Born in 1906, Isadore "Friz" Freleng would have been 103 years old today.
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Friz grew up with a penchant for drawing. One day in the mid-1920's he answered an ad for an errand boy/guy Friday in a beginning cartoon studio downtown. Errand boy meant they wanted cheap artists, and Friz knew it. That studio was "Laugh-O-Grams", Walt Disney's new company.
Friz got there not long before the studio picked up and moved itself to Hollywood. Fellow animators Ub Iwerks, Rudoph Ising and Hugh Harman coaxed Friz to go along, but he thought he'd wait it out close to home until he saw how it panned out. It panned out pretty good, the studio was producing it's "Alice in Cartoonland" shorts and Friz eventually moved west and joined up.
Pictured above are (left to right) Friz Freleng, Walker Harman, Walt Disney, Lois Hardwick (the last of 4 girls to play "Alice"), Rudolph Ising, Ub Iwerks, Hugh Harman and Roy Disney.
At one point a lot of Walt's artists defected. There were lots of different reasons, we won't go into them all here. Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising borrowed some money to make a pilot film for their own series of cartoons, Friz came along to help. That pilot was "Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid", and when it was completed Harman and Ising shopped it around to producers and a film contract. It was eventually sold to Warner Brothers and proposed as the character to launch it's animated short subject department. A new film was made, once again Friz on board, and "Looney Tunes" was born.
Above is a still from the very first "Looney Tune", "Sinking in the Bathtub".
Friz stayed on as an animator at Warner's for a couple years, then accepted a raise in pay at a position at MGM as Fred Quimby started up their animation division. His time at MGM was an unhappy one though, and he was coaxed back to Warner's as Harman & Ising were let go over financial differences and Leon Schlesinger took over production of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. He was asked to finish and fix an unfinished cartoon left behind and proved so good, he was promoted to director. And there he stayed for 30 more years.
He (along with Chuck Jones, Tex Avery and Bob Clampett) was one of the directors to develop the character of Bugs Bunny, as well as Daffy Duck and Porky Pig.
Friz had a musical background and even timed his cartoons on music sheets using the bars to time out the gags in his cartoons, instead of the standard filmmakers exposure sheets. Watch a Friz cartoon and every action, reaction, pause, expression, etc., works in rhythmic sync with Carl Stallings orchestrations.
He also was the one to team up Tweety Pie and Sylvester for the first time. Both were existing characters who had appeared solo, and Friz saw the magic of pairing the two.
Friz didn't much care for the character of Elmer Fudd. He saw this dim bulb as no match against the quick wit of Bugs, so he created Yosemite Sam. In my opinion, one of the great cartoon characters of all time. He also bears a slight resemblance to Friz himself, with his short stature and red hair...and from folks who knew him, the temper was about the same as Friz's too.
Friz in later years, paired Sylvester with Speedy Gonzales, and even created Speedy's cousin Slowpoke Rodriguez.
After Warners closed their cartoon studio in 1963, producer David Depatie partnered up with Friz to form Depatie-Freleng. One of their first commissions was to create an opening animation sequence for a Peter Sellers movie coming out.
Friz won an academy award for the opening. One of four won throughout his career.
Thanks Friz. We wish that wasn't all folks.