Waldo Hunt, 88, dies; repopularized pop-up books in 1960s

"I knew I'd found the magic key," Mr. Hunt said, of seeing an imported pop-up book. "No one was doing pop-ups in this country." (Associated Press)
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By Valerie J. Nelson
Monday, November 23, 2009

Waldo Hunt, 88, a Los Angeles entrepreneur who ushered in the modern renaissance in pop-up books when he revived the art form in the United States in the 1960s, died Nov. 6 of congestive heart failure at a hospital in Porterville, Calif.

"He was such an important publisher of pop-up books who really advanced them technically. The pop-up designers who worked for him were amazing creative engineers," said Cynthia Burlingham, director of the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts at the Hammer Museum of the University of California at Los Angeles.

David Zeidberg, director of the library at the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif., recalled that Mr. Hunt was fascinated and motivated by the intricate engineering that went into books that can go from flat to 3-D structures with the turn of a page.

"Pull a tab . . . in any of Wally's books, and Disneyland appears," Zeidberg said.

A Chicago native who grew up in Northern California, Mr. Hunt joined the Army during World War II and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, his family said. He returned from the war to open an advertising agency in Los Angeles. When he sold it to a bigger company in New York, he went along as part of the deal.

While strolling down Fifth Avenue, he became mesmerized by a children's pop-up book from Czechoslovakia displayed in a toy store window.

The first golden age of movable books began in the late 1800s, when European publishers crafted elaborate books for children, and ended with the onset of World War I. With Mr. Hunt's epiphany, the second golden age was about to begin.

"I knew I'd found the magic key," Mr. Hunt said. "No one was doing pop-ups in this country. No one could afford to make them here. They had to be done by hand, and labor was too expensive."

He started Graphics International, and produced a series of pop-up ads featuring zoo scenes as part of a magazine campaign for Wrigley's gum. Soon, his company was creating pop-up table decorations and greeting cards for Hallmark.

In 1965, Mr. Hunt got his big break in publishing from Bennett Cerf, then president of Random House. Mr. Hunt sold the book "Bennett Cerf's Pop-Up Riddles" to General Foods as a product promotion that could be obtained for a dollar and two Maxwell House coffee labels.

Within two years, Mr. Hunt had 30 pop-up titles, mostly aimed at children, in production for Random House, he later said.

After Hallmark bought Graphics International in the late 1960s, Mr. Hunt returned to Los Angeles and founded what became known as Intervisual Books to package and produce pop-ups, or movable books. As of 1996, Intervisual had produced 1,000 movable books; Disney was a major client.

Along the way, Mr. Hunt also began collecting movable books, amassing at least 4,000 antique and contemporary titles. He gave about 500 antique pop-ups to UCLA before deciding to showcase them in the Waldo Hunt Children's Museum, opened in 1994 within his offices.

Among Mr. Hunt's favorite Intervisual books were David Pelham's "The Human Body," a best-seller from the 1980s; "Andy Warhol's Index," a book complete with pop-up tomato-paste can and castle; Jan Pienkowski's "Haunted House," an all-time best-selling pop-up for children; and "How Many Bugs in a Box?", a classic children's book by paper engineer David A. Carter, who worked for Mr. Hunt for seven years.

Los Angeles Times

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