Ken Harris

For other people named Ken Harris, see Ken Harris (disambiguation).
Ken Harris

Richard Williams (left) and Ken Harris (right)
Born Karyl Ross Harris
(1898-07-31)July 31, 1898
Tulare Co. California, U.S.
Died March 12, 1982(1982-03-12) (aged 83)
Woodland Hills, California, U.S.
Nationality American
Spouse(s) Alta (1927–1963; her death)
Kathryn (1966–1982; his death)

Karyl Ross "Ken" Harris (July 31, 1898 – March 24, 1982) was an American animator best known for his work at Warner Bros. Cartoons under the supervision of director Chuck Jones. He is widely considered to be one of the most talented animators in the Golden age of American animation.

Life and career

Ken Harris was born in Tulare Co. California. His first job as an artist was for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, where he worked from 1927 to around 1930, when he joined the ill-fated Romer Grey studio. Harris finally ended up at Leon Schlesinger Productions under the Friz Freleng unit. This lasted for a short while as he was relocated into the Frank Tashlin unit. Eventually, Tashlin left and the unit was taken over by Chuck Jones. The association with Jones and Harris began in 1937 and lasted until 1962, the longest time an animator spent with a director at the studio. Jones described him as "... a virtuoso. Ken Harris did it all."

After Jones left Warner's, Harris worked with former animator Phil Monroe on two cartoons before Warner Bros. closed its cartoon department. In 1963, Harris worked briefly for Friz Freleng on the titles of The Pink Panther (1963), then for Hanna-Barbera on their first feature film Hey There It's Yogi Bear! (1964), then rejoined Jones at M-G-M for three years. After work as an animator on How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966) — directed by Jones, a longtime friend of Dr. Seuss — Harris came to the studio of independent animator Richard Williams in London. There he served as William's mentor as well as his employee. Harris's credits with him included A Christmas Carol (1971) — as animator of Ebenezer Scrooge — the opening titles of The Return of the Pink Panther (1975), and the still-unfinished animated feature The Thief and the Cobbler (animating the Thief of the title, which is very reminiscent of Harris's earlier work animating Wile E. Coyote for Jones).

Among the many scenes Harris has animated: Mama Bear doing an outrageous tap-dance (which Chuck Jones, who directed the cartoon, and who was Harris' longtime collaborator, has said was inspired by Mike Maltese, "who could really dance that way") in A Bear For Punishment; Wile E. Coyote consuming earthquake pills in Hopalong Casualty; as well as the lengthy dance sequence in What's Opera, Doc?.

The animator died on March 24, 1982, from Parkinson's disease in Los Angeles, California. He was 83 years old.


At the 1981 Annie Awards, ASIFA-Hollywood awarded Ken the Winsor McCay Award for lifetime achievement in the field of animation.[1]


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