'Pogo'. Art by Don Morgan.

Don Morgan was an American animator, who worked for various TV cartoon studios from the 1960s until the early 2000s. He was a ghost artist on Walt Kelly's newspaper comic 'Pogo' between 1973 and 1974 and once made a comic strip adaptation of the anime film 'Metamorphoses' in 1978, published in Lyrica, a manga magazine produced by Sanrio.

Early life
Donald Lester Morgan was born in 1938 in Broad Top, Pennsylvania, but mostly grew up in Mechanicsburg, in the same state. His father was a high school teacher. After graduating from high school he joined the U.S. Navy for a while. Back in civilian life he studied industrial design at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and obtained a major.

Early animation career
Because of his interest in animation, Morgan moved to Hollywood, California. In 1961 he applied for a job at the Snowball Studios, an animation studio by Bob Clampett which produced the cartoon series 'Time for Beany'. Unfortunately the show was by then already cancelled and the studio dismantled. Dave and Phyllis Bounds Detiege had taken the place over, and were happy to take him in as an animator. Phyllis Bounds Detiege was a niece of Walt Disney and would later marry legendary Disney animator Milt Kahl. Morgan worked as a lay-out man and assistant-animator to Ken Hultgren.

During the 1960s, Morgan worked for Abe Levitow's studio UPA on the title sequence of the TV show 'The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo' (1964-1965). He provided freelance animation for TV commercials starring Mr. Magoo which promoted General Electric.

Chuck Jones
In 1963 Morgan became a lay-out and background artist for animation legend Chuck Jones, who'd just been fired from Warner Brothers' studio and established his own studio Sib Tower 12 Productions which, a year later, became part of MGM Animation/Visual Arts. Abe Levitow joined Jones' company and brought Morgan along with him. Morgan contributed to Jones' 1963-1967 reboot of Hanna-Barbera's classic cat-and-mouse duo 'Tom & Jerry', his TV adaptations of Dr. Seuss' 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' (1966) and 'Horton Hears a Who!' (1970) and of the children's books 'The Dot and the Line' (1965) and 'The Phantom Tollbooth' (1970). Morgan additionally contributed to animated adaptations of newspaper comics like Walt Kelly's 'Pogo' ('The Pogo Special Birthday Special', 1969) and Johnny Hart and Brant Parker's 'The Wizard of Id' ('The Wizard of Id', 1970).

'Pogo'. Art by Don Morgan.

Morgan's involvement with Chuck Jones' 1969 animated TV special based on Walt Kelly's 'Pogo', actually lead to a ghost artist job on said comic strip. Walt and his wife Selby Kelly absolutely hated the cartoon adaptation, but were sympathetic to Morgan and fellow animator Willie Ito, because they supported their objections. As a result they asked them to ghost episodes of 'Pogo' when Walt Kelly was already with one foot in the grave. According to Allan Holtz of the Stripper's Guide blog, Morgan's contributions to 'Pogo' took off on 15 October 1973 and continued until 23 November 1974. One week inbetween was done by Willie Ito. Walt Kelly passed away on 18 October 1973. Selby Kelly continued 'Pogo' on her own from 24 November 1974 until its cancellation on 20 July 1975.

The Japanese company Sanrio, most famous for 'Hello Kitty', released a manga magazine in September 1976 titled Lyrica. In an attempt to conquer the Western market, it imitated style and lay-out of U.S. and European comics. Lyrica featured mostly artwork by Japanese artists, but also a comic strip by Don Morgan: 'Metamorphoses'. 'Metamorphoses' was based on Shintaro Tsujii's anime film of the same name, which tried to adapt Ovid's epic narrative poem 'Metamorphoses'. Since Morgan had contributed to the animated film, he was a logical choice to adapt it into a comic. His work appeared in Lyrica issue #17 (March 1978).

Don Morgan designed the nymphs in Ralph Bakshi's 'Coonskin'.

After MGM Animation/Visual Arts closed down in 1970, Morgan joined Hanna-Barbera, where he supervised lay-outs and character designs for several TV series, including 'Harlem Globe Trotters' (1970), 'Wait Till Your Father Gets Home' (1973) and spin-offs of 'The Flintstones' and 'Scooby-Doo'. Some were adaptations of famous comics, such as Gardner Fox' 'The Justice League' ('SuperFriends', 1979), Al Capp's 'Li'l Abner' ('The New Shmoo', 1979) and Peyo's 'The Smurfs' (1981).

Ralph Bakshi
During the 1970s and 1980s, Morgan also provided lay-outs for maverick animator Ralph Bakshi. He helped him out on three of his cult movies: 'Heavy Traffic' (1974), 'Coonskin' (1975) and 'Hey Good Lookin' (1981). For 'Coonskin', he animated the nymphets who help the maffia boss.

Final years and death
During the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s Morgan worked on Jim Henson's 'Muppet Babies', Disney's 'Gummi Bears' and 'Quack Pack', the anti-drugs special 'Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue' (1990), the live-action and animation children's film 'The Pagemaster' (1994) and Warners' 'Cats Don't Dance' (1997). In the early 2000s his expertise was used for 'The Road to El Dorado' (2002) and 'Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron' (2002), produced by Dreamworks. Don Morgan retired from animation in 2003. The veteran passed away in 2019 at age 80 in Tehachapi, California.

Self-portrait, parodying Vincent Van Gogh's self-portrait. 

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