Cartoonist Fred Purucker has passed away.
Malibu Times editorial cartoonist 1999-2016(?),
art school teacher, Disney animator
Purucker, TMT cartoonist for more than two decades, died last week at the age of 89. Although his face may not be known to most of our readers, his clever, funny and sometimes pointed cartoons are surely familiar in households across Malibu; even though in later years Purucker’s health prevented him from creating weekly cartoons, the newspaper has continued to reprint his timeless takes on traffic, weather, local politics, family life, social issues and more.
“I’ve always been drawing, since I was little,” Purucker said. “I started cartooning for my high school paper.” As a teenager, he knew some of the artists who drew the Disney comic strips and actually did some work for a Disney cartoonist while still in high school. “But I didn’t actually do it for a living for a long time,” he said.
He joined the Navy for three-and-a-half years, then landed a full-time job with Disney Studios. As a member of the Special Effects Animation Department there, Purucker spent most of the next five years creating weather/atmospheric effects and explosions for various Disney productions.
…there “were always massive layoffs” at Disney after major productions were finished, so he decided to look for a teaching spot.
He became an art teacher at Santa Monica High School for the next 34 years.
Purucker got his start with The Malibu Times several years after retiring from teaching. “In one of our community struggles, I can’t remember which one, I drew a cartoon for one of the groups and the paper got hold of it and published it,” he said. Some time after that he became a regular contributor. Purucker’s cartoons appear in Malibu Times archives from as far back as they have been digitized—1999—meaning he was contributing to the newspaper beginning in the contentious early days of the City of Malibu’s incorporation.
When asked how he knows one of his cartoons is good, or ready, Purucker confided that it’s not an exact process.
“I’m not sure I ever think they’re good,” he said. “Sometimes you start one and it’s not working out, so you start another one, but there’s always a deadline. Most cartoonists are working right up to the last minute.
“Once I get an idea, it takes me 3-4 hours to finish a real simple cartoon,” Purucker said, “but sometimes it takes me all day if there’s a lot of detail.”
His work process is decidedly low-tech. He works at an old drawing board. “Disney sold off a lot of their animation desks during layoffs,” Purucker said. “I draw on 13” by 14” animating/drawing paper left over from the studio. In the old days, we used bottles of India ink and an inkwell. Now I use Marks-A-Lots.”
Malibu Times publisher Arnold York said of Purucker, “He’s sweet and very nonconfrontational—all the acid comes out in his cartoons!” York’s approach to the cartoons is hands-off. “Occasionally, we’ll suggest an idea, but he calls the shots and he’s very talented,” York said. “He can draw and he’s got a real eye for political stuff.”