|The Idea Guy!
FredQuarters, April 2002: It was a sad when we got the news that Fred Rice had passed away. He will be truly missed but we all feel blessed to have known him. Here's his amazing story.
Fred Rice likes to think of himself as an idea guy. Hes that for sure, but hes so much more. Hes an artist, cartoonist, inventor, photographer, animator, musician, promoter, teacher, record producer, television show producer and solar energy enthusiast.
Frederick H. Rice was born and raised in Highland Park, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. The son of an Irish mother and Pennsylvania Dutch father, Fred thinks his last name probably became 'Rice' due to a mispronunciation of 'Reiss' when his grandfather immigrated from Germany.
In 1937 he came out to California to drive his widowed aunt’s car, an Essex Terraplane, back to Philadelphia where she was going to live with Fred’s family. But when Fred got to California and saw Hollywood and the orange trees, he didn’t want to go back. "I don’t think my aunt ever really wanted to go back to Philadelphia," he adds.?She had a good job as a dress maker/designer at Universal Studios and enjoyed her life in California.?
At his aunts house in North Hollywood, Fred built a garage and lived in it during the construction. In between sawing wood and pounding nails, he tried to get a job at Disney Studios. While his talent was obvious, the studio felt he lacked the necessary animation experience and suggested he take an animation and drawing course at Los Angeles Junior College.
Fred took the suggestion, enrolled in school and studied animation, illustration, drawing and also took advanced piano. Lucky for Fred he continued his love of music from his younger days because in that piano class he met Myrna Myling. She was the head of the 'Inkers and Painters' at Walter Lantz Studios. When she saw Fred’s portfolio she knew how talented Fred was and got him a job there. At the time Fred was hired, Lantz was being subcontracted by Universal Pictures.
Fred got his first real art job at Lantz as an in-betweener.'What’s an in-betweener'" While at Walter Lantz Studios, Fred worked on such animated cartoons as 'Woody Woodpecker,' 'Andy Panda,' and many others. It was there he met his wife, Dorothy. "She was dating another ‘in-betweener’ and I met her at a house warming party. She was a pretty good dancer," Fred remembers. About six months later they eloped to Avalon on the island of Catalina. But his wife insisted on being a June bride, so they had a second wedding ceremony in a Catholic Church on Sunset Boulevard. "During our ceremony," Fred recalls, "all our wedding presents were stolen out of the car."
In 1940, Fred moved over to Walt Disney Studios, working alongside such well-known artists and cartoonists as Hank Ketchum, creator of Dennis the Menace, and Virgil Parks, who later drew panel cartoons for Colliers, The Saturday Evening Post and other magazines. "Most of the positions at Disney were filled when I was hired," Fred recalls, "so I started as a special effects animator - smoke, fire, mood, shadows." Before long, though, he was working on such classics as 'Pinnochio,' 'Bambi' and ?Dumbo,? which he believes was Disney’s best animated film.
Freds handiwork can also be seen in Disneys masterpiece 'Fantasia.'
As World War II approached, Disney wanted to keep Fred from being drafted.They knew they had a talented craftsman on their payroll and didnt want to lose him. Disney sent a number of letters to the draft board trying to keep Fred out of the draft. The letters worked for awhile.
To help with the war effort, Disney and Fred were busy with a series of military training film covering such exciting subjects as 'How to Break Down a Browning Automatic Rifle' and 'Machine Gun Assembly.' But eventually, the draft board told Fred he needed to become directly involved in the nation’s defense. In 1943, he found a job at Bendix Aviation Corporation as a Production Control Manager. But working the night shift meant he didn’t get to see his new bride as much as wanted, so he left Bendix and started working the day shift at Adele Precision Products as a Hydraulic Design Engineer.
Defense plant jobs aside, Fred was finally drafted and did his basic training at Fort Riley, Kansas with the First Cavalry. Next it was on to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he was made head of the reproduction department. He painted signs and patriotic billboards, drew cartoons and murals, created engineering road maps and even produced dioramas for military dances. A year after the war ended, Fred was discharged and returned to California.
Back in the land of palm trees and movie stars, he spotted an ad in the Hollywood Citizen newspaper advertising for a creative artist at Capital Records. "I took in my portfolio and when the art director saw it" he said, "Fred you’re it!"
Fred’s first job was illustrating children’s record albums. "I worked on 15 Bozo the Clown books and records that were called record readers," he says.
When childrens shows on television lured the kiddies away from records, sales plunged for the record readers and Fred turned his talents to the designing covers for Capitol’s popular record albums.
The claim that Fred Rice is much more than just a talented artist is evidenced by a little invention he came up with in the early 50's.
In 1962, while at Capitol, Fred started Fred Rice Productions.
During his more than 27 years at Capitol, Fred worked closely with top recording artists including Frank Sinatra, Elvis, The Osmonds, Wayne Newton, Maria Callas, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, The Monkees, Grand Funk Railroad, Linda Ronstadt, and Rick Springfield. Fred designed the 'Wedding Album' for John Lennon and Yoko Ono and designed and created the Beatles cartoon that ran on television in the ‘70s. He also worked on the classic rock and roll album, 'Sticky Fingers' by the Rolling Stones in which he and Andy Warhol collaborated to figure out the mechanics of putting a functioning zipper on the cover.
One day, Capitol asked Fred to handle these five young boys from Indiana called The Jackson Five. Fred redesigned their record sleeve to offer the 'Soulmate Kit.' It included an exclusive Jackson Five autographed portrait, concert poster, stationery, notepads and the Jackson Five’s own magazine. "I got 25% of the gross on everything sold," Fred says with a smile. "I also came up with the idea and design of the animated Jackson Five cartoons that were seen on the television."
Inventor, designer, cartoonist, artist, father, husband and an all-around nice guy. Fred Rice’s legacy is indeed a lengthy and impressive one. When The FRED Society finds a Fred like Mr. Rice, who exemplifies creativity and vitality, we just have to say, "?Thanks for setting such a great example." You’ll always be an honored member of The FRED Society. We miss you very much.
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