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Frederick Bean "Tex" Avery was an animator and director. His most significant work was for Warner Bros. and the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cartoon studio. He was responsible for the creation of Droopy, Screwy Squirrel, Red, Slick Wolf, Butch Dog, Meathead Dog and George and Junior.

Biography

On September 2, 1941, the Reporter announced that Avery had signed a five-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where he was to form his own animation unit and direct shorts in Technicolor. By 1942, Avery was in the employ of MGM, working in their cartoon division under the supervision of Fred Quimby. Avery felt that Schlesinger had stifled him. When asked if he missed the Looney Tunes characters, he responded: "Sometimes, but I don't miss anything else. MGM is a heck of better place to work, in every way, and the people here are just as great."

At MGM, Avery's creativity reached its peak. His cartoons became known for their sheer lunacy, breakneck pace, and a penchant for playing with the medium of animation and film in general that few other directors dared to approach. MGM also offered him larger budgets and a higher quality production level than the Warners studio; plus, his unit was filled with talented ex-Disney artists such as Preston Blair and Ed Love. These changes were evident in Avery's first short released by MGM, The Blitz Wolf, an Adolf Hitler parody which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoons) in 1942. Avery's cartoons at MGM somewhat felt like Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons done during that same period at Warner Bros., two cartoon series which Avery himself had worked on back then, albeit the Warners' series gained more popularity than Avery's MGM cartoons.

Avery's best known MGM character debuted in Dumb-Hounded (1943). Droopy (originally "Happy Hound") was a small, calm, slow-moving and slow-talking dog who always won out in the end, whatever difficulties he was presented with. He also created a series of risqué cartoons, beginning with Red Hot Riding Hood (1943), featuring a sexy female star who never had a set name but has been unofficially referred to as "Red" by fans. Her visual design and voice varied somewhat between shorts. Other Avery characters at MGM included Screwy Squirrel and the Of Mice and Men-inspired duo of George and Junior.

Other MGM cartoons directed by Avery include Bad Luck Blackie, Cellbound, Magical Maestro, Lucky Ducky, Ventriloquist Cat and King-Size Canary. Avery began his stint at MGM working with lush colors and realistic backgrounds, but he slowly abandoned this style for a more frenetic, less realistic approach. The newer, more stylized look reflected the influence of the up-and-coming UPA studio, the need to cut costs as budgets grew higher, and Avery's own desire to leave reality behind and make cartoons that were not tied to the real world of live action. During this period, he made a series of films which explored the technology of the future: The House of Tomorrow, The Car of Tomorrow, The Farm of Tomorrow and TV of Tomorrow (spoofing common live-action promotional shorts of the time). He also introduced a slow-talking wolf character, who was the prototype for MGM associates Hanna-Barbera's Huckleberry Hound character, right down to the voice by Daws Butler.

Avery took a year's sabbatical from MGM beginning in 1950 (to recover from overwork), during which time Dick Lundy, recently arrived from the Walter Lantz studio, took over his unit and made one Droopy cartoon, as well as a string of shorts with an old character, Barney Bear. Avery returned to MGM in October 1951 and began working again. Avery's last two original cartoons for MGM were Deputy Droopy and Cellbound, completed in 1953 and released in 1955. They were co-directed by the Avery unit animator Michael Lah. Lah began directing a handful of CinemaScope Droopy shorts on his own. A burnt-out Avery left MGM in 1953 to return to the Walter Lantz studio.

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