The Hard Lessons of Kwicky Koala The Hard Lessons of Kwicky Koala

The Hard Lessons of Kwicky Koala

There are certain details of animation history that have always bothered me. For example, how did Tex Avery, arguably the greatest animation director of all-time, end his illustrious career? The answer is that he created a character called Kwicky Koala, who appeared in a 1981 Hanna-Barbera TV series of the crudest variety. Recently a bunch of Kwicky Koala shorts have found their way online and as expected, they are dreadful, though perhaps no more so than any other piece of Hanna-Barbera flotsam pulled from their vast sea of mediocrity. What makes these particular cartoons so painful to watch is the knowledge of who was making them. In what other art form could the creator of genius such as this, this, and this also have his name attached as the creator of these? Only in animation.

What’s troublesome is how the animation world has never bothered to make a distinction between its true auteurs and its workaday hacks, forcing each and every one to work on product of the most degrading sort. In live-action, by contrast, a Robert Altman or Eric Rohmer or Woody Allen can continue expressing themselves artistically right until the very end because there are enough people on the business end who recognize the value (financial though it may be) of supporting these artists.

While I was researching the life of writer and board artist John Dunn, I was granted access to his diaries and gained a good understanding of his feelings about working on the cheap animation of the Seventies and Eighties. Dunn, in fact, worked briefly with Avery at Hanna-Barbera on the “Dino and the Cavemouse” shorts, and he notes in his diary having conversations with Avery about the pitiful state of their industry. The studio veterans of that era certainly weren’t naive; they were aware of the hopelessly Sisyphean task of creating anything of quality or value. And yet artists like Avery and Dunn continued working up until the very end because they loved the art form so dearly. Avery, who passed away while working on Kwicky, was well past the age of retirement at the time—72-years-old.

It makes one wonder: If the animation world can so casually discard one of its most distinguished practitioners and relegate him to working in the trash heap of television, what hope is there for everybody else? It’s a blight on the collective art form and industry that it has never been able to provide decent creative outlets to its artists who truly deserve them. It happened then, and I see it happening with alarming frequency today. Granted, an artist always has the option of charting their own course as an independent, but the fact of the matter is that an industry which consistently fails to recognize the value of the people working within it is an unhealthy industry that cannot be expected to advance or prosper.

There is nothing more depressing than watching the credits of oldschool Hanna-Barbera, DePatie-Freleng and Filmation shows and seeing the names of Golden Age artists scroll by, one after the other, a rollcall of beat down artists who had no option but to submit to the thankless art they had chosen as their life’s calling. Is it any wonder that so many of them, Dunn and Avery included, drowned their sorrows in drink? (Occasionally, a sympathetic younger artist like Richard Williams would throw them a lifeline, such as when he recruited animators like Ken Harris, Grim Natwick and Art Babbitt to work on his feature The Thief and the Cobbler, and boy, did they shine when given the chance, but such opportunities were few and far between.)

So has animation learned from its past? Is our industry diverse enough today to support and utilize the wide range of talents working within it? Twenty years from now, will we be looking at the credits of Bee Movie, Open Season, and Chicken Little with a similarly sad lament? And more importantly, does anybody even know who Tex Avery is in 2008? Questions worth considering as we move forward.

  • What makes this even sadder is that poor Tex was suffering from advanced lung cancer & collapsed on the job, which means the King of MGM Animation & the genius who put the ‘looney’ in Looney Tunes spent his final non-hospitalized day on earth working on this H-B junk.

  • Chuck R.

    For some strange reason, animation comes and goes in and out of fashion in a way live-action doesn’t. (Illustration kind of does the same thing in a way photography doesn’t.) I wish I knew why, but I believe that’s because animation wears “style” on its sleeve in a way that live-action doesn’t. When the current “look” of animation suddenly goes out of vogue, it throws a big wrench in the industry.
    It’s not fair, but technology has similar problems. Betamax anyone?

    I think it’s important to remind ourselves that the existence of animated features at all is a small miracle. Think about it, 90-plus minutes of film drawn by hand one frame at a time. Hundreds of artists with unique perspectives working on one piece of art as if it were made by one person. Personally, I’m grateful to enjoy what we have.

    Does anyone know who Tex Avery is?
    Outside of France, probably not many, but I’m not sure that bothers me, since a lot of people probably don’t know who the director of “Titanic” is either.

  • OM

    …Amid, ISTR some comments made shortly after Tex passed away by others in the industry – Friz Freling being the only one I can name off the top of my head – was that the only reason he took the Kwicky Koala job was for the medical bennies. Apparently he was needing some treatment that he simply couldn’t afford well at the time, and Bill and Joe reportedly hired him so he could get the insurance *and* make sure that his condition was covered. Tex reportedly didn’t want a handout, which was why he went back to work.

    Kwicky Koala was pretty fracking bad, but it wasn’t as ignoble an end to Tex’s career as most would perceive. In a more perfect world, Tex’s final cartoon series would have been five seasons of a show dealing with the History of the World, with a different aspect of history retold in the Tex Avery style of satire and absurdity.

  • Very insightful article, we can learn a lot from the lessons of the past. Thanks for posting this, Amid. One question about the video, if the wolf can afford all those expensive bombs and dynamite, why can’t he afford a little bit of food?

  • TStevens

    Well… Not everything can be a glory job. However, you can at least try to do your best at the job you have.

    Every industry has an eb and flow to it and in most industries you will find that very few people have creative staying power. I don’t know the exact reasons why Avery had to stay with HB, but for the people who worked around him it would have been the experience of a lifetime.

    I think many artists are ultimately thier own worst enemies. Very few have the mentality or acumen to survive in the business world and especially in the entertainment industry where there are people willing to sacrifice thier firstborn for a shot at fame. Unfortunately the artists who are the most politically engaged will be the ones given the high powered jobs and budgets. If you look at a company like Disney’s the most talented guys aren’t necesarrilly calling the shots: the ones who made a fuss are. Look at Keane. By all indications he is not the best animator or storyteller there, and has never been, but he is the one who lobbied for his own fame. How many of you have ever heard, “Glen gets what Glen wants!” I’ve heard that from quite a few people who have worked for him.

  • Mr. Semaj

    This reminds me of what had been going on at Disney a few short years ago.

    -Veterans like Andres Deja and Eric Goldberg were reduced to working on those DVD sequels until the current management gave theatrical hand-drawn animation another chance.

    -Old guards Joe Grant and Vance Gerry spent their final years doing uncredited work in the feature film department. Joe was working on an unused concept, “The Abandoned”, and supposedly championed the changes that occurred in the animation department, even if it cost hundreds their jobs. He was given a dedicatee credit on Chicken Little, which came out a few months after he died.

    -The same may occur with Chris Sanders for the upcoming Crood Awakening. Several acclaimed non-Disney artists (Chris Reccardi, Mark O’Hare, Derek Drymon) have been in and out of Dreamworks too.

    It always bothered me when people with such seasoned knowledge of what qualifies as good art have to settle for less in order to survive.

  • Does anyone know who Tex Avery is?

    The debasement of the Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, and Tex Avery brands by Cartoon Network—yes, I said “brands,” because this makes no more sense from an economic perspective than any other perspective—may have done more long-term damage to Warners in the past ten years than can ever be made up by revenue from Scooby-Doo, the brand on which the energies were spent.

    This fall a Kidscreen poll revealed that both boys and girls 8-11 named Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry among their top five favorite cartoon characters. Scooby didn’t even place. And Warners has been capitalizing on this in the mainstream market how?

  • Bill Perkins

    Don’t know whether I should cop up to this or not. I was in the Disney Character Animation Dept. at Cal Arts circa 1977 – 1979. One of my classmates was Mike Gerrard who went onto directing and assistant directing ( Tiny Toon Adventures, Angry Beavers ). I was in the animation lab one morning when he came in obviously in a funk. I didn’t know him that well yet but in the spirit of fostering new friends I asked him what was up and found out he had moved to So-Cal from Chicago thinking that theatrical shorts were still in production and had just discovered they weren’t. Mike was a huge Droopy fan and in the spirit of picking him up we drove down to Hollywood and in the span of one afternoon we drop in on and I introduced him to Bob Clampett, went to Chuck Jones Studios ( He was busy but Phil Monroe talked to us ) as well as Tex Avery who at that time was at Cascade Productions.

    Firstly – you could do that then.. I had already done the rounds and secondly Mike thought he had died and gone to heaven. An aside of this is, as you mentioned you could walk into Hanna Barbera then and the phone list read like a who’s who of Golden Age Animators all of which were glad to give you their was truly amazing. Getting back to Mike meeting Tex, Mike got into a long discussion about Droopy and mentioned he wanted to do a film applying a Droopy like personality to a..of all things.. a Koala Bear. As I recalled years after the fact Tex brightened up at that idea.. and went over it with Mike as well showed us around the studio but I well remember that the visit and the Koala Bear idea seemed like a shot in the arm to him and I’ve since then wondered if the seed for Kwicky Koala was planted then .. Who knows.. I’m not laying claim to anything, and it was years later that it came up in conversation with Mike but it’s a nice thought to think you may have inadvertently contributed to a footnote in animation history.

    Tex of course not long after meeting us went to HB and did Kwicky Koala. As dismal a state as the industry was in those days the old timers were accessible and very generous of their time and as well flattered that a bunch of kids knew their work and wanted to talk to them. It was quite a time. Anyway this may be one part of the answer, maybe not but it did happen.. fall of 1977 as I recall. When Tex passed away a few years later I all but wore a black arm band for three days. Nicest, quietest, most modest guy you could ever hope to meet. Years later I met his daughter, Nancy, at Martha Sigalls place for lunch and found myself in a living room looking at artwork Tex Avery’s grandchildren were drawing… like the Grateful Dead song..What a long strange trip it’s been.

    • Well, actually this series — like C.B. BEARS four years earlier — was a joint-U.S./Australia venture, since I see crops of layout artists, animators and background artists representing both the U.S. and Australian divisions of Hanna-Barbera.

  • More often than not, it seems these stories of industry vets working until their last gasp have more to do with economic reality than anything else; one of the main questions that hasn’t been addressed here is why these great men and women were so badly paid at the heights of their careers, DURING the golden age of animation (of course, some Disney animators WERE very well paid, at least pre-strike..) Sadly, the leading lights at WB and MGM had their most productive and creative years well before the characters they birthed were regarded as little more than disposable entertainment (again, Disney creators aside; Walt seemed to jump on the merchandising bandwagon far earlier than any of his contemporaries)

  • Bill, Thanks for sharing your incredible memories!

    I met Chuck Jones, in of all places, Central Park in 1989. Chuck has been my lifelong hero & was wonderful to meet, I’m still in awe 19 years later!

    I met Bill Melendez several times & he is one of the nicest people you can ever meet! He always has incredible stories to share about the old days, every time I see Bill it’s like spending the afternoon with my favorite uncle!

    Last year I met Eric Goldberg who is a wonderful guy. I spent the afternoon asking him a ton of questions & watching him draw. I also discovered that day, along with being one of today’s greatest animators, Eric also does the best Daffy Duck scream this side of Mel Blanc.

    I never met Tex Avery but his work touched my life & love of animation. If people today don’t know who he is, it’s a sad reflection on where people look for entertainment. I have a letter Hank Ketchem wrote me in 1999 discussing his dismay about modern humor & the forgotten comedians of yesteryear like Jack Benny. When I was a kid in the early 70s, everyone my age knew who The Marx Brothers were, today does anyone under 40 remember them?

    So to answer the question, does anyone in 2008 know who Tex Avery is? Many of us do & our lives are richer from his work–and those who don’t, it’s their loss!

  • Benjamin DS

    TStevens: why the hard time on Keane? I for one do find him the best animator at Disney – in my opinion, the best ever at Disney even. Sure, his technical skill doesn’t match up to that of Kahl, Baxter or Pablos, but as performances, I feel Glen Keane’s performances resonate most.

  • Asymetrical

    The industry has not changed. There are many great artists out there working on crap. Many Emmy Winners who are forced to work at Dic for slave wages. Money is the final say in animation. And WB? They are simply clueless. they always have been since they let Tom Ruegger go. granted he was a nutty guy but he did what he did and got results. That’s what it takes to be wacky and being different doesn’t work well with business people. So they clash. And the artist always loses. As Larry Huber once said “They think of us as fists.”

    Tom Ruegger, winner of umpteen Emmy Awards and arguably the starter of the 2nd golden age of television cartoons most recently was a story editor on Sushi Pack; for Dic. Luckily now he has his own show at Disney; so someone has finally had enough sense to work with him again. Also coincidently Pat Ventura another of animation’s big talents is directing them.

    There’s no shame in that.
    Nothing has changed.
    You work where the money takes you.

    It’s just a cartoon after all and it’s not going to stop the war, cure Aids or cancer or get rid of Global Warming. Most of the world could care less about us. Yes it might raise awareness but no one who has any influence will go see animation and the studios will only push their own agenda. Political correctness ain’t dead. No one can hold out forever unless you’ve got some serious deep pockets. Maybe Genndy, Hillenburg, Craig and Seth could do it but not the general animation population.

    I’ve worked on scads of crap. Ask the majority of WGA writers in a year if they’ll work on crap to keep the lights on once the strike still isn’t settled. Odds are they’ll say yes.

  • I’m not sure it’s a valid point to say such things seldom happen to live-action filmmakers. D.W. Griffith, for one, pretty much got thrown to the dogs by the industry he largely created. More recently, Michael Ritchie went from great acclaim in the seventies to directing crap like Cops And Robbersons. And the only reason Altman continued to work was because he did go the indie route–Studios wouldn’t touch him through the eighties.

    And however badly things turned out for Avery, Clampett and Jones formed their own production companies, and no, the work they did for TV wasn’t always up to their standards, but it was miles ahead of what H-B turned out.

  • ntoond

    Asymetrical, you certainly have hit the nail on the head. You are correct in implying if the WGA strike is still going a year from now, they will take whatever it will take to keep the lights on and their families fed.

    Yes, there is some incredible talent out there these days being paid way less than they deserve because it’s where the business has led them.

    First and foremost, the animation industry is a business. Granted, the majority of us went on to work in this particular medium is because we loved it so much. I still love it very much, but I have to be realistic…I work a job and take freelance jobs that pay less than I made ten years ago. I was there at WB and worked with Tom, and have a lot of fond memories working there. Heck, it got me an Emmy to boot. I was there as well for the “Golden Era” of Disney animation in the early 90’s. I worked long hours and was excited to see the final product.

    Many of us do know who Tex Avery was. I’m sorry that I never had the pleasure of meeting him, but I have met many others, not only the really terrific artists I have worked with during my career in the studios but the ones I very much admired, such as Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones, Marc Davis, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johston…and many others.

    It is sad to think that so many incredible talents are forced to be reduced to do hack work because of the state of the industry, the state of the business and the state the viewing audience is in at the time.

    Been there, done that…am still doing that.

  • Well, at 72, better to be at HB and working beside some lifetime colleagues than being a greeter at WalMart or cleaning the fryer at McDonalds.

    For almost all of us life will be an arc, not an ever-upward spiral.

    We can wish the careers of the golden age animators had ended better, but they did accomplish great things in the time they had and achieved an immortality that no showbiz accountant or lawyer can ever hope for.

  • Michael Grabowski

    It comes down to the conflation of “art form” and “industry.” As long as animation is an industry, it won’t be popularly regarded as an art form. Individual practitioners may truly be wonderfully creative artists, but 99.9% of the animation we encounter is practical (or perhaps virtual, these days) assembly line work in every aspect. The essentially anonymous nature of its production inherently prevents name & talent recognition and celebration. The general audience would have to learn to pay closer attention to what they’re watching to distinguish between good and bad work, and then they have to go further and pay attention to the credits. This isn’t going to happen, and this will always work to the favor of the studios whose animation directors are practically anonymous and thus are always considered interchangeable and replaceable.

    The good news (I think) is that the crop of classic and current animation DVDs that have quality supplements may be a solid curriculum for the general public to learn about past and present animators. Eric Goldberg & Andreas Deja (among others) should have some level of household recognition for the Disney DVD’s they appear in. The commentaries and Behind the Tunes bits on the WB releases are progressively fleshing out the history of the people who made those shorts. Hopefully the next round of Popeye & Woody Woodpecker bonuses will tell us a bit more about their respective animators. Even the commentaries on the Simpsons DVDs are occasionally helpful at pointing out who the more effective and unique directors and animators are when the rigid style of the show itself tends to mask the subtleties. Perhaps the generation of kids watching those DVDs now will grow up developing better knowledge and taste in animation as a result.

  • Mark Gilson

    I consider myself very lucky to own the Compleat Tex Avery laserdisc set that came out in the 90’s. Why this has not been made available in DVD format is mind boggling. Cartoons like “Bad Luck Blackie”, “Ventriloquist Cat”, and “Magical Maestro” still kill me decades after they were created.

  • Reg Hartt

    Take a look at a National Film Board of Canada film titled THE RAILRODDER with Buster Keaton. Then take a look at the film created around its making titled BUSTER KEATON RIDES AGAIN.

    Then take a look at the other films Buster made in his old age. Heck, take a look at most of the films Buster made after 1929.

    If they were all we had we would not think much of him.

    But they are not. There is that marvelous body of work created between 1920 and 1929.

    THE RAILRODDER is proof that Buster could pull off the old magic even in his last years. BUSTER KEATON RIDES AGAIN shows how he quietly took over the direction of the THE RAILRODDER.

    It is the best possible look at how to get your ideas through the fog of other people.

    We see Buster come up with a gag to take the car across a trestle. No one wants him to do it. No one wants to have to live with having allowed this man to kill himself.

    When they finally agree to let him do it they try to get him to do it safer.

    Buster takes all their alternate ideas and melds them with his original idea. They wind up with a gag which is a million times more dangerous than the one he started out with.

    Could Tex Avery have created films in his old age as good or better than those they made in their youth?

    Of course he could have.

    Take a look at the work of Alfred Hitchcock. He was able to keep audiences at the edge of our seats right up to the end.

    The lesson young people should learn from this is to prepare now to have their body of work, no matter how great, dismissed as they get older.

    Then make sure it does not happen.

  • I recently read “Buster Keaton: Interviews”. In his later years, Buster took whatever commercial/industrial film/small feature roles he could get, and he did them with a certain pride. In this book he mentioned that he would visit the retirement home where some of his former colleagues lived. They had given up trying, and were living in the past.

    Hats off to anyone who keeps in the game.

  • Mike Hollingsworth

    Such an interesting topic, such a typical Amid attitude. Why do you hate everything? Would you throw Spongebob, The Simpsons and Southpark into your, “trash heap of television?” And those are just the S’s!

  • Is this what killed him? Wouldn’t surprise me.

  • I just wanted to ad that when Kwicky Koala was on, I was 8 years old. I didn’t know anything about directors or studios and anything like that, but I always felt that Kwicky Koala stood out a little bit from the rest of the Saturday Morning fare at the time. It wasn’t a show about bad guys, it wasn’t based on a toy…it was just cute and funny and that’s all it tried to be! I have very fond memories of watching it every week. I’d say it was probably one of H-B’s highlights from the `80’s!

  • Joseph Nebus

    I haven’t seen the original Kwiky Koala in a couple years, since Boomerang finally arrived on Singapore cable, but it struck me that at least the initial cartoon was pretty good. It wasn’t as perfectly timed as it would have been were it made at MGM in 1946, and it was the “everpresent Droopy” formula, but that’s a really solid formula.

    Wasn’t Crazy Claws a segment on the same show? That one stood out to me for being one of the rare times that Groucho Marx has been ripped off^H^H^H served as inspiration for a cartoon character. I’ve wondered why he wasn’t used more since you can get a good bit of comedy in without requiring much animation.

  • They say money is the root of all evil…but with this as an example, I’d say LACK of money is the root of all evil as far as animation goes. That and every late 70’s/early 80’s wolf character by Hanna-Barbera having to be voiced by Paul Lynde.

  • The animation industry is an industry; if you set out into it as a bit player, that’s what you will be, no matter how great you are at one time or another. I’m sure if Tex had still been a young man in 1980 he might have had the energy and determination to blaze a path of bold, original work just as he had 50 years before that. Obviously those were desperate times, but GOOD films were still made. And good films are being made now. There will always be “the industry” when we need paychecks, but, now more than ever, there is the option of doing your own work and putting it out there in front of everyone. I would have loved to grow up in the “Golden Age” and was a young kid when I watched the “Second Golden Age” come and go, but today we have the age of Plympton, Nick Park, Sylvain Chomet, Pat Smith, Suzi Templeton, Marjane Satrapi, Nina Paley… the list goes on. Independent filmmaking is a real option for anyone with the conviction to see it through. And, god willing, anyone with the proper talent and, yes, mind for the business of it (gotta get it in front of people, gotta get em to commit to you financially!) has a shot. I think… I hope so.

  • Zany

    C’mon!, everybody in 2008 knows who Tex Avery is.He is a legend.

  • I wouldn’t say Kwicky Koala is too too horrible. It still has Tex’s gag and story structure. This show moreso reminds me of Tex’s very early work at either Lantz or Warners when his ideas often lost their punch because his animation crew wasn’t quite up to the task.

  • Maybe I’m missing something, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen a Kwicky short, and after years of hearing it as an infamous disaster, it’s not an abomination; it’s just okay.

    I guess the point here is seeing what Avery was reduced to at the end of his life, but for a Hanna-Barbara cartoon, there’s less of their infamous recycled animation, and still a lot of the creative sight gags Avery was known for.

    I’m prepared to get a lot of hate thrown at me for this.

  • Alfons Moline

    Yeah, people still knows who is Tex Avery! He is a cowboy who is the star of DIC´s THE WACKY WORLD OF TEX AVERY… er, I was joking of course!!! That show, which was a huge INSULT to Avery´s talent, luckily seems to be almost forgotten nowadays, even more than the original Avery toons!

    Anyway, I think that some of the gags in THE KWICKY KOALA are quite funny. From that show, I liked particularly the Bungle Brothers, who looked like new versions of George and Junior- and they have looked really good if made in the old-style full animation.

    I know, Saturday Morning budgets cannot afford full animation, but KWICKY could have fared better even with limited animation IF handled by a creative director like, for instance, John Kricfalusi (unfortunately, way back in ´81, John K. was still in his debuts; in fact he worked for H-B in the 80´s, but still he was able to implant there some of his creativity, such as in the JETSONS revival in ´85).

  • Some Guy

    This is Amid’s best post yet. I have nothing to add.

  • Dave Levy

    I agree with Tim Rauch 100%. I would add that I’ve met a large amount of disenchanted animation artists that are ready to give up their place in this industry. These are often great artists that have worked on some of the most memorable animated films and TV shows of the last 15 years. Many of these artists are now frustrated that the industry doesn’t reward them with the challenges they feel they’ve earned or deserve.

    But, this group has one thing in common: They never do their own personal art/films. They have nothing to show that is there’s. Thusly, they drastically reduce their own chances for growth in this industry because they put themselves at the mercy of the industry.

    Of course Tex Avery deserved better in his own lifetime… but, there’s no rewriting that history now. But, today, there are more options then ever for animation artists to reap the benefits from their own films and creations. Pick up a pencil or a mouse and get started.

  • Nancy B

    Dave Levy is correct. it’s easier now to get independent animation shorts made and screened than ever before. If you can’t stand the heat, take over the kitchen!

  • Bill Perkins

    Larry, nice to here from another fan. Fun thing about the early 70’s was the re-discovery of and study of classic films and film makers. Interest in Animation history was part of that, a small part initially but for a guy like me a gold mine. My interest in animation initially was in it’s history. I did a essay on it in High school – senior year – then a three term independent study in college based on probably no more then 20 pages of written material spread over several publications but it opened the gates. As well several well worn issues of early Funnyworlds in the colleges animation dept led me to contacting Bob Clampett, who invited me to L.A. after I had arranged for him to lecture at my college. 1976 – two years out of high school with a portfolio of the worst drawings you can imagine but more nerve then Dick Tracy I found myself in Hollywood for a week that included meeting Tex Avery, Walter Lantz, Bob C, (again), Bill Melendez ( great guy like you said ), Chuck Jones, as well as interviews at Filmation, Hanna Barbera, Bakshi and Disney’s . Bob Clampett had called half of Hollywood and got me in everywhere. I’ve read a lot about him over the years – pro and con – but can tell he’s okay in my books. Incredibly generous with young talent ,very giving of his time and would do anything he could do to help you. My biggest miss was Bob McKimson.. I called him, talked on the phone and was to call back to confirm an appointment.. he died at lunch between my calls.
    I only talked to Friz Freleng over the phone, again big fan of his. Lets see… met Mike Maltese, Maurice Noble at a Cal Arts screening. They came the same night as Don Bluth who everybody swarmed. I was standing back from that and Darrell Van Citters came up to me and asked me If I knew who the two gentleman standing against the wall being ignored ! were. Of course they were Mike and Maurice… I made a bee line straight to them and had then to myself for the better part of an hour…incredible. One of my last contacts with that generation of animators was Ray Patterson.. again great guy (seemed they all were), I had my first (ended up to be three ) martini lunch with him and his wife in 97/98. When I was working at Warner Bros Feature he come in to see his daughter Kim then look me up with someone always in tow who had done something significant over the years. Needless to say my day was shot at that point, but how many times to you get to meet a veteran of his caliber. Those guys seemed uniformly to be generous, friendly, giving of there time, and very down to earth. No pretense’s or inflated sense’s of importance. A special generation to be sure. They did it first, they did it big-time, and they laid down the path we’ve all followed. Those of us that have had the fortune to work in this business, as tough as it can be, and practice this wonderful, although appearing extinct, art form are greatly, greatly indebted to them.

  • This kind of pattern is similar in all of the commercial arts of the time. Look at all the comic artists and commercial artists who created for big companies and never saw any of the huge benefits – Jack Kirby/Steve Ditko/etc.

    I dont know much about the history of animation but some smart artists got out and started their own companies like the 50’s independent animation firms featured in Cartoon Modern. People like Mary Blair worked in advertising.

    So someone like Tex Avery who never moved out of the animation studio system would never see any personal ownership and would have to suffer when that business was in the dumps. It is sad since his contributions are amazing.

  • The short that’s displayed really wasn’t that bad when you consider the lack of funds Tex had to use.
    You could tell he was really trying great gags with limited animation.
    I wonder if the scene of the wolf being blown up by the tree was animated by Tex himself because that has more animation than the rest of the cartoon. It seemed to have a distinct style to it….

  • I was a kid when Hanna-Barbera was the dominant force in television animation. By the time I was 10, I started longing to see them upgrade the level of their animation, since a lot of it started to look to me like it was on the drawing level of my age. Of course I had a lot to learn in that respect.

    I had an interest in learning the secrets of classic theatrical animation.
    Everyone kept telling me that this was an “old fashioned” idea, and that full animation would never be possible again. I didn’t believe this, so I read everything that was tnen available, and watched every Disney television program on the subject, as well as anything else that might touch on the subject. I paid particular attention to the production segments featured on the old WOODY WOODPECKER SHOW, form which I learned so much.

    With motivation, and no formal instruction, I set out to make my own animated “movies” to learn. I looked for films and studied them frame by frame to figure out the spacing, timing, and exposure of each frame. I did this for 10 years, and this is how I learned. It was this self instruction that prepared me for my first job 40 years ago.

    While I have worked in many other aspects of the industry since, including as a Producer 25 years ago, the last 17 years were spent in the Los Angeles Studios, where I worked up from being a Storyboard Resivionist and Assistant Animator, to becoming an Animator and
    Aimation Director. It was the simple will to get out there and do it combined with luck and a good reputation that contributed to a
    sucesssion of assignements, each getting to be better than the other.

    Ten years ago, with the saturation of new product of varying qualities, it was becoming apparent that the industry was headed towards a decline, and I had already started preparing by starting my own small company, where I was able to do what I know how to do, produce. In spite of the conditions of the industry, I have gotten more real satisfaction out of my own work knowing that it was completely my own vision and my own statements without the contol or influences of corporate micromanagers. And while the money is not as great, the eventual personal satisfaction far outweighs this in the satisfaction of accomlishment. So anyone who is truly creative does not have to depend totally on the “industry” to define themselves as the artists that they really are.

  • Matt Sullivan

    Dude. Haven’t you realized it now? Animation gets pooped on by live action people. Some directors use it as a stepping stone to get into “real movies and tv”

    So it’s no wonder to me this kind of drek got made, and in such vast quantities.

  • I like funny cartoons

    I have heard that many artists new to the animation business in the 1970’s didn’t even know who Tex Avery was. (Maybe the no home video thing hurt his chances of being a legend in his own time.) I think the awareness and appreciation of cartoon masters didn’t really come around until the mid-80’s, at the earliest anyway. At least we have blogs to spread the history of our medium today. I think the sad thing is that if there is a new Tex Avery out there in animation today, the studios sure as heck would never let that person do even the tamest Tex style gags. Studio exes would say something like “Kids don’t like that slap stick stuff, but maybe we could turn this vinyl toy into a really hip cartoon.” or “That’s way too “Tex Avery” for us.”

  • Nick

    As bad a cartoon, Kwicky Koala is, its by no means a disgrace to Tex Avery’s legacy as “The Wacky World of Tex Avery” was. In comparison to that abomination, Kwicky Koala is like one of his classic MGM cartoons.

  • “And more importantly, does anybody even know who Tex Avery is in 2008?”

    I know you’re trying to be over-dramatic, but Tex Avery’s name’s not exactly buried in obscurity. I’d even venture to say he’s less obscure now than when he died in 1980.

  • It is so sad to hear this story, and everytime it is told i just become depressed on what we lost vs what has been gained. I wished i could have met all these men and women that hearled the golden age- maybe sometimes I wouldnt be as depressed about these things.

  • Great post, Amid.

  • Geez, Amid- don’t be so harsh on HB! For the record, many of animation’s great talents have worked into their 80’s- Art Davis and Carl Urbano -two, off the top of my head. I often wonder if a Kwicky Koala cartoon in the style and quality of the MGM shorts, would be possible– my answer is-YES. TV animation quality was at an all-time low in 1981, rumors still fly about Tex’s notorious drinking habits, and he was in poor health to boot, so I personally won’t allow his last outing to tarnish how I feel about the Man’s full body of work— which is, he was the greatest in my book.

  • Marty

    “Kwicky Koala” marked the first time Tex had to use overseas animators. For a director who’d enjoyed top flight artists who knew exactly how to interpret his very personal, precise sense of timing at MGM, it was not an easy adjustment.

  • The Overseas production had little to do with the final result. The problem is basically structural. First there is so much explanatory dialog to substitute for animation. Second, the buget obviously did not allow for enough drawings to convey the action to its best advantage. This would not excuse the slow pacing, however. The problem in spite of these limitations comes down to timing. The scenes linger too long even with the limited animation in each scene. Lastly, the voices are wrong and dull, particularly for KWICKY, who is supposed to be from Australia. Where’s the Australian dialect, mate? These things with the addition of the dreadful music make for adisappointing presentation. One can only wonder what was going on internally.

    Since there are so many people becoming proficient at Final Cut Pro editing, it might be interesting to see how something like this might be improved thorough tighter editing. It could make a world of difference.

  • It’s been said a lot in other places, and I had it told to me, (not in so many words) by a development executive for the Canadian cartoon network:

    Most producers are way too cautious in the kinds of shows they make. So the shows you see will be derivative, have a well-worn unadventurous style, or heavy on “message” or dull educational content. That’s unless you get someone in charge who has a vision, and can work the business.

  • Marty

    Tex Avery had to abide by Bill Hanna’s timing style, the house style of Hanna-Barbera. At one point he asked Hanna permission if he could time a short his way and was told “I don’t think you can do it, Tex.” Avery slugged a board anyway but was not allowed to send it through. Copies of that “Cavemouse” board still exist. I’m among the many people who studied it in the late 1980’s. Tex’s timing was a vastly different and far more demanding animal than that of the H-B factory system at that time. I don’t buy stories of Tex being washed up, though he was terminally ill by 1980. And it was liver cancer, not lung, that killed him.

  • julian chaney

    Hey!pat ventura did some funny cartoons in the 90s under the hanna-barbera banner and with a limited budget. and i can say they had an Avery feel. but contemporary. I enjoyed working on these productions and feel this was the first time i had worked on a true CARTOON.

    note: i said a true cartoon. reason being we were working with someone with a true vision and a great respect of the past. he made the cartoons with what he had (budget,and a small crew). PAT VENTURA is one of the few treasures we have today. I do agree that a lot of are talented people in are industry are underused or reduced too nothing. I also think that more of these talented people should venture more into doing more of there own stuff. let’s face it, it won’t be done under any of the current banners. oh yeah and one more thing, Paul Lynde didn’t do any voices on the kwicky show and it wasn’t animated in korea. check your facts kids.

  • “And it was liver cancer, not lung, that killed him.”

    Hi Marty, Every source I’ve ever read on Tex lists his death as lung cancer, including the ASIFA-Hollywood website:

    and IMDb:

  • Tsimone Tse Tse

    Kwicky Koala – If Avery had just added Kola to that, made it into a series of commercials, these posts would have taken a different turn. (No, Dan G, you won’t find any art work for that.)

    I’m not all that surprised he sounds like Droopy – just that he looks so un-Avery like. To have a 70-80’s “HB realism” character in an Avery cartoon is – uh, CRAZY!!

    Still, Kwicky Koala will go into my Avery file.

    Re: robcat2075 “Well, at 72, better to be at HB and working beside some lifetime colleagues than being a greeter at WalMart or cleaning the fryer at McDonalds.”

    How many careers ended with a studio shutting down? It is VERY surprising to see that the Great Tex Avery, at 72, was even hired & allowed to head a series. Do any of you have any idea how unemployable that age is? He may not have been overjoyed, but he was able to end his years doing something, ANYTHING, that involved the ONLY thing he knew how to do – animate. I can only wish that for the rest of us.

  • Bill Perkins

    I’m with Tismone, I guess it’s a matter of how you look at things . I can take up the Art form argument as well as anyone. However, as stated, animation is an industry and certainly governed in a large part by bottom line, profits over people thinking (what isn’t now days ? ) Our society venerates money, pure and simple. We do not venerate art or artists ( leave that to the french ) we venerate money. Not a whole heck of a lot else matters. When we were all given fat contracts in the 90’s, seated in 1000.00 chairs and put behind 5000.00 custom made animation desks it wasn’t because we as artists and our art form were being recognized for what we did. It was because ( I believe ) the studio executives thought if the treated us real good we’d cough up Lion King after Lion King at the box office. When we didn’t ( thru no fault of our own ) you get what we got.. studios closing down, contracts being terminated, persons with 25 years experience being put out on the streets and as well a wholesale retreat from 2D animation as a production paradigm. Frankly, right now, I’d be glad to have a H and B like, or Filmation like studio to go to every day. Like most of my generation ( boomer ) I’ve been on the periphery of the business for several years now. A lot of people I know are out of it completely. Several ( at the age of 50+ ) are living in their parents basements to keep a roof over their head and one, whose self esteem compounded by depression took such a beating he took his own life… . . As sad as Tex’s end was, he was employable ( as mentioned) at the age of 73. He had a place to go every day, had a pay check, was working in his industry and as well had newbies to the business lined up outside his door who couldn’t believe they were meeting and talking to the great Tex Avery. That’s not entirely bad and could have been one heck of a lot worse. From where I sit, given the state of the industry and the plight of many 2D artists, we’ll be lucky if we go out like he did.

  • R

    We can already do it with Open Season- David Feiss.

  • PCUnfunny

    This is a very insightful post. Now I’ll kindly add my two cents. The executives in charge of this filth during the 70’s and 80’s had no room for innovation. There factory system, as opposed to the one during the 40’s and 50’s, eliminated interaction between the staff. There would be no gag sessions were the entire crew meets to come with ideas. No room for creativity during any stage of production. They were given the formula, which was created by the dullard executives, and it was sent down the assembly line, no one would talk to anyone else. Even with the best animators on earth, you need that interaction and freedom between them.

  • PCUnfunny

    Reg: I don’t think Tex would have done as well as he did in the 40’s to be honest. Tex was in a state of depression in his later years. He felt “burned out” as he put it.

  • julian chaney

    bill i agree with you …i wished that more of the industry could have worked at hanna-barbera. and maybe they wouldnt bash it. there was always work and it was like a family there. of course there was good and bad things. but the overall feel was that you were needed and would be back. hanna-barbera and filmmation all had a sence of loyalty. something that’s not around today. and i think it would be great working with some of my senior artists. there’s still a lot to learn. and tha’ts for both generations.

  • Peter

    One thing that distinguished the era of Filmation and H-B as workplaces was that old timers were valued. There was no rush to push people out when they reached forty-five, as is the case today, despite federal labor laws to the contrary.

  • chipping in a long time after the fact here, I just wanted to say that I think animators suffered because their art *wasn’t* high brow. And you’re wrong, Amid – live action actors, writers and directors who did great work during the black and white / early film era were beaten down or ignored asa time moved on. this was abysmal, because in the classic fashion ,they’d hardly been paid at all whilst they were making the movies.

    The classic example, if you’re looking for well loved screen heroes (and to an extent I’d put Tex Avery in the same category, at least from an industry-respect standpoint), is Stan Laurel. L&H floundered as younger generations moved in, and quality writers just wouldn’t write for them. Stan ended his days happily, but still, in a tiny apartment in the suburbs of LA.

    The 20th century can almost be seen in generational chunks, I think. The media loves youth. Tex, glorious and inventive as he was, was allotted his media time in the spotlight, then the whole machine rolled on.