Gus Arriola started his brief animation career as an inbetweener at the Charles Mintz studio. He moved over to MGM in 1937, where he became an assistant animator and, finally, a story sketch artist, primarily in Rudy Ising's unit.
|"Gus Arriola, artist and creator of the "Gordo" cartoon series, poses with some admirers."|
Los Angeles Daily News, 1946; Los Angeles Times photographic archive, UCLA Library
Arriola left MGM in 1941 after selling his comic strip Gordo to United Features. He was drafted in 1942 and found himself back with Ising in the First Motion Picture Unit at Fort Roach. Gordo went on hiatus on October 28, 1942 ("Remember that the only one to blame for unpleasant changes these days ees that dorty jork - Heetler!!") and returned as a Sunday half-page in May of '43. The daily strip returned in 1946 and ran until 1985. According to the World Encyclopedia of Comics, Gordo "became one of the most widely published and read strips in the country."
An interview with Arriola from Hogan's Alley can be found here.
Below are some of Arriola's model sheets of the bad guy from Hugh Harman's The Lonesome Stranger, followed by some early sketches of Gordo that used the bad guy as a point of departure. These drawings are from the book Accidental Ambassador Gordo by Robert C. Harvey and Gus Arriola.
Gus Arriola passed away on February 2, 2008. His work has been archived at the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley.