Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tex Avery Era at Warners

The Classic Cartoon Characters

From 1935 onward until the early to mid-40s, Warner's director of animation Fred 'Tex' Avery (who was recruited from Lantz, see more below), was responsible for much of the manic, satirical, absurdist, extra-violent, crude characters and corny gags and slapstick of numerous productions. Avery's animations, often designed for adult audiences, were often noted for 'pushing the envelope' of acceptable taste. Their first animated star was Porky Pig (see Bob Clampett below). Avery's first WB cartoon was Gold Diggers of '49 (1935) starring Porky Pig.

Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies were titles that directly copied competitor Disney's Silly Symphonies. Looney Tunes became known for closing with the familiar Porky Pig end tag: "That's All Folks!" In 1936, composer Carl W. Stalling (who was the musical director of Warners' animation department for over two decades) chose "Merrily We Roll Along" (used most often for Merrie Melodies) and "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" (used most often for Looney Tunes) as the distinctive theme songs for Warners' cartoons.

Along with his famed animating staff - Isadore "Friz" Freleng, Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones, Tex Avery created two of the greatest stars for Warners:

  • Daffy Duck
  • Bugs Bunny
Daffy Duck's first appearance was in Avery's Porky's Duck Hunt (1937), remade the next year as Porky's Hare Hunt (1938). The name Daffy Duck (derived from the name of famed baseball player Dizzy Dean's brother Daffy) was used for the first time in the title of Avery's second duck-hunt picture Daffy Duck and Egghead (1938) - this was also the first Daffy Duck cartoon in color. [Egghead was the prototype for the character of Elmer Fudd.] (Through most of these years, Mel Blanc provided the voice for all the starring WB characters: Bugs Bunny, Sylvester, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Speedy Gonzalez, and many others.)

A prototype of Bugs Bunny debuted with co-star Porky Pig in Porky's Hare Hunt (1938) as a wiseguy hare. Bugs first said his famous line ("Eh, what's up, Doc?" voiced by Mel Blanc) in his fourth, Oscar-nominated Tex Avery cartoon, A Wild Hare (1940) - the first true Bugs Bunny cartoon with Elmer Fudd as a rabbit hunter (and noted for Elmer's first use of his 'wabbit' voice). Bugs finally received his identifiable name by his fifth cartoon, Elmer's Pet Rabbit (1941).
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