Jack Dunham, 1910-2009

I’ve learned that American animator Jack Dunham passed away a couple weeks ago at age 98. I’d written about Dunham back in 2006 after a story was published in the Montreal Gazette about how he and his wife had become homeless in Canada.

Born in North Dakota in 1910, Dunham worked at Universal on Oswald shorts in the early-1930s before moving to Disney in the mid-1930s. After Snow White, on which he was an inbetweener, he moved into management where he worked as a unit manager until 1947. There’s a fascinating series of videos on YouTube that offer short interviews with Dunham from a couple years ago. The memories aren’t very specific, likely because he wasn’t being challenged with specific names or events, but it’s still a treat that these videos exist. Here’s one of him talking about encounters with Walt Disney:

A couple photos of Dunham exist online. The first one comes from Michael Barrier’s website and shows Dunham (right) with Tex Avery at Universal.

Jack Dunham and Tex Avery

The second photo, from the Animation Guild blog, shows Dunham (left) at the infamous Snow White wrap party at the Norconian Club in Palm Springs.

Jack Dunham at Disney

The description text in the YouTube videos offers an account of Dunham’s post-Disney career:

Jack later moved to Canada in 1955 by invitation of the Canadian Government to manage Associated Screen News (ASN) of Canada in Montreal. After his mandate at ASN Jack continued to live in Canada where he mainly produced animated and live action commercials in Montreal and Toronto, Canada. He was the original artist of Montreal’s famous St. Hubert BBQ Chicken cartoon character and produced their first television commercials among many others.

[In 2006] Jack and his wife Dorothy were evicted from their Montreal appartment and placed against their will under Quebec Government care. Because they were now homeless and his wife was highly dependent on alcohol they were locked up indefinitely in a psych wing of an all-French old age residence to prevent them from trying to escape. While in a wheelchair at 96 years old, Jack and his wife Dorothy (seventy years old) successfully planned and executed an escape to Ottawa by bus from Montreal where they were found by police in an Ottawa hotel a few days later and returned to the Montreal facility against their will. I just received word two weeks ago that he passed away [around March 15, 2009]. He was a real great guy with an incredible history spanning nearly a century. He never gave up hope and is finally free.

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