Although animated shorts were produced a decade and a half before the first Disney production, Walt Disney is universally recognized as the pioneer of classic American animation. Disney began creating animated characters as early as 1923, however his first Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts were not created until 1928. These shorts, ‘Plane Crazy’ and ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho’, were silent and filmed in black and white. The first sound cartoon starring Mickey Mouse, ‘Steamboat Willie’, followed later in 1928.
“A small child once said to me: ‘You don’t draw Bugs Bunny, you draw pictures of Bugs Bunny.’ That’s a very profound observation because it means he thinks that the characters are alive, which, as far as I’m concerned, is true. And, I feel the same way about animation ….. Animation isn’t an illusion of life. It is life.”
Under the direction of Leon Schlesinger, Warner Bros. released their first cartoon on April 1, 1930.
With it’s finely-tuned and orchestrated mayhem, Warner Bros. studios emerged by the 1940’s as the dominant studio in animation short subjects. During the next twenty years Warner Bros. created many timeless characters including: Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Tweety, Sylvester, Marvin Martian, and Pepe LePew who now claim international recognition.
The Beginnings of Lunacy
Animators Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising, and Isadore “Friz” Freleng received their career start in animation working for Disney. In 1928 this crew left Disney to work on Oswald the Rabbit shorts distributed by Universal Studios. However, Universal decided instead to commission a young Walter Lantz to produce Oswald the Rabbit cartoons.
Unemployed and without a distributor, Harman and Ising united to produce a three minute short “Bosko the Talk-Ink Kid” which drew the interest of well-connected financier Leon Schlesinger who successfully pitched the idea to Warner Bros.
In 1930, the first Looney Tunes cartoon starring Bosko in “Sinkin’ in the Bathtub” was released.
By 1936, animators Tex Avery, Chuck Jones and Bob Clampett had joined the team at Warner Bros. developing and creating Porky Pig and Daffy Duck.
Two other key players joined the team soon there after. Musical director Carl Stalling’s scores added depth and movement to the shorts and Mel Blanc’s voice breathed life into the Warner Bros. characters adding unique, instantly recognizable personality to many. More about the Masters of Termite Terrace.
That’s Not all Folks…
By 1942 Warner Bros. lead the popularity parade in animation shorts. Director Chuck Jones created some of Warner Bros. most memorable shorts, including the Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner series. Jones’ stylized movements and distinctive backgrounds allowed Jones to focus primarily on the action and atmosphere of the short.
In 1945, three major new characters appeared. Chuck Jones directed the original Pepe le Pew; Friz Freleng introduced, Sylvester, and the volatile Yosemite Sam erupted onto stage in Freleng’s “Hare Trigger.” A year later, Robert McKimson’s “Walky Talky Hawky” introduced us to the boisterous rooster Foghorn Leghorn. McKimson also introduced the Tasmanian Devil, Hippety Hopper, and Sylvester’s son.
Under the direction of Avery, Clampett, McKimson, Jones, and Freleng, some of the finest and most memorable Warner Bros. cartoons were created. In 1985, New York’s prestigious Museum of Modern Art hosted a major
retrospective of Warner Bros. cartoons, with Friz Freleng and Chuck Jones as special guests at the opening ceremonies. Included in the exhibit were many original animation drawings, storyboards, production cels and limited editions.
In 1996, Chuck Jones was awarded a special Oscar for his contributions and lifetime achievement in animation.
Chronology of Warner Bros.’s Cartoon History
- 1930 – Schlesinger produces first Looney Tunes cartoon ‘Sinkin’ In The Bathtub’ starring Bosko
- 1931 – First Merrie Melodies cartoon ‘Lady Play Your Mandolin’ starring Foxy
- 1934 – Buddy is introduced in ‘Buddy’s Adventures’, the first color Merrie
Melodies cartoon ‘Honeymoon Hotel’ was released, and Isadore ‘Friz’ Freleng directs first cartoon ‘Buddy The Gob’
- 1935 – Porky Pig debuts in Merrie Melodies ‘I Haven’t Got A Hat’ directed by Friz
Freleng, and Tex Avery joins Warner Bros. studio and starts animation unit in “Termite Terrace”
- 1936 – The first Avery cartoon is released, ‘Golddiggers Of ’49’, and Carl Stalling
begins music supervision
- 1937 – Tex Avery’s ‘Porky’s Duck Hunt’ introduces new character Daffy Duck, Bob
Clampett directs first cartoon ‘Porky’s Badtime Story’, and Mel Blanc begins doing characters’ voices
- 1938 – ‘Porky’s Hare Hunt’ directed by Ben “Bugs” Hardaway introduces early Bugs’
Bunny, Chuck Jones directs first cartoon ‘The Night Watchman’, and Bob Clampett directs ‘Porky In Wackyland’
- 1939 – Elmer Fudd, voiced by Arthur Q. Bryan, is introduced in ‘Elmer’s Candid
- 1940 – Bugs Bunny, in Tex Avery’s ‘A Wild Hare’, first asks “What’s Up, Doc?”
- 1942 – Tweety is introduced in ‘A Tale Of Two Kitties’ directed by Bob Clampett,
and Henery Hawk debuts in ‘The Squawkin’ Hawk’ directed by Chuck Jones
- 1943 – Studio begins producing Private Snafu cartoons for the U.S. Army
- 1944 – Leon Schlesinger sells his cartoon studio to Warner Bros.
- 1945 – Sylvester J. Pussycat debuts in ‘Life With Feathers’ and Yosemite Sam
debuts in ‘Hare Trigger’ directed by Friz Freleng
- 1946 – Robert J. McKImson directs first cartoon ‘Daffy Doodles’, the first appearance
of Foghorn Leghorn in ‘Walky Talky Hawky’ also directed by McKimson
- 1947 – Warner Bros. wins first Academy Award® for Friz Freleng’s ‘Tweetie Pie’
which is the first pairing of Tweety and Sylvester
- 1948 – Marvin The Martian debuts in ‘Haredevil Hare’ directed by Chuck Jones
- 1949 – Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote make first appearance in Chuck Jones’
‘Fast And Furry-ous’, and ‘For Scent-imental Reasons’ starring Pepe Le Pew, directed by Chuck Jones, wins Oscar
- 1953 – Chuck Jones directs ‘Duck Dodgers In The 24 1/2 Century’, and Speedy Gonzalez
debuts in ‘Cat Tales For Two’ directed by Robert McKimson
- 1954 – 3-D Bugs Bunny cartoon ‘Lumberjack Rabbit’ produced, and the first
appearance of Tasmanian Devil in ‘Devil May Hare’ directed by Robert McKimson
- 1955 – Speedy Gonzalez directed by Friz Freleng wins Academy Award®, and
Chuck Jones directs ‘One Froggy Evening’
- 1957 – ‘Birds Anonymous’ starring Tweety and Sylvester wins Oscar
- 1958 – Friz Freleng’s ‘Knighty Knight Bugs’ wins Academy Award®
- 1960 – ‘The Bugs Bunny Show’ debuts in prime time on ABC television
- 1964 – Warner Bros. stopped producing most of their cartoons in-house
- 1964 – ‘The Incredible Mr. Limpet’
- 1975 – ‘Bugs Bunny Superstar’ plays in theatres
- 1976 – Chuck Jones produces first Warner Bros. TV special ‘Bugs and Daffy’s
Carnival Of The Animals’ with live action and animation
- 1978 – First all-new animation half-hour special ‘Bugs Bunny In King Arthur’s
Court’ directed by Chuck Jones
- 1979 – ‘The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie’ plays in New York Film Festival
- 1980 – Friz Freleng rejoins Warner Bros. Animation and begins a series of
compilation features and TV specials
1981 – ‘Friz Freleng’s Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie’
- 1982 – ‘Bugs Bunny’s Third Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales’
- 1983 – ‘Daffy Duck’s Movie: Fantastic Island’
- 1985 – Warner Bros. Cartoons Golden Anniversary honored at the Museum Of Modern
- 1987 – Bugs Bunny presents Oscar on Academy Awards® telecast with Tom Hanks
- 1988 – ‘Daffy Duck’s Quackbusters’ released, and ‘Night Of The Living Duck’
premieres at the New York Film Festival
- 1990 – Steven Spielberg presents ‘Tiny Toon Adventures’, ‘Box Office Bunny’ released
to commemorate Bugs’ 50th Anniversary, and ‘Bugs Bunny On Broadway’ premieres on Broadway in New York City
- 1991 – ‘Tazmania’ debuts
- 1992 – The debut of ‘Batman: The Animated Series’, the ‘Hare Jordan’ commercial,
featuring Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny, premieres as the #1 commercial of Super Bowl XXIV
- 1993 – Steven Spielberg presents ‘Animaniacs’
- 1993 – ‘Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm’
- 1995 – ‘Space Jam’
- 1996 – ‘Cats Don’t Dance’
- 1998 – ‘Quest For Camelot’
- 1999 – ‘The Iron Giant’
- 2001 – ‘Osmosis Jones’
- 2002 – ‘Power Puff Girls Movie’, with Cartoon Network
- 2003 – ‘Looney Tunes: The Movie’