Rocky and His Friends director Jim Hiltz dies, 84

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Jim Hiltz

Jim Hiltz

Jim Hiltz, a direc­tor of “Rocky and His Friends” and sev­eral other Jay Ward car­toon series, has died, Nor­mand Rompre, a for­mer cam­era­man from Michael Mills Stu­dios, where he had also worked, said Thurs­day. He was 84.

Hiltz was a direc­tor of The Bull­win­kle Show (1961), George of the Jun­gle and Super Chicken (both 1967), and The Bea­t­les (1965–66) — the last under the unlikely pseu­do­nym of “Snav Sniekus.”

He also directed some of Jay Ward’s Frac­tured Fairy Tales and Tom Slick, said Emmy-nominated ani­ma­tion direc­tor Eddy Houchins.

Born James T. Hiltz in Phoenix, Ari­zona on Novem­ber 7, 1927, he ani­mated Heckle and Jeckle car­toons at Ter­ry­Toons, and went on to var­i­ous com­mer­cial and TV houses, includ­ing Film­Fair and Bill Melen­dez Studios.

Dur­ing the 1970s, Hiltz emi­grated to Canada. There, he worked as the lead ani­ma­tor and direc­tor at Michael Mills Stu­dios, help­ing cre­ate ani­mated com­mer­cials and award-winning short films, includ­ing the Oscar-nominated His­tory of the World in Three Min­utes Flat (1980).

He was an ani­ma­tor for the 1985–87 TV series The Rac­coons, as well as the TV-movies Goldilocks and the Three Bears (1970), The Rac­coons on Ice (1981), The Care Bears in the Land With­out Feel­ings and The Rac­coons and the Lost Star (both 1983), and The Care Bears Bat­tle the Freeze Machine (1984).

Hiltz ani­mated the car­toon movies Yel­low Sub­ma­rine (1968) and Shin­bone Alley and Tiki Tiki (both 1971), in addi­tion to the the­atri­cal shorts The Vio­lin­ist (1959), The Remark­able Rocket (1975) and S.P.L.A.S.H. (1980).

He was an ani­ma­tion direc­tor for the 1974 short The Happy Prince and the “I Saw Three Ships” seg­ment of the 1975 TV short The Christ­mas Mes­sen­ger. Hiltz was a tim­ing direc­tor for the series The Smog­gies (1989), The Lit­tle Fly­ing Bears (1990), The Leg­end of White Fang (1992), The Busy World of Richard Scarry (1996) and The Coun­try Mouse and the City Mouse Adven­tures (1998–99), along with the 1993 TV-movie David Cop­per­field.

Hiltz was a sto­ry­board artist for the series The Adven­tures of Teddy Rux­pin (1987), and a sheet direc­tor for the 1993 series Spirou. He did draw­ings for the 1968 doc­u­men­tary short A Com­puter Glos­sary.

As a young ani­ma­tor, I got my first ‘real’ job at Michael Mills’ place in 1980 and imme­di­ately met Jim. who took me and all the other young ani­ma­tors under his wing,” Houch­ins recalled. “In those days, we had not just respect, but down­right AWE for the older guys who had ‘been there.’

We hung on his every word and stud­ied his pen­cil tests frame by frame, soak­ing up his draw­ing skills and tim­ing finesse. At night, after he’d go home, we’d slip into his office and sit and flip his draw­ings on a light table just to study ‘the real thing.’ I learned more about ani­ma­tion from my three years work­ing under Jim as my direc­tor than I ever learned in school or on any other job.

After his stint at Mills, he free­lanced and taught at Con­cor­dia Uni­ver­sity for awhile, and, I sup­pose, even­tu­ally retired.” Houch­ins continued.

I remem­ber I was at the Ottawa [Inter­na­tional Ani­ma­tion] Fes­ti­val with him in 1983, and June Foray and Bill Scott were there and per­formed a Rocky and Bull­win­kle script live to our delight. After­wards, I was stand­ing with Jim in the lobby and when June walked out, he said to me, ‘Hang on, I have to say hello to an old friend.’ He walked up to June, said, ‘Remem­ber me?’ and she screamed, ‘JIM!!!’ and prac­ti­cally jumped into his arms.

Maybe you guys can break the news to her. I sure can’t.”

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