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Famous Like Me > Director > A > Tex Avery

Profile of Tex Avery on Famous Like Me

Name: Tex Avery  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 26th February 1908
Place of Birth: Taylor, Texas, USA
Profession: Director
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Frederick Bean "Tex" Avery (February 26, 1908 – August 26, 1980) was an animator, cartoonist, and director, famous for producing animated cartoons during the Golden Age of Hollywood. He did his most significant work for the Warner Bros. (Termite Terrace) and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios, creating the characters of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Droopy; and his influence was found in almost all of the animated cartoon series by various studios in the 1940s and 1950s.

Avery's style of directing broke the mold of ultra-realism established by Walt Disney, and encouraged animators to stretch the boundaries of the medium to do things in a cartoon that could not be done in the world of live-action film. An often-quoted line from Avery's cartoons was, "In a cartoon you can do anything," and his cartoons often did just that.


Early years

Tex Avery was born to George Walton Avery (June 8, 1867 - January 14, 1935) and Mary Augusta "Jessie" Bean (1886 - 1931) in Taylor, Texas. His father was born in Alabama. His mother was born in Buena Vista, Chickasaw County, Mississippi.

His paternal grandparents were Needham Avery (October 8, 1838 - after 1892) and his wife Lucinda C. Baxly (May 11, 1844 - March 10, 1892). His maternal grandparents were Frederick Mumford Bean (1852 - October 23, 1886) and his wife Minnie Edgar (July 25, 1854 - May 7, 1940).

Avery was said to be a descedant of Judge Roy Bean. However his maternal great-grandparents were actually Mumford Bean from Tennessee (August 22, 1805 - October 10, 1892) and his wife Lutica from Alabama. Mumford was son of William Bean and his wife Nancy Blevins from Virginia. Their relation to Roy is uncertain though his paternal grandparents were also from Virginia. Avery family tradition also claimed descent from Daniel Boone.

Avery was raised in his native Taylor. A popular catchphrase at his high school was "What's up, doc?", which he would later popularize with Bugs Bunny in the 1940s.

Avery first began his animation career at the Walter Lantz studios in the early 1930s, working on Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons. During some office horseplay, a paperclip flew into Avery's left eye and caused him to lose use of that eye. Some speculate it was his lack of depth perception that gave him his unique look at animation and bizarre directorial style.

"Termite Terrace"

He migrated to the Leon Schlesinger/Warner Bros. studio in late 1935, fast-talking Schlesinger into letting him head his own production unit of animators and create cartoons the way he wanted them to be made. Schlesinger responded by assigning the Avery unit, including animators Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones, to a five-room bungalow at the Warner Bros. Sunset Blvd. backlot. The Avery unit, assigned to work primarily on the black-and-white Looney Tunes instead of the Technicolor Merrie Melodies, soon dubbed their quarters "Termite Terrace", due to its significant termite population.

"Termite Terrace" later became the nickname for the entire Schlesinger/Warners studio, primarily because Avery and his unit were the ones who defined what became known as "the Warner Bros. cartoon". Their first short, Golddiggers of '49 (1936), is recognized as the first cartoon to make Porky Pig a star, and Avery’s experimentation with the medium continued from there.

Creation of Looney Tunes stars

Avery, with the assistance of Clampett, Jones, and new associate director Frank Tashlin, laid the foundation for a style of animation that dethroned The Walt Disney Studio as the kings of animated short films, and created a legion of cartoon stars whose names still shine around the world today. Avery in particular was deeply involved; a perfectionist, Avery constantly crafted gags for the shorts, periodically provided voices for them (including his trademark belly laugh), and held such control over the timing of the shorts that he would splice frames out of the final negative if he felt a gag's timing wasn't quite right.

Daffy Duck

Porky's Duck Hunt introduced the character of Daffy Duck, who possessed a new form of "lunacy" and zaniness that had not been seen before in animated cartoons. Daffy was an almost completely out-of-control "darnfool duck" who frequently bounced around the film frame in double-speed, screaming "Hoo-hoo! hoo-hoo" in a high-pitched, electronically sped-up voice provided by veteran Warners voice artist Mel Blanc.

Bugs Bunny

Avery's 1940 A Wild Hare is seen as the first cartoon to truly establish the personality of Bugs Bunny, after a series of shorts featuring a Daffy Duck-like rabbit directed by Ben Hardaway, Cal Dalton, and Chuck Jones, who was promoted to director along with Bob Clampett in the late 1930s. Avery's Bugs was a super-cool rabbit who is always in control of the situation and who runs rings around his opponents. A Wild Hare also marks the first pairing of him and bald, meek Elmer Fudd, a revamp of Avery's Egghead, a big nosed little fellow who, in turn, was modeled after radio comedian Joe Penner. It is in A Wild Hare that Bugs casually walks up to Elmer, who is out "hunting wabbits", and asks him, calmly as anything, "What's up, doc?" The juxtaposition of Bug's calmness and the potentially dangerous situation got a strong reaction from audiences, and Avery made "What's up, doc?" the rabbit's catch phrase.

Avery ended up directing only four Bugs Bunny cartoons: A Wild Hare, Tortoise Beats Hare, All This and Rabbit Stew, and The Heckling Hare. During this period, he also directed a number of one-shot shorts, including travelogue parodies (The Isle of Pongo-Pongo, 1939), fractured fairy-tales (The Bear's Tale, 1940), Hollywood caricature films (Hollywood Steps Out, 1941), and cartoons featuring Bugs Bunny clones (the Crack-Pot Quail, 1941).

Avery's tenure at Schlesinger ended in late 1941, when he and the producer quarreled over the ending to The Heckling Hare. In Avery's original version, Bugs and hunting dog were to fall off of a cliff three times, milking the gag to its comic extreme. Schlesinger intervened, and edited the film so that the characters only fall of the cliff once. An enraged Avery promptly quit the studio, leaving a number of cartoons, including Crazy Cruise and The Cagey Canary, incomplete; Bob Clampett finished these cartoons for release.

Avery & MGM

Droopy Dog

By 1942, Avery was in the employ of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, working in their cartoon division under the supervision of Fred Quimby. Avery felt that Schlesinger had stifled him; at MGM, Avery's creativity reached its peak. His cartoons became known for their sheer lunacy, breakneck pace, and a penchant playing with the medium of animation and film in general that few other directors dared to approach. MGM also offered larger budgets and a higher quality level than the Warners films. These changes were evident in Avery's first MGM short, the Adolf Hitler-parodying The Blitz Wolf, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoons) in 1942. Avery's most famous MGM character debuted in 1943's Dumbhounded. Droopy Dog (originally "Happy Hound") was a calm, little, slow-moving and slow-talking dog who still won out in the end. He also created a series of racy and risqué cartoons, beginning with 1943's Red Hot Riding Hood, featuring a sexy female star who never had a set name, but who influenced the minds of young boys--and future animators--worldwide. Other Avery characters at MGM included Screwball "Screwy" Squirrel and the Of Mice and Men-inspired duo of George and Junior.

Notable MGM cartoons directed by Avery include, besides the aforementioned Red Hot Riding Hood, Blitz Wolf, and Dumhounded, Bad Luck Blackie, Magical Maestro, and Lucky Ducky,. Avery began his stint at MGM working with lush colors and realistic backgrounds, but he slowly abandoned this style for a more frenetic, less realistic approach. The newer, more stylized look reflected the influence of the up-and-coming UPA studio, the need to cut costs as budgets grew higher, and Avery's own desire to leave reality behind and make cartoons that were not tied to the real world of live action. During this period, he made a notable series of films which explored the technology of the future: The House of Tomorrow, The Car of Tomorrow, and The TV of Tomorrow. He also introduced a slow-talking wolf character, who was the prototype for MGM associates Hanna-Barbera's Huckleberry Hound character.

Tex Avery's last original cartoon for MGM was Cellbound, completed in 1953 and released in 1955. Like many of his later cartoons, it was co-directed by Avery unit animator Michael Lah. A burnt-out Avery left MGM in 1953 to return to the Walter Lantz studio, and Lah began directing a handful of CinemaScope Droopy shorts on his own, including Millionaire Droopy, a remake of Avery's 1949 short From Wags to Riches, which was the first short to introduce Avery's bulldog character Spike.

After MGM

Avery's return to the Walter Lantz studio did not last long. He directed four cartoons in 1954-1955: the one-shots Crazy Mixed-Up Pup and Shh-h-h-h-h, and I'm Cold and The Legend of Rockabye Point, in which he defined the character of Chilly Willy the penguin. Although The Legend of Rockabye Point and Crazy Mixed-up Pup were nominated for Academy Awards, Avery left Lantz over a salary dispute, effectively ending his career in theatrical animation.

He turned to animated television commercials, most notably the Raid commercials of the 1960s, ("Oh no! RAID! BOOM!") and the creation of Frito-Lay's controversial mascot, the Frito Bandito. Avery also produced ads for fruit drinks starring the Warners Bros. characters he'd once helped create during his Termite Terrace days.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Avery became steadily reserved and depressed, although he continued to draw respect from his peers. His final employer was Hanna-Barbera Productions, where he wrote gags for Saturday morning cartoons such as the Droopy-esque Kwicky Koala. On August 26, 1980, he passed away on the job at the Hanna-Barbera studios.

Although he was no longer alive to experience the late-1980s renaissance of animation, his work was rediscovered and he began to receive widespread attention and praise by the modern animation and film communities. His influence is strongly reflected in modern cartoons such as Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, Freakazoid, The Simpsons, Family Guy, and the Genie character in Disney's Aladdin. Today, he is seen as one of the most influential animation directors of all time, whose mark on the industry was surpassed only by Walt Disney.

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Tex Avery