Mickey Mouse, by Roman Arambula
'Mickey Mouse' Sunday page of 8 April 1984 (© Disney).

Román Arámbula was a Mexican cartoonist, best known as the successor of Floyd Gottfredson on the 'Mickey Mouse' newspaper comic (1975-1989). He assisted some Mexican cartoonists in the 1950s, drew several Disney adventure comics in the early 1970s, but the majority of his career was spent as an animator for various TV productions.

Early life and career
Roman Arámbula was born in 1935 in Guadalajara, Jalisco, in Mexico. His father was of Basque descent and his mother from Asturia, also in Spain. Arámbula was part of a large family: four brothers and two sisters. His father usually redrew images from comic books for his children. As a child Arámbula was mostly influenced by Walt Disney. In adulthood he singled out Disney animators Fred Moore, Art Babbitt and Mark Davis as his favorite artists. He also loved Tex Avery's 'Droopy' and Hanna-Barbera's 'Tom & Jerry'. In terms of comics artists he admired Will Eisner's 'The Spirit' and Germán Butze's 'Los Supersabios'.

Arámbula studied drawing and fine arts at the University of Mexico City. Once he heard that legendary muralist painter Diego Rivera would hold a lecture there, but he originally wasn't interested since he assumed Rivera would just spout Communist propaganda. His college friends convinced him to come along and just sit at the door. That way he could leave any time he wanted. As it so happened Rivera only discussed art and in such a vivid way that Arámbula not only moved closer to the front of the stage, but also signed up when the artist invited ten people to attend three exclusive lessons by him. Rivera was already in ill health at the time and would pass away two years later. But he did teach Arámbula the value of working quick and efficiently, preferably finishing artwork in one day. Throughout his career Arámbula was well known for being a reliable draftsman who always reached his deadlines.

Early career
While still in college, Arámbula drew his first professional comic strips. After reading a newspaper ad by cartoonist Ignacio Palencia he applied and became his background assistant for a year. The young man also assisted Antonio Gutiérrez and worked for the comic books of Editorial Argumentos. After graduation, Arámbula had a job in a ceramist company until a friend invited him to become an employee at Richard K. Tompkins' Dibujos Animadas, a Mexican animation studio specialized in TV commercials. A year later Arámbula joined another local studio, Gamma Productions, who produced animation mostly for U.S. cartoon TV series, including Jay Ward's 'The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show' and its spin-offs 'Fractured Fairy Tales', 'Underdog', 'Dudley Do-Right' and 'Peabody & Sherman'. He learned all the skills of the trade, including lay-out, background art and storyboards.


'Undercover Elephant' story from 'Hanna-Barbera TV Stars' #2 (Marvel Comics, 1978).

When Gamma closed in 1967, Arámbula illustrated several comics and children's books until he was hired by Keitz & Herndon, a small animation company in Dallas, Texas. He moved to the U.S. as a result, contributing to their educational TV series 'Jot' (1967-1989) and an educational animated TV special about solar panels on the Moon. He was very proud of this latter project, which required very time-consuming full animation. TV network ABC - who broadcast the special - even sent him a congratulation letter afterwards. Nevertheless Arámbula didn't like working in Dallas, because many people looked down on him because of his Hispanic background and thick accent. Once he tried to get a talented artist to work at Gamma, but his bosses downright refused this candidate, "because he was black." All these experiences convinced him to look for other horizons.

Hanna-Barbera & Filmation
In 1970 Arámbula moved to L.A. to work at Hanna-Barbera. The atmosphere was far more jovial there, making it his favorite working place in his career. He was a lay-out artist for many of Hanna-Barbera's series, including 'Scooby-Doo', 'Help! ... It's the Hair Bear Bunch!', 'The Roman Holidays' and 'Josie and the Pussycats'. In the late 1970s Arámbula also drew comics based on some of these shows for Marvel Comics, including 'Laff-a-Lympics' (1978-1979) and 'Undercover Elephant' (in 'TV Stars', 1978). Between 1972 and 1973 Arámbula worked for Filmation's TV specials 'Treasure Island' and 'Oliver Twist'.


'The Discount of Monty Cristo!' ('Laff-A-Lympics' #6, 1978).

Disney comics
In 1971 Arámbula started working for the Walt Disney Company's comic story production for their foreign licensees, the so-called "Studio Program". His regular inker was Steve Steere, and together they worked on at least eleven stories with 'Donald Duck' and his relatives. Yet, after four years Arámbula was "tired of the rat race in America" and felt he couldn't pay the bills any longer, as he described in a 5 August 2011 podcast interview made available on animationguild.org. The Mexican artist had connections in Europe and considered moving there altogether. His friend René Goscinny offered him to come to Paris and work in his animation studio Studio Idéfix on the animated feature 'The 12 Tasks of Astérix' (1976). Just when Arámbula started planning his voyage, Disney gave him a more lucrative and permanent offer...


Italian publication of the 'Donald Duck' story 'Over Loaded' (S71218, © Disney).

Mickey Mouse
One day his bosses at Disney asked Arámbula to draw some comic panels. They also asked him whether he preferred Mickey or Donald? He chose Mickey and thus illustrated a script starring the famous mouse. After receiving praise for the finished work, he was offered the chance to take over the daily 'Mickey Mouse' newspaper comic from legendary cartoonist Floyd Gottfredson, who'd drawn it for the past 35 years straight. Arámbula instantly took the offer and gave up his plans of moving to Europe. His first 'Mickey' episode appeared in print on 15 November 1975. By then time Arámbula drew 'Mickey Mouse', the newspaper comic had abandoned storylines since 1955 in favour of simple, self-contained gags. Arámbula didn't add new characters and just continued with the regular cast members created by Gottfredson and his scriptwriters. Originally he was only in charge of the daily episodes: the 'Mickey' Sunday page was still drawn by Manuel Gonzales until 1981, after which Daan Jippes, Tony Strobl and Bill Wright took over for a year. From 1983 on Arámbula did the Sunday episodes as well. Throughout his run, Arámbula illustrated gags written by Del Connell and, from 1984 on, Floyd Norman. Among his inkers between 1983 and 1989 were Bill Wright, Bill Langley, Jules Coenen and Larry Mayer. The busy artist was respected for always reaching his deadlines. Still, some of his colleagues occasionally filled in on episodes for him.


'Mickey Mouse' daily of 10 August 1977, starring Goofy (© Disney).

Arámbula drew 'Mickey' for almost 15 years. Unfortunately, in the summer of 1987 an incident occured, which the artist described in detail on the aforementioned 2011 animationguild podcast interview. His supervisor insisted that Arámbula would be at work next week, even though it was a national holiday, namely the 4th of July. When he asked his boss why he was expected to be there, he simply snapped back to "not argue with him." Arámbula again tried to get a clear reason, but was then accused of being a "troublemaker". The so-called "troublemaker" therefore filed a grievance complaint and consulted his union. It didn't take long before Arámbula received a warning letter from Disney executives. Indeed, when his contract expired in 1989 he was succeeded by Rick Hoover who'd continue both the daily and Sunday pages of 'Mickey Mouse' until 1993. Still, since Arámbula had worked so many weeks ahead, his actual final 'Mickey' page appeared in print on 6 January 1990. Although he would work in Disney's animation department in the 1990s he found out that he couldn't get a permanent job there, because he was still blacklisted over this incident.

Recognition
In 1984 Arámbula won an Inkpot Award. 

Final years and death
In old age Arámbula returned to the animation industry. He became a teacher in animation at Mt. San Antonio College and worked as a storyboard artist and assistant-director for companies like Hyperion Pictures ('The Oz Kids'), Marvel Animation ('Little Shop of Horrors'), Warner Bros Animation ('Pinky and the Brain', 'Taz-Mania', 'The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries', 'Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero'), Hanna-Barbera ('The Addams Family') and Disney ('Tailspin', '101 Dalmatians: The Series'). He also timed sequences on four 1997 episodes of Mike Judge's series 'King of the Hill'. After his retirement Arámbula decided to work on some personal graphic novels, but had trouble finding a publisher.

The veteran passed away in 2020 at age 84 from a heart attack.


'Mickey Mouse' Sunday comic of 27 October 1985 (© Disney).

Inducks entry

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