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Bob Clampett
Born Robert Emerson Clampett
May 8, 1913(1913-05-08)
Los Angeles, California
Died May 4, 1984 (aged 70)
Detroit, Michigan
Spouse(s) Sody Clampett


Robert Emerson "Bob" Clampett (May 8, 1913 – May 4, 1984) was an American animator, producer, director, and puppeteer best known for his work on the Looney Tunes animated series from Warner Bros., and the television shows Time for Beany and Beany and Cecil. Animation historian Jerry Beck lauded Clampett for "putting the word 'looney' in Looney Tunes."

Contents

Early career

Clampett showed an interest in animation and puppetry from his early teens in Los Angeles. The young Clampett designed the first Mickey Mouse dolls for Walt Disney. As Clampett would later claim in interviews, Disney was impressed with the young artist, and promised him a job. However, a lack of space at Disney's tiny Hyperion studio prevented Clampett from taking the position. Instead, he secured a job in 1931 at the studio of Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising where he worked on the studio's Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series. In his first years at the studio, Clampett mostly worked for Friz Freleng, under whose guidance Clampett grew into an able animator. In 1935, he designed the studio's first major star, Porky Pig, who appeared in Freleng's film I Haven't Got a Hat.

Clampett moved to Tex Avery's unit that same year, and the two soon developed an irreverent style of animation that would set Warner Bros. apart from its competitors. Working apart from the other animators in a dilapidated wooden building, Avery and Clampett soon discovered they were not the only inhabitants. They shared the building with thousands of tiny termites. They christened the building Termite Terrace, a name eventually used by fans and historians to describe the entire studio.

They were soon joined by animators Chuck Jones, Virgil Ross and Sid Sutherland, and worked virtually without interference on their new, groundbreaking style of humor for the next year. It was a wild place with an almost college fraternity-like atmosphere. Animators would frequently pull pranks such as gluing paper streamers to the wings of flies. Leon Schlesinger, who rarely ventured there, was reputed on one visit to have remarked in his lisping voice, "Pew, let me out of here! The only thing missing is the sound of a flushing toilet!!"

Clampett about this time pressured studio head Leon Schlesinger to give him a chance as a director, and was finally given that chance on an animated sequence for the Joe E. Brown film What's Your Birthday?, animating signs of the zodiac. This led to what was essentially a co-directing stint with fellow animator Chuck Jones for the financially ailing Ub Iwerks, whom Schlesinger subcontracted to produce several Porky Pig shorts. These shorts featured the short-lived and generally unpopular Gabby Goat as Porky's sidekick. Despite Clampett and Jones' contributions, however, Iwerks was the only credited director.

Bugs Bunny and a gremlin in Falling Hare (1943), a cartoon directed by Bob Clampett

Clampett was promoted to director in late 1937, and he soon entered his personal golden age. His cartoons grew increasingly violent, irreverent, and surreal, not beholden to even the faintest hint of real-world physics, and his characters have been argued to be easily the most rubbery and wacky of all the Warner directors'. It was a plain and simple fact that Clampett was heavily influenced by the Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dalí, as is most visible in Porky in Wackyland (1938), wherein the entire short takes place within a Dalí-esque landscape complete with melting objects and abstracted forms. Clampett and his work can even be considered part of the surreal movement, as it incorporated film as well as static media.

Over the next nine years, Clampett created a few of the studio's funniest and most outrageous cartoons, including Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid, A Tale of Two Kitties (which introduced Tweety Bird), A Corny Concerto and Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs, Russian Rhapsody, The Great Piggy Bank Robbery, and The Big Snooze, his final cartoon with the studio, and one for which he did not get screen credit (only one of three he directed pitting Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd). It was largely Clampett's influence that would impel the Warners directors to shed the final vestiges of all Disney influence and enter the territory they are famous for today.

When Tex Avery departed in 1941, Avery's unit was taken over by Clampett, while Norman McCabe took over Clampett's old unit. Clampett finished Avery's remaining unfinished cartoons. When McCabe joined the armed forces, Frank Tashlin rejoined Schlesinger as director, and that unit was eventually turned over to Robert McKimson. Clampett himself left in 1946; his unit was taken over by Arthur Davis. While the generally accepted story was that Clampett left over matters of artistic freedom, Davis himself remembered that Clampett was fired by then-cartoon studio executive Eddie Selzer, who was far less tolerant of him than Leon Schlesinger had been.

Later career

Clampett worked for a time at Screen Gems, then the cartoon division of Columbia Pictures, as a writer and gagman. In 1947 Republic Pictures incorporated animation into its Gene Autry feature film Sioux City Sue. It turned out well enough for Republic to dabble in animated cartoons; Bob Clampett directed a single cartoon, It's a Grand Old Nag, featuring the equine character Charlie Horse, before the Republic management had second thoughts and discontinued the series.[1] Clampett took his direction credit under the name "Kilroy".

In 1949, Clampett turned his attentions to television, where he created the famous puppet show Time for Beany. The show, featuring the talents of voice artists Stan Freberg and Daws Butler, would earn Clampett three Emmys and count such celebrities as Groucho Marx and Albert Einstein as fans. In 1952 he created the Thunderbolt the Wondercolt television series, and in 1954 directed Willy the Wolf (the first puppet variety show on television), as well as creating and voicing the lead in the Buffalo Billy television show. In the late 1950s, Clampett was hired by Associated Artists Productions to catalog the pre-August 1948[2] Warner cartoons it had just acquired. In 1959, he created an animated version of the puppet show called Beany and Cecil, which began its run on ABC in 1962 and was on the network for five years.[3]

In his later years, Bob Clampett toured college campuses and animation festivals as a lecturer on the history of animation. In 1975 he was the focus of a documentary entitled Bugs Bunny: Superstar, the first documentary to examine the history of the Warner Bros. cartoons. Clampett, whose collection of drawings, films, and memorabilia from the golden days of Termite Terrace was legendary, provided nearly all of the behind-the-scenes drawings and home-movie footage for the film.

Clampett died of a heart attack on May 4, 1984 in Detroit, Michigan.[4]

Controversy

Though Clampett's contribution to the Warner Brothers animation legacy was considerable and unarguable, he has been criticized by his peers as "a shameless self-promoter who provoked the wrath of his former Warner's colleagues in later years, for allegedly claiming credit for ideas which were not his."[5] Chuck Jones particularly disliked Clampett, and made no mention of his association with him in either his 1979 compilation film The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie (in which Jones lists himself and other Warners directors) or his 1989 autobiography Chuck Amuck.[6]Some of this animosity appears to have come from Clampett's perceived "golden boy" status at the studio (Clampett's mother was said to be a close friend of cartoon producer Leon Schlesinger), which allowed him to ignore studio rules that everyone else was expected to follow. In addition, Mel Blanc (the legendary voice actor who had worked with Clampett at the same studio for ten years) also accused Clampett of being an "egotist who took credit for everything."[7] Beginning with a magazine article in 1946, shortly after he left the studio, and increasing as years went on, Clampett repeatedly referred to himself as "the creator" of Bugs Bunny, often adding the side-note that he used Clark Gable's carrot-eating scene in It Happened One Night as inspiration for his "creation." However, a viewing of the early Bugs cartoons of the late 1930s and early 1940s clearly demonstrates that the character was not "created" as a whole at one time, but rather evolved in terms of personality, voice and design over several years through the efforts of Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Cal Dalton and Ben "Bugs" Hardaway, Robert McKimson, Sr., and Mel Blanc, in addition to Clampett's contributions.

In the 1979 compilation feature film The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie, Clampett is not mentioned when Bugs Bunny (who, interestingly, had been voiced by Blanc for 39 years at that point) refers to his "several fathers." As the feature was compiled by Jones (along with Friz Freleng), the complete omission of Clampett is not surprising. (The other two directorial fathers Bugs claims to have had are Avery, who directed A Wild Hare, his first official short, and McKimson, who is the least known of the three best-known Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies directors but drew the definitive Bugs Bunny model sheet. Depending on the source, number one could be either Jones or Freleng.)

Conversely, other Warner Bros. peers such as musical co-ordinator Carl Stalling stood by Clampett during his talks on the cartoon industry in the 1960s and 1970s.

References

  1. ^ Beck, Jerry; Amidi, Amid. "It's a Grand Old Nag". Cartoon Brew. http://www.cartoonbrew.com/brewtv/grandoldnag. Retrieved October 30, 2009. 
  2. ^ The latest released WB cartoon sold to a.a.p. was Haredevil Hare, released on July 24, 1948.
  3. ^ "Matty's Funday Funnies". Toon Tracker. http://www.toontracker.com/matty/matty.htm. Retrieved October 30, 2009. 
  4. ^ "Bob Clampett's Beany and Cecil". Toon Tracker. http://www.toontracker.com/beanytoon/beanytoons.htm. Retrieved October 30, 2009. 
  5. ^ spiritus-temporis.com/
  6. ^ Jones, Charles M. (1989). Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 0-374-12348-9
  7. ^ Blanc, Mel. (1988). That's Not All, Folks!. Warner Books. ISBN 0-446-51244-3

Further reading

  • Barrier, Michael. (1999). Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-195-03759-6.
  • Maltin, Leonard. (1980). Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-070-39835-6.

External links

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Simple English

Robert (Bob) Clampett (May 8, 1913 - May 4, 1984) was an American puppeteer, animator, and director and producer.[1] He was one of the important people in the history of American animation. He claimed to have invented the characters of Porky Pig, Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny.[1]


Born in San Diego, California, in 1913 Clampett held a number of jobs including a newspaper cartoonist, and at Disney, before becoming an animator for Harman-Ising.[1]

He died in Detroit, Michigan, in 1984.[1]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Bob Clampett". sensesofcinema.com. http://www.sensesofcinema.com/2005/great-directors/clampett/. Retrieved 22 December 2010. 

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