Ernie Pintoff in the mid-1960s, on the set of a live-action shoot.
A couple weeks ago I was talking to Fifties-era artist Leonard Glasser, and he mentioned something that I’d never heard about: a children’s book illustrated by director/designer Ernie Pintoff (1931-2002) . Of course, I had to track down a copy. The book is called ALWAYS HELP A BIRD (ESPECIALLY WITH A BROKEN LEG) and it was published in 1965. It’s based on a 1956 UPA short—A WOUNDED BIRD—that was written and directed by Pintoff. The dialogue-less short was animated by Fred Crippen, and is set to a jazz piece by Shorty Rogers.
Glasser speaks more about A WOUNDED BIRD in the printed CARTOON MODERN. He saw the film in art school in 1957 and thought it was one of the greatest cartoons ever; Glasser ended up working with Pintoff a couple years after seeing the short. He describes Pintoff’s designs for the film as “dumb” but uses the term as a compliment. The artwork in the book is even goofier. For example, look at the way Pintoff draws the hair on the kids or the cow udders. He doesn’t have time to be bothered by details and uses a visual shorthand to put across his ideas. Glasser describes Pintoff as somebody who was generally impatient with the animation process, the type of person who would scribble out exposure sheets with markers, lipstick, whatever he could find around the studio. It’s little wonder that Pintoff grew bored with animation.
Pintoff worked in the industry for less than ten years, from 1955 through the early-1960s. In 1957, during a stint at Terrytoons, he directed one of my all-time favorite shorts, FLEBUS (it’s the header image of this blog). It was the only film he made for Terrytoons before launching his own studio, Pintoff Productions, where he produced dozens of TV commercials, and a number of award-winning animated shorts including THE VIOLINIST, THE CRITIC and THE OLD MAN AND THE FLOWER. By the mid-1960s, Pintoff had closed his animation studio and switched over to directing live-action features and television shows.
Below you’ll find the cover and a few illustrations from ALWAYS HELP A BIRD. I found a cheap used copy on Abebooks, but the other copies on the site are somewhat pricy. It’s too bad Pintoff didn’t do more children’s books because this one is a lot of fun and perfect for kids (as well as adults).