Friday, April 21, 2017

CINESCAPE PRESENTS: WICKED COOL CARTOONS - TEX AVERY

CINESCAPE PRESENTS

WICKED COOL CARTOONS


TEX AVERY


The "Golden Age Of Animation" gave birth to a ton of great artists, Chuck Jones, Bob McKimson, Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, all the animators that worked for Disney (which include those that are named) and then there is Tex Avery. The one animator that everyone looked up to because of his incredible work when it came to animation. He is probably the most influential of all the animators that worked on cartoons during that age.

Avery got his start working at the Winkler Studios, inking Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons, moving to Universal Studios, working for Walter Lantz Productions, still as an inker and by 1930, he had been promoted to animator, still working on a majority of the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. During this time, Avery was blinded in his left eye during some horseplay in the studio after a thumbtack had hit him. Later on, he lost the use of his left eye when he was hit with a paper clip. This is what supposedly gave him his unique outlook on his cartoons, because of his lack of depth perception.

Avery worked closely with Director Bill Nolan at Universal Studios, with Avery handling the majority of the animation work. Nolan would give directions on how he wanted the characters to move or how many feet, but it was very basic and would let Avery fill in the details. When the work got too much, Avery would delegate to the other animators working under Nolan, but Avery wanted more control, because a lot of his gags weren't being put in to the films. Avery went to Nolan, wanting to storyboard the whole cartoon to make sure his gags would get into the cartoons. Nolan took it another step and told Avery to not only storyboard the cartoons, but to work out the timing and layout as well. Avery completed two cartoons, but according to him they were "terrible". It was also at this point that Avery's work started to suffer. He didn't like the low pay he was receiving working as an animator (something that seems to be a major issue with all of the animators from this age) and after about six weeks of bad work, was fired by the studio. Two days later he got married and left for Oregon on an extended honeymoon, only coming back when the money ran out. Ironically, his wife also worked for Universal Studios, in the animation department.



When Avery returned to Los Angeles, he applied to Leon Schlesinger Studios (Warner Bros.) and was able to convince Schlesinger to make him the third director at the studio behind Friz Freleng and Jack King. There was no room in the main studio for the animation unit and they were moved to a bungalow they dubbed "Termite Terrace". His animation unit consisted of Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, Virgil Ross, and Sid Sutherland. Avery was given the task of creating the black and white Looney Tunes cartoons instead of the technicolor Merrie Melodies cartoons.

It was this unit that redesigned a majority of the characters that would become the staples of Merrie Melodies/Looney Tunes cartoons. Moving away from the Disneyesque stylings of realisitic style animals into a more cartoonish look. Starting with Porky Pig, Avery redesigned the charater, giving him a smaller snout, removing the jowls and giving him round cheeks. Making the character look softer rather than fat.

Avery, Jones, Clampett and new assistant director Frank Tashlin laid the foundation of what would become the defining characters of the Warner Bros. stable of characters. After the Porky Pig redesign, the next character that would be introduced was Daffy Duck. Giving the character a more zanier attitude. Coming into the screen at double speed, yelling "Hoo HOO HOOO" as he heckled the main character, in most cases, Porky Pig, but in some of the early films, the other character "Egghead" (a character inspired by comedian Joe Penner), a hunter type character and the brunt of all of Daffy's abuse, was turned into Elmer Fudd.

Avery also reintroduced a Daffy Duck styled rabbit that had been created by Ben "Bugs" Hardaway. Avery gave the character a more Groucho Marx styled attitude, a brooklyn accent, and his catch phrase "What's Up Doc?". Even though Avery only directed four films with Bugs Bunny as the main character, Avery's influence can be widely seen in every cartoon that the wascially wabbit starred in. Even though the different directors developed stories around Bugs and treated the character differently, there was always a gag or remark in the picture that was influenced by Avery.

Avery wasn't just about the Looney Tunes characters, he was willing to stretch his artistic muscle, working on travelogue parodies, Hollywood caricature films, fractured fairy-tales and of course, the clones of Bugs Bunny. Avery's tenure lasted until 1941, when he and Schlesinger got into an argument about the ending of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. It's actually a pretty famous Hollywood story:

In Avery's original version, Bugs and the hunting dog were to fall off a cliff three times, milking the gag to its comic extreme. According to a DVD commentary for the cartoon, the historian and animator Greg Ford explained that the problem Schlesinger had with the ending was that, just before falling off the third time, Bugs and the dog were to turn to the screen, with Bugs saying "Hold on to your hats, folks, here we go again!" It is thought that this was the punchline to a well-known risqué masturbtion joke of the day. The Hollywood Reporter reported on the quarrel on April 2, 1941. Avery was slapped with a four-week, unpaid suspension.

Avery was hired at MGM Studios after leaving Warner Bros., where his creativity would reach it's peak. MGM offered Avery higher budgets for his films, better quality and hired ex-Disney artists to help round out the animation unit. At MGM, Avery created Droopy, Red Hot Riding Hood, Screwy Squirrel, George and Junior (inspired by Of Mice and Men) and the really great shorts "House of Tomorrow", "Car of Tomorrow", "Farm of Tomorrow", and "TV of Tomorrow" and even created the prototype for Huckleberry Hound.

Avery left MGM, burnt out on the cartoons that he was created and returned to Walter Lantz studios, where he defined the Chilly Willy the Penguin character. Only creating a handful of shorts for the studio, he quit over a salary dispute, ending his theatrical animation career.

During the twilight of Avery's career, he started working on animated commercials, creating the RAID cockroaches, the Frito Bandito, who was highly controversial, Kool-aid fruit drinks that starred the Warner Bros. cartoons he helped create, as well as doing some work on Kwicky Koala for Hanna Barbera.

Tex Avery was a very lovable guy. When he was working on his shorts, he would help provide voices, he did the belly laugh for Droopy's nemesis Spike, as well as doing Droopy's voice, when needed. He would visit the animation unit, where the films were being created, so he could see first hand how his cartoons were coming. He was a perfectionist, as well, keeping strict control of his stories and gags, making sure that the timing for everything was precise. If it wasn't, he wasnt' afraid to make the necessary cuts to remove stuff from his film if it didn't work. He never really forced anything in his cartoons. If it worked, it was great.

Tex Avery's legacy will never be forgotten in our time. This is the man that created "What's Up Doc?", helped establish Warner Bros. animation unit and helped usher in the Golden Age Of Animation.

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