My Life with a Thousand Characters (book)
Creators: Iwao Takamoto
Book cover. Courtesy of University Press of Mississippi
View in the Densho Encyclopedia
The creator of numerous Hanna-Barbera characters including those from Scooby Doo tells his life story, including his childhood as a Nisei in Los Angeles and his experience incarcerated at Manzanar concentration camp.
Iwao Takamoto begins by sharing the unlikely story of how he was hired as an animator for Walt Disney right after he was able to leave the Manzanar concentration camp at the end of World War II. He then goes back in time and recounts his family's history, including his parents' immigration experience, and what it was like for him and his two siblings to grow up in downtown Los Angeles.
When Pearl Harbor was attacked, Iwao did not know much about global politics and was as curious as he was fearful of how he and his family would be affected. He recounts how he and his friends even went to Terminal Island to try to find out what was going on. His family eventually was taken to Manzanar, where his personal memories were mostly positive and carefree since he was a teenager with few responsibilities. Significantly, he was encouraged to draw by the head of education, who allowed him free access to art supplies. He and his friends eventually volunteered for work furloughs and harvested sugar beets in Idaho. When he left Manzanar in February 1945 and was hired soon after at Walt Disney, the War Relocation Authority did a photo shoot of him to publicize that Japanese Americans were successfully resettling, to counter the skepticism of those still in camp that it was unsafe to attempt to return to the West Coast .
For the most part, the rest of the memoir recounts his animation career, both at Walt Disney and Hanna-Barbera. He notes that after the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 was passed, he began to become involved in efforts to share stories of incarceration in his later years, especially through his involvement with the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.
Iwao Takamoto was an important and influential animator, primarily known for his work with Hanna-Barbera, where he developed some of the company's most famous and beloved characters such as Scooby Doo and Shaggy. He was also the co-director of the animated feature-length adaptation of Charlotte's Web (1973).
Might also like To the Stars: The Autobiography of George Takei, Star Trek's Mr. Sulu by George Takei; Starting from Loomis and Other Stories by Hiroshi Kashiwagi; Out of the Frying Pan: Reflections of a Japanese American by Bill Hosokawa