Although he died 34 years ago, Tex Avery’s impact on the animation art form remains a continuous presence. Without exaggeration, almost all animation today that emphasizes comedy and caricature bears his influence, either directly or indirectly. Doesn’t matter whether it’s Adventure Time or Despicable Me or SpongeBob, Avery’s surreal, slapstick visual approach makes its presence known, an irrepressible and incalculable force, a counterweight to the prevailing ‘illusion of life’ and script-driven orthodoxies that limit Hollywood animation.
In his own time, Avery inspired and motivated directors like Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera, and even the animation masters at Disney. Disney Nine Old Man Ward Kimball once wrote in his journal that a screening of Avery’s Red Hot Riding Hood “brought the house down” at Disney. The typically jaded animators spent the whole afternoon “moaning the fact that [they hadn’t] made a cartoon like that in years!”
For all his notoriety within the animation community, Avery hasn’t received the accolades owed him as one of America’s finest animation directors. Hearing news about any recognition or honor that he receives is delightful, which is why I’m happy to report that Avery’s hometown of Taylor, Texas (population 15,191) has declared February 22, 2014, to be Tex Avery Day.