Ralph Heimdahl Papers

Ralph Heimdahl, St. Cloud State University

Identity elements

Reference code

215

Level of description

Collection

Title

Ralph Heimdahl Papers

Date(s)

  • 1926-1985 (Creation)

Extent

75.44 linear feet [51 boxes]

Name of creator

(1909-1981)

Biographical history

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.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

The Ralph Heimdahl Papers contain eight record series: Bugs Bunny Newspaper Comic Strips, NEA Booklets and Pages and Published Sunday Comic Strips, Bugs Bunny and Looney Tunes Picture and Comic Book Materials, Other Published and Unpublished Comic Strips, Rough Character Sketches, Anatomical Drawings and Watercolor Paintings, All Other Drawings, and Personal and Other Materials.

Series 1: Bugs Bunny Newspaper Comic Strips

Bugs Bunny began appearing in a newspaper comic strip in the early 1940s. The Sunday strip first appeared in newspapers on January 10, 1943 and drawn by another artist. Heimdahl began drawing the Sunday strip on October 5, 1947. The daily strip, introduced and drawn by Heimdahl, was first published in newspapers on November 1, 1948. Heimdahl would illustrate both strips until the fall of 1978.  The daily and Sunday Bugs Bunny comic strips ended in late December 1990.

In the Bugs Bunny daily and Sunday strips, Bugs is often shown trying to make a buck by selling items or providing services to his friends Porky Pig, Petunia, and Elmer Fudd. Some of Bugs’ businesses are: “Bugsy’s Toupees,” “Bugsy’s News Stand,” “Bugsy’s Beanery,” “Bugsy’s Used but not Abused Furniture,” “Bugsy’s Confidential Loan,” and “Bugsy’s Watch Repair.” Sylvester is typically a foil to Bugs, trying to mooch money or a free meal as often as he can. Other frequent gags include Bugs competing with Petunia for time on the pay phone, babysitting Porky’s nephew Cicero, or working for Mr. Schnoogle and Schnoogle's various businesses.

An item by item inventory of the newspaper comic strips is available.

Sub-series 1: Daily Comic Strips

Dating almost exclusively from 1966 to fall 1978, this sub-series contains 3200 rough pencil drawings of the Bugs Bunny daily comic strip. Except for a handful of daily strips, all drawings are dated with the published date.  Depending on time period, there are gaps in coverage.

Sub-series 2: Sunday Comic Strips

Dating from late 1947 to fall 1978, this sub-series contains 1400 rough pencil drawings of the Bugs Bunny Sunday comic strip. Except for a handful of strips, all drawings are dated with the published date.  Depending on time period, there are gaps in coverage.

Sub-series 3: Finished Ink Comic Strips

This sub-series contains a few examples of finished ink comic strips. The ink strips were sent to the Newspaper Enterprises Association (NEA), who were contracted by Warner Brothers to write and illustrate the newspaper comic strips. NEA printed the strips into the Comic Weekly booklets and distributed to subscribing newspapers. There are two framed Sunday strips, as well as five daily strips that had been given to St. Cloud State and displayed for Homecoming purposes in 1966. There are two strips from 1966 that were given to John Weismann, St. Cloud State alum and long-time employee.

Series 2: NEA Booklets and Pages and Published Sunday Comic Strips

Sub-series 1: NEA Booklets

This series includes NEA Comic Weekly booklets from 1964 to the late 1970s that have a week's worth of Sunday and daily strips for multiple different comic strips. These pages were sent to papers carrying NEA comic strips. Some of the comics included in these books include "The Born Loser," "Berry's World," "Frank and Ernest," "The Circus of P.T. Bimbo," "Zoonies," and "Alley Oop." The pages for Bugs Bunny are not included here because Heimdahl removed them from the booklets.

Sub-series 2: NEA Bugs Bunny Pages

Dating from 1964 to the late 1970s, this sub-series contains NEA Bugs Bunny pages from the weekly booklet in sub-series one. These include the six daily strips and the Sunday strip for a week.

Sub-series 3: Published Sunday Comic Strips

This includes published Bugs Bunny comic strips from Sunday newspapers dating from 1949 to 1978. Each is printed in color. There is also one Sunday strip of "Yogi" from the "Huckleberry Hound Weekly" which was a UK based comic for which Heimdahl drew the British version of the Hanna-Barbera Yogi character.

Series 3: Bugs Bunny and Looney Tunes Picture and Comic Book Materials

This series includes Bugs Bunny and Looney Tunes picture and comic book materials. The Looney Tunes comic books include Bugs Bunny, Baby Snoots, and Porky Pig by both Gold Key and March of Comics. The Hanna-Barbera comic books here feature Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound by Gold Key and Dell. This series also has a published Yogi Bear coloring book and the sketches that Heimdahl did for the book prior to its publication.

Also here are sketches for various other comic books for Bugs Bunny, Baby Snoots, and Uptite Mouse. The comic books covers are drawn in pencil or ink and include Bugs Bunny and Looney Tunes characters such as Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, and Daffy Duck. There is also a comic book cover for Pink Panther. Character model sheets in this collection portray the characters from different angles and positions, which allowed the artist to see different perspectives for characters. The blueprints in this series were used for accurate printing and reproduction purposes.

Series 4: Other Published and Unpublished Comic Strips

This series includes published and unpublished comic strips and ideas of Heimdahl's that were not Bugs Bunny such as "Minnie Soo and Little HaHa," Yippy the Yukon Pilot," "Herky the Horse," and "Mr. Puffin."

"Minnie Soo and Little HaHa" was a comic that featured a Sioux boy and girl written and drawn by Heimdahl. He ultimately sold the comic to Crown Comics in New York before he returned to California to draw for Western Publishing. Included here are scripts for the comics, a notebook titled, "Indian Lore," which Heimdahl has noted the Sioux translations of names and places, rough sketches, ink sketches, model sheets, panel drawings, and pre-published comics. Crown Comics published Minnie Soo and Little HaHa from 1947 to 1949.

"Yippy the Yukon Pilot," is about Yippy, a bush pilot who operates a freight and flying service in Alaska and the Canadian wilds. This collection has rough sketches, ink drawings, and pre-published comics. It was never published.

"Mr. Puffin" includes rough pencil sketches, ink drawings, panel drawings, and pre-published comics. It was never published.

Additionally, series 4 also includes various ideas of Heimdahl's for comic strips. Some of these are characters named Snusbox, Pokey Mopus, and Zimmy Dean.

Series 5: Rough Character Sketches

This series includes rough character pencil drawings of Bugs Bunny, Looney Tunes, and Hanna-Barbera characters drawn by Heimdahl.

Series 6: Anatomical Drawings and Watercolor Paintings

This series contains watercolor paintings, anatomical drawings, and other drawings by Heimdahl, including a drawing likely from his school days from Willmar in 1926.

Series 7: All Other Drawings

This series includes materials for the Bugs Bunny Easter Coloring Contest such as rough sketches, posters, flyers, and correspondence to Heimdahl regarding the contest. The Bugs Bunny Easter Coloring Contest was designed for children up to age twelve to complete the sentence, "Bugs Bunny is My Favorite Comic Because..." or they could fill in the last line of a provided jingle. They would submit this with a colored Bugs Bunny drawing for a chance to win a prize. The contest was held by NEA. The series also has a photo of Heimdahl with the 1956 winner Cheryl Stoner.

Also included are photos of Heimdahl with Kazunori Shinoda who drew a Bugs Bunny Christmas scene that was selected by the Lung Association for the usage of the 1978 California Christmas Seal.

This series contains drawing samples Heimdahl submitted to places such as the Arcadia Public Library, Dell Publishing, and the Saturday Evening Post, along with accompanying correspondence. There is also a sketch of Bugs Bunny wearing a St. Cloud State College football uniform, sketches Heimdahl did for St. Cloud State's 1967 Homecoming, and an ink drawing of Bugs Bunny in front of Whitney House.

Finally, this series includes miscellaneous pencil and ink drawings by Heimdahl. There are also sketches in honor of Tom Peoples' retirement from NEA.

Series 8: Personal and Other Materials

Series 8 is split into three sub-series related to personal and other materials.

Sub-series 1: Correspondence

This sub-series includes correspondence between Heimdahl and various institutions such as the American Academy of Humor, St. Cloud State, and Walt Disney Studios. There are also letters regarding his retirement, fan mail sent to Heimdahl, and Christmas cards and letters drawn by Heimdahl in the 1970s which were sent to family and friends.

Sub-series 2: Published Comic Strips

Includes comic strips not written by Heimdahl that he collected for inspiration or creative ideas.

Sub-series 3: General

Sub-series 3 includes personal material related to Heimdahl such as newspaper clippings about his life, his obituary, correspondence, images, a scrapbook, his films, and letterman sweater from St. Cloud State. The book included in this collection, _A Private Gem in a Public Settings, _in which Heimdahl submitted a cartoon and is not bound within the book.

The photographs in this collection show Heimdahl in a football uniform, Heimdahl with other Disney artists, on his Vermont farm, and with his wife Esther. Other photos here feature his friends at St. Cloud State. Some of these images are digital only.

Other materials in this sub-series include books and notebooks of anatomical diagrams, engine systems, and a record he kept of the Sunday pages he drew of Bugs Bunny. The scrapbook documents his trip to St. Cloud State in 1966 in which he was awarded a Distinguished Alumni Award.

There are four films included in sub-series three. "Autumn Madness" is the story of his daughter Martha's busy schedule getting ready for high school homecoming festivities. The film shows Martha in her role as a homecoming princess and decorating cars on campus for the parade. The grand climax features half-time with music of the Apache band. The film was submitted to the Bolex "How America Lives," movie contest in 1962 and won the silver medallion award.

"Pond Life," planned by Martha and filmed with the help of Heimdahl, was the result of a biology class project and filmed at an arboretum. It is a story of spring activity with scenes of ducks, geese, frogs, blossoms, and vegetation. The film was awarded first place in the Nature Classification for 16mm films for the 1963 Cincinnati Film Festival.

Other films are a 1965 film titled, "The West," which is a short film about Native Americans using still images, and a KCMT TV film "Homecoming St. Cloud State Awards Brunch" newsreel that highlights Heimdahl's 1966 St. Cloud State Distinguished Alumni Award. There is a letter from American Heritage, dated April 3, 1964, in which they negotiate terms with Heimdahl to use still photos for The West.

Finally, Heimdahl's St. Cloud State letterman sweater is included in this sub-series. It is a gold button up cardigan sweater with a maroon and black school logo on it.

System of arrangement

The Ralph Heimdahl papers are organized into eight series: Bugs Bunny Newspaper and Comic Strips, NEA Booklets and Pages and Published Sunday Comic Strips, Bugs Bunny and Looney Tunes Picture and Comic Book Materials, Other Published and Unpublished Comic Strips, Rough Character Sketches, Anatomical Drawings and Watercolor Paintings, All Other Drawings, and Personal and Other Materials.

Series 1: Bugs Bunny Newspaper Comic Strips

Split into three sub-series, the records are organized chronologically.

Series 2: NEA Booklets and Pages and Published Sunday Comic Strips

Split into three sub-series, the records are organized chronologically.

Series 3: Bugs Bunny and Looney Tunes Picture and Comic Book Materials

The records are organized alphabetically and by date.

Series 4: Other Published and Unpublished Comic Strips

The records are organized by character name.

Series 5: Rough Character Sketches

The records are identified by characters included.

Series 6: Anatomical Drawings and Watercolor Paintings

The records are organized by type or drawing of painting.

Series 7: All Other Drawings

The records are identified by the type of drawing.

Series 8: Personal and Other Materials

Sub-series one is organized alphabetically. Sub-series two lists comic strip titles in no particular order. Sub-series three is organized alphabetically and by date.

Records are located at 1B.6a-1D.7a.

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

There are no access restrictions.

Physical access

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

Permission to publish, quote, and reproduce must be secured from the copyright holder.

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

Language and script notes

Finding aids

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

Immediate source of acquisition

Gift

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information

Accruals

Also included here is a set of ink Bugs Bunny comic strips given by Heimdahl to St. Cloud State in 1966, as well as two comic strips given to St. Cloud State alum and long-time employee John Weismann.

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Notes element

General note

Other Information:

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at the Ohio State University has thousands of final ink Bugs Bunny newspaper comic strip drawings from Ralph Heimdahl.  These are mostly contained in the Robert Roy Metz Collection.

Additional information may be found at https://cartoons.osu.edu/

General note

Other Information:
The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at the Ohio State University has thousands of final ink Bugs Bunny newspaper comic strip drawings from Ralph Heimdahl.  These are mostly contained in the Robert Roy Metz Collection.
Additional information may be found at https://cartoons.osu.edu/

Specialized notes

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Archivist's note

Processed by Marissa Hendrickson, May to August 2020. Additional assistance by students Ana Bamesburger, Michelle Skroch, and AnnMarie White.

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