Maurice Noble is widely recognized as the premier animation designer in the history of animation. Animation design or layout design provides the “sets” upon which animated characters perform. It is a deceptively difficult job. In Noble’s case, the role became even more complex when his involvement extended into almost every aspect of a film’s production; from providing inspirational concepts and staging ideas to color-coordinating the animated characters with the finished production backgrounds. Each new animated film presented Noble an opportunity to explore an unusually distinctive art form, and he consistently strove to develop highly imaginative and interesting settings to support and enhance every production.
He was the co-director of the Academy Award-winning animated short subject, The Dot and the Line, and many other cartoon classics. His unique and innovative use of color and design are apparent in landmark Disney films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Bambi, and Dumbo. His work on more than 60 Warner Bros. cartoon featuring characters such as Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner helped created a new look and approach to animation that continues to influence designers today.
Educated at Chouinard Art Institute (precursor to the California Institute of the Arts,) he began his career in advertising, where he notably designed the “Red Door” for Elizabeth Arden. Noble discovered his true calling at the Walt Disney Company, where one of his first projects was to work on the Silly Symphonies. Dumbo (1941) showcased his inventive understanding of color and design in its famous “pink elephant” sequence. His work can also be seen in the “Rites of Spring” sequence in Fantasia.
During World War II, Noble was a member of the Frank Capra U.S. Army Signal Corp Unit, creating animated films for the Armed Forces; among the most memorable, the “Private Snafu” series. It was during this period that he met his future collaborators Ted Geisel (better known as Dr.Seuss) and Chuck Jones.
After the war, Noble entered into a creative partnership with Chuck Jones that would continue, off and on, for nearly 50 years. Some of the more famous animated short subjects he designed include Duck Dodgers in the 24th-and-a-half Century, Bully for Bugs, Duck Amuck and What’s Opera, Doc?. The latter two are the only animated films inducted into the National Film Registry.
In the 1960s Maurice Noble collaboration with Chuck Jones continued at MGM where they produced many Dr. Seuss classics including Horton Hears a Who, and the original adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas as well as the full-length film adaptation of Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth.
In 1993, Noble was honored for contributions to the Disney Studio in a ceremony at Fantasia Court at Disney World, where his signature and hand prints were placed in cement. He received the Annie Award in 1987 from the International Animation Society for creative excellence in the field of animation.
His longtime collaborator, four-time Oscar winner Chuck Jones says, “Maurice Noble excited, moved, and stimulated us all. He approached each filmic problem with his unique history and viewpoint. Maurice had the confidence and knowledge to create a world where animation could flourish, and never intruded on the orderly advance of the story. He enhanced every film, and provided inspiration and creativity to the team. He never showed off, but he did show up every layout man or art director I have ever known by his honesty, his devotion to his craft, and above all, his commitment to the film at hand. Without him, a great many of my films could not have been made.”
Maurice Noble passed away May 18, 2001. The Chuck Jones Gallery is pleased to represent his original and limited edition art.