Mel Shaw the American animator, designer and artist who died in LA age 99, last November, was best know for designing the iconic 1950s marionette charactor Howdy Doody. When the new Howdy Doody puppet was revealed, Shaw was not credited, he said in an interview, “So we patented it”.
Shaw was also involved in the animation, storyboard design, and visual feel of many Disney best loved animated films, starting with Bambi, which was released in 1942. His other animated film credits, usually involving animation design or the story, included The Rescuers in 1977, The Fox and the Hound in 1981, The Black Cauldron in 1985, The Great Mouse Detective in 1986, Beauty and the Beast in 1991, and The Lion King in 1994. He was named a Disney Legend in 2004 for his contributions to the Walt Disney Company.
During the Second World War, Shaw served in the Army Signal Corps as a combat photographer in Southeast Asia. He also worked on a documentary on the Burma campaign. Following the war, he opened a design studio with business partner Bob Allen, who was a former MGM Studios animator. At Allen-Shaw Productions, Shaw compiled the first Walt Disney Bambi children’s book , conceived children’s toys and pottery for Metlox, a Manhattan pottery manufacturer.
The LA Times said, “In late 1940s redesign of Howdy Doody, the marionette on the popular 1950s NBC show of the same name. The original Howdy Doody resembled “Pinocchio with fuzzy hair,” Shaw said in “Walt’s People.” They reconceptualized him as a “hayseed,” he later said. Allen came up with the freckled face, Shaw made the model for the head and they had a “little cowboy costume” created”.
Photo: Howdy Doody By Andy Warhol