Heimdahl, Ralph

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Heimdahl, Ralph

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        Ralph Heimdahl of Willmar, Minnesota, was born on March 22, 1909. After two years of study, Heimdahl graduated from the St. Cloud State Teacher’s College in 1930 where he studied art, played multiple sports including football and basketball, and participated in a wide variety of campus activities. After graduation, he was the principal at Miltona during the 1930/1931 school year, and he also taught at the State School for the Deaf at Faribault. He also took classes at the Minneapolis School of Art.

        In 1937, Heimdahl entered a national competition that Walt Disney held to find artists. Heimdahl drew sketches of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and was hired. He moved to California to work at the Walt Disney Studios' animation department. There he met his future wife Esther, who was also a Disney employee. They married in 1938.

        While at Disney, Heimdahl worked on classic feature length animated films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Fantasia (1940), Pinocchio (1940), Dumbo (1941), and Bambi (1942). During the Disney studio strike in 1941, Heimdahl left Disney and moved to a farm in Brookfield, Vermont, where he lived for a year hoping to draw and sell his own cartoons. By the winter of 1942-1943, Heimdahl was working as a mechanical engineer for Hardinge in Elmira, New York. In the mid-1940s, Heimdahl was ultimately drawn back to California where he worked as a mechanical engineer in the city of Alhambra in suburban Los Angeles.

        In 1946, Heimdahl joined the Western Publishing Co. where he drew comic books. In October 1947, Heimdahl began drawing the Bugs Bunny Sunday comic strip for Warner Bros. and the Newspaper Enterprises Association (NEA). He drew the new Bugs Bunny daily strip from its inception in November 1948. Heimdahl drew both the daily and Sunday strips until the fall of 1978. At one point, the Bugs Bunny comic strip appeared in over 450 newspapers worldwide.

        Additionally, Heimdahl created the British version of the “Yogi Bear” comic in the 1960s which was based on the Hanna-Barbera character of the same name. Another hobby of Heimdahl’s was filmmaking. He and his daughter Martha won the Bolex Silver Medallion award in 1962 for a 16mm film entitled “Autumn Madness.”

        Heimdahl died on November 12, 1981 at the age of 72. He was a longtime resident of Arcadia, California in suburban Los Angeles where he and his wife, Esther, had three daughters - LaVerne, Linda, and Martha.


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