Ub Iwerks, A.S.C. (March 24, 1901 – July 7, 1971) was a two-time Academy Award winning American animator, cartoonist and special effects technician, who was famous for his work for Walt Disney. He was born Ubbe Ert Iwwerks in Kansas City, Missouri.
His name is explained by his Frisian roots; his father, Eert Ubbe Iwwerks, emigrated to the USA in 1869 from the village of Uttum in East Frisia (northwest Germany, today part of the municipality of Krummhörn). Ub's birth name can be seen on early “Alice” shorts that he signed. Several years later he simplified his name to “Ub Iwerks” (pronounced /ˈuːb ˈaɪwɜrks/).
Iwerks was considered by many to be Walt Disney's oldest friend, and spent most of his career with Disney. The two met in 1918 while working for the Kansas City Art Studio in Kansas City, and would eventually start their own commercial art business together. Disney and Iwerks then found work as illustrators for the Kansas City Slide Newspaper Company (which would later be named The Kansas City Film Ad Company). While working for the Kansas City Film Ad Company, Disney decided to take up work in animation, and Iwerks soon joined him.
He was responsible for the distinctive style of the earliest Disney animated cartoons, and was also responsible for creating Mickey Mouse. In 1922, when Walt began his Laugh-O-Gram cartoon series, Iwerks joined him as chief animator. The studio went bankrupt, however, and in 1923 Iwerks followed Disney's move to Los Angeles to work on a new series of cartoons known as “the Alice Comedies” which had live action mixed with animation. After the end of this series, Disney asked Iwerks to come up with a new character. The first Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was animated entirely by Ub Iwerks. Following the first cartoon, Oswald was redesigned on the insistence of Universal, who agreed to distribute the new series of cartoons in 1927.
In the spring of 1928, Disney lost control of the Oswald character, and much of his staff was hired away; Disney left Universal soon afterwards. He promised never to work with a company he did not own ever again. Disney asked Ub Iwerks, who stayed on, to start drawing up new character ideas. Iwerks tried sketches of frogs, dogs, and cats, but none of these appealed to Disney. A female cow and male horse were created at this time by Iwerks, but were also rejected. They would later turn up as Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar. Ub Iwerks eventually got inspiration from an old drawing. In 1925, Hugh Harman drew some sketches of mice around a photograph of Walt Disney. These inspired Ub Iwerks to create a new mouse character for Disney, eventually called Mickey Mouse.
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