One of the most prominent figures in the golden era of Warner Bros. animation, Bob Clampett made innumerable contributions to the landscape of the American cartoon. Raised in Hollywood, Clampett's lov...
Cartoonist Morris Turner has died at the age of 90. The illustrator, also known as Morrie Turner, passed away peacefully at a hospital in Sacramento, California on Saturday (25Jan14).
He began his career during World War II, when he had his early works published in America's Stars and Stripes military news publication, and went on to create his own comic strip, Wee Pals, at the encouragement of his mentor, Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz.
The ethnically-diverse cartoon about a group of buddies became a big hit in the late 1960s and made Turner the first African American artist to be syndicated nationally. His work was also known for recognising prominent figures in black history.
Turner was honoured for his work in 2000, when officials at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco presented him with the Sparky Award, named in memory of the late Schulz. He also received the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Cartoonist Society in 2003 and was most recently presented with the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award for his charity work at the San Diego Comic-Con event in 2012.
Top Story: Chris Rock To Host MTV Awards
After a four-year hiatus, Chris Rock will return to host the 20th annual MTV Video Music Awards on Aug. 28 at New York's Radio City Music Hall. Rock told The Associated Press that he is going on a cross-country club tour whet his stand-up skills but added that most of the show's comedy comes naturally as the evening progresses. "You watch people host these shows who change outfits eight times in the show. No--watch the show. That's the most important thing," Rock said. "Half the time the presenters don't read what's on the cue cards and you never know when Diana Ross is going to grab Lil' Kim's [breast], and you'd hate to miss that because you're putting on something from Banana Republic." Rock, however, won't announce his comedy show dates ahead of time and tickets will go on sale in each city just 24 hours in advance, the AP reports.
Eastwood's Mystic River Opens NYFF
Actor/director Clint Eastwood's psychological drama Mystic River, which was shown in competition at this year's Cannes Film Festival, will open the 41st New York Film Festival on Oct. 3, Reuters reports. Eastwood also served as a producer on the project, which is based on Dennis Lehane's best-selling novel and adapted by L.A. Confidential's Brian Helgeland, and composed the film's score. Mystic River, scheduled for release Oct. 10, stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden and Laura Linney. The NYFF runs Oct. 2 through Oct. 19.
Man Pleads Guilty to Bootlegging Hulk
A New Jersey man pleaded guilty Wednesday to bootlegging a copy of The Hulk and then making it available in a chat room used to post and trade unauthorized movie copies, the AP reports. Kerry Gonzalez, 24, pleaded guilty to a single count of copyright infringement and could faces six months to a year in prison when he is sentenced Sept. 26. According to court documents, Gonzalez obtained the tape from a friend of an employee at a Manhattan advertising agency that had been given an advance copy of the film.
Commission Investigates Russell Simmons
Hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons, who is part of a coalition that has been working to convince New York's state legislature to relax the so-called Rockefeller drug laws, is now under investigation for his aggressive lobbying efforts. According to Reuters, the state's lobbying commission is looking into whether Simmons spent more than $2,000 to influence state officials and to see if he gave an illegal gift of a free helicopter ride to Secretary of State Randy Daniels last week. Anyone spending over $2,000 to lobby the state government must register with the commission and make periodic financial disclosures and state officials are not allowed to accept gifts worth more than $75.
Timberlake Joins Rolling Stones' Toronto Concert
Justin Timberlake will join the Rolling Stones in a benefit concert for the city of Toronto on July 30, Launch.com reports. Hosts by actors Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi, the eight-hour Molson Canadian Rocks For Toronto concert is being staged to put a positive spotlight on Toronto, which was hard-hit earlier this year by the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic. Others acts on the bill include the Isley Brothers, AC/DC, the Flaming Lips, and the Mexican group La Chicane. Three hundred thousand tickets will go on sale Friday across North America.
UPN Orders Another Round of Top Model
UPN has ordered a second installment of the Tyra Banks-hosted modeling competition series America's Next Top Model, Reuters reports. The hour-long series, which revolves around the elimination-style competition among 12 women to survive a modeling "boot camp," has been a godsend to the network since it premiered May 20. UPN has ordered 10 episodes of the next installment of Top Model and will be a midseason entry during the upcoming 2003-04 season. There is no word yet from the network on a premiere date.
Buddy Ebson Hospitalized
Buddy Ebsen, who portrayed Jed Clampett on the 1960s TV series The Beverly Hillbillies, was admitted into Torrance Memorial Medical Center in Calif. for an undisclosed illness, the AP reports. A hospital spokeswoman said Thursday that the 95-year-old actor's "condition is good." Ebsen, who lives in nearby Palos Verdes Estates, began his TV nine-year career as Clampett in 1962 and later took the title role in the CBS detective drama Barnaby Jones, which ran from 1973 until 1980. He has also written two books, including an autobiography, The Other Side of Oz and Kelly's Quest.
Role Call: Miramax Acquires Pippen, Linney Joins Punisher Cast
On the heels of the acquisition of the film rights to Damn Yankees, Miramax Films announced today that it has acquired the rights to the hit Broadway musical Pippin for development into a feature film. Originally directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, the tuner debuted on Broadway in 1972 and ran for five years ... Laura Harring has joined the cast of the comic-book actioner The Punisher, starring Thomas Jane and John Travolta. The Artisan Entertainment/Marvel Studios project revolves around a vigilante hero who dispenses harsh justice to criminals after his wife and children are slain by the mob. Writer/director Jonathan Hensleigh will start shooting the film next month in Florida and is scheduled for release next summer.
Supervised his first cartoon with Daffy Duck, "Porky and Daffy"
Supervised his first cartoon with Porky Pig (possibly begun by Iwerks), "Porky's Bad Time Story"
"Beany and Cecil" returned to ABC's Saturday morning lineup for the first two months of the season
Supervised his breakthrough short, "Porky in Wackyland"
Created, wrote and directed "Time for Beany", a 15-minute daily live TV puppet show, for KTTV in Los Angeles; provided the voice of Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent; series subsequently syndicated nationally
Animated secondary characters in "Lady Play Your Mandolin", the first "Merrie Melodies" cartoon
"Time for Beany" expanded to half hour
Honored at New York's Museum of Cartoon Art
Donated some of his work to become part of the permanent collection at the Cinemateque Francaise
Left Warners at the peak of his powers; joined the ill-fated Screen Gems group, the cartoon division of Columbia Pictures; as "creative consultant", worked primarily in the story department
Appeared on college lecture circuit and at animation conventions
Designed and marketed the first Mickey Mouse doll for Walt Disney
Having moved from ABC's Sunday afternoon lineup (where it had debuted in October 1959) to primetime in 1960, the children's series "Matty's Funday Funnies" dropped its original cartoon stars and was retitled "Matty's Funday Funnies with Beany and Cecil";
Aided by the contribution of the studio's new star voice actor Mel Blanc, redesigned and revitalized the character of Porky Pig
Introduced the little bird who would soon become known as Tweety in "A Tale of Two Kitties"
Directed the animated prologue of Arch Oboler's "Bwana Devil", the first 3-D feature; prologue introduced the process using his TV characters Beany and Cecil; sequence subsequently cut in Great Britain and "flat" re-release prints in the US
Joined the Harman-Ising Studio at Warner Bros. as an animator and later a gagman
"The Beany and Cecil Show" aired on ABC daytime
Directed the first color "Looney Tunes" entry, "The Hep Cat"
Suffered heart attack in Detroit while on media tour promoting the video release of "Beany and Cecil"; died the next day (May 2nd)
Featured prominently in "Bugs Bunny Superstar", a modestly produced compilation film; Clampett-directed cartoons comprised four of the nine shorts included in the feature; also featured as a narrator and interview subject; provided his home movies of Warn
While a student, sold cartoons to LOS ANGELES TIMES
Produced other children's TV shows including "Thunderbolt and Wondercolt", "Top o' the Morning" and "Wm. Shakespeare Wolf"
Wrote and served as a puppeteer on "The Buffalo Billy Show
Promoted to director to replace the departing Ub Iwerks
First direction for producer Schlesinger, helmed animated sequence of RKO's Joe E. Brown comedy vehicle, "When's Your Birthday?"
Worked as a producer at Republic Studios
Signed a contract to draw cartoons for King Features
Retained by producer Leon Schlesinger after the departure of Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising
While a student, produced, scripted, acted in and edited "The Golf Widow", a live-action comedy short
Produced TV commercials for such clients as Ford, Maybelline and Underwood Food Products
A new version of "Beany & Cecil" returned to ABC's Saturday morning lineup for the first two months of the season; co-produced by Bob Clampett Productions; directed by John Kricfalusi (who would later create "Ren & Stimpy")
Under the auspices of his own Bob Clampett Productions, produced and directed "The Beany and Cecil Show", a syndicated cartoon series derived from the hit puppet show
Animated (with Charles aka "Chuck" Jones) "Gold Diggers of '49" under the supervision of Fred "Tex" Avery formerly of the Walter Lantz studio; this landmark cartoon short marked Avery's debut for the studio
Worked in the Warner Brothers animation department
One of the most prominent figures in the golden era of Warner Bros. animation, Bob Clampett made innumerable contributions to the landscape of the American cartoon. Raised in Hollywood, Clampett's love of art and film soon led him to WB, where he began as an in-betweener on the studio's "Merrie Melodies" series under producer Leon Schlesinger in 1931. During his tenure, he quickly rose in the ranks, due in part to such creations as Porky Pig and key contributions to iconic characters like Daffy Duck. Later claims as to his role in creating the star character of Bugs Bunny were vociferously refuted by former co-workers like Chuck Jones and voice actor Mel Blanc, who viewed Clampett as an egotist and shameless self-promoter. Regardless, the significance of such Clampett masterpieces as the shorts "Porky in Wackyland" (1938), "The Hep Cat" (1942) and "A Tale of Two Kitties" (1942) - the latter of which introduced the character of Tweety Bird - were undeniable. After leaving Warner Bros. in 1946, Clampett went on to create his own signature property with the massively popular televised puppet show "Time for Beany" (PTN, 1950-55), which was later turned into a cartoon series "Beany and Cecil" (ABC, 1962). The foremost purveyor of the surreal and hyper-kinetic style with which Warner Bros. animation became so closely identified, Clampett's contributions - while possibly exaggerated to a degree by the man himself - would remain timeless.
Born Robert Emerson Clampett on May 13, 1913 in San Diego, CA to Joan and Robert Clampett, Bob and his family soon moved north to Hollywood, where at a very early age he exhibited impressive artistic ability. Not surprisingly, the young boy was also fascinated by the growing medium of film and made short movies of his own as a preteen. Puppetry was also an early hobby for Clampett who, as an adolescent, designed a crude dinosaur-like sock puppet - an early prototype of one of his greatest creations, the Sea-Sick Sea Serpent, Cecil. It was, however, illustration that he devoted the majority of his time to, and by high school, Clampett had not only managed to sell a cartoon to The Los Angeles Times, but was offered a part-time job as a cartoonist for newspaper syndicate King Features. Having furthered his art studies at the Otis Art Institute, a restless Clampett dropped out of Glendale's Hoover High School just shy of graduation. Shortly after taking on a job at his aunt's doll-making company, he suggested she sell likenesses of Disney's popular Mickey Mouse cartoon character. Nothing if not ambitious, not only did the teenage Clampett design the doll, but personally secured Walt Disney's permission to license the character and helped facilitate the business deal to sell the toys between his aunt and Disney.
Despite this early success in the toy business, it was the medium of the doll's inspiration - animation - that truly captured the imagination of the 17-year-old. After submitting one of his shorts to animation producer Leon Schlesinger, he was hired on as an assistant animator with Harman-Ising Studios in 1931. Clampett's first contribution came on the inaugural "Merrie Melodies" cartoon for Warner Bros., "Lady, Play Your Mandolin!" (1931). Working under the guidance of Friz Freleng, Clampett began animating more regularly and remained with Warner after Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising departed over budget disputes with the notoriously penny-pinching Schlesinger. The first of Clampett's lasting contributions came with the character Porky Pig, who made his debut in the short "I Haven't Got a Hat" (1935). Encouraged by his success, the young animator began offering story ideas as well and was eventually teamed with Tex Avery, with whom he collaborated in a ramshackle building on the WB lot, affectionately referred to as "termite terrace." This team, soon joined by Chuck Jones, Virgil Ross and others, quickly developed a unique, free-wheeling style which quickly evolved into the signature look for Warner Bros. animation.
Promoted to director by Schlesinger in 1936, Clampett debuted with an animated sequence in the Joe E. Brown comedy "When's Your Birthday" (1937) and the Porky Pig short "Porky's Badtime Story" (1937). Excelling in his new role and taking full advantage of the creative freedom offered by Warner Bros., Clampett collaborated with Avery on "Porky's Duck Hunt" (1937), which featured the frenetic waterfowl Daffy Duck for the first time. Influenced by surrealist painters such as Salvador Dali, Clampett experimented with an increasingly bizarre, violent, dream-like aesthetic, epitomized by the hugely influential cartoon "Porky in Wackyland" (1938). Universally recognized as one of the greatest of all time and later deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress, it follows Porky Pig as he tracks a Do-Do Bird across an ever-shifting, surrealistic landscape. Clampett continued to push the creative envelope - infusing pop-culture and literary references into the proceedings - with such memorable shorts as "The Hep Cat" (1942), until he ultimately departed Warner Bros. after his un-credited directorial work on "The Big Snooze" (1946). Whether pushed out due to what some perceived as an overabundance of ego, or having left out of a desire for more creative freedom, nearly all agreed that Clampett had been at the height of his artistic powers as an animator during those final years with Warner Bros.
Over the next few years, Clampett briefly tried his hand at writing cartoons for Columbia Pictures, before attempting to launch a series of theatrical shorts through Republic Pictures. Of the latter endeavor, only the cartoon "It's a Grand Old Nag" (1947) was completed before the animator decided to turn his full attention to a long-gestating passion project - a puppet show. In 1949, Clampett created "Time for Beany," a 15-minute daily live puppet show for KTTV in Los Angeles. Played by legendary voice actor Daws Butler, Beany was a cheerful lad who flew with the help of his propeller-driven beanie. His devoted friend was Cecil the Sea-Sick Sea Serpent - voiced by the great Stan Freberg - the design of which had been inspired by the image of a dinosaur in the closing moments of the film "The Lost World" (1925), which Clampett had seen as a child. "Time for Beany" (PTN, 1950-55) quickly gained a following and graduated to daily syndication as part of the short-lived Paramount Television Network in an extended half-hour format. During its influential run, the show counted such luminaries as Groucho Marx, Albert Einstein and Lionel Barrymore among its fans and won three Emmy Awards for Outstanding Children's Show. Additionally, its success allowed the ambitious Clampett to launch several other similar programs, among them "Thunderbolt the Wondercolt" (KTTV, 1954) and "Buffalo Billy" (KTTV, 1954).
By 1961, "Time for Beany" had been transformed from a live-action puppet show into a cartoon series, re-titled "Beany and Cecil" (ABC, 1962) and produced and directed by Clampett through his own Bob Clampett Productions. As with the original incarnation, the cartoon followed the adventures of Beany and Cecil aboard their vessel the Leakin' Lena under the stewardship of the kindly Captain Horatio K. Huffenpuff. Looking to spoil their fun at every turn was the villainous Dishonest John - another returning character from the original series. Although only a single season of "Beany and Cecil" was produced, the cartoon resided in syndication on the network's daytime children's lineup from spring 1962 through fall 1966. Aired in 40 countries and heavily merchandised, "Beany and Cecil" made Clampett a wealthy man and the show's end theme song, with its refrain of " A Bob Clampett Cartoooooon!" ensured him lasting name recognition. As a songwriter who also owned his own music publishing company, Clampett was far more successful on a financial level than almost any of his coworkers from the early "termite terrace" days - a fact that may have explained some of the lingering animosity directed at Clampett by his former colleagues in later years.
Shortly after production wrapped for the series, health problems forced Clampett into semi-retirement. For most of his remaining years he would tour the country, visiting college campuses and delivering talks about his historic career in animation. He appeared in the Warner Bros. animation documentary "Bugs Bunny: Superstar" (1975), although his prominence in the film - in addition to his oft-repeated claims regarding the creation of the carrot-chomping rabbit - angered many of his former animation colleagues. Primary among them was Chuck Jones, who in retaliation, intentionally left out Clampett when Bugs rattled off the names of his "several fathers" in the animated compilation feature "The Bug Bunny/Road Runner Movie" (1979). After years of failing health, Clampett died of a heart attack in Detroit, MI on May 2, 1984. While he did have his detractors, Clampett nonetheless remained one of the more beloved and respected figures in cartoon animation. Among the future creators greatly influenced by Clampett was John Kricfalusi, who produced and directed the short-lived revival "The New Adventures of Beany and Cecil" (ABC, 1988) before going on to create his own bit of animated madness, "The Ren & Stimpy Show" (Nickelodeon, 1991-96).
By Bryce Coleman
Otis Art School
A songwriter, Clampett had his own musical publishing company.
"Time for Beaney" won three Emmy Awards as Outstanding Children's Show in 1949, 1950 and 1952.