Thomas Augustin Palmer ( Antonio Giuseppe Alfonso Pipolo; 30 June 1902[1] – 21 November 1972[2]) was an Italian-American animator, cartoon director, and U.S. training film supervisor. He was active in the animation industry throughout the 1920s and 1930s and was best known for his animation work at Walt Disney Productions. He spent a good chunk of his later career directing training films for the United States Army.


Early career

Palmer was born in New York City[3] with the surname of "Pipolo", but later changed his name to Palmer. One of his brothers, Frank Pipolo, was a decorated New York City police officer. Palmer first worked in marine insurance brokerage,[4] but he later started his career in animation working on Mutt and Jeff cartoons.[5] He subsequently worked at the Winkler Studio in 1928, where he directed and animated Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons. When Walter Lantz took over the Oswald series in 1929, Palmer left Winkler to join his initial staff, alongside animator Rollin Hamilton and composer Bert Fiske.

Walt Disney Studio

By late 1930, Palmer joined the staff Walt Disney Productions at a time when it was expanding operations rapidly, as one of the many ex-New York animators hired by Walt Disney around the departure of Ub Iwerks. He was one of the many key animators on the team, working on several Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony cartoons from 1930 to 1933. Palmer was reportedly responsible for having influenced Disney to implement the pencil test for unfinished animation as a studio standard, a technique which used a moviola to film and project an animator's rough drawings.[6]

Leon Schlesinger Studio

By June 1933, Palmer was lured by Leon Schlesinger to serve as the production manager and main director at his newly formed Leon Schlesinger Productions animation studio which made cartoons for Warner Bros., along with other ex-Disney animators Jack King, hired as the head animator, Paul Fennell, and Bill Mason.[7] According to animation historian Michael Barrier, Schlesinger placed former Disney animators in charge of the studio in hopes of effectively competing with the Disney studio.[7] Barrier credits Palmer with introducing Buddy to serve as the intended replacement to Bosko as the star of the Looney Tunes series. Palmer's only two credited Warner Bros. cartoons were 1933's Buddy's Day Out and I've Got to Sing a Torch Song.[8]

Palmer's approach in directing Buddy's Day Out was reportedly rather loose. In the story conferences which determined the contents of the film, Palmer would suggest adding "a funny piece of business", a visual gag, but only in a broad manner. According to later interviews with Bernard B. Brown and Bob Clampett, Palmer's original version of the film was virtually devoid of gags. The Warner Bros. studio rejected this version and the film had to be reworked extensively.[7] Palmer was fired by Schlesinger after Warner Bros. rejected the cartoons that he had produced.[9] Friz Freleng was called in to rework Palmer's cartoons and ultimately replaced him as the studio's head director. Palmer's initial replacement as director, however, was Earl Duvall.[7]

Later career

After leaving Warner Bros., Palmer continued directing cartoons at the Van Beuren Studio along with close friend and ex-Disney director Burt Gillett. He stayed in this position until the studio folded in 1936, and briefly returned to Disney in 1937 where he worked in the animation and story department. Palmer moved to Miami in 1939 to work as an animation director for the feature film Gulliver's Travels (1939) at Fleischer Studios. There he supervised an animation unit with Vincent Fago, Abner Kneitel, Shane Miller, and ex-Disney animators Arnold Gillespie, Nelson Demorest, and Stan Quackenbush.[10]

In 1942, Palmer was inducted into the U.S. Army to function as a project officer of training films.[4] After the war, he co-founded Motion Picture Counsellors, Inc., a company which aimed to consult and serve as public relations for the production of television and motion pictures, along with John W. Butler and director and writer Paul Sloane in late 1945.[11][12][4] In 1952, he recalled active duty, where he continued to supervise training films for the Signal Corps Pictorial Center in East Meadow, New York.[4] In 1954, Palmer won first place in the Freedoms Foundation Armed Forces letter contest out of 7,000 written submissions on the topic "What America Means to Me".[13]

Selected filmography


  1. ^ New York, New York, U.S., Index to Birth Certificates, 1866–1909
  2. ^
  3. ^ "1931 Disney Staff Caricatures & Profiles – pt 4". 26 April 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d You and Your USA (3 ed.). United States Office of Armed Forces Information and Education. July 19, 1954. p. 7. Retrieved 12 July 2023.
  5. ^ "1931 Disney Staff Caricatures & Profiles – pt 4". 26 April 2013.
  6. ^ Gabler, Neal (2007). Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination (1 ed.). New York: Vintage Books. p. 168. ISBN 9780679757474. Retrieved 7 August 2023.
  7. ^ a b c d Barrier (2003), Warner Bros., pp. unnumbered pages
  8. ^ Warner Bros. Cartoon Releases - 1933
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-11-03. Retrieved 2007-11-29.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ Thomas, Roy (November 2001). "The Titans of Timely! (That's Marvel To You!)". Alter Ego (11): 10. Retrieved 12 July 2023.
  11. ^ "Col. Paul Sloane Heads New Pix Consultants". Variety. No. 160–11. 21 November 1945. p. 146. Retrieved 13 July 2023.
  12. ^ "Sloane, Others Form Advisory Group Here". Motion Picture Daily. Library of Congress. November 16, 1945. p. 361. Retrieved 12 July 2023.
  13. ^ "Local Winners! Five From Sixth Army Area Win Washington Medals, Cash". Star Presidian. No. 2–27. 26 February 1954. p. 289. Retrieved 13 July 2023.