William “Bill” Littlejohn, longtime animator and union activist, died Sept. 17 of natural causes at his Malibu home. He was 96.
Most famously, Littlejohn lent his hand to dozens of “Peanuts” and “Garfield” specials and features in the ’70s and ’80s, commercials, the 1962 Oscar-winning short “The Hole” and the 1977 Oscar-nominated “A Doonesbury Special.” Outside the drawing room, he was an integral player in unionizing and advocating for the animation industry.
Littlejohn started as an animator in the early ’30s. By 1937 he joined the MGM animation unit and was working on the original, Oscar-winning “Tom and Jerry” series. In 1941, he helped coordinate the watershed animation strike that unionized Walt Disney Studios. While serving as an Army test pilot during World War II, Littlejohn freelanced for MGM and Walter Lantz studios.
Littlejohn co-founded ASIFA/Hollywood, the local chapter of the International Animated Film Society, which awarded him the lifetime achievement Annie Award in 1981. He served as president of the Screen Cartoonists Guild and, from 1988 to 2001, represented short films and animation as a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science Board of Governors. Littlejohn also helped organize the Olympiad of Animation for the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival and the International Tournees of Animation. He continued to work through the ’90s.
Littlejohn’s wife of 61 years, actress Fini Rudiger Littlejohn, died in 2004. He is survived by his son and daughter, Steve Littlejohn and Toni Littlejohn, and three grandchildren. The family requests donations be made in his memory to ASIFA/Hollywood.