With a heavy heart I report that my good friend Martha
Goldman Sigall passed away this afternoon of natural age related causes. She
was 97 and spent much of her life in the animation business, mainly as a
painter, inker and other associated activities at various studios – including
Leon Schlesinger Productions (Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies), The MGM
Cartoon Department, Graphic Films (a precursor to UPA), Snowball (Bob Clampett)
and freelance on dozens of projects starring Charlie Brown, Charlie Tuna to
Pink Panther. It’s safe to say that, outside of the Disney stable, there were hardly
any classic cartoon characters Martha didn’t have a hand in.
She was also one of the best friends the animation
community – and animation historians, such as I – ever had. She lived for the
community. I think that was the secret to her long healthy life – and I think
she knew it too. Animators were fun people – and Martha never wanted the party
to stop. Makes sense that she was one of the last to leave.
Martha may have in fact been the last living member of
the gang from Termite Terrace. I met her in 1992 when she called me out of the
blue and invited me to join her and her husband Sol for dinner at the
Cheesecake Factory in Marina Del Rey. She had every book on animation history
(including mine) and a private collection of almost every Warner Bros. cartoon
on VHS. She somehow figured that I might be able to help her track down the
final 100 Looney Tunes she didn’t have.
Within a few months we completed her collection – and became
“Best Friends Forever” from that point on. Martha not only knew Chuck Jones,
Tex Avery, Michael Maltese, Friz Freleng, Leon Schlesinger, Bob Clampett, Frank
Tashlin… and on and on… but was personal friends with all of them, their wives,
and their families.
She had such wonderful stories about her days at
Schlesinger’s studio (she had co-edited the in-house newsletter in the early
40s!) and her later jobs at MGM and so on. I could listen to her tell her
stories for hours. It was like being there. She loved talking about how much
fun animation was the golden age, so much so, that I goaded her into writing
her stories down and later helped her find a publisher (I highly recommend her
book Living Life Inside The Lines: Tales From The Golden Age of Animation). She
and Sol were never idle. They became
docents at the Warner Bros. Museum (on the Warner lot in Burbank), and appeared
at all the animation industry functions in Hollywood.
Martha received a Golden Award from the Animation Guild
in 1989, Asifa-Hollywood gave her the June Foray Award at the Annies ceremony
in 2004, and she was a guest of honor at the San Diego Comic Con in 2005. She appeared
on PBS’ History Detectives in 2010 and joined me on several Looney Tunes Golden
Collection DVDs doing both audio commentary and appearing on bonus
documentaries recalling her days at Termite Terrace.
She now rejoins her husband Sol, and the rest of the
staff of Schlesingers and MGM. I really don’t know what else to say. I’m going
to miss our phone calls, our dinners at the Cheesecake Factory, our friendship.
All of this will live on in my fondest memories.
Martha was more than an ink and paint girl. She was
more than a professional artist and a great friend. She cared. She cared for
the work, she cared for the fans, she cared for the history that she embodied.
Martha was one of us – and indeed everything all of us in animation strive to
be. A great lady, a wonderful person. I’m blessed to have had her in my life.
Rest in Peace, Martha.