Earl and the Animation Guild

Earl was very active in Local 839, the Animation Guild. Its Business Agent Steve Hulett posted the sad news on the Guild’s blog along with the following personal thoughts…

Earl Kress was the guy I knew longest in the animation business.

When I started at Disney, he was already on staff, working on “The Fox and the Hound.” For the first year I was there, his office was next to mine on the third floor of the old animation building. I was in a space the size of a broom closet. Since Earl was the senior guy, he occupied the office with the square footage of one-and-a-half broom closets.

Years later, Mr. Kress and I were both freelancing for Warner Bros. Animation at the same time when the studio was launching "Tiny Toon Adventures." Shortly thereafter, I abandoned the writing game and became Business Representative for Local 839, but Earl stuck with his first love of creating animated cartoons. It wasn’t long before he was on the WBA staff full-time, writing "Pinky and the Brain" and winning Emmys.

And it wasn’t long after that Earl became a board member of The Animation Guild, and then Vice-President. He was on the TAG negotiating committee every time negotiations rolled around, adding his passion and expertise. (As noted above, the fact that animation writers under TAG can write two half-hour shows and qualify for health benefits AND a qualified pension year is largely due to Mr. Kress, who pushed for improvements in writers’ benefits and wages tenaciously and energetically.)

Earl kept writing almost to the very end of his life. His devoted wife Denise told me that even after he fell ill, he was still in the game, waiting to hear back from producers on an outline he’d completed. He left us way too soon, but the fact that he continued as a professional writer from his entry into the business in 1975 to 2011 is cause for celebration. Very few talents stay employed for thirty-five years in a field they love, particularly when the field is the movie business. But Earl made it happen.

Wherever you are now, Mr. Kress, I expect you’re doing funny voices for the other angels, and writing funny dialogue. And telling the winged denizens about the history of the cartoon business that you had such a hand in shaping.