Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bob Clampett - Animation, Television, Comedy Pioneer

Born May 8, 1913, Bob Clampett would be 97 years old today!

One of the young pups who stepped up to directing at Leon Schlesinger's 'Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies" studio after Tex Avery departed, Bob had worked for years as an animator for both Avery and Friz Freleng where he honed his chops.

Clampett's lunacy and pure "cartoon"-ism in his work is truly inspired. Always forsaking the drudgery of storytelling if a good gag could be had, made his cartoons some of the best.

I always felt, that while Avery's zaniness was a natural, Bob's was learned and reached for. Over the years my opinion has changed somewhat and I really love the haphazard style which achieved true cartooning brilliance.

Here's a couple of Bob's great cartoons. Over the last 11 months of doing this blog I'm sometimes frustrated when I embed a video from YouTube and then somewhere down the line it gets removed because of copyright fears by YT or worse, embedding is suddenly denied by the poster. If you ever happen to see a broken link to a video on my blog, please drop me an e-mail and I'll find a replacement for it.

Now for the IS Saturday morning after all!

Somewhere during his time at "Termite Terrace" Bob worked with the estate of Edgar Rice Burroughs on nights and weekends, and he was working on a proposed series of theatrical cartoons based on Burroughs' character John Carter, Warlord of Mars.

An ambitious undertaking for sure. Other than a few characters in Disney features (Snow White) and the Fleischer Bros. "Superman" shorts for Paramount, realistic anatomical characters were not really done. A cartoon figure is much easy to animate than one that appears like you or I.

I'm a big fan of the John Carter books and was surprised to learn of these on a "Beany & Cecil" DVD a few years back...these tests look pretty damn good. I would have liked to see them completed.

After leaving Warner Bros., Bob moved his attention to a new medium, television.

Understanding that animation would be too time consuming and cost-prohibitive for a medium that was in it's infancy and cranked out product so quickly (if Bob knew this in 1949...why haven't producer's learned this in 2010?????????) he turned to another love of his, puppetry.

Creating a cast of characters as puppets and assembling voice talents he had worked with in theatrical animation (Daws Butler and Stan Freberg) they set out to do a daily show on Los Angeles station KTLA. Writing over-the-top horrible puns and sometimes adult oriented humor, this kiddie show smash became just as big a hit with the parents.

Albert Einstein once got up from a Harvard staff meeting and announced he had to go..."It's Time for Beany"...

In the 1960's Bob had seen the success that Hanna-Barbera and others had doing limited animation for TV and produced a syndicated cartoon version of the show.

But remember...we only talk about GOOD things on this blog.

Thanks Bob! For being one of the real pioneers, learning the limits of and stretching every medium you dipped your foot into!


Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Congratulations! You have received the coveted Kreativ Blogger award. For details, go to Thrilling Days of Yesteryear. (Sadly, you will not receive **your very own** Bob Clampett cartoooooooon!!!)

Mykal Banta said...

Man, I wish that Beanie show was on TV today! Little red riding "could." Man, I bet she could! Also, that swordfight from John Carter was absolutely amazing!

Oh, and Hey! I don't even want to believe you're knocking the old Bennie and Cecil cartoons! I LOVED them!

Jeff Overturf said...

Mykal: The Beany & Cecil cartoons do have a real charm to them, I guess they just aren't up to expectations of what Bob was capable of.

And don't get me wrong...I'd still watch them over a lot of what's come down the pike...on a Bell Curve scale they rank and easy B+!

Jeff Overturf said...

Ivan: Wow! Coveted is right! I'm off to TDoY right now!!!

"Honored" barely covers how I feel!

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