Bob Singer has worked with virtually every animation studio in Southern California. The Santa Paula-born Singer first worked in advertising until the industry moved to the East Coast. After that, Singer made his mark in animation through his mastery of storyboarding and layout drawings, being the first to visually connect drawings with the written story. As it was not uncommon for Singer to be referred to as the animator most able to give cartoon personalities human-like characteristics, his storyboards indelibly helped set a cartoon’s action, mood and pace.
Equally talented as a layout artist, Singer created detailed drawings that set the visual standard and defined the field of action for numerous animated ventures. Singer’s early training in illustration and live action drawing benefited the cartoon in telling as much of the story as would the main characters in the foreground.
Bob Singer’s big break in animation occurred in 1958 when a friend recommended him for a job with Warner Bros. Studios. His career at Warner Bros. began with storyboarding for a series of feature-length live-action cartoons on science. Singer recalls: “In between pictures I was sent over to the cartoon department where Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, and Bob McKimson had units producing Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Tweety cartoons. I learned a lot about color theory working in the McKimson unit and toward the end of my time at Warner Bros., I was beginning to break into doing layouts for Friz Freleng’s unit. In the space of two years, I completed three hour-long storyboards and painted the backgrounds for nine theatrical cartoons. I felt I was in animation heaven.”
Despite how much he enjoyed his work at Warner Bros., Singer could not pass up the opportunity to become a full-time layout artist for UPA Studios. During his five years at UPA, Singer did the layouts for cartoons such as Mr. Magoo, Dick Tracy and the feature-length cartoon, “Gay Purree.” In 1964, the UPA studio closed and Singer accepted a position with Hanna-Barbera Studios.
At that time, Hanna-Barbera was a bees’ hive of activity. The studio was in the beginning stages of its breakthrough action-adventure series, “Jonny Quest.” When the production required a layout artist, Singer was promptly chosen. In this position, Singer was charged with the creation of layouts far beyond the known farmland and urban landscapes previously seen. Instead, from Singer’s efforts, the Quest series received tropical settings, desert and mountainous terrains as well as backgrounds which contained very modernized and in some cases, futuristic interiors and exteriors. In fact, so distinct were the Jonny Quest backgrounds, that Singer was soon asked to lend his talents to other Hanna-Barbera productions such as “Scooby-Doo,” “The Flintstones,” “Space Ghost,” “The Herculoids,” and “Fantastic Four” among other notable shows.
After carving out his own legacy in cartoon history, Bob Singer retired from animation in 1993, though he still remains active in the art today. Of his work, Singer reflects, “In my career, I was fortunate to have a job doing the thing I loved. Not many people can say that.”