Animation designer Iwao Takamoto dies


Iwao Takamoto, animation designer for Walt Disney Co., Hanna-Barbera Studios and Warner Bros. who crafted the look of such Hanna-Barbera characters as Scooby-Doo, died Monday of a heart attack. He was 81.

Takamoto died Monday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he was being treated as an outpatient for respiratory problems when he suffered a heart attack. He had most recently served as vp special projects for Warner Bros. Animation. His recent projects for the studio included doing the storyboard for the 2005 Tom and Jerry short "The Karateguard" and helping to design characters for the Cartoon Network/Kids' WB! series "Krypto the Superdog."

"Iwao Takamoto was not only a tremendously talented designer and artist, he was a beautiful human being," said Warner Bros. Animation president Sander Schwartz. "Iwao was always ready with a wide smile, a firm handshake and a warm welcome. Iwao's designs will be his legacy for generations to come."

A Los Angeles native, Takamoto and his family were sent to Manzanar Internment Camp during World War II. As the war ended, Takamoto landed an interview in mid-1945 at the Walt Disney Studios, despite his lack of formal artistic training. He was hired as an apprentice in-betweener and trained under Disney's legendary "nine old men" clutch of skilled animators that included Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, Frank Thomas and Eric Lawson.

By 1961, Takamoto moved to Hanna-Barbera Studios, where he had a hand in designing virtually every character that the studio produced during his tenure. He famously named the rambunctious Scooby-Doo dog character after the refrain that Frank Sinatra crooned in his popular rendition of "Strangers in the Night." In addition to most of the "Scooby-Doo" characters, Takamoto designed much of the space-age architecture and vehicles for Hanna-Barbera's primetime animated series "The Jetsons" and the Great Gazoo character featured in "The Flintstones."

In 1996, Takamoto was recognized with the Windsor McKay Lifetime Achievement Award from ASIFA-Hollywood. He was honored in 2001 by the Japanese American National Museum for his achievements in entertainment and in 2005 he received the Golden Award from the Animation Guild.

Survivors include Takamoto's wife, Barbara; a son, Michael; and stepdaughter, Leslie.