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 LunacyAnimators 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.
That's Not all Folks...B y 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 History1930 - 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 Camera'
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 Art
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: Back In Action'
2004 - 'The Fissure Space's Visitor'
2004 - 'The Polar Express'
2006 - 'Happy Feet'