Donald “Don” Jerome Duga from Baiting Hollow died on May 31, 2021 in Westhampton. He was 87 years old.
Duga was a renowned animator whose works include iconic favorites such as “Frosty the Snowman”, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, “Mr. Magoo ”and the Emmy-nominated“ The Little Drummer Boy ”.
“The fun-loving Mr. Duga had an innate connection with the magic of childhood, which he incorporated into his art. Mr Duga was appropriately best known for his work on Frosty the Snowman, which debuted on television in 1969 and has aired once a year since, teaching millions of viewers the values of friendship, sacrifice and the magic of faith, ”his family said in one Explanation.
He was born on January 1, 1934 in Hollywood, California, to Joseph Duga and Bess Landau Duga.
After serving in the US Army during the Korean War, he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Chouinard Art Institute, where he intended to become an abstract artist.
His life changed when he studied with the famous animator Don Graham, who was hired by Disney to teach animators to draw Snow White.
“I never wanted to be in animation,” Duga once told Dan’s Papers. “I wanted to be a painter! But my drawing teacher said that you actually get paid for doing animation. “
After graduating, he worked for the United Pictures Association, the “Mr. Magoo ”for television. Duga once described his big break in the industry while working on Mr. Magoo, the creation of legendary John Hubley who was blacklisted by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. Mr. Duga was named to replace the lead writer and took on all aspects of creating the animation, including writing the stories, creating the storyboards, laying out and designing.
A few years later he drove across the country in his Volkswagen bus and landed in New York City. He got a position as art director for films, television and advertising at Pelican Films, an animation studio on Madison Avenue.
In New York he met the artist colleague Irra Vertbitsky, whom he later married.
Duga decided to venture out on a new adventure when he found out he could send his VW bus to Belgium for just $ 200. He and Verbitsky toured Europe before settling in Rome and then Milan creating animations for Olivetti typewriters and other Italian products. They later moved back to Manhattan, married, and started their own animation company Polestar Films and Associated Arts in 1976.
Duga’s career in animation has included working with Rankin / Bass Animated Entertainment, Sesame Street, and individual animators such as Seamus Culhane and others. His work ranged from iconic Christmas specials to Saturday morning cartoon classics like “The Jackson 5ive” and “The Osmonds”, educational triumphs like “Owen” (narrated by Sarah Jessica Parker) and “Goodnight, Gorilla”. as well as pop culture favorites like “Mad Monster Party” (with Phyllis Diller and Boris Karloff) and “The Last Unicorn” (with Mia Farrow and Jeff Bridges).
Duga and Verbitsky won several awards including the prestigious Carnegie Medal for Best Children’s Film of the Year and the ASIFA East Award for their work on Owen.
Duga has mentored aspiring animators and taught at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan for 50 years. Much loved by his students, Duga bonded many of them lifelong as they pursued their own careers in the “art of animation,” as it has always been called. He taught his students classic animation techniques, including hand-drawn storyboards and custom-painted backgrounds.
Duga lived much of his life with his family in Greenwich Village, New York City. In his later years, he spent most of his time at the family summer home in Baiting Hollow, where he enjoyed kayaking and socializing on his beloved beach. He was an integral part of the East End art scene, hosting annual art exhibitions and making several special covers for Dan’s Papers.
He leaves behind his wife Irra Verbitsky, his daughter Amanita Duga-Carroll, his son Brady Duga and the four grandchildren Jacob, Kyle, Lila and Cameron as well as his son-in-law Bruce Carroll and his daughter-in-law Gina Pisello. He was died by his sister Sharon Kamens and his brother Lawrence Duga.
Duga donated his body to science, so there will be no funeral. The family will have a private meeting with plans for a public memorial later this summer.