John Hubley (1914-1977) and his wife Faith Hubley (1924-2001) produced countless independent animated short films, commercials, and sponsored projects from their New York-based studio Storyboard Films, including many inserts for Sesame Street.
John Hubley began his career at Disney, serving as an art director on Fantasia (Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" segment), Dumbo, and Bambi. He quit the studio during the 1941 strike, and moved to Columbia's Screen Gems division, where he began directing, including the "Fox and Crow" series. Screen Gems eventually became UPA, United Productions of America, for which Hubley created Mr. Magoo and directed such acclaimed shorts as the jazzy melodrama Rooty Toot Toot. Under fire from the House Un-American Activities Committee, however, in its hunt for alleged Communists in all branches of the entertainment industry, Hubley was fired in 1952. The following year, he established Storyboard as a commercial firm, allowing him to work anonymously. He married Faith Elliott, an editor and script clerk who had worked for Columbia and Republic on such films as Twelve Angry Men. Together, the couple vowed to make one personal film a year. Their collaboration led to seven Academy Award nominations, three of which were wins, on such shorts as Tender Game, The Hole and Moonbird. With an emphasis placed on music, several of these projects were collaborations with noted musicians, including Dizzy Gillespie and Herb Alpert; voices were supplied by the likes of Dudley Moore, Jack Warden, and Meryl Streep, as well as the Hubley's own children.
With the debut of Sesame Street in 1969, the Hubleys became an integral part of the show's animated landscape. Like their personal films, their inserts were distinguished by the use of jazz soundtracks, abstract and fluid imagery, and improvised dialogue. Several letter-specific segments almost function as free-form, stream of consciousness poetry. In 1971, they also began producing work for The Electric Company, notably the "Letterman" segments with the voices of Gene Wilder, Joan Rivers, and Zero Mostel. John Hubley's work was also showcased in The Jean Marsh Cartoon Special.
Daughter Emily Hubley followed in her parents' footsteps, directing several animated projects of her own, including Sesame Street material. In 2003, the Hubleys were the focus of the PBS documentary Independent Spirits: The John and Faith Hubley Story.