Michael Maltese Papers Document Cartoon History

Michael Maltese was born on February 6, 1908, in New York City to Italian immigrant parents, Paul and Concetta. He was married to Florence Sass in 1936 and had a daughter, Brenda, in 1938.  He started his career in the cartoon business at the Max Fleischer Cartoon Studio in New York City in 1935 where he worked as a cel painter, assistant animator, and overtime camera man. To find employment in the lean years of the depression Maltese and his wife decided to move to Los Angeles. While waiting to hear about a job opportunity from Walt Disney, Maltese took a job with the Warner Brothers cartoon studio, where he stayed for the next twenty-one years. Maltese started as an in-betweener for Warner’s but was quickly moved to the story department. He worked for most of the directors, doing a number of cartoons with I. “Friz” Freleng and Fred “Tex” Avery, but his most memorable work was done with director Chuck Jones. From 1946 to 1958, Maltese worked exclusively with Jones, creating some of Warner Brothers’ most popular characters, including Pepe Le Pew, Road Runner and Coyote, and Yosemite Sam. He also wrote some of the most memorable Warner cartoons, such as The Rabbit of Seville, Duck Dodgers in the 24th ½ Century, One Froggy Evening, What’s Opera, Doc, and the Oscar-winning For Scentimental Reasons. He also wrote many of the songs that were used in his cartoons, including Michigan Rag from One Froggy Evening.

Maltese left Warner Brothers in 1958 to go to work for the fledgling Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Studio where he helped create such television series as The Flintstones, Huckleberry Hound and Quick-Draw McGraw as head of the story department. He retired in 1973 but continued to find work writing comic book stories for Gold Key Comics. He came out of retirement in 1979 to again work with Chuck Jones on a sequel to Duck Dodgers and a new Road-Runner cartoon.  Michael Maltese died in 1981 after a long illness.

The Michael Maltese papers are comprised of materials relating to his professional and personal life. The majority of the collection, however, is related to his work as a story man for cartoons. There are numerous title and credit cels from many of the Warner Brothers cartoons, photocopies of several storyboards from his work with Hanna-Barbera, and comic book scripts on which he worked. There are also several items from Maltese’s personal life, including 8mm movies, books relating to cartoons, correspondence, and several of Maltese’s sketches. There are also several transcribed interviews of Maltese and personal recollections written by him.  This collection is just one of many documenting the history of comic books and animation in the United States.

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3 Responses to Michael Maltese Papers Document Cartoon History

  1. terryoxford says:

    Is there anything in the papers about his religious affiliations? I remember once Chuck Jones referred to Maltese dealing with “theological” matters as that was his territory. Thanks,

    • ahcadmin says:

      Terry – Thanks for your question. Your request for information will be referred to the UW American Heritage Center’ Reference Dept. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

      • ahcadmin says:

        Terry – Using the search terms theology, theological, religion, religious and church brought up nothing in the Maltese papers. The majority of his papers are professional, not personal. However, it was found that box 8 contains two interviews on audio cassette, a “recollection,” and biographical material and box 13 has a transcribed interview with the BBC. If you are interested in these sources, please contact the American Heritage Center’s Reference Department at ahcref@uwyo.edu or at 307-766-3756. Thanks for your interest in the Maltese papers.

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