Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Nino Carbe: 
Behind the Animations

You probably haven’t heard of Nino Carbe, but if you were a kid any time from the 1940s through the 1980s, you have seen his work. Carbe drew backgrounds for many of the great animators — from Walt Disney and Walter Lantz to Hanna Barbera and Filmation — whose productions appeared both on the big screen and on television.

Carbe, who lived in Ridgefield in the 1950s and early 60s, also illustrated many books, especially for children.

A native of Sicily, Nino Carbe was born in 1909 and immigrated with his family when he was three. He was soon exhibiting talent at both art and classical violin, but excelled at the former. At the age of 16, he began studying art at the Cooper Union.

By his early 20s Carbe was illustrating books for New York City publishers, including such classics as Tales of the Arabian Nights, Cyrano de Bergerac and Frankenstein. In 1936, he moved to California and was soon hired by Walt Disney for whom he drew backgrounds of such Disney feature-length classics Fantasia, Bambi, Pinocchio, and Dumbo, as well as many shorter “cartoons.”

During World War II, he worked on Victory through Air Power and other projects for the Army. Disney also lent his talents to Walter Lantz — creator of Woody Woodpecker — who was producing military training films using animation.

After the war Carbe returned to illustrating books for children and also began ranging into such work as designing fabrics and Christmas cards. He and his wife, Betty, moved East to be closer to publishers and in 1953, he bought a house on Ledges Road. 

In 1964, he returned to California and to Disney, working on films such as The Jungle Book. When Walt Disney died in 1966, he joined Walter Lantz, creating the backgrounds for some of the last Woody Woodpecker cartoons, along with TV series like Chilli Willi and The Beary Family.

He then worked for Hanna Barbera as an artist for The All New Superfriends Hour, and Filmation, creating settings for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series on TV. He also designed and drew backgrounds and layouts for Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 The Lord of the Rings animation.

Late in life, Carbe turned to painting, producing many oils, acrylics and watercolors,   experimented in bronze sculpture, and designed batik scarves and even clothing. And on the more practical side, he also built furniture.

Nino Carbe died in 1993. Betty died in 2018; they are buried in her family’s plot in Bonaparte, Iowa.

Nino and Betty Carbe had two daughters. Elizabeth “Liza” Carbe, a writer and journalist in California, maintains a website,, displaying and honoring her father’s work. 

Daughter Victoria “Vicki” Carbe Valentino, an alumna of Veterans Park and Ridgefield High Schools, became an actress who appeared in a dozen movies and on TV. In the 1960s, she was a Playboy Bunny — she was “Miss September” in 1963. She later became a registered nurse. 

More recently, Vicki Carbe  was in the news as one of the dozens of women who publicly accused comedian Bill Cosby of sexual assault.  In 1970 when she was 24, she said, Cosby raped her at his apartment after giving her a pill that rendered her immobile. “We are vindicated, we are validated,” she told USA Today after Cosby was sentenced to prison in 2018.

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