34. Tommy Morrison

The Terrytoons enigma

Without a doubt, Tommy Morrison expected to be named as Creative Director of Terrytoons when Paul Terry sold the studio to CBS-Television.  That became clear to me only later, after I was named to the job instead of he. Tommy had put in many years as head of the studio’s story department, as well as being the all around utility voice actor.  He was primed for the job, and was surely stunned when I was inserted onto his turf.

I don’t want to make out that I was set up as a victim. The officials at CBS who recruited me didn’t know any more about the personnel miasma at Terrytoons than I did. They and I worked in Manhattan.  Paul Terry had many years earlier moved his studio to the boondocks of New Rochelle on the east coast of Westchester County, out of range of the Cartoonists Union, which was insisting he pay his people decently.

Terrytoons barely rated space in my consciousness. If I ever thought of it at all, I thought of it as the worst animation studio in the entire Galaxy. But when the offer came to me out of the blue – that I would be CBS’s point man to do a Pygmalian job of recreating this lifeless outfit into a creative doppelganger of the TV network I most respected, and had earlier worked for…. all rational thought dissolved. All of the bad news about Bill Weiss and a studio full of resentment was kept from me. My thrill of being the Chosen One to replace the retro Paul Terry, and being blessed with the mark of the CBS Eye logo virtually tattooed on my forehead, I didn’t even make the most cursory investigation.

The Terrytoons studio being far, far away, meant that I knew no one who worked there. So I missed out on the vital bad news.

The awakening dash of cold water came too late. When I had committed, and was taken up there, met Bill Weiss, and shown around the place, I finally realized what a job I would have to gain acceptance in that hostile environment. I sadly told the CBS honchos that I wanted out, but they strongly assured me that they would protect me, and spun the dream of golden opportunity that I already had felt. So I nervously went for it.

And it was Tommy Morrison that I had to first win over; the very guy who felt he deserved the position I, the outsider, was granted. He was at least outwardly gracious, He was obviously a thorough professional, and I promised him the opportunity to use his best talents and story knowledge without the dead-hand of Paul Terry who wanted only the worst from him.  As we got on with it, Tommy went along with my basic ideas, and made contributions in kind.  I cannot be sure to this day, so many years later, what he really thought about me, or if he respected my goals.  He certainly seemed to, though I could not avoid the fact that he was much older and more experienced than I, and may well have just been biding his time, waiting for me to fail.  Whatever; he went along with everything I wanted to do, and he made excellent contributions.  We never had the slightest arguments about the creation of characters or the development of stories. He was a good, positive creative partner.

Yet two years later when Weiss the Terminator found his opening to ground me, Tommy had no words of support for me. Ironically, when my successor was named, it was the then lowly cel painter, Ralph Bakshi who got my job, not the Terrytoons veteran, Tommy Morrison.  Weiss could not abide another to threaten his position.

Tommy Morrison is standing behind me, checking the timing.

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