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Inclusive Excellence Spotlight: Iwao Takamoto

This month, in celebration of Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we highlight Iwao Takamoto – a world famous animator. You may know Iwao Takamoto better through the many iconic characters he designed and animated which include Scooby Doo, Charlotte’s Web, Peter Pan, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Disney’s 101 Dalmatians. And Hanna-Barbera‘s The Jetsons and The Flintstones to name a few.

Iwao Takamoto was born on April 29, 1925 and passed away on January 8, 2007. He first learned animation skills during his teenage years as a prisoner in the Manzanar internment camp, which held over 110,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. At the end of the war, he joined the Disney animation studio where he became the key assistant to one of Disney’s legendary “Nine Old Men,” Milt Kahl. In 1961, Takamoto left Disney for Hanna-Barbera as Disney was downsizing its animation production. Takamoto stayed with Hanna-Barbera until his retirement in 2001. 

According to an interview with Takamoto, one of the projects that held a special place for him among the many iconic animations he created was Charlotte’s Web, based on the book by E.B. White, which he co-directed.  The film received rave reviews, including the following quote from William Hanna: “The crown of our mutual artistic aspirations… This film remains one of my personal favorites as a showcase of the best of what our people were creating, an endeavor of stunning excellence.”

Beyond inventing many enduring  cartoon characters, he was known in the industry as a fixer. “Iwao’s hand wasn’t always the first hand that touched a character,” Mr. Awley said, “but it was almost always the last hand.”

Iwao Takamoto (2020). Norman Rockwell Museum.

Iwao Takamoto courtesy of the New York Times
Iwao Takamoto courtesy of the New York Times