Excellence in Action

Eric Teitelbaum ’68

Photo of Eric Teitelbaum

Eric Teitelbaum ’68 is a Cartoonist, Producer and Educator. As a cartoonist, and in concert with brother and drawing partner Bill Teitelbaum, Eric co-created the internationally syndicated “Pink Panther” comic strip, developed for MGM and the business cartoon, “Bottomliners” both distributed by Tribune. Eric’s drawings also appear in the New Yorker Magazine. As educators, Eric and Bill have created scores of Entertainment Design and New Media programs for leading universities. The Teitelbaums are co-recipients of the “Distinguished Alumni Award” from California State University, Los Angeles and the “Educator of the Year” award from California State University, San Bernardino. Eric and Bill are also co-recipients of China’s coveted “Master of Creativity” Award, presented to them recently in Beijing by the Ministry of Education. Eric earned his BA in Art from UCLA, an MA in Advertising Design from CSULA, and Teaching Credentials from UCLA. 

Interviewed by Stephen Mendoza • November 8, 2017

Describe your career path from UCLA to your current role.

Upon graduation from UCLA in Art, I earned a teaching credential and I took a job teaching elementary. My classroom sketches not only earned me high marks from the kids but taught me early on how powerful cartoons can be as message sending devices… in education, marketing or entertainment… they’ve been the door openers. Throughout my career, cartoons have truly created magic in making projects happen. An original drawing sent to famed comic Rodney Dangerfield turned into a book project… a cartoon gift to Aaron Spelling resulted in an animation deal… and it all started with a single drawing.

I work very closely with my brother and drawing partner, Bill, we began selling humorous drawings to leading publications at a very young age. As teens we were selling to places like Look Magazine, Family Circle, Saturday Review, and many more. I later became a contributing editor for Los Angeles Magazine, drawing the ‘Finale’ back page for years. This led to cartoons for The New Yorker Magazine, syndication contracts with Tribune for our business strip Bottomliners and later the Pink Panther comic strip in concert with MGM.

After a lot of drawing and a lot of writing, I think Bill and I have mastered the art of being funny when we don’t want to be funny… and that’s a challenge, it still is.

Who/What inspired you to choose this career path?

Strangely enough, my dad was the key person. My dad was a lawyer who gave up law to write comedy. I think he recognized our potential when we were kids. Bill and I would sit around the table and illustrate his captions. I have 3 other brothers quite gifted in the sciences who became doctors. The truth is, when my dad saw our chemistry grades, he advised us to become cartoonists.

Another influence was acclaimed artist David Hockney, the Englishman. He taught summer school at UCLA while I was in my second year, Bill and I enrolled in his classes. Hockney opened our eyes to unique graphic techniques and the importance of art marketing. He’s considered one of the most famous and accomplished artists in the world and it was quite an experience.

How did your UCLA experience help shape your success?

Well you know, UCLA then was a compelling place to study. It was exciting, I think achievement motivation was in the air. And I know this to be true because my siblings feel the same way. I’m one of 7 kids and 6 brothers and sisters graduated from UCLA within a 10-year period! Brothers David, Robert and George studied the sciences and became medical doctors. Sisters Cyli and Susan, studied music and education. My brother Bill, who graduated from CSULA, actually taught at UCLA Extension, as well as other UC Extensions…a recognized licensing executive, he’s a former EVP at CBS King World. The campus experience in great measure helped shape success for each of us.

In what ways have you utilized the UCLA alumni network?

First of all, when I meet people who attended UCLA, there’s a connection, a way of staying in touch.  

Actually, Bill and I also have an after-school art education program where we regularly reach out to UC art students to teach youngsters K-6.  Whether it’s cartooning, fine arts. dance or game design, it gives aspiring young artists a chance to make a difference, and a taste of what the real world is about. It’s our way of staying connected. It’s important.

What has been your greatest career challenge and how did you overcome it?

I kind of think great career challenges are never ending. They just appear and reappear in different forms. I think the key to success is how you approach each challenge. The more you get into a project, the more you’re confronted with unexpected headaches. The secret I think is how you deal with it creatively. You always have to dig deep, keep your eyes on the target and try to stay positive. Certainly, for example, designing the Pink Panther comic strip for MGM and newspapers worldwide was a huge challenge… it went through layers of edits and changes until we came up with a formula that worked.  

What advice would you give to UCLA students and alumni interested in art?

I think besides developing art skills, computer fluency and problem solving skills,  one has to develop  the right mind set… this means being open to other points of view, developing a great amount of patience. I think one can really miss the sweet spot by acting too hastily.

A good example: Bill and I recently forged an alliance with China’s largest educational television network, which has over 600 million viewers. We’re honored to be appointed as their exclusive representatives in the Americas for creating production and distribution collaborations with higher education institutions and publishers for projects going into and out of China. Here we are dealing with a different culture, a different language, different points of view… and this was daunting. It wouldn’t have been possible without being open minded and listening to the other side. We were also fortunate enough to have China side hosts who loved watching us draw…I think that was a part of the secret sauce.

In what ways do you see the art industry changing in the coming years?

Thanks to Facebook, Instagram, and overall social networking, artists now have the ability to interact directly with fans and a huge potential buying audience.  Undoubtedly, the magic of technology will continue to impact the industry going forward, however it can also make one overlook an important skill set… the ability to sit down with a buyer, one-to one, shake hands, look into someone’s eyes and make them know there’s someone behind the art portfolio. This can still go a long way towards moving a career forward.

It reminds me of a gag we recently drew: An executive at his computer saying: “Sorry, I don’t do face-to-face meetings… I don’t have the necessary software.”

How do you support and participate in the UCLA community now?

I value engaging UC students as teachers and aids in our afterschool programs. It directly benefits them and the kids they teach. We want to grow it.

As for participating in the UCLA community… I’m in search of some good basketball seats right now if anyone can help out!

What makes you most proud to be a Bruin?

When I put on a blue UCLA hoodie and someone comes up and asks, “Hey, you went to UCLA?”

and I reply, “Absolutely!”

ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER

Stephen Mendoza earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from UCLA in 2018. Prior to joining the Partnership UCLA / Alumni Career Programs team as a student staff member, Stephen had successfully completed internships with Ernst & Young, J.P. Morgan, and Disney. Through the Excellence in Action alumni spotlight series, Stephen expanded his network, met successful business professionals, and shared their advice and life experiences with the greater UCLA community. Stephen is now building his career as a Financial Analyst with Wells Fargo Corporate Banking.

Interested in reading more about UCLA Alumni who are creating lasting impressions and impact in their industries? Visit the following webpage for more interviews: Excellence in Action.