co-founder of Milestone Media, a ground-breaking company that created multicultural comic lines which introduced black superheroes such as Hardware and Static.
As a comic book author, McDuffie contributed to Marvel’s Fantastic Four and DC’s Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight and Justice League of America, among other popular comic book titles. As a television animation writer, story editor or producer, his animated series writing credits include Static Shock (which he co-created with Christopher James Priest), Justice League, Ben 10: Alien Force, Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, What’s New, Scooby Doo?, Teen Titans and Friends & Heroes, among other animated programs.
McDuffie also penned the 2011 animated feature All-Star Superman, based on the comic book series by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, as well as several animated features in the “DC Universe Animated Original Movies” series franchise, and the videogame Justice League Heroes. The last project McDuffie was working on prior to his death was Justice League: Doom, his videogame adaptation of Mark Waid’s “Tower of Babel” JL story slated for release in 2012.
Born on February 20, 1962, and a WGAW member since 2003, McDuffie attended the Roeper School for gifted children in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills. Later, he earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan and attended film school at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Launching his career in 1987 as a special comics editor at Marvel Comics, McDuffie wrote for Spider-Man and other major Marvel characters, and co-created the limited series Damage Control, centering on the novel idea of a firm that repairs property damages caused by epic battles between superheroes and supervillains.
In 2003, McDuffie shared a Humanitas Prize for penning the “Jimmy” episode of Static Shock (teleplay by McDuffie, story by Alan Burnett and McDuffie), which explored the topical issue of gun violence in schools. In 2004, McDuffie received a Daytime Emmy Award nomination for Static Shock in the Outstanding Special Class Animated Program category (shared with Sander Schwartz, Burnett, Denys Cowan, Swinton O. Scott III, John Semper, Len Uhley and Andrea Romano), and in 2005, McDuffie shared a Writers Guild Award nomination for co-writing the Justice League episode “Starcrossed” (written by Rich Fogel, John Ridley and McDuffie, story by Fogel).
After several years spent freelancing as a comic book writer, in 1992 McDuffie co-founded Milestone Media, whose comics were distributed by DC Comics. The company, like McDuffie himself, championed a more multicultural and inclusive approach to comics.
The WGAW’s AWC Animation Writing Award is given to members of the Animation Writers Caucus or Writers Guild who have advanced the literature of animation in film and/or television throughout the years and made outstanding contributions to the profession of the animation writer. Founded in 1994, the WGAW’s Animation Writers Caucus represents over 600 animation writers and works to advance economic and creative conditions in the field.
Through organizing efforts, educational events and networking opportunities, the Guild’s AWC is a leading proponent for animation writers. Recent AWC Animation Writing Award honorees include Mike Scully, Al Jean, Michael Reiss, Brad Bird, Linda Woolverton and Berkowitz.