Saturday, February 23, 2019

Tribute to Bob Clampett

This article is an announcement for a posthumous tribute to Bob Clampett.

LOS ANGELES Animation pioneer Bob Clampett once said he couldn't believe the kind of respect he was getting for work he had done decades ago.

But the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is showing its respect for Clampett's legacy to animation with a posthumous tribute Oct. 10.

Clampett's friends and associates will join his widow, Sody, and son, Bob Jr., for a tribute to a career that began in the early years of Warner Bros. animation and included creating the 'Time for Beany' television series in 1949.

That legacy is continuing this fall on ABC's Saturday morning television lineup with an entirely new series of 'Beany and Cecil' adventures. Sody is the executive producer and Bob Jr. is associate producer of the series.

A view of Clampett's visual genius also will be available in new book this holiday season from Holt, 'That's All, Folks!' compiled by Steven Schneider.

The Academy tribute will give animation buffs a rare opportunity to see Clampett's work as it was originally intended.

'They have fresh prints of the Warner animation on the nitrate film stock,' Sody Clampett said. 'You have no idea how the colors just jump right out at you.'

Clampett, who died in May 1984, and his fellow animators -- Tex Avery, Frank Tashlin, Robert McKimson and Charles 'Chuck' Jones -- may have been responsible for putting the 'Looney' in the studio's 'Looney Tunes' cartoons.

The tribute includes eight films Clampett directed from the late 1930s to the mid-1940s, with such characters as Daffy Duck peddling an imaginary bicycle in the air and announcing, 'I'm so crazy, I don't even know this isn't possible!'

Other films include 'Baby Bottleneck,' 'Tin Pan Alley Cats,' 'The Great Piggy Bank Robbery' and 'Coal Black and the Sebben Dwarfs,' an almost surreal 1942 production that set the Snow White story in Harlem.

'It was a real tough choice to pick eight titles that reflected his work,' said Clampett Jr., 31. 'We wanted to show not only the Warner things, but the two original animated 'Beanys' and some test footage he prepared for a collaboration with Edgar Rice Burroughs, based on Burroughs' 'John Carter of Mars' stories in the 1930s.'

Clampett once considered making a feature-length 'John Carter' film with Burroughs, but the idea never came to fruition because only Walt Disney was allowed to use the Technicolor film process until the late 1930s.

'There were many instances where he would develop something that never came to be,' said Clampett Jr. 'Some day I hope to bring them out, and my mother feels the same way. But when he dropped the Burroughs idea and went back to Warner, he did some of his best work to date.'

One of the founding fathers of the Warner unit, Isadore 'Friz' Freleng, 82, said Clampett's influence could also be seen in the hit movie 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?'

'I think that was the intention, a Bob Clampett takeoff,' said Freleng. 'The whole thing, the way it was animated, was the way we used to criticize Clampett's attack in making the 'Looney Tunes.'

'But they probably picked that up and loved it. I don't know if it was a plus or minus, myself. If it had calmed down, it would have been a better picture.'

Sody Clampett, 57, said her husband was involved in several projects before his death, including the release of the 'Beany' cartoons from the 1960s for home video.

'We had just made the home video deal, and we were in Detroit to promote it,' Sody Clampett said. 'He'd been on three television shows and a newspaper interview, and I said to him, 'Bob, you really don't have to work anymore if you don't want to. If you want to take it easy, think about it, rather than getting something else started.'

'But he was always busy creating and anxious to do something to make people laugh. I don't think he would ever have retired.'

Clampett Jr. recalled another episode that illustrated his father's devotion to his craft.

'I was with him at a showing in the late '60s or early '70s at the L.A. County Museum of Art,' he said. 'And right after the intermission, the audience was just plain worn out.

'But then they came on with 'Kitty Corner,' when Porky Pig is trying to get the cats out of the house, and right after the first joke, when the butler kicks the cats out, there was this great laughter.

'And my dad looked at me, with this glow in his eyes. I think he knew the stuff would live forever.'


Monday, February 18, 2019

What's up, doc? ANIMATION Toiling Disney's Shadow

Here is another article from Toroto's own Globe & Mail. It's about a Bugs Bunny Film Festival and seems to overfocus on comparing Disney and Warner Bros.

What's up, doc? ANIMATION / Toiling in the shadow of Walt Disney, the gang at Warner Brothers felt unwatched. But the environment spawned an irreverent, kinetic and witty style that can be savoured at Toronto's Bugs Bunny Festival


Toronto ONT -- Somebody is always saying to me, 'How come there's so much violence in your cartoons?' I just don't know how to answer that. If you think they're too violent to show to children, all I can say is, don't show them to children. They weren't made for children. They were made for me. -Cartoon director Chuck Jones BY GEOFF PEVERE Special to The Globe and Mail Toronto AS one of the animators squirrelled away in the bunker known affectionately around the Warner Brothers lot as "Termite Terrace," Chuck Jones was not alone in thinking he was making cartoons for himself. During the two decades (from the late 1930s to late 50s) that Jones and his cronies were advancing the state of comic character animation at a pace that would gag a road runner, nobody was paying much attention.

Jones, a multiple Oscar winner, recalls being under Warner Bros.' employment "15 to 20 years" before actually laying eyes on Jack Warner, only to realize that the fearsome studio boss knew neither the name of Jones nor that of his colleague, Friz Freleng. "When he saw us together, he'd call us Mutt and Jeff because I was tall and Friz was short."

Today, anybody who cares about cartoons knows the names of Jones and Freleng, along with many other termites: animators Fred "Tex" Avery, Frank Tashlin and Bob Clampett; voice maestro Mel Blanc; musical director Carl Stalling; layout artists Maurice Noble and Hawley Pratt; gag writer Michael Maltese. The Warner cartoons are now respected as a watermark of studio character animation, as good as, if not better than, the contemporary work of Walt Disney. Cumulatively, they point to an intersection where formula collided with inspiration, where the characters on the screen were fuelled by the personal quirkiness of the animators in the studio. Today, Warner cartoon-related books, retrospectives and college courses abound, and many of the studio's best moments are available in collector video editions.

Another opportunity to appreciate the genius of Jack Warner's termites is currently available in Toronto at the Bloor Cinema, where a 12-cartoon retrospective called (misleadingly because it's got Daffy, Porky, Pepe and Tweety, too) The Bugs Bunny Festival '94 runs until Jan. 2.

Sixty years ago, Warner Bros. reluctantly entered the animation age, and only because the seemingly out-of-nowhere success of the Disney operation - where Jones had once worked, miserably - made it impossible for competing studios not to make cartoons. That's why the company originally subcontracted its cartoons. Technically speaking, most of the greatest Warner Bros. cartoon characters - Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd - weren't created by the studio. They were created by an independent company run by Leon Schlesinger, a rotund lisper whom Warner Bros. had hired to oversee the cartoons it felt obliged to produce and who subsequently served as the prototype for Porky Pig.

That's why, during the thirties and forties, you didn't feel much worth as an animator if you weren't working for Uncle Walt. All industry eyes were on the little studio that had created Mickey Mouse - the first cartoon superstar of the sound era - and the eye-popping Snow White (1937) . To work elsewhere was to be in the cartoon equivalent of the boonies. Most years it was Walt who took home the animation Oscars and later, on those rare years when he didn't, any won by the Warner Bros. animators were eagerly absconded with by Schlesinger's successor, the detested Edward Seizer. This left little reason not to check your egos at the door of Termite Terrace. Jones once told Joe Adamson, "We would look at (Disney's) stuff and say, 'No matter what we do, Disney is going to be ahead of us.' " So humbled was the environment, Jones recalls, "We never thought of ourselves as artists. We never used the term."

Ironically, it turned out to be the ideal environment for the care and feeding of an artistic revolution in studio animation. Feeling unwatched and unwanted, convinced they'd never catch the almighty Walt, the Warner Bros. animators were free to burrow any which way they pleased. "Without thinking," Jones once said with epic understatement, "we evolved our own style."

The origins of that style - irreverent, kinetic and witty - can be traced to the arrival of one Frederick Bean "Tex" Avery at the Termite Terrace in 1935. Fresh from the Walter Lantz cartoon studio, Avery took charge of the fledgling unit, which included Jones, Bob Clampett and later Frank Tashlin, and proceeded to forge what would come to be recognized as the inimitable Warner cartoon style.

Where Disney was increasingly beholden to cute, anthropomorphic realism, Avery was a firm believer in animation as a licence to artistic lunacy. It was he who prodded his charges to crank up the pace in their cartoons, he who saw the key to the character that would soon be universally known as Bugs Bunny. In A Wild Hare from 1940, for example, it takes about 30 seconds for Avery to transform a hitherto innocuous bunny named Bugs (after writer Ben "Bugs" Hardaway) into a cultural icon. Coming upon a conspicuously unruffled rabbit lounging against a tree, Elmer Fudd raises his shotgun level with the carrot in the bunny's mouth. Delicately pivoting the barrel away with a white-gloved raised pinky, Bugs says - for the first time ever, "Eeeeeeeh . . . What's up, Doc?"

In giving the rabbit that breezily insouciant line, Avery introduced one of the most vivid personalities in the history of cartoons, and the production of sharp cartoon personalities soon became what set the gang at Warner Bros. apart from studio animators everywhere. While others got by on gags, design and brand-named familiarity, the termites put all these things at the service of character. Once you had a personality that people knew and expected, you could put that character in any situation imaginable. "I've always felt that what you did with a character was more than the character itself," Avery once said. "Bugs Bunny could have been a bird."

Jones, who would prove one of the most subtle engineers of cartoon character (some of whose best work is on display in The Bugs Bunny Festival) went further: "I don't think you can make comedy unless you're involved with the characters. It has never occurred to me that these were not living things."

And alive they were, provided you're talking about inspiration as a dynamic force. Avery's legacy (he would eventually move to MGM and later - sadly - TV commercials) was the belief that cartoon character was an ideal screen for the projection of the animator's personality. The stronger that personality, the bolder the cartoons it produced. Unburdened by status or respect, convinced the glory was all Disney's anyway, Jack Warner's cartoon team was left with no choice but to make cartoons for the only judges who seemed to care: themselves. That's why we now know them as artists, something they never dreamed of calling themselves.


Sunday, February 17, 2019

Termite Terrace by Frank Thompson

Termite Terrace by Frank Thompson Hollywood Reporter Sept. 1998

The animation legacy
Some of Warner Bros.' biggest stars never set foot on the Burbank lot.
Their enormously popular movies were made across the hill, on Sunset Boulevard and Van Ness Avenue in Hollywood, in a series of ramshackle, insect-infected buildings known affectionately as Termite Terrace.
It was at Termite Terrace that Bugs Bunny first cocked a sardonic eyebrow and inquired, "What's up, Doc?" It was where Daffy Duck leapt about like a lunatic, leaving only confusion in his wake. It was where Elmer Fudd met eternal frustration in his endless "wabbit" hunt, where Pepe Le Pew, the amorous skunk, whispered sweet nothings to terrified and perplexed female cats and where Porky Pig always wrapped things up with a sprightly wave and a stutter: "Th-th-th-that's all, folks!"
Termite Terrace was the home of the Warner Bros. Cartoon Studio, the source of some of the funniest, most inventive and most beloved films ever made. It was where a legendary group of artists, writers, musicians and performers specialized in the fast, frantic and unsentimental comedy that became the hallmark of the Warner Bros. style. Some of the greatest names in animation flourished there -- Chuck Jones, Fred "Tex" Avery, Isadore "Friz" Freleng, Frank Tashlin and BobClampett, among others.
The first releases, to get technical about it, weren't "Warner Bros." cartoons at all. These original seven-minute-long gems were produced by Leon Schlesinger, the former head of Pacific Art and Title, and simply released through Warner Bros. Schlesinger himself wasn't, by all accounts, a creative man, but he knew animation talent when he saw it. His first producers were Hugh Harmon and Rudolf Ising, ex-Disney staffers whose names combined into the most musical of trademarks -- Harmon-Ising. They had a little character named "Bosko the Talking Kid" and produced their first cartoon in May of 1930, "Sinking in the Bathtub." With an obvious nod to Disney's successful "Silly Symphonies," Harmon-Ising named this new series of sound cartoons "Looney Tunes." And "sound" was the operative word. As Ising put it: "Sound had just come in and that was what we were selling -- synchronized lip motion."
A year later, they added a second series called "Merrie Melodies," which tended to be built around popular songs controlled by Warner Bros., like "Smile, Darn Ya, Smile" and "Pagan Moon." From 1934 to 1943, the main difference between "Looney Tunes" and "Merrie Melodies" was that "Melodies" were filmed in color and "Tunes" in black and white. Once all of Schlesinger's cartoons were produced in Technicolor, the two series became interchangeable.
When Harmon and Ising left Schlesinger in 1933, he decided to open up his own cartoon studio. Moving into buildings on the old Warner Bros. lot on Sunset Boulevard, Schlesinger set up shop with brilliant animators and directors like Freleng and Clampett. They were soon joined by other young hotshots like Avery, Jones and Virgil Ross. Under Avery's direction, this team started functioning so well that Schlesinger split them off from the rest of the studio in what Avery called "a little shack ... in some old dressing room or toilet or something; a little cottage sort of thing. We called it Termite Terrace."
In that little cottage, amazing things happened. A stuttering pig gave a stirring rendition of "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" in a 1935 entry called "I Haven't Got a Hat" and was soon refined into Porky Pig. "Porky's Duck Hunt" (1937) introduced to the world a frantic maniac of a duck, appropriately named Daffy. A dim bulb of a man, whose huge head is topped by a tiny bowler, and who has trouble with R's and rabbits, first appeared in "Elmer's Candid Camera" (1939). His name? Elmer Fudd. A smartaleck, wise-cracking rabbit made a few unremarkable appearances in minor cartoons before Avery gave him an opening line remembered from high school -- "What's Up, Doc?" -- and a name borrowed from animator Bugs Hardaway -- and, voila! Bugs Bunny was introduced in "A Wild Hare" (1940).
From there, the parade of memorable characters seemed endless -- Tweety Pie, Sylvester the Cat, Pepe Le Pew, Foghorn Leghorn, Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, Speedy Gonzalez and Yosemite Sam. Some of the movies' most enduring stars were created by these giants of animation.
But in the early days, no one considered them giants of anything. Audiences didn't recognize their names. Even the heads of the studio seemed barely aware of them. Jones recalled a rare luncheon in the 1940s when he and a few animators were invited to the private dining room of the Warner brothers: "Harry Warner set the tone of our day in court by observing that he had no idea where our cartoon division was. He added, 'The only thing I know is that we make Mickey Mouse.'"
According to Freleng, when it finally sank in that Mickey Mouse was actually produced at some other Burbank location, the Warners abruptly closed down the animation department.
While that story might be apocryphal, it is true that the denizens of Termite Terrace worked under a series of bosses who had little patience for or understanding of the art of cartooning. Jones recalls the days when a Jack Warner-appointed Eddie Selzer ran the studio. "Four or five of us were laughing over a storyboard," Jones writes. "Eddie stood vibrating at the doorway, glaring malevolently at us and our pleasure and laughter. His tiny eyes steely as half-thawed oysters. his wattles trembling like those of a deflated sea cow. 'Just what the hell,' he demanded, 'has all this laughter got to do with the making of animated cartoons?"'
Schlesinger, who finally sold out to Warner Bros. in 1944, also seems to have had only the dimmest idea of what went on over at Termite Terrace. But, as Avery told film historian Joe Adamson, Schlesinger at least kept out of his animators' way.
"He didn't know what you were making 'til he saw it on film," Avery said. "He might say, 'What are you doing?' and we'd say, 'Well, we're making a Western with Bugs Bunny' or whatever, and he'd say, 'Fine.' Then he wouldn't know any more about it until the rough cut." If Schlesinger liked what he saw, he told his cartoonists to give him more of the same. If he didn't, he told them to steer clear of subjects like that in the future. "As a result," Avery said, "we all had so much liberty (at Warners), and I think it showed in our cartoons."
Cartoon directors like Avery and Clampett were crucial to the success of the Warner Bros. cartoons, but there were two other elements that gave the films their distinct character -- music and voice talent. Carl Stalling, another Disney veteran (1928's "Skeleton Dance" and other Silly Symphonies), provided nearly all the music for Warner Bros. cartoons from 1936 to his retirement in 1958. While he wrote much of the music, Stalling called upon a vast catalog of songs to comment on any situation. When a scene was set in Hollywood, Stalling would pop in a little "You Ought to Be in Pictures." If a character was freezing, the soundtrack would likely offer a snatch of "Am I Blue?"
Stalling also used many of the compositions of the great novelty composer Raymond Scott; he showed a particular fondness for that driving ode to technology, "Powerhouse," which is heard on the soundtrack to countless cartoons.
Most of the hundreds of distinctive voices in the cartoons, from Porky Pig's stutter to Sylvester's lisp to Foghorn Leghorn's booming drawl, were performed by one remarkable man -- Mel Blanc. However, he wasn't the only voice actor ever hired by the studio. Arthur Q. Bryan gave voice to Elmer Fudd throughout the years, and other celebrated voice artists like June Foray and Stan Freberg showed up on occasion. There are those novelty cartoons, too, when actual star voices were used -- such as when Jack Benny, Rochester and the gang appeared as mice in "The Mouse That Jack Built" (1959). But, by and large, when you hear a voice -- any voice -- in a Warner Bros. cartoon from the 1940s through the 1980s, chances are excellent that Blanc is behind it.
The Warner Bros. Cartoon Studio actually started occupying a building on the Burbank studio lot in 1955. This office on the southwest corner of Warners was called the Looney Tunes Building, and it remained a beehive of activity until the animation division was shut down in 1969.
But the story of Warner Bros. animation does not end there. In 1987, the studio released its first theatrical short in nearly two decades: "The Duxorcist," starring Daffy Duck (voiced by Blanc) and written and directed by Greg Ford and Terry Lennon. The short was soon folded into a feature film, "Daffy Duck's Quackbusters" (1989) which combined several new sequences with clips from older Warner Bros. cartoons.
For several years, in fact, all "new" Warner Bros. cartoons were based on the usual roster of characters -- Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck and the rest. It wasn't until a new spate of TV production began in the early 1990s under TV-animation president Jean MacCurdy that new characters were introduced; though, at first, the characters were not exactly new.
"Batman: The Animated Series," debuted in 1992 and was acclaimed for its moody animation and dark, exciting tone. "Animaniacs," a co-production of Warner Bros. and Amblin Entertainment, followed in 1993, with animation that was fast and furious, in the tradition of the best of Termite Terrace. In 1995 came the subversively funny "Pinky and the Brain," also from Amblin, a science-fiction spoof with a sophisticated sense of humor that appealed equally to adults and children.
If Disney has traditionally been the leader in theatrical, feature-length cartoons, Warner Bros. has made significant inroads into the market. "Space Jam" (1996) placed basketball star Michael Jordan in a cartoon world populated by Warner cartoon veterans and the result was a smash hit. "Quest for Camelot" (1998), a musical adventure, also found favor with young viewers and is destined for a long life on video.
The Warner Bros. animation legacy continues, and the characters created during the "Golden Age" of the 1930s and '40s remaln as vital as ever. Since the animators today work in state-of-the-art studios, with tools that Avery, Maltese, Freleng and Jones never dreamed of in the early days, maybe this enduring popularity has nothing to do with where or how the cartoons were actually produced.
But it's hard to avoid the feeling that those brilliant old cartoons, with their immortal cast of anarchists, could only have been born in that run-down, practical-joke suffused, vermin crawling mythological place called Termite Terrace. Once a location, now only a state of mind, as long as Termite Terrace exists in the imagination of Warner Bros. animators, that won't be all, folks.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Bugs Bunny Hops to Walk of Fame

From Briefly section of Globe & Mail (Toronto, Canada)

Los Angeles CA -- Associated Press LOS ANGELES Actors dressed as Bugs Bunny and other cartoon characters danced and sang as the world's most famous rabbit was honored with the 1,818th star to be planted in Hollywood's Walk of Fame.

''hey had a huge, enormous party''as the star, made of terra cotta and brass, was unveiled Saturday in the sidewalk outside C.C. Brown's Ice Cream Parlor on Hollywood Boulevard, said Joe Schumacher, a manager at the restaurant. ''hey had a large show with Bugs Bunny, Sylvester, Daffy Duck and Yosemite Sam,''he added. ''here were tons of kids.'' Bug Bunny's star was placed between stars honoring cowboy actor Rory Calhoun and actress Lurene Tuttle.

Guests on hand for the ceremony included Mel Blanc, who has been the voice of the ''ascally wabbit,''and Friz Freleng and Chuck Jones, who have directed Bugs Bunny cartoons. Freleng directed the Academy Award- winning cartoon Knighty Knight Bugs.

Bugs Bunny has been featured in more than 160 animated short subjects and several motion pictures since the 1930s. His cartoons have appeared on television for 20 years.

Here is some footage and news reports from the Walk of Fame

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Cartoon Commercials February

I have been unable to put the Xerox comics on display so each month I'll be presenting 5 cartoon commercials or print advertisements with our favorite animated stars! Here is the first edition:

Yellow pages ad with Rose Marie and Bugs Bunny:

Here is the classic Macy’s Thanksgiving day Underdog balloon battling against Stewie from Fanily Guy for a coke. Was there even a Stewie parade balloon? Find out who wins, you may be surprised!

Flintstones dolls with moveable heads—newspaper ad

A car made by Warner Bros! Well, Sort of. This car is a Chevrolet car with Warner Bros equipped entertainment systems.

This 1955 commercial is a Nash commercial that reminds of me of a UPA cartoon. To quote Amid Amidi's Cartoon Modern book about it: "There was a little kid that used to write to Walt telling him to stay away from modern art because it's Communistic. So when the commercial came on, he got a letter from this kid, a little malcontent sitting somewhere, and he wrote, "I'm disappointed Walt. I never thought you'd succumb. What happened to you?" and Walt went crazy. He stormed down there and outlawed using any of the Disney characters in the commercials...spelling the end of the unit."