Waterdown animator drew your Saturday morning dreams

Waterdown animator Harry Rasmussen is responsible for making cartoon icons like Scooby Doo, Tony the Tiger and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles come to life.

Waterdown animator responsible for bringing cartoon icons like Scooby Doo and Tony the Tiger to life

Anyone who spent Saturday mornings glued to a TV during the early 90s knows Harry Rasmussen's work.

The Waterdown animator was the architect of some of a generation's fondest cereal and canned pasta-based cartoon memories.

He was the one behind Sugar Bear's romps throughout the Sugar Crisp factory, making life difficult for Stan, the bulldog guard. And remember the Alpha-Bits wizard, surfing a cool wave of milk? That was Rasmussen, too.

But his most prestigious work actually came decades earlier, working as an animator on the classic Scooby Doo series for Hanna Barbera, alongside others like Super Friends and Casper, the Friendly Ghost.

History is cool, but I'm always thinking about what to do next.- Harry Rasmussen, animator

There's no doubt that generations of kids have seen and loved Rasmussen's early animation – but good luck getting him to talk about it.

Asking the soon-to-be 60 year old about Scooby Doo is something like asking Robert Plant about Stairway to Heaven or Billy Bob Thornton about his acting career – that is to say, he isn't a big fan.

"It's kind of a weird concept to get your head around," Rasmussen told CBC News. "But I do run into young families who seem interested in it."

Rasmussen steers any questions about Hanna Barbera to his more modern work (like The Ron James show), preferring to let the past stay in the past. "History is cool, but I'm always thinking about what to do next," he said.

Cartoon college

But for most people with an interest in cartoons and animation, that history is extremely interesting.

Rasmussen first entered Sheridan College as a comic book buff back in the 70s. The college actually offered a program for comic creators, but he was advised to take animation courses instead, as the comics industry is notoriously difficult to break into.

Waterdown animator Harry Rasmussen has worked on countless cartoon series and cartoons. (Facebook)

But after he graduated, Canada still didn't have much to offer on the job front – so Rasmussen headed to Los Angeles to work at Hanna Barbera alongside about 30 other Canadians, he says.

Things were much different back then. Where an animator's job is now more solitary and done almost exclusively on a computer, animating Scooby Doo was a massive, collaborative job.

"That's the thing – it's not just my history alone," he said. "It's done by so many people."

Rasmussen would spend hours hand drawing scenes and characters, which another person would then transfer to sheets of clear Acetone. In many ways, it felt like an assembly line, he said.

"Nowadays, animation is done on a computer with a more puppet-like technique."

And as someone who grew up loving the classic Warner Bros. cartoons, does he long for those nostalgic old days of pencil on paper? "There are some people who are purists who like the old way, yes," he said. "But I'm more interested in just telling a good story."

Animating the classics

After a year, he left Hanna Barbera to work in commercials – a place where he could have more control over a project, sometimes as its sole animator. It was there that he animated classic commercials featuring beloved characters like Tony the Tiger, The Smurfs and more.

See how many ads you recognize from this blissfully nostalgic animation montage on Rasmussen's website. He's quick to caution that it doesn't feature his most up to date work and it wasn't intended for high definition – but for a moment, just bask in this analog throwback to a simpler time.

These days, Rasmussen spends his days working away at his Waterdown home, on both animation projects and comics for his website during his downtime. But unless he lets you in on it, you'd never know that a person who's responsible for something that's burned into the brains of so many at childhood is living in the area.

"That's the thing about commercials," he said. "There's no credits."


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