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Biography

Biography written by Jeff Lenburg, from his book Who's Who in Animated Cartoons: An International Guide to Film and Television's Award-Winning and Legendary Animators

Abraham (Abe) Levitow b: July 2, 1922, Los Angeles, California; d: May 8, 1975, Hollywood, California.

Emmy award-winning director and animator, mostly at Warner Bros., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), and United Productions of America (UPA), noted for his direction of many popular cartoons and specials.

Beginning his career as an in-betweener at Warner Bros. in the 1940s and then serving in the Signal Corps Motion Picture Unit during World War II, where he worked on training films, Levitow, after rejoining Warner Bros., in 1953 was a top animator for legendary animator Chuck Jones on many classic Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Pepé Le Pew, Porky Pig and Road Runner and Coyote cartoons he directed until 1958. Some of his best work for Jones included the fearsome Nastay Canasta in Bugs Bunny's Barbary Coast Bunny (1956), the "Night-on-Bald-Mountain" sequence in What's Opera, Doc? (1957), and the hilarious animated scene of Porky Pig as Friar Tuck in Robin Hood Daffy (1958).

Levitow's brilliantly rendered animation also shone in many other classic Warner Bros. cartoon shorts with Jones; among these were, Feline Frame Up (1954), a Looney Tunes cartoon, and No Barking (1954), a Merry Melodies cartoon, Beanstalk Bunny (1955), Knight-Mare Hare (1955), Bugs' Bonnets (1956), and Broom-Stick Bunny (1956), all starring Bugs Bunny; Past Performance (1955), with Pepé Le Pew; Rocket Squad (1956), with Porky and Daffy Duck; and Gee Whiz-z-z-z (1956), featuring the Road Runner and Coyote.

In 1958, Levitow joined United Productions of America (UPA) Studios as an animation director, stepping in to helm¹ the studio's first full-length animated feature, 1001 Arabian Nights (1959) starring Mr. Magoo. Back at Warner Bros., he was given a shot at directing as well, either co-helming with Chuck Jones or individually several timeless cartoon shorts. They included Baton Bunny (1959) and A Witch's Tangled Hare (1959), both starring Bugs Bunny; Really Scent (1959), a Pepé Le Pew cartoon; Lickety-Splat (1961), featuring the Road Runner and Coyote; and Nelly's Folly (1961), his final co-directing effort with Jones. Around February 1961, he also began co-directing new animated linking segments for several epidodes of Warner Bros.' The Bugs Bunny Show, written and produced by Jones, Friz Freleng and directed by them and many others, for ABC television.

Returning to UPA, Levitow went on to direct several top-rated Mr. Magoo television specials, including the first animated special for television, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (1962), for NBC and winner of an Emmy Award²; and Uncle Sam Magoo (1970); and its second full-length animated feature Gay Purr-ee (1962), co-written by Chuck Jones and featuring the voices of Judy Garland (Mewsette), Robert Goulet (Jaun-Tom) and Paul Frees (Meowrice) with songs by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg. Likewise he served as a supervising director of the studio's The Dick Tracy Show³ (1961-62).

In 1966, during the final years of its production of theatrical cartoon shorts, Levitow swung over to MGM Animation Visual Arts, as its cartoon division was then known, to work again with his former Warner Bros. boss, Chuck Jones, and direct the studio's revised--and, unfortunately, dreadfully done--Tom and Jerry cartoon series. His credits included, among others, Catty Cornered (1966), Puss 'n' Boats (1966), Rock 'n' Rodent (1967), O Solar Meow (1967), Guided Mouse-ille (1967), Surf Bored Cat (1967), and The Mouse From H.U.N.G.E.R. (1967), a spoof of the popular MGM television series The Man From U.N.C.L.E, starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum.

At MGM, Levitow also produced and directed animation sequences with Jones for ABC's hour-long prime-time series, Off to See the Wizard (1967-68), and co-produced and co-directed Jones first full-length animated feature, based on the book by Norman Juster, The Phantom Toll Booth (1969), voice by Mel Blanc, Hans Conreid, Daws Butler, and June Foray, for the studio. Two years later, in late 1971, at the invitation of ABC, Chuck Jones, and Richard Williams, he went to Williams' London studio to animate the half-hour prime-time special A Christmas Carol (1971), for ABC.

In January 1972 Levitow co-founded with partner David Hanson, Levitow-Hanson Films, specializing in animation and developing some 90 animated programs and specials during the next three years. One of them was the memorable NBC half-hour cartoon special, based on Johnny Hart's popular comic strip B.C.: The First Thanksgiving (1972).

Sadly, Levitow died in 1975 after a lengthy illness, almost two months shy of his 53rd birthday.
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1. Although Abe Levitow was the animation director on 1001 Arabian Nights, he didn't actually "helm" it as that was Jack Kinney.
2. Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol did not win an Emmy.
3. The Dick Tracy Show is listed out of chronology, and the Magoo TV shorts are not mentioned here.