Creator / Bob Clampett

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The Man From Wackyland.

"In thirty seconds of a Bob Clampett cartoon, there are more ideas, original drawings, sound ideas, than in 20 of anybody else's cartoons. They are amazing."
John Kricfalusi, gushing about his mentor.

If it was Tex Avery who realized that animation can do anything and Chuck Jones who took subtle humor and stylization to new heights in animation, then it was Robert Emerson "Bob" Clampett ((May 8, 1913 – May 2, 1984)) who injected animation with the good, old-fashioned rubber-hose style it had in the 1930s and gave it a wackier makeover. One of the most popular directors of the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoon shorts made by Warner Bros. during The Golden Age of Animation (second only to Chuck Jones in popularity), Bob Clampett was nothing short of a mischief maker, being both a real life version of Bugs Bunny, in addition to being a real life Daffy Duck (of the early, screwy variety).

Being inspired by the strange works of artist Salvador Dalí, as well as the other animation studios like Disney and Fleischer and even newspaper comic artists like Milt Gross, Clampett eventually began working at the Warner Bros. distributed animation unit of Leon Schlesinger, after failing to get a job at the Disney studios. (Disney had wanted to hire him, due to Clampett's excellent drawing skills, but they had all the animators they needed.) There, Clampett and his soon to be mentor, Fred "Tex" Avery, went to work in a crumbling wooden shack assigned to them, not far from the main Schlesinger lot. There, they discovered they were not alone — specifically, said shack appeared to have an infestation of termites. Still, being comfy there, the duo blessed upon the place the affectionate nickname Termite Terrace, which would soon become the unofficial name for the entire Looney Tunes animation studio as a whole.

In 1941, Avery left the studio...but Clampett, having learned quite a thing or two from him, began experimenting with his own style of animation — a very wacky, surreal one which combined the early principles of rubberhose animation from The Silent Age of Animation, with the more modern, higher quality principles and art productions of a Disney short. The results were some of the finest cartoons ever made in general, let alone by the Warner Bros. animation unit.

After leaving Warner Bros. in 1945, Clampett started his own animation studio and created Beany and Cecil.

While for many years he was an esoteric director (his influenced downplayed in favor of the other directors, and his smaller output compared to them) but his cartoons have gained a surprisingly large fanbase in recent years, receiving praise and admiration from professionals like Milt Gray, Eric Goldberg and John Kricfalusi (the latter being his protege and biggest fan, is heavily influenced by him, and is also partly responsible for getting Clampett's shorts back into the limelight). As such, a large number of his cartoons have gained acclaim, with 21 shorts getting not only onto The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes list, but also five of them making it as winners (with five more as runner-ups) on The 50 Greatest Cartoons list.
     Filmography 

1937: All entries are Porky Pig shorts.

1938: All entries are Porky Pig shorts.

1939: All entries are Porky Pig shorts.

1940: All entries are Porky Pig shorts.

1941

1942

1943

1944

1945

1946

1947

  • The Goofy Gophers 1-25: Planned by Clampett, but finished by Art Davis.
  • Its A Grand Old Nag: Last theatrical cartoon Clampett produced, independently produced for Republic Pictures. For years it was lost until it resurfaced, along with storyboards and a pencil test, on Vol. 2 of the Beany and Cecil DVD sets. See it here, with commentary by historians Jerry Beck and Mark Kausler.

Tropes in the work of Bob Clampett:

  • Animation Bump: Shorts directed by Clampett had some of the most fluid, well-drawn animation to ever come out of the Warner Bros. cartoon studio. Even his B&W cartoons had surprisingly good animation, considering he was saddled with shoestring budgets of $3,000 per cartoon, had the least skilled animators in the studio working under him and only had 4 weeks to slam together each one. Surprisingly, even his Beany & Cecil cartoons had above-average animation for a 1960's TV cartoon, despite relying on Limited Animation and (proportionally) having even lower budgets than his black and white Looney Tunes.
  • Author Appeal: Bob was a big movie buff, a huge fan of jazz music, and absolutely loved comic books and newspaper and magazine comics, particularly those of cartoonists Milt Gross, Bil Holman and George Litchty. You can find the influence of these in virtually all of his cartoons, but most notably in The Great Piggy Bank Robbery, which was a big love letter by Bob to both comics like Dick Tracy and film noir movies. He was also a big fan of Fleischer Studios, and basically made Porky in Wackyland as a tribute to their surreal style of cartoon animation.
  • Catch-Phrase: Clampett often ended his cartoons with a funny vocal sound effect (usually rendered as "Bee-woop!") that he performed himself. This would end up becoming a Stock Sound Effect occasionally used by other directors, such as Friz Freleng.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Clampett occasionally inserted caricatures of himself into his cartoons, such as a statue in Porkys Hero Agency, his head being part of a Motion Blur gag in Porky and Daffy (you need to still frame it to see it clearly) on a wanted poster in The Lone Stranger and Porky, and as a gremlin in Russian Rhapsody.
    • Clampett would also insert caricatures of his staff into some his cartoons (and also name drop or make puns of them in backgrounds as little in-jokes). The picket line of statues in Porky's Hero Agency and the tourists in Porky in Egypt are made up of many of these. Animators John Carey and Ernest Gee also make a freeze frame cameo in Porky and Daffy. Business manager Ray Katz also makes a cameo on a wanted poster in The Lone Stranger and Porky. Assistant Henry Binder and animators Cal Dalton and Ken Harris cameo in Nutty News. Many of the gremlins in Russian Rhapsody are based on the Looney Tunes staff.
  • Depending on the Artist: Clampett gave his animators far more leeway in deviating from the model sheets and animating in their individual styles than his contemporaries. As a result, his cartoons are some of the easiest to pick out individual artist styles from.
  • Deranged Animation:
  • Digital Destruction: Unfortunately, several of his cartoons have gotten hit with this on the DVD releases, some worse than others.
    • A Corny Concerto and Book Revue both got hit with a nasty case of Digital Interlacing when it was included on Vol. 2 of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, which made the picture super flickery and hard to watch. The issue with Book Revue was rectified for its inclusion on The Essential Daffy Duck, same with Concerto's inclusion on the Platinum Collection Vol. 3 blu-ray.
    • Several of his cartoons got hit with DVNR on the Golden Collections, most notably The Big Snooze. This was rectified for its inclusion on Vol. 3 of the Platinum Collection, though.
    • While the prints of his cartoons on the Porky Pig 101 DVD set have no interlacing or DVNR problems, four of the cartoons accidentally use the wrong opening music cuesnote  This is especially egregious in Naughty Neighbors, because not only is the music looped twice in a row, the misplaced cue completely ruins the opening gag, which was dependent on its music abruptly changing after the peaceful opening.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: His black and white cartoons have a fairly different drawing and animation style from the cartoons he made once he inherited Tex Avery's unit in 1941, and due to a studio mandate, Porky Pig was the star (but not always the focus) of almost all of his b&w cartoons.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Clampett's alleged unprofessional antics and tendency to steal credit for work earned him a fair few enemies with Termite Terrace. Chuck Jones and Mel Blanc especially spoke derogatory of him. Tex Avery and Friz Freleng were also known to dislike him, but both kept it privately (Jones and Avery disowned him in the late 70s after Clampett claimed he was the sole creator of Bugs Bunny in an interview). Even those who had a fond opinion of him such as Frank Tashlin and Robert McKimson made no denial that few (if any) of the stories about him were true.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Even more than his colleagues, Clampett absolutely reveled in this.
    Robert McKimson: There was one thing that Clampett always did do. He always wanted to try to get by with something. It was an oddball quirk that really made a lot of his cartoons very funny; but it could get him in trouble. He'd do things that would hurt; some guy would fall into a meatgrinder, or something like that, and somebody'd come along and grind him up. These are things that can hurt while you see them. (...) One thing that Clampett was always trying to do was get something that was a little sexy in a cartoon, and some of them went a little overboard. We had to just chop them, because you couldn't put things like that in a cartoon.
  • Harpo Does Something Funny: Bob was forced to rely on this out of necessity in his early films, mainly because he was saddled with a mandate that Porky Pig had to appear in all of his cartoons. He worked around the limits of Porky's Straight Man personality by either relying on Daffy Duck as comic relief or introducing more shaded or wild oneshot characters to usurp the focus from Porky in many of his shorts—after all, it was never specified how much Porky had to be in a cartoon or that he even had to be the focus of the story. Once he inherited Tex Avery's unit in 1941, his cartoons moved on from this and paid much more attention to characterization, and became much more tightly paced and structured.
  • Internal Consistency: Clampett's cartoons have surreal elements, but they're always consistent with how they go about being crazy by having their own internal logic that prioritizes engaging the audience with the weird world and surprising them (while still making some kind of sense in the context of the cartoon) instead of trying to rationalize the weirdness. His films often use their weird elements as a way to surprise the audience with a foreshadowed punchline later in the cartoon—for example, in The Bashful Buzzard, it's established that Killer's brothers have ludicrous strength that allows them to carry things like a parade of elephants to their nest. Later in the cartoon, we see Killer get in a fight with a dragon, and his fate is uncertain at first. Later that night, it's revealed that not only did he survive the fight, he somehow won and carried the massive dragon all the way back to his familys nest.
  • Jump Cut: Bob's cartoons at their peak had very sophisticated film cutting and timing. Some of his fastest scenes, like the scene in A Tale of Two Kitties where Catsello is falling towards a pinchfork and the camera cutting back and forth between his reactions and the fork, barely last a few frames on screen.
  • Loophole Abuse: When he was directing black and white unit, he was mandated to have Porky Pig appear in all of his cartoons. Fortunately, it was never stated how much Porky had to appear or even that he had to be the focus of the cartoon. Clampett took full advantage of this—several cartoons reduce Porky to a bit player role, such as The Lone Stranger and Porky, Meet John Doughboy, We, The Animals Squeak and The Henpecked Duck, while others have Porky share screentime with another character (i.e. Daffy Duck) or put the focus on a oneshot character instead.
  • Off-Model: Clampett was very stylistically liberal and allowed his animators to draw the characters how they saw fit, arguably creating the whole "Less 'on model,' more 'in character'" style of cartoon animation.
  • Passing the Torch: John Kricfalusi famously borrowed a LOT from Clampett's style in his own cartoons, as he was John's mentor for several years.
  • Pungeon Master: Clampett loved cheesy puns and frequently used them in his cartoons. His Beany and Cecil show relies heavily on puns in the dialogue.
  • Screwy Squirrel: Clampett preferred to work with this archetype. His interpretations of Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny are notable for being wackier, sillier and more sociopathic than anyone else's.
  • Seen-It-All Suicide: A frequent gag in many Looney Tunes cartoons, but especially Clampett's. Notable examples include Horton Hatches the Egg, An Itch in Time, and The Sour Puss. A variant also occurs in Tortoise Wins by a Hare (the gangsters shoot themselves after Bugs reveals he's the rabbit).
  • Stealing the Credit: According to Robert McKimson:
    Michael Barrier: Were there any of the Clampett cartoons that were in large proportion yours, because you handled the timing...
    McKimson: Well, so many of them were; I couldn't tell you which ones. But I do know that is one reason I had no qualms about going into direction, because I was doing the same thing with Clampett, on maybe three out of every five pictures.
  • Stock Footage: Several of Clampett's cartoons occasionally reuse bits of animation from previous Looney Tunes shorts. Most of the examples only consist of brief and minor scenes, but Whats Cookin Doc? is especially liberal with this—the cartoon only has around two minutes of new animation, with the rest either being still photos, footage reused from A Star Is Born (1937) and Hiawatha's Rabbit Hunt (1941).
  • Surrealism: Many of Bob's cartoons employ surrealistic elements. While his mentor Tex Avery and contemporary Frank Tashlin tinkered with parodies and Chuck Jones tinkered with postmodernism, Bob's films tended to be fun little cartoon worlds that had all sorts of crazy, impossible things happening, yet the characters believed in what was going on, and the cartoons still operated on their own silly internal logic, with only mild hints of irony (but plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor) popping up. Porky in Wackyland and The Great Piggy Bank Robbery are probably the most oft-cited examples of him using this, if just because of how weird they are all around.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: A lot of his cartoons (like a lot of cartoons of the era from Warner Bros.) won't be very funny unless you know about 1940s history and pop culture.
  • World of Ham: It'd be easier to list off characters who aren't over the top and extroverted in Clampett's cartoons.

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