Frederick Bean "Tex" Avery, the animator, voice actor and producer behind the much-loved series of cartoons known as ‘Looney Tunes’, died on this day in 1980 in Burbank, California. He was 72 years old.
Avery’s remarkable successes include the creation of cartoon favourites Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Droopy, but perhaps more importantly he developed the genre of short animated features away from the sentimentality of Disney and toward slapstick, one-liners and ironic humour.
Avery was born in 1908, in Taylor, Texas, and took up drawing as a high school student, publishing a few rudimentary cartoons for the school yearbook and newspaper. After a brief stint attending college in Chicago, he eventually ended up working odd jobs in California.
Eventually the would-be cartoonist became an assistant at the Walter Lantz animation studios, where he discovered to his chagrin that his artistic talent lagged behind many of his colleagues. Instead, he decided to immerse himself in the skills involved in being a producer.
In 1935, he talked Warner Bros into letting them head their animation output, which he ran from a bungalow on the studio lot nicknamed ‘Termite Terrace’. From here, Avery and his team would create new, forward-thinking cartoons that would appeal to children and adults alike.
Their ideas came from Avery’s premise that “in a cartoon, you can do anything”; as such his characters could be dropped off cliffs, get squashed by heavy weights or even get sliced into pieces, yet bounce back unscathed in the very next scene – and all played for the biggest laughs possible.
After a dispute with Warners, Avery went on to join Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer where his cartoon shorts would become even more fast-paced and zany, often playing with or sending up the medium itself. It was at MGM that Avery introduced Droopy, the sad-faced dog, and the popular Screwy Squirrel.
He would finish his career writing jokes for the Hanna-Barbera studio; since his death, his enormous contribution to the field of short animated features has been recognised by animators around the world, and his influence on cartoons remains tangible today.