Dick Huemer was a jack of all trades,” Disney Legend Ward Kimball recalled. “He was an animator, and I loved his animation. It was always funny—remember the Duck in The Band Concert with those goddamn whistles? He was a director. He was a story man. And he was a very important sequence story man on Fantasia.”
Richard Martin Huemer was born on January 2, 1898, in New York. He attended P.S. 158 in Brooklyn, and Alexander Hamilton and Morris High Schools. After high school he was a student at the National Academy of Design, the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design, and the Art Students League. Dick’s first industry job was as an animator at the Raoul Barre Cartoon Studio in 1916. In 1923, he became an animation director at the Max Fleischer Studio, and seven years later assumed a similar position at the Charles Mintz Studio.
Moving to Disney in 1933, Dick contributed to classic Silly Symphonies such as The Tortoise and the Hare, Funny Little Bunnies, and The Grasshopper and the Ants; Mickey Mouse shorts such as Alpine Climbers, Mickey’s Rival, and Lonesome Ghosts; and he directed the animated shorts The Whalers and Goofy and Wilbur.
“He was a dapper little guy, who had kind of a ruddy complexion, wore a pork-pie hat dipped at a rakish angle with a little shaving brush up here, had a very New York cosmopolitan mustache, and he wore very tweedy suits,” Kimball said.
Among the Disney features on which Dick worked as story director were Dumbo, Saludos Amigos, Make Mine Music, and Alice in Wonderland. His work as a story director on Fantasia was especially admired. “In fact, we owe it most to Dick Huemer that Walt Disney was weaned away from John Phillip Sousa and introduced to the classics!” Ward Kimball asserted. “Walt learned all about Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky through Dick Huemer’s tutelage.”
Dick left Disney to free-lance the comic strip Buck O’Rue from 1948–1951, but returned to work in story and television. Among his TV works he wrote a series of outstanding programs on the art and technique of Disney animation for the Disneyland TV series: The Story of the Animated Drawing, The Plausible Impossible, Tricks of Our Trade, and An Adventure in Art. He also contributed to Disney Publishing adaptations of Baby Weems, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Walt Disney’s True-Life Adventures. He wrote the True-Life Adventures newspaper comic strip from 1955 until his retirement in 1973.
In 1978, he received an “Annie” award from the animators’ group ASIFA for his career achievements.
Animation great Grim Natwick said of Dick Huemer, “He was one of the artists who helped build the early framework of animation. He was a wise and witty man, a droll man who, in a quiet way, pulled rugs from under pompous and false heroes, transformed giants into pygmies and inauspiciously extracted the teeth from snarling paper lions. He was with animation through all its growing pains. Whatever animation became, he helped to shape it, drawing by drawing, idea by idea.”
Dick Huemer passed away on November 30, 1979.