Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Happy Birthday, Bob Clampett

I'm raising my soon to be significantly less than half-full glass to Bob Clampett. He's definitely among The Beatles of cartoon directors (with Tex Avery, Chuck Jones and Frank Tashlin - perhaps with Friz Freleng as either "5th Beatle" Billy Preston or Pete Best). I am proud to have worked, in collaboration with animator, filmmaker and historian Mark Kausler, on one of the first published filmographies of his work way back when (uh, I was a zygote at the time, really).

For a bit of background on Bob's career, check out this superb post on David Germain's blog. Then take a gander at this remarkable scene, by ace animator Robert McKimson, from one of Clampett and crew's masterpiece Book Revue. This is followed by the complete cartoon.

Bob Clampett is very important to me personally. On the same day when I met Bob in the 70's, I bought my first 16mm films. He was uncommonly nice and generous with his time to me, then a goofy 17 year old long-haired guitarist obsessed with music and old movies (now I'm the same thing, only 51). He was also very supportive of my efforts to get recognition for animation as an art form - at that time, cartoons and comedy in particular got the full Rodney Dangerfield treatment.

At least to me, Bob was absolutely effusive in his praise of other artists, more interested in talking about stuff that inspired him - whether it was the exciting swing music of Duke Ellington or the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Willis O' Brien's innovative stop-motion animation in THE LOST WORLD or Tex Avery's cartoons - than about his own work. He loved his collaborators and mentors; his eyes lit up whenever I said the words Rod Scribner, Manny Gould (for non-animation buffs, these were just two of the brilliant animators who contributed virtuoso work to Bob's cartoons) or Tex Avery. He was also the only "Golden Age Of Cartoons" icon I heard praise lesser known but important animation directors as Hugh Harman, Rudy Ising and Sid Marcus. All of this was in stark contradiction to a lot of things that were said and written about Bob during his lifetime.

Raise your glass and enjoy any one of the amazing WB cartoons directed by Bob Clampett, one of the greatest animation visionaries and comic minds who ever lived.

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