Friday, May 21, 2010

I Love Robert McKimson Cartoons

Robert McKimson was a "Looney Tunes" cartoon director at Warner Bros. from 1946-1969. Before that he was an animator on the "Looney Tunes". His cartoons are regularly glossed over in favor of those by Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng, and even those of Tex Avery and Bob Clampett.

There's nothing wrong with McKimson's cartoons. He's just a victim of bad timing. First, he wasn't one of the original directors, so the perception seems to be that he was sort of a "fill-in" director while at Warners and should have stayed an animator.

Second, he worked for Warners until they closed, both in 1964 and again in 1969, actually directing the final cartoon for the studio both times. Unfortunately, the quality of the cartoons had begun to suffer and McKimson is sometimes given blame for this, but by this time, the other directors had bailed out and McKimson should be hailed for keeping things going as long as he did. He even directed the abyssmal Bugs Bunny TV specials of the 70s, which did nothing to improve his reputation.

Third, when Warners did a layoff in 1953, McKimson lost every member of his unit and had to reassemble. It was harder for him as Freleng and Jones were able to rehire their old teams, and so McKimson had to resort to animating a lot of his cartoons himself.

Finally, he died too young. In 1977, when he passed away, McKimson missed the opportunity to be an elder statesman and comment on his work during the 80s and 90s as Jones and Freleng got to do. Avery and Clampett lived a little longer than McKimson and that helped solidify their place in animation history.

So Robert McKimson is frequently given the short shrift, when he should be revered with the others. After all, it was he who created the Tasmanian Devil, Foghorn Leghorn, Hippety Hopper and Speedy Gonzales, and designed the definitive Bugs Bunny.

Some people complain that Hippety Hopper is really a one-note character, and that all of the cartoons are basically the same. I feel the same could be said about the much-revered Road Runner and Coyote cartoons, as well as many of the Tweety and Sylvester cartoons. I think its an unfair assessment when many cartoon series are based on repetition anyway.

Fortunately, McKimson got to do his share of Bugs Bunny cartoons and I find his Bugs Bunnys in many cases to be far more wild, inventive and funny than some of Jones' or Freleng's Bugs Bunny cartoons. That's not to knock Jones and Freleng. I certainly enjoy a number of their pictures. I just feel in honor of Robert McKimson's 100th birthday, he should finally get his due respect.

Below is a list of McKimson's best with an * by those I find particularly good:

*Daffy Doodles (1946)
Hollywood Canine Canteen (1946)
Acrobatty Bunny (1946)
Walky Talky Hawky (1946)
The Mouse-Merized Cat (1946)
One Meat Brawl (1947)
*Birth of a Notion (1947)
Hobo Bobo (1947)
Easter Yeggs (1947)
*Crowing Pains (1947)
*Gorilla My Dreams (1948)
*Daffy Duck Slept Here (1948)
Hop, Look and Listen (1948)
The Up-Standing Sitter (1948)
The Shell Shocked Egg (1948)
*Hot Cross Bunny (1948)
*The Foghorn Leghorn (1948)
*A-Lad-in His Lamp (1948)
A Horsefly Fleas (1948)
Paying the Piper (1949)
Daffy Duck Hunt (1949)
*Rebel Rabbit (1949)
Henhouse Henery (1949)
The Grey Hounded Hare (1949)
*The Windblown Hare (1949)
Swallow the Leader (1949)
Hippety Hopper (1949)
*A Ham in a Role (1949)
Hurdy-Gurdy Hare (1950)
*Boobs in the Woods (1950)
Strife with Father (1950)
The Leghorn Blows at Midnight (1950)
An Egg Scramble (1950)
*What's Up Doc? (1950)
*It's Hummer Time (1950)
*Hillbilly Hare (1950)
A Fractured Leghorn (1950)
Pop 'im Pop! (1950)
Bushy Hare (1950)
*Hare We Go (1951)
A Fox in a Fix (1951)
Corn Plastered (1951)
*Early to Bet (1951)
French Rarebit (1951)
Leghorn Swoggled (1951)
Lovelorn Leghorn (1951)
*Sleepy Time Possum (1951)
Dog Collared (1951)
*Big Top Bunny (1951)
*The Prize Pest (1951)
Who's Kitten Who? (1952)
*Thumb Fun (1952)
Kiddin' the Kitten (1952)
Sock a Doodle Do (1952)
The Turn-Tale Wolf (1952)
Oily Hare (1952)
Hoppy-Go-Lucky (1952)
The EGGcited Rooster (1952)
*The Super Snooper (1952)
*Rabbit's Kin (1952)
*Fool Coverage (1952)
Upswept Hare (1953)
A Peck o' Trouble (1953)
Muscle Tussle (1953)
There Auto Be a Law (1953)
Plop Goes the Weasel (1953)
Cat-Tails for Two (1953)
Easy Peckin's (1953)
Of Rice and Hen (1953)
Cats A-Weigh! (1953)
Wild Wife (1954)
*Design for Leaving (1954)
Bell Hoppy (1954)
*No Parking Hare (1954)
*Little Boy Boo (1954)
*Devil May Hare (1954)
The Oily American (1954)
Gone Batty (1954)
Quack Shot (1954)
Feather Dusted (1955)
All Fowled Up (1955)
Lighthouse Mouse (1955)
*The Hole Idea (1955)
*Dime to Retire (1955)
Too Hop to Handle (1956)
Weasel Stop (1956)
*The High and the Flighty (1956)
Mixed Master (1956)
*The Unexpected Pest (1956)
*Stupor Duck (1956)
Half-Fare Hare (1956)
Raw! Raw! Rooster! (1956)
The Slap-Hoppy Mouse (1956)
*Wideo Wabbit (1956)
The Honey-Mousers (1956)
*Bedevilled Rabbit (1957)
Cheese It, the Cat! (1957)
Fox-Terror (1957)
Boston Quackie (1957)
Tabasco Road (1957)
*Ducking the Devil (1957)
Mouse-Taken Identity (1957)
Rabbit Romeo (1957)
Don't Axe Me (1958)
Tortilla Flaps (1958)
Feather Bluster (1958)
*Now Hare This (1958)
Dog Tales (1958)
Weasel While You Work (1958)
Pre-Hysterical Hare (1958)
Gopher Broke (1958)
Mouse-Placed Kitten (1959)
China Jones (1959)
*The Mouse That Jack Built (1959)
A Mutt in a Rut (1959)
Backwoods Bunny (1959)
Cat's Paw (1959)
*Bonanza Bunny (1959)
A Broken Leghorn (1959)
*People Are Bunny (1959)
West of the Pesos (1960)
Wild Wild World (1960)
*Crockett-Doodle-Do (1960)
Mice Follies (1960)
The Dixie Fryer (1960)
Dog Gone People (1960)
Cannery Woe (1961)
Hoppy Daze (1961)
Strangled Eggs (1961)
Birds of a Father (1961)
Daffy's Inn Trouble (1961)
What's My Lion? (1961)
*Wet Hare (1962)
Fish and Slips (1962)
*Bill of Hare (1962)
The Slick Chick (1962)
Mother Was a Rooster (1962)
Good Noose (1962)
Fast Buck Duck (1963)
*The Million Hare (1963)
Banty Raids (1963)
Aqua Duck (1963)
Claws in the Lease (1963)
A Message to Gracias (1964)
Bartholomew Versus the Wheel (1964)
Freudy Cat (1964)
*Dr. Devil and Mr. Hare (1964)
False Hare (1964)


Mr. Semaj said...

Seems like McKimson is typically critiqued for his own weaknesses about as much as the other directors' weaknesses are ignored.

No question that his earliest cartoons with Warren Foster as his writer were his absolute best. Not that his later cartoons weren't good, but by the early 60's, Chuck Jones was the only director who was still making excellent cartoons.

Also, McKimson kept the wackier more loveable Daffy Duck going a little longer, around when Jones made Daffy a greedy slob, and Freleng made him a bitter loser. Freleng's characterization is, to me what ultimately ruined Daffy's personality.

McKimson's relatively early death robbed us of learning more about his personal influence at Termite Terrace, as well as getting a better word on his own shorts.

TNándi said...

IMHO, the Pierce-Foster swap in 1951 ruined both directors (Freleng and McKimson) reputation, especially the latter really went downhill after that. I still love some of his earlier cartoons, maybe not as much as I used to.

My favourites include Daffy Doodles, Birth of a Notion, Daffy Duck Slept Here, Daffy Duck Hunt, Boobs in the Woods, It's Hummer Time, A Fractured Leghorn and Henhouse Henery. I think he did his best with Daffy Duck.