Phil Monroe Phil Monroe

A Must-Read Interview With Forgotten Animation Legend Phil Monroe

Golden Age animator Phil Monroe (1916-1988) is rarely discussed, even amongst animation cognoscenti, which is unfortunate because he had an amazing career. Over the course of his career, he animated for an honor roll of legendary directors including Bob Clampett, John Hubley, Chuck Jones, Pete Burness, Friz Freleng, and Frank Tashlin. Animation historian Michael Barrier has posted a never-before-published 1976 interview with Phil Monroe that he and Milton Gray conducted.

The interview delves into details that may appeal to only a small portion of our twenty thousand-plus daily readers, but if you appreciate classic Warner Bros. shorts and animation history in general, the interview is guaranteed to blow your mind. There’s even a great story about how Monroe got Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng to square dance with one another, even though “they were barely on speaking terms.” Barrier conducted a follow-up interview with Monroe in 1987, which he promises to publish online soon.

  • The Gee

    This is absolutely fantastic for at least two reasons:

    One, the interviews exist and both Mr Barrier and Mr. Gray suss out a good story with their questions. ( I know, “suss”…who says that?!? but it is the only verb I can think of)

    Two, that Mr. Barrier is sharing these interviews with us.

    I have yet to read it. It is tantalizingly lengthy (which sounds wrong, I know) and is probably chock full of goodness.

    So, thanks for letting us know!

  • Michael Rianda

    This is awesome!

  • Glen

    Great stuff! Wish it were longer!

  • Isaac

    Great stuff. Much more important than John K’s latest “experiment”, but apparently not as attention-grabbing.

  • The Gee

    Finally read it yesterday.

    It is a really good read. I gotta admit, the information on the WWII unit(s) that produced animation are great to read about. Actually, I went back and read an essay Barrier wrote on UPA from 1944-52 and in conjunction with this Monroe interview it makes me even more curious how much was made during that period and to see more of it.

    I look forward to the follow up interview with Monroe.
    Though, I am curious about something. The article starts out with this:
    “Chuck Jones once told me that Phil Monroe was unusual among animators because he had a sense of humor.”

    I thought a lot of the early guys were jokers and the ones who were not or were lesser jokers were the victims of pranks, constant pranks. Aren’t there tons of stories about the pranking that went on. For years I thought giving the hot foot was just a cartoon/comedy gag that couldn’t work in real life* . There are stories of pranks like that about animators.

    *(and believe me, when I was a kid I dood it, too. It was done purely in the interest of Comedy Science, of course. It should go without saying there was not malicious intent or mirth-making intent. After all, what’s a little shoe arson amongst friends and family? Science!)

  • paolo

    Great interview, with lots of insights of how things were working in WB, about different directors, about his meeting Frank Thomas and John Hubley in the war unit, etc. A real great source of information. I wish I could do such an interview, unfortunately there are not so many people remaining from those years..