You never know just what kind of drawing is liable to come out of a small studio overlooking Lake Erie at NEA Service’s comic art headquarters in Cleveland. It might be an editorial cartoon, or a story strip illustrating an event in American history or a biblical anecdote, or an illustration for a fiction piece, or a Sunday page for the new “Little People” comic feature. The versatile cartoonist who turns out all this, and more, is Walt Scott, a triple-threat man at the drawing board if ever one there was.
Biggest of these projects now is “The Little People” and its companion strip, “Huckleberry Hollow,” launched by NEA Service last spring and now appearing in almost 200 newspapers. Many more will use “The Little People’s Christmas,” a special series of 21 strips using characters of the Sunday feature but with a plot all its own, for release Dec. 1 to 24. And NEA expects new clients for the regular Sunday page when a new sequence starts Dec. 28.
Though the strip is new, the “Little People” have been with Walt Scott for many years. The pixie-like creatures and their imaginative “Valley of the Small Ones” began to turn up in Scott’s landscapes and water colors soon after his Army service in World War I. (He had previously worked in the back shop of a small newspaper plant, attended the Cleveland School of Art and worked for an advertising agency.)
In the early twenties, after a short stint in the advertising art department of the Cleveland Press, Scott joined the Cleveland Plain Dealer and here the “Little People” first found their way into print. They were called “The Doonks” then, and made a Sunday children’s feature.
The small-fry stuff was temporarily abandoned when Scott joined NEA as magazine art director in 1935. But he kept his hand in by taking three years off to join Walt Disney’s Hollywood studios, where he worked on “Bambi,” “Pinnochio,” “Fantasia” and “Dumbo.”
Scott made his name for versatility when he rejoined NEA about ten years ago. He “specialized” in fiction drawings, special feature work and comics, pinch-hit for the regular NEA editorial cartoonists and originated the story strips which the service has been distributing for special holidays in the past year or two. Revival of the “Little People” characters he launched 30 years ago has rounded out his career.
Tall, mustached, gray-haired and fiftyish, Scott likes to spend his non-drawing hours—yes, he does get away from the board once in awhile—hunting and fishing or entertaining his four grandchildren with tales of the “Little People.” Occasionally he takes a busman’s holiday at water color paintings, many of which have been displayed at the Cleveland Museum of Art.