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Leon Schlesinger’s Obituary


Leon Schlesinger died on Christmas Day, 1949. He sold his studio to Warner Bros. in 1944 and spent his last years in an executive job at the studio, the first one dedicated to merchandising the cartoon characters. While he wasn’t technically “Bugs Bunny’s Creator” (as his obituaries claimed) he was a significant figure in the creation of a dozen pop culture icons that will literally live forever.

His obituaries from the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Examiner are fitting tributes. Click on either to enlarge.

  • As the producer of the films Leon is their creator.

    Without him the films would not exist.

    Which is not to take credit away from his artists. Their works, however, were created for hire which makes them the property of the man who hired them. Ditto their ideas.

    So it is correct to say Leon created Bugs Bunny because without him Bugs Bunny would not exist.

  • Tom Pope

    re Reg Hartt: Not sure I buy that theory entirely. You could argue (after a corporate fashion) that the producer “created” a character while the actual creator worked for him/her. However, to say that Bugs Bunny would not exist without him is iffy. Chuck Jones (or Clampett or Avery or whoever) could just have easily (or with the same amount of difficulty) created Bugs while working for the next producer or any other producer anywhere. There’s only one person who is indispensible in the creation of anything: the person who thought of it.
    ‘Course I may be biased.

  • Willy

    My eye was caught by the partial headline “Boy, 6, Slashed to death while awaiting Santa.” A grim reminder, in the midst ofl our animated debate about the role of a producer at a cartoon studio, that these matters are really trivial. Not to say it isn’t interesting and fun to discuss such topics–but that headline gave me a jolt of perspective.

  • Reader

    Always had an affection for Schlesinger for his appearance in “You Oughta Be In Pictures”-he seemed like a pretty good guy to do that bit. His way of suffering Daffy’s endless pitch: “all right, all right!” over & over-priceless.
    And didn’t Chuck Jones say that Leon always just wanted to be at the racetrack? The obits bear that one out..but he still rode herd over the best shorts unit in cartoons. RIP Leon.

  • Many Termite Terrace vets who disparaged Leon’s leadership, all admit what Leon was best at was keeping the meddling suits from the main lot from annoying the artists with their “creative” opinions. We could use a lot more Leon Schlesingers today.
    Leon also was a champion of his animation unit and once complained to the Academy that Disney won the short film Oscar too many times.

  • He must have been doing something right. Compared to also-ran studios like Van Beuren and Iwerks where someone was not doing something right.

    Too bad there isn’t anyone to tell the whole tale from his side. There had to be more to it than signing checks in between trips on his yacht.

  • Who inherited the toupé? :-)

  • Hamish Stuart

    Leon, at the very least, provided the atmosphere for the Looney Tunes to come into existence. But he was as much their creator as Pat Sullivan created Felix the Cat.

  • >>>Who inherited the toupé? :-)

    That was a very long wrap around comb-over, not a rug.

    Though in no way creatively on par with Disney or Fleischer, without question Leon Schlesinger’s importance in animation history is equal to that of Walt & Max.

    Schlesinger also made one of the greatest quotes in Hollywood history: When asked if he was going to follow Disney & Fleischer and make an animated feature, ol’ Leon responded, “I need a feature film like I need two [email protected]@holes”.

    • Paul G. Christoforos

      Wow, no wonder Mr.Schlesinger didn’t wanna make a cartoon feature in the first place (now that I can’t find any of his plans for cartoon animation features anywhere at all).As far as I’m concerned, if he did make it, he would have either Robert “Bob” Clampett or Frank Tashlin to direct them in their styles with a good, solid craft of Disney Animation.

  • Jon Reeves

    I was actually most intrigued by the mention of something you don’t often hear about in connection with Schlesinger: “found[ed] the Pacific Title and Art Studio”. Assuming this is the same PacTitle still in business (and our records suggest that it is), that’s pretty significant — look them up on IMDb and you’ll see hundreds of movies they have worked on (mostly, as I understand it, doing the kind of boring but necessary optical work that doesn’t get written up in the special effects magazines — dissolves, titles, subtitles, etc.).

  • Paul N

    I can’t believe what I’m reading here – come on people! Schlesinger was a producer – a “suit” – and therefore should engender nothing other than scorn and derision from artist types. What’s with the love-fest?

    If you can’t bring yourself to hate him because he never drew a single frame of Bugs or Daffy, then turn in your cartoonist pencil… :0)

  • >>>Schlesinger was a producer – a “suit” – and therefore should engender nothing other than scorn and derision from artist types. What’s with the love-fest?

    Bob Clampett always spoke very well of Leon, Bill Melendez thinks highly of him, most of the animators had good things to say about him.

    >>>If you can’t bring yourself to hate him because he never drew a single frame of Bugs or Daffy, then turn in your cartoonist pencil

    Far as never holding a pencil, neither did Walt Disney or Max & Dave Fleischer. Leon hired a ‘green’ Tex Avery, a young cel washer named Chuck Jones & a high school graduate named Bob Clampett.

    Schlesinger created an animation studio like no other before or since and his place in film history is secured.

  • Tom Pope

    Not sure about the Fleischers, but I’m pretty darn sure Walt held a pencil at some point. Plus he was a major creative force at his studio. Any arguments?

  • I have to agree with Larry. The industry today; both feature and TV still rely on the principals WB did in their shorts. Yes Disney was a big influence too but the WB studio’s manic timing and quick cuts are still used today in both features and TV. The acting was better than any studio as well. Arguable better than some modern feature stuff in my opinion. I’ve seen classic ‘takes’ started by Clampett and Avery at WB in almost all cartoony TV shows over the years. It’s a standard that might not have been allowed had WB not existed because of the suits wanting to copy each other. Of course we’ll never truly know if Leon had never existed would cartoons have gotten as cool as they did, but one things for certain, he may have been a suit but he was the best kind of suit; the kind that sits back and let the artists do what they do best. We could DEFINITELY use more of that type of fella.

  • I agree Mike. Leon was a suit, but a good suit… with a really bad hair piece :^)

  • Paul N

    Um… Larry? Mike? Kidding…

    The arrangement of characters thus – :0) – indicates an attempt at humor in internet parlance.

  • Not to be morbid Jerry but a few years ago I emailed you about William Hanna’s obituary…it was actually very touching and was written from the stand point of some of his beloved cartoon characters.

    If you ever come across that I would love a copy.

  • “[Schlesinger] also pioneered in using humans along with cartoon characters in his films.”

    If the obit writer is thinking “You Ought To Be In Pictures”, sorry… Disney’s “Alice” comedies were doing that fifteen years before that picture was released; Max Fleischer was making KoKo cartoons in which Max and KoKo interacted for at least fifteen years, perhaps twenty.

  • J. J. Hunsecker

    Interesting tidbit. Thanks for sharing this, Jerry.

  • Russell H

    It should probably also be noted also that whatever Schlesinger’s other shortcomings as a boss, his studio was arguably free of much of the kind of bitter labor-management conflicts that scarred studios such as Terry and Fleischer and Disney. If I remember correctly, Schesinger had a six-day “lockout” when the animators refused to accept his latest offer, after which time he reopened the studio and recognized the animators’ union.