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Tag Archives: looney tunes
A really interesting bit of animation history appeared over at Thad Komorowski’s blog: the infamous “Jones-Avery letter.” It is an open letter written by Chuck Jones (and annotated by Tex Avery) angrily denouncing Clampett’s attempts to “claim” the history of Warner Bros. cartoons. Michael Barrier adds his commentary from an old essay on the letter here; the letter also provides interesting background to this essay by Milton Gray here.
It’s one of the great stories of animation: the three best directors at Warner Bros., and I think arguably the three greatest figures – outside of Disney – of animation’s Golden Age, start as collaborators and finish in their twilight years bickering over their legacy. Jones, in particular, would barely acknowledge Clampett’s existence when he talked about the studio.
The site has had, until yesterday, another quiet few weeks, what with one thing another. Whenever I go through one of these periods where I don’t have time to get something substantial up (or where, as was the was the case over the last week or so, I’m labouring over something that starts as a short post and ends as a great big one) the temptation is always to keep the page ticking over by posting the various silly things and rumours on this page. But then I get self-conscious about how lightweight some of this stuff is.
After I’ve just published a “proper” article or post, though, I’ve got no such qualms. So on the coat-tails of my piece on Film Theory, it’s time to catch up on the frivolous stuff from the internet.
My contribution to the Friz Freleng blog-a-thon organised by Brian of Hell on Frisco Bay.
Let’s deal with the hard part up front and get it of the way. Friz Freleng will always suffer by comparison with his more prodigiously gifted colleagues: Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, and Chuck Jones. I’m not going to shy away from the fact that he wasn’t as good as those three illustrious directors. But that’s okay. Avery, Clampett and Jones are pretty far clear of the pack when it comes to the great Hollywood cartoon directors. Noting that Freleng wasn’t their equal doesn’t get you anywhere: it’s just what happens when you make comparisons to the incomparable. Freleng deserves to be acknowledged for what he did, not downplayed because of the exceptional company he kept.
Noted animation historian Michael Barrier has posted a couple of pieces by his long time collaborator Milt Gray on his website. One is a piece on Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs which is merely okay (it gets too distracted by the whole argument about the film’s racism, or lack of it, while adding too little to that discussion), but the other is a fantastic essay about Bob Clampett, which you can read here. Gray’s essay – informed by his encounters with Clampett and other figures from animation’s golden age – is the most illuminating piece I’ve read about the long time feud between the two great Warner Bros. cartoon directors, Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones. (My own piece on Clampett is here).
Just a quick post to note the passing of Norm McCabe, who died on 18 January aged 94. McCabe was the last of the directors from the Warner Bros animation studio in its classic era: a handful of animators are left alive (Bill Melendez pops up looking very sprightly in interviews on the Looney Tunes DVD sets, for example) but now all the directors and notable story artists are gone.
I’m not terribly familiar with McCabe’s cartoons: he certainly wasn’t a major director, and like Arthur Davis only got a short spell as director (he left the position for military service). Unlike Davis, who is pretty well regarded by Warners fans, his cartoons aren’t very frequently revived. However, like Joe Grant, the guy had staying power: he was doing work on Tiny Toon Adventures in his eighties.
The second wave of Looney Tunes DVDs – consisting of The Best of Bugs Bunny Volume 2, All Stars Volume 3, The Best of Tweety and Sylvester Volume 1, and The Best of the Road Runner Volume 1 – is now in Australian stores. The documentaries in these are much better than the first round, and the best of them is a solid twenty minute documentary on Bob Clampett. This, and the inclusion in this wave of several of Clampett’s best cartoons (including Porky in Wackyland, Kitty Kornered, The Great Piggy Bank Robbery, and A Corny Concerto) should help raise awareness of Clampett’s work. Clampett is much better known than he used to be, but there remains, I think, a huge discrepancy in the way in which his reputation has grown. Amongst animation buffs he now rivals Tex Avery and Chuck Jones as the most revered American animator outside of Disney, and yet he has never become a household name in the way that Jones, Avery or Friz Freleng have. In the wider popular consciousness, fate has conspired to leave one of the major Warner directors a relative unknown, and it’s well past time for a more widespread rediscovery of his work.
Note: this post has been updated; see the bottom for more details.
When the Australian division of Warner Bros split the four disk Looney Tunes Golden Collection released in the United States into three separate collections (two single disks and a double disk), I was fairly philosophical. Even allowing for the fact that we missed out on some of the extra features the Americans got – notably The Boys From Termite Terrace, a documentary about the studio – I was just happy to be getting any release of these wonderful cartoons at all. It did cross my mind that the format of the release, and its cheap-looking cover art, would lead to poor sales for the DVDs. But I could enjoy great cartoons like Rabbit Seasoning, Rabbit of Seville, and Hair-Raising Hare on DVD at last. And there would be more to come, I told myself. So I have waited calmly ever since that release, in March 2004, expecting that the next volume would follow.
You may have noticed how on current affairs shows, when they cut back to Ray Martin after a story, he often says: “We’ll be following that story and keep you posted on any further developments.” Which means that they’ll immediately forget about the poor victim whose case they were beating up, unless something else sensational happens, or the original story rates its socks off. Well, I’m not like that. So when I broke (okay, repeated) the news of the Bugs Bunny redesign, I followed up the further developments (here).
As a follow-up to Thursday’s post, here is the full line-up of Loonatics:
I think the line-up is, from left, Wile E. Coyote, The Tasmanian Devil, Bugs, Daffy, Lola Bunny, and The Road Runner. I say “I think” because they have managed to make the characters remarkably indistinguishable. Who thought Wile E. and the Road Runner, in particular, could look so similar?