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Animator Abe Levitow's Work Donated to Academy

Gay Purr-ee - H 2013
"Gay Purr-ee"

The collection includes material relating to Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry and the films "Gay Purr-ee" and "The Phantom Tollbooth."

The children of animator Abe Levitow have donated the Abe and Charlotte Levitow Collection, which traces their father’s work as an animator at Warner Bros., UPA and MGM, to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The Academy announced the gift Thursday.

Donated in their parents’ honor by the Levitows’ three children, Roberta, Judy and Jon, the collection features animation cels, backgrounds, storyboards, graphic art materials and related film prints and includes Levitow’s work on the features Gay Purr-ee (1962) and The Phantom Tollbooth (1970).

The collection will be housed in the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library and the Academy Film Archive.

“We are honored that the Levitow family has entrusted the preservation of their father’s legacy to the Academy’s archivists,” said Herrick Library director Linda Mehr, “and you really can’t go wrong when Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck are in the mix, can you?”

Levitow began his career at Leon Schlesinger Productions, where he served as a publicity artist and animator on cartoons released through Warners. He worked primarily as a member of the Chuck Jones unit, contributing to many of Jones’ films in the late 1940s and early '50s, including the Academy Award-winning animated short For Scent-imental Reasons (1949). He was elevated to director on several Warner Bros. cartoons before moving to UPA in the late '50s, where he served as animation director on the studio’s first feature, 1001 Arabian Nights.

At UPA, Levitow had two career directing milestones: first, on the animated feature Gay Purr-ee, featuring the voices of Judy Garland and Robert Goulet with original songs by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, and then with Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol, an animated musical version of the Charles Dickens tale. Following his stint at UPA, Levitow joined the animation unit at MGM, where he directed a number of the later Tom and Jerry cartoons, including The A-Tom-inable Snowman (1966), Guided Mouse-ille (1967) and Rock ’n’ Rodent (1967).

In addition to the more than 500 pieces of original production art, which will join more than 15,000 such items already held by the Herrick Library, the Levitow Collection includes scripts, sound recordings and other documentation related to Levitow’s work in film, television and commercials. All of the production materials may be accessed by filmmakers, historians, journalists, students and the public at the library, located in the Academy’s Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture Study in Beverly Hills. Many of the pieces in the Levitow Collection are available for viewing online through the library’s Production Art Database.