Kress, McDuffie receive posthumous writing award

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Earl Kress

Earl Kress

Ani­ma­tion writ­ers Dwayne McDuffie and Earl Kress have been posthu­mously named co-recipients of the Writ­ers Guild of Amer­ica, West Ani­ma­tion Writ­ers Cau­cus’ 14th Annual Ani­ma­tion Writ­ing Award, rec­og­niz­ing their out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tions to the craft of ani­ma­tion writ­ing, as well as their work with the Writ­ers Guild in orga­niz­ing animation.

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.

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