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Mike Barrier interviews Robert McKimson

Whenever I want to remind myself why I love cartoons, I simply have to watch a classic Warner Bros. cartoon. Whenever I want to remind myself why I love animation history I pull out my set of Funnyworld magazines, edited by Michael Barrier. Mike’s website is a fount of knowledge and he has just post a must-read interview with Looney Tunes animator/director Robert McKimson (1910-1977). The interview, recorded in 1971, is one of the few McKimson ever did, and the conversation yields much information from the man and allows us to get to know a bit of his personality. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about the guy who designed Bugs Bunny, created Foghorn Leghorn and the Tasmanian Devil, go here now!

  • Matthew Koh

    “Romer Grey, Zane Grey’s son, decided that he was going to start a cartoon studio, and he offered us eighty bucks a week.”

    There’s another studio back then? I never knew that.

  • Autumn

    This was a GREAT GREAT read. Very much enjoyed this. Very informative.

  • I’m glad to hear more about McKimson.
    From the main three WB directors, Jones got most of the lights. I believe that mainly because of his diversity on stories and characters, as well his strong design.
    Freleng got most of the awards at his time. But I think there is a lack on the study on his timing variations. Timing is not as evident as story and design, but is this art’s core.
    McKimson was the pumping machine and his films, clock bombs. They deserve more study.

  • This is probably the most fascinating, in-depth interview I’ve read on the Golden Age. McKimson seems more detached than Clampett or Jones do– there really doesn’t seem to be any desire to take credit for things he didn’t do or trash anybody else.

    • HR

      He wasn’t as desperate for recognition and plaudits as some other talented directors were, that’s for certain. I’m sure he wasn’t exaggerating about the knife scars. Love the line “”well, somebody told me you didn’t want to [direct]”. Hmm… Nothing changes!

  • Scott B.

    McKimson has always gotten the short shrift, I’ve felt. He did some great work, esp. in the ’40s. “A Lad in His Lamp” is hands-down one of the funniest Warner cartoons ever.

  • Based on his car crash story perhaps we can correlate the decline of animation in the 60’s with the introduction of the seatbelt.

  • That interview gives us a history of the studio that we don’t hear elsewhere. Considering the amount of important work Bob McKimson did (designing Bugs Bunny!) it is odd how little we hear about him. It is very interesting to hear how he rated his own unit’s animation staff!

  • Very valuable information. If only this interview showed up when the first animation history books came during the 1980’s. McKimson probably would’ve had higher recognition than the “forgotten” director of Termite Terrace.

  • Joe M.

    I always felt Clampett overblew his own horn. I totally believe McKimson’s accounts of things.
    Great read. Thanks for posting it.

  • Tom Minton

    Ben Washam told me that Bob McKimson was able to draw the characters without using construction lines after his accident. He was already a good draftsman prior to that but it somehow sent his ability into another league.

  • Wow, that’s the first time I ever heard about Sylvester’s voice being the slow version of Daffy’s voice and vice versa!

  • parkyakarkus

    Very interesting interview. It has lots of tidbits that are unrecorded elsewhere. (Say, don’t you think Robert McKimson looked a lot like the comedian Charley Chase?)

    • Yeah. Every time I see McKimson’s picture, I have to check the caption to see who it is.

  • dr. giraud

    Jack Warner liked cartoons? Interesting. That’s the first time I’d ever heard anyone involved say one of the actual Warner brothers liked cartoons. Usually you get a “Harry Warner thought we made Mickey Mouse cartoons” story.

  • Grayson Ponti

    Finally we can hear the voice of all the great warner brothers directors online

  • DB

    That was a GREAT read – thanks for the link.

    My feeling is McKimson was a great animator, but a second tier (along with Freeling) comic director compared to Clampett, Jones and Avery.

    McKimson seems to say as much when he keeps on making note of the fact that as a director he got stuck with crew members (drunks & queers!) that nobody else wanted.

    When McKimson said Clampett & Avery animated too big and Jones too small, I was like, ‘yeah, that’s what helps make their best cartoons so hysterically funny”.

    All in all, it made me feel kind of sad that McKimson didn’t stay with Disney – that is probably where his talents and his desire for ‘realism’ would have been best served.

    Not saying that he and Freeling didn’t make some great shorts at WB though.

  • Great interview.

    McKimson was a very talented, prolific animator (50 ft. a week !) , his animation always had very solid drawing and he could do the subtle acting scenes that not every animator could handle. I have the greatest respect for his animation . If he had stayed at Disney I have no doubt he would have been one of the “stars” along with Fred Moore , Bill Tytla, etc.

    That said, it’s somewhat dismaying to me to read McKimson’s thoughts about how he believed it was necessary to tone down a “wild” animator like Rod Scribner, and that in his view Scribner didn’t develop into a good animator until he had “calmed down”. Scribner continued to do good work even later on under McKimson’s “calmer” direction, but it’s kind of sad that Scribner’s unique talent for wild animation which had flowered under Avery’s and Clampett’s direction was viewed as something that needed to be stamped out. The later Warner studio cartoons became duller because of it.

  • Christopher Cook

    My favorite McKimson short was “Early To Bet.” The “penalty wheel” was a great conceit.