Remembering Dr. Richard Huemer

Dr. Richard Huemer

Dick Huemer had left Fleischer before the creation of Betty Boop, but when we came across this statue in San Francisco, his son Richard saw it as a good omen and was more than happy to pose for photos.

Of all the nice things that I’ve experienced as a result of starting Scrappyland, nothing else came close to the joy of getting to know Dr. Richard Huemer, the son of Dick Huemer, Scrappy’s creator. I’m very sorry to report that Richard passed away today, and I offer my condolences to his wife Kay, his son Peter, and the rest of his family.

When I was first putting together Scrappyland and contacted Richard, he told me that his father did not consider Scrappy among his proudest achievements. That’s entirely understandable given that he went on to a long tenure at Disney, where he co-wrote Dumbo and Fantasia. (The elder Huemer’s pre-Mintz animation career, which began in 1916 and included work on silent “Out of the Inkwell” cartoons, is also notable.) Despite that proviso, Richard went on to be a great supporter of Scrappyland—he supplied some great Mintz staff photos, for instance—and he spoke at the Scrappyland event in Hollywood in 2005.

Richard and I ended up corresponding and getting together on a number of occasions when he visited San Francisco, usually to attend medical conferences with his delightful wife Kay. We’d talk for hours, and he had so many interests that animation came up only occasionally. We were more likely to discuss gadgets and tech, or (especially after I co-wrote an article for TIME on Google’s research into human longevity) advances in medicine. He was funny, thoughtful, and infectiously curious about the world, and I rarely gave thought to the fact that he was born only a couple of years after Scrappy was.

Many things about Richard will stick in my mind forever, like the time we went to a semi-professional musical in a tiny San Francisco theater on the spur of the moment. And his silly/sincere theory that he may have met Dr. Edwin Land’s daughter in Santa Fe circa the early 1940s and accidentally inspired her to accidentally inspire her father to invent the Polaroid camera. And—to bring this post back to animation—the fact that he gave the benefit of the doubt to Charles Mintz, a man much maligned by cartoon history. (Richard noted that his father never had a bad word to say about Mintz, and that Mintz brother-in-law George Winkler was a close family friend.)

I’m also happy that Richard got to attend Dick Huemer’s posthumous induction as a Disney Legend, go to the gala opening of the Disney Family Museum here in San Francisco, and generally see his father be rightfully appreciated for his contributions to cartooning. Richard contributed to that process by coediting a collection of Buck O’Rue, an enjoyable comic strip written by his dad which had been largely forgotten. Getting it back in print was a long-time passion project.

I loved Dick Huemer’s wry Funnyworld columns in the 1970s, and am sorry I never had the chance to meet him. But I got a sizable dose of the Huemeresque experience by knowing Richard—who bore a striking physical resemblance to his father, and inherited his sense of whimsy—and I feel so lucky that I did.

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