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.
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.”