'Tex' Avery (1908 - 1980)
Fred 'Tex' Avery was the King of Cartoons: a free-wheeling anarchist whose distinctive sense of humor changed the face of U.S. animation forever. Generations later his films can still reduce audiences to hysterics and inspire other cartoonists. He created such immortal characters as Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny, the super cool rabbit, complete with his catchphrase 'What's up, Doc?'
He was born Frederick Bean Avery on February 26, 1908 in Taylor, Texas. After early schooling in Taylor he went to North Dallas High where he started drawing comic strips. He graduated in 1927 and studied art at the Chicago Art Institute before moving to Southern California in 1929. He began work as an animator at Walter Lantz Studios and mainly worked on the 'Oswald the Lucky Rabbit' cartoons during the early 1930's.
In 1936, Avery joined the Warner Brothers lot, where animation chief Leon Schlesinger put him in charge of his most unruly bunch. Cartoonists such as Chuck Jones and Bob Clampet hunkered down with Avery in a bug-infested shack called 'Termite Terrace' and proceeded to invent a new breed of U.S. cartoon.
Avery and his unit steered Warner Brothers' cartoons away from mild mimicry of Disney into gag-addled joke fests with an addiction to speed which became known as "the Warner Bros. cartoon". Their first short, in 1935, 'Gold Diggers of '49', refined the character of Porky Pig and made him a star, and Avery’s experimentation with the medium continued from there. He created Daffy Duck, dreamed up a nemesis for Daffy that would evolve into Elmer Fudd, and gave Bugs Bunny his trademark quip, 'What's up, Doc?'
In 1941, having supervised over 60 titles and more or less re-invented the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series as known today, Avery and Schlesinger quarreled over the ending to the animation 'The Heckling Hare' and he left to join rival outfit MGM the following year.
At MGM, under the supervision of Fred Quimby, he truly matured as a great animator, letting loose a demented imagination like no other. Characters would chase one another off the edge of the screen, outside the bounds of Technicolor, into the audience itself, with no regard for logic or the laws of physics. MGM allowed him larger budgets and a higher quality production level than Warners and results were seen with his first completed short 'The Blitz Wolf', which was was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoons) in 1942.
Avert left MGM in 1953 andreturned to Walter Lantz Studios, where he had cut his teeth 20 years earlier. He brought his MGM insanity with him, invigorating the moribund studio and earning it Academy Award nods in the process. He left over a salary dispute after producing just four shorts, and went into animated television advertising where his best known work was for the insect spray 'Raid'. The ads always featured cartoon bugs screaming "Raid!" before getting pulverised.
From th 1960's onwards Avery gradually worked less and less. His final work was gag-writing for cartoons such as the Kwicky Koala for Hanna-Barbera.
Tex Avery died on August 26, 1980, in Burbank California, from lung cancer, aged 72.
Today, the work of Avery and his colleagues is revered by modern animators and film makers and his influence can be seen in modern cartoons such as 'Roger Rabbit', and 'Ren and Stimpy'.