His name was Vance DeBar Colvig, Sr., and if you are a fan of either classic Walt Disney, or Max Fleischer animation, you know his voice, but not his face. Which would be found under the original "Bozo the Clown" make-up.
This is a small look at the interesting life and career of an artist we're all familiar with, but don't know we are.
Vance was born in Jacksonville, Oregon, on September 11, 1892, one of seven children. His pioneer mother and father were, Adelaide Birdseye Colvig and "Judge" William Colvig. Dad was a lawyer and the "Judge" was an honorary title given to him by the pioneer families of Jacksonville.
In a July 12, 1961 article of the "Medford Mail Tribune", entitled, "Pinto Colvig Writes About Names, History of Clowning" is this description of his own name:
I was born in Jacksonville and named Vance DeBar Colvig. At age 7 (because of too many freckles, and goony antics) I was nicknamed 'Pinto the Village Clown' (which I have used professionally during my circus and other show business activities, besides occasional jobs as a newspaper cartoonist.
The following photo is from Pinto's elementary school and is approximately 1900.
Below, center, directly behind the horn, is Pinto in the 1908, "Medford Town Band".
Vance attended "Medford High School", did not graduate, but was able, off and on, to attend "Oregon Agricultural College" in Corvallis, between 1910 and 1913.
Above, the 1911 college band, Pinto is the first band cadet on the far left of the photograph. At the time he also drew cartoons for the college year book.
MRS. W. M. COLVIG DIES IN MEDFORD
In the death of Mrs. William M. Colvig, in her home at Medford, Jackson County lost another of its pioneers and a most estimable member of its civic life. Mrs. Colvig was the wife of Judge William M. Colvig, and both are widely known over Southern Oregon.
Mrs. Colvig was a native of Jackson County. She was born at Ft. Birdsey, near Foots Creek. She was the daughter of David and Clara Birdsey, who settled on a donation land claim in 1852. Her father died several years ago, but her mother, who is now 78 years of age, is still living, her home still being on the old donation claim. She was married to William M. Colvig on June 8, 1878, and lived with her husband on land adjoining the Birdsey homestead until 1886, when she moved to Jacksonville with her family. The family resided in Jacksonville nineteen years, moving to Medford in 1905, where she has since resided.
Mrs. Colvig was prominent in social and lodge affairs, and a few years ago was grand chief of honor of the Degree of Honor, a woman's auxiliary to the Ancient Order of United Workmen. She was the mother of seven children, five of whom, together with her husband, survive her. The children now living are Mrs. C. L. Reames, Mrs. R. G. Gale, Mrs. W. J. Warner, Vance and Donald Colvig, all living in Medford.
Vance D. Colvig, better known to the "Aristocratic Knights of the Road" and other societies as "Pinto," "The Human Leopard," "Wandering Minstrel," "Society Tramp," "Brakebeam Tourist," "Boxcar Idol," "Nightmare of Caricature" and many other titles too numerous to mention, will leave shortly to accept an offer from the Pantages Vaudeville Circuit, whereupon he will deliver "15 minutes of fast and foolish pictorial ideas" for the public's approval.
The "Animated Film Corporation" consisted of five men, above left to right, Angel Espoy, left front, actually Angel De Service Espoy, a Spanish American landscape painter of California. Whose work would be exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the State. Seated by Angel is "Track Knight", actually Benjamin Thackston Knight a sports cartoonist, standing, Pinto Colvig, and seated, Byington Ford, actually Lewis Byington Ford, the director of the company. His father, the fifth man, was Tirey L. Ford, ex-State Senator, and 18th Attorney General of the State of California, and the President of the "Animated Film Corporation".
The "San Francisco City Directory" for 1917 had this entry:
Animated Advertising Co of Cal (Inc), Phelan BldgThe following year, the "Medford Mail Tribune", April 17, 1918, had this article about Pinto:
Animated Cartoon Film Corporation, 1501-1521 Hewes Bldg, Market 6th, tel Sutter 4757, advertising service, cartoon films, theatre advertising, motion pictures, cartoon comedies, "A real run for your money"
Colvig Vance, artist, ACF Corp r 600 Bush
MEDFORD BOY'S PICTURES AT RIALTO
Men are rarely appreciated in their own communities, but Vance DeBar Colvig, known to the artistic world as "Pinto" the cartoonist, is at least an exception to this rule. His material, which will be shown at the Rialto Theater Monday and Tuesday, cannot fail to be favorably received by the Medford public.
"Pinto" is the creator of a new and novel style of motion picture animated cartoon. While his figures are as others in this line of work, the heads are of live human beings. In this his material is both original and unique.
"Pinto's" work has another element of distinction. His humorous titles convey a satire that carries a deep and philosophical meaning, and this enhances its value. Some of the patriotic suggestions conveyed in his cartoons are of great value in arousing patriotism. He is a distinct product of southern Oregon, and with the fame that is certain to come to him his life work will surely add to the reputation of the community. Here it was that he secured his early inspiration.
In the May 1933, issue of "International Photographer" was the following about Pinto:
They had colored cartoons as early as January 1919. At that time Pinto Colvig, who is prominent in cartooning today, drew a series called "Pinto's Prizma Comedy Review." They were colored by the William V. D. Kelley Prizma color [process]
Below, is William Van Doren Kelly and his invention, the Prizma Camera. Pinto's cartoons used Kelly's "Prizma II", two films were shot simultaneously in the camera, one sensitive to red-orange, the other to blue-green. Both negatives were processed and printed on Eastman Kodak "Duplitized" film stock and then toned into its complementary colors.
MACK SENNETT (BORN MICHAEL SINNOTT)
In 1922 Pinto moved his family to Hollywood and became an animator, title writer, and comedian for Mack Sennett. His first work for Sennett was Harry Langdon's, 1924 "Picking Peaches". Pinto was the uncredited gag writer, in fact, his is the only name listed for under the heading "Writing Credits", for the twenty-minute short. Pinto was also listed as the short's entire "Animation Department".
The following year found Pinto Colvig appearing in several comedies as "The Butler" for "Buster Brown", a tie-in to the shoe company's character, but not living in a shoe with his dog "Tige too!
Above, the obvious Pinto Colvig on the far right of those standing.
Pinto wrote all the titles for the six shorts in the "Peggy" comedy series. In 1926, Pinto was listed as the "Animation Department" for the Mack Sennett produced Ben Turbin comedy short, "A Prodigal Bridegroom". As the official credits list Al Giebler as doing the titles. I could not locate what Pinto actually did on the film.
By 1928, Pinto Colvig had met Walter Lantz and attempted to get him co-form an animation studio to produce sound cartoon shorts. The character Pinto introduced to Lantz was named "Bolivar the Talking Ostrich", see the signed sketch dated October 1928, below.
Tom Klein, the "Chair of the Animation" program at "Loyola Marymount College" in Los Angeles wrote in his January 21, 2017 column:
The cartoon they made was called Blue Notes and it was to be the first of a series starring Bolivar the Talking Ostrich. Colvig was the voice and he created the sounds, though no copy of the film or soundtrack is known to exist. If there ever was one person so deserving of the arrival of talkies—for whom the medium itself could synthesize his diverse talents—that person was Pinto Colvig. He even got to appear in the film as a version of himself.
According to his own autobiographical account, he was filmed as a “wandering minstrel clarinet player” and Bolivar was a pesty animated character who followed him around. By the end of the film they get into a tussle and then the ostrich runs off with the clarinet.
A little further in Tom Klein's article:
In 1928 it was announced in Hollywood Filmograph that a new firm named Bolivar Productions would be releasing its animated short subjects through Movietone Pictures, a venture created by Fox-Case Corp. that was facilitating audio for cinema. Colvig’s hometown newspaper, The Medford News, wrote on December 28, 1928 that “the theater-going public will be given many laughs via seeing Bolivar and ‘Pinto’ perform on the screen.” The productions would also involve Lantz as a principal and, according to the article, “Charles Diltz, well-known comedy director, will direct the series.”
However, "Blue Notes", directed by Walter Lantz, from a story by Pinto Colvig and Walter Lantz, and voiced by Pinto Colvig was the only on-screen appearance of "Bolivar the Talking Ostrich".
Walter Lantz had just completed a deal with "Universal Pictures" to take over the studio's animation department. The department was getting "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit" cartoons from Walt Disney, who also voiced "Oswald".
At this time, Disney thought he should be paid more for the cartoons and wanted to speak to his manager Charles Mintz. What was happening behind the scenes was unknown to Walt and would take away from him, "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit".
The following is from my article, "The Walt Disney, Max Fleischer Animation Feud" found at:
In February 1928, Walt went to New York to negotiate a higher fee per “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit” shorts which were being distributed by Universal Pictures to reviewer comments such as: “exceptionally clever” and “fine cartoon ingenuity”. The series was a major success and Walt, justifiably, thought his studio deserved a little more for them now. Charles Mintz not only told Disney he actually planned to reduce the fee he paid him, but that the Harman Brothers, Ising and Freleng from the Disney Brother’s animation staff were now under personal contract to him. Threatening Walt with taking these animators and starting his own studio. Walt stood firm and told Mintz he could have them.
Another unknown problem facing Walt Disney was that Mintz had sold the rights for Oswald to Universal Studios. The above named animators went to work making new Oswald cartoons for Universal Pictures. It would take 78 years until 2006 for “The Walt Disney Company” to acquire back the rights to “Oswald” from what was then “NBC Universal” in a trade for “ABC Sportscaster” Al Michaels. “The Walt Disney Company” as the owners of ABC Television where able to agree to the trade.
Pinto was hired by Walter Lantz to work on the "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit' series as an animator, story man, and voice "Oswald".
JUDGE COLVIG HOME FROM HOLLYWOOD
Judge W. M. Colvig, who has been visiting in Hollywood for the past month, returned to Medford last night, bringing with him his grandson, Byington Colvig, who will remain in this city until next fall.
Byington is the eight-year-old son of "Pinto" Colvig, who is now under contract with Universal Pictures, doing fake and trick photography and writing titles. The latter is well known in Medford, where he made his home for many years.
Byington was the first of Vance and Margaret's five boys.
Below, is the title card for "Spooks, written and voiced by Pinto, without credit, and partly animated with credit by him.
Note the mouse character in the lower right corner above;
Walt Disney's "Mickey Mouse" was "Oswald's" major competition. Whose idea was it to place an obvious "Mickey" in the scene is unknown.
Also, of note, the voice of "The Phantom of the Opera", was popular band leader Paul Whiteman. Who in 1924, introduced "George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" and the composition became his band's signature piece.
In January 1930, Carl Laemmle's "Universal Pictures" re-released the Lon Chaney 1925 "Phantom of the Opera" with an added sound track and at times, a voice for the "Phantom". This cartoon was a parody of the original motion picture.
The following link, at the time of this writing, will take my reader to this classic cartoon.
WALTER ELIAS DISNEY
Walt Disney moved from "Universal Pictures" to "Columbia Pictures".
In 1930, Pinto Colvig, left Walter Lantz, signed an eight-year contract with "Walt Disney Productions" as both a writer and voice actor providing sound effects.
THE MOOSE HUNT released April 30, 1931
Back on October 23, 1930, "Minnie Mouse" had a dog named "Rover" and he appeared in the cartoon "The Picnic".
Two things happened in his third on-screen appearance, the first established "Pluto" as "Mickey's dog". The second established Pinto Colvig as "Pluto's" voice.
Below, Al Jolson, ending his song "Mammy", from the first talking motion picture, 1927's "The Jazz Singer".
In another scene, "Pluto" taps "Mickey" on the shoulder and barks, "The Moose, the Moose".
MICKEY REVENUE released on May 27, 1932
THE WHOOPIE PARTY released on September 17, 1932
Marcellite Garner was voicing "Minnie Mouse".
Pinto Colvig, who once again wrote the entire cartoon, voiced "Pluto", "Goofy", and the villain of the piece, "Peg Leg Pete".
FLOWERS AND TREES released on July 30, 1932
Below voiced by Billy Bletcher is the "Big Bad Wolf".
THE GRASSHOPPER AND THE ANTS released on February 10, 1934
Dorothy Compton voiced the "Queen Ant".
Pinto Colvig voiced the "Grasshopper" that sang the above song and thought the industrious ants were stupid to be gathering food for the winter.
There were seven dwarfs in the title and Pinto Colvig voiced two-and-a-half of them. Pinto completely voiced both "Sleepy" and "Grumpy", but also voiced the hick-ups for "Dopey".
However, IF the story is true, that Pinto left Disney during 1937. Then the above appearance, by him, with the "Snow White Hollywood Stage Unit", couldn't have taken place at the "Warner Brothers Capital Theater". There were only two "Capital Theaters" on the "Warner Brothers" theater circuit, one located in Willimantic, Connecticut, and one in York, Pennsylvania. The problem here, is that, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", didn't go into general release until February 4, 1938.
I can't explain the obvious discrepancy in the year Pinto and Walt parted ways, but I may have found the reason why.
Back on June 18, 1937, Pinto Colveg voiced had character of "Irving" in a Max Fleischer "Betty Boop" cartoon, "The Impractical Joker".
Two "Goofy" cartoons had been released right after "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". Pinto had previously recorded the voices for, "Lonesome Ghosts", released on December 24, 1937, and, "Boat Builders", released on February 25, 1938!
Again, release dates can become confusing, as Pinto's first work for Max Fleischer was released immediately after the "Looney Tunes" "The Lone Stranger and Pokey", and immediately before Walt Disney's "The Practical Pig".
This was the Fleischer cartoon "Customers Wanted", released on January 27, 1939, starring "Popeye the Sailor". Pinto voiced "Bluto", Jack Mercer voiced "Popeye", and Margie Hines voiced "Olive Oyl".
The plot was simply "Popeye" and "Bluto" competing for "Wimpy's" business in their penny arcades.
"Wotta Nitemare", released on May 19, 1939, had the three voice artists dealing with "Popeye's" dream, giving "Bluto" more power over him and seeming to win "Olive's" hand.
So, "Popeye" and "Bluto" dress formal and attempt to look and act refine.
The next day saw the release of the "Betty Boop" cartoon "Yip-Yip-Yippy" with Pinto providing the voice of the "Buzzard Beak".
Both animators became aware of the other's plans and a race seemed to start, but Max ran up against "Paramount Pictures", his distributor. "Paramount" had been going through a series of reorganization bankruptcies and saw a full length animated feature film as insolvent to their interests and vetoed Fleischer.
However, after the success of Walt's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", "Paramount" wanted a full-length animated feature of their own and gave Max Fleischer the go ahead for "Gulliver's Travels". When the story was first written, "Popeye the Sailor" would play "Gulliver". The thinking was along the lines of the two extended length cartoons, 1936's "Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor", and, 1937's "Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves".
The push by "Paramount" was happening while the "Fleischer Studio" was in the middle of relocating to Miami.
The story would just tell of "Gulliver's", voiced by Sam Parker, adventures in the tiny kingdom of "Lilliput".
However, the character of "Gabby", the comic relief, seemed to steal the show and was voiced by Pinto Colveg.
Although the movie was a financial success, Max and Dave Fleischer went over the agreed upon budget and were fined by "Paramount Studio", $350,000 dollars. This was pure studio greed, because the final budget was $700,000 dollars and the movie made $3.27 million dollars.
The fine added to Max stubbornly wanting to move their New York City studio to Miami, Florida, instead of Hollywood, California and its surrounding area the San Fernando Valley. As Walt and the other East coast motion picture studios had done, because of the excellent weather.
In 1940, Pinto would voice "Gabby" in two cartoons, "King for a Day", released on October 18, 1940, and, "The Constable", released on November 15, 1940, that were planned as a start of a new series. On January 14, 1941, he once more voiced "Gabby" in "All's Well", next was "Two for the Zoo", released on February 21, 1941. Four more "Gabby" cartoons followed until "It's a Hap-Hap-Hap Happy Day", released on August 15, 1941.
Prior to "King for a Day", Pinto voiced sixteen other Fleischer cartoons, including six "Popeye" entries, but only five as "Bluto". However, Pinto voiced "The Delivery Man", and "Eugene" in "Popeye Meets Eugene the Jeep", released on December 13, 1940. The character of "Eugene the Jeep" would become an important Second World War character, because "Eugene" could turn invisible and a new United States Army vehicle, the "Willys MB" would be nick named, by soldiers, after him, as "The Jeep".
Pinto Colvig was now a free agent, but with the United States entry into the Second World War. Pinto became one of the main voices for Walt Disney's war effort cartoons, such as "The Army Mascot", released May 22, 1942, voicing "Pluto" and all the other characters himself, "Out of the Frying Pan Into the Firing Line", released on July 30, 1942, and with Clarence Nash, the classic "Donald Duck" "Der Fuehrer's Face", released on January 1, 1943.
On May 25, 1942, Max and Dave Fleischer's studio was taken over by "Paramount Pictures" and became "Famous Studios". Max couldn't form a new animation studio, because of the war need for military training films, not cartoons. Adding insult to injury, "Paramount" placed Seymour Kneitel, Max Fleischer's son-in-law as head of "Famous Studios", on May 27, 1942.
"MGM" also was building home front morale with "Blitz Wolf", released on August 22, 1942, and directed by the great Tex Avery. This was a variation of tale of the "Three Little Pigs", Pinto was the voice of "Sergeant Pork, the Third Little Pig", fighting with his brothers against "Adolf Wolf", voiced by Bill Thompson.
The character of "Bozo the Clown" was created at "Capital Records" by Alan W. Livingston to sell Children's records. The first record was released in October 1946 entitled, "Bozo at the Circus". The original character of "Bozo" was played by Pinto Colvig on both the storytelling records and at personal appearances.
However, with the many appearances required across the United States and into Canada, other actors were hired by Alan Livingston. One of those was Larry Harmon, and in 1957, with a group of business partners, Harmon purchased the rights to the character of "Bozo the Capital Record's Clown" from the record company. Harmon envisioned franchises, and renamed the character, "Bozo The World's Most Famous Clown".
The first televised cartoon program was on January 5, 1959, in Los Angeles again, this time on "KTLA, channel 5". Hosting and portraying "Bozo The World's Most Famous Clown" was, appropriately, Vance DeBar Colvig, Jr., below: