Vance DeBar Colvig was born and raised in Jacksonville, Oregon.
Colvig was nicknamed “Pinto” because of his freckles. He got his start in show business as a child at the 1905 Lewis & Clark Exposition in Portland, doing musical clowning as a street performer.
Pinto went on to work with everyone from Jack Benny to Mack Sennett to Walt Disney to Dave Fleischer, and participated in every new wave of innovation in animation, a brand new artform. The more you know about radio and film history the more impressive Colvig’s career becomes.
This wonderfully complete bio of Pinto Colvig was written by the Temporal Geek.
Vance DeBar “Pinto” Colvig 1892, cartoonist, voice actor, In 1914 he landed a job as a newspaper cartoonist at the “Nevada Rockroller” in Reno, and later the “Carson City News” in Carson City. By the spring of 1915 his cartooning was going well but the lure of the circus was too strong. When the Al G. Barnes Circus came through Carson City, Pinto dropped everything and joined the troupe, once again clowning and playing his clarinet in the circus band. After having left the circus once again Pinto toiled daily to meet newspaper commitments, but then began to spend evenings experimenting with the animation of cartoons and eventually set up his own studio, Pinto Cartoon Comedies Co., where he created one of the first animated silent films in color called “Pinto’s Prizma Comedy Revue (1919)”. In 1922, after realizing that San Francisco was not the place to break into the movie business, he moved his family to Hollywood. There he would be able to continue his animation work and find a wealth of other things that he could do. He was overjoyed one day to get an offer to join Mack Sennett, the reigning king of movie comedies, who had developed one of the most successful studios of the day, the Keystone Film Co., home of the famous Keystone Kops, Charles Chaplin and many others. Sennett needed an experienced animator for his own films, but Pinto soon found himself also writing and acting in comedies and dramas. In 1928 he teamed up with his friend Walter Lantz to create an early talking cartoon, “Bolivar, the Talking Ostrich (1928)”, but unlike Walt Disney’s Steamboat Willie (1928), it failed to become a hit. Pinto and Lantz, who would later be the voice of Woody Woodpecker, gave up and went to larger studios. Disney, who was making “Mickey Mouse” and “Silly Symphony” cartoons, signed Pinto to a contract in 1930. Pinto worked on stories, co-wrote songs such as the lyrics to “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” and was the original voice of animated characters such as Goofy and Pluto, Grumpy and Sleepy in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and the Practical Pig in “Three Little Pigs.” Disney cartoonists copied many of Pinto’s facial expressions while drawing animal characters for the cartoons. He left Disney in 1937 following a fallout with Walt and Disney proceeded to reuse his old voice tracks. Meanwhile, Pinto freelanced voices and sound effects for Warner Bros. cartoons, sang for some of the Munchkins during Dorothy’s arrival scenes in MGM’s The Wizard of Oz (1939), and also joined Max Fleischer Studios in Miami, where he did the voice of Gabby in Gulliver’s Travels (1939) and the blustering of Bluto in “Popeye the Sailor” cartoons. He returned to Disney in 1941 and continued to freelance for them and on radio programs for others. He was the original Maxwell automobile on Jack Benny’s show, the hiccuping horse for Dennis Day, and a variety of voices for “Amos ‘n Andy.” His live radio experience and contacts introduced him to the recording industry. He did several albums before encountering one of his best-known characters, Bozo the Clown.