Francis Fredrick von Taschlein (February 19, 1913 – May 5, 1972) was a prominent animator, writer, and director of both cartoons and live-action films. His most notable work was done for the Leon Schlesinger cartoon studio during The Golden Age of Animation, having three separate stints at the place.
Initially, Tashlin cut his teeth working for Paul Terry as an animator on the Aesop's Film Fables series of cartoons, only to quickly drift off to another animation stint at Van Beuren Studios, formed by Terry's former colleague Amadee J. Van Beuren. At Van Beuren, Tashlin ultimately made his (uncredited) directorial debut on the Tom and Jerry (a bumbling duo of humans, not the cat and mouse) short "Hook and Ladder Hookum". Finally, in 1933, he found work at the then-rising Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoon studio, working as an animator while working on a short-lived comic strip in his spare time called Van Boring, the name being an obvious jab at his previous boss. When Leon tried to swindle Frank into giving him a cut of the comics profits, Frank told him to shove it and promptly lost his job as a result. Once again adrift, he did a brief stint at the Ub Iwerks cartoon studio in 1934, only to leave in 1935 for Hal Roach Studios to be a writer on the Our Gang series, where he learned quite a bit about live-action film-making, including film-camera techniques.
In 1936, Leon managed to lure Tashlin back to his studio, giving him a position as a director there, right during a time when Tex Avery was starting to take the studio away from its Disney roots in favor of faster-paced, more cartoony shorts. Frank jumped right in, getting off to a good start with "Porky's Poultry Plant", where he adapted live-action-style fast cutting and dynamic camera angles into his cartoons, giving them a cinematic, energetic feel lacking in Tex Avery and Friz Freleng's cartoon shorts. Despite this, he wasn't particularly happy due to being stuck working on Porky Pig cartoons, who Tashlin later admitted was his least favorite character.
However, he left the studio again, with his crew being handed over to Chuck Jones, while he went to work for Disney from 1938 to 1940, where he began story work on Walt's proposed Mickey Mouse feature, which would later evolve into the "Mickey and the Beanstalk" segment of Fun and Fancy Free.
In 1941, he found work at Columbia Cartoons, where he became the studio's creative producer and directed three short cartoons, one of them being the first of Columbia's star series The Fox and the Crow—the short in question, "The Fox and the Grapes" was the first cartoon to use a "blackout gag" format, which director Chuck Jones would cite as an influence on his Road Runner cartoons. While Tashlin's tenure would revitalize the lagging studio creatively (alongside restaffing its ranks with a bevy of former Disney artists and storymen, among them eventual key UPA director John Hubley), Columbia's upper management, seeking to exercise greater control over Screen Gems, demoted Tashlin only a year later, leading to his departure months afterwards; he would be replaced by the (similarly briefly-tenured) Dave Fleischer.
Following his departure from Screen Gems, Tashlin would once again return to Warner Bros. in 1942, initially as a storyman (specifically for the iconic Bob Clampett short A Corny Concerto) and, following the departure of Norm McCabe, as a director. Now an exponentially more experienced filmmaker, Tashlin adopted a more experimental approach in his second directorial tenure, bringing stylized, magazine-like angular designs to his new shorts. Some of these later shorts notably had overt sexual themes, particularly Plane Daffy (which had a Femme Fatale Spy character named Hatta Mari, whose blond hair and top-heavy hourglass figure recalled real-life sex symbols of the day). It's been said that the difference between Bob Clampett's cartoons and Frank Tashlin's cartoons in terms of risqué humor is that Tashlin was more polished and subtle while Clampett was broader, wilder, and more adolescent (though some Tashlin cartoons, such as "I've Got Plenty of Mutton" and "Swooner Crooner" do have their moments of Clampett-esque raunchiness).
Departing Warner's for the final time in 1944 (his final short would be the 1946 Bugs Bunny short Hare Remover), Tashlin went on to direct and write for many live-action films, most famously the Jayne Mansfield comedies The Girl Can't Help It and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, and numerous Jerry Lewis movies. His films are notable for including live-action versions of cartoon gags, such as the near-sexual reactions of every man who sees Jayne Mansfield's character walk by in The Girl Can't Help It (such as the ice melting in the ice truck and the milkman's bottle of milk popping and spilling over). He also wrote five books: "The Bear That Wasn't" (1941), "How The Circus Learned to Smile" (1949, "The Possum That Didn't" (1950) and "The World That Isn't" (1951) and a self-help cartooning book "How to Create Cartoons" (1952). Retiring in the mid-1960s due to the declining success of his films, Tashlin was nonetheless credited (albeit only nominally) as a producer on the animated adaptation of The Bear That Wasn't, an earlier children's books of his, directed by his former colleague Chuck Jones; due to Tashlin's near-nonexistent involvement with the short, its narrative takes numerous liberties from the source material, thus leading him to disown it in his few surviving interviews.
To get a deeper idea of Tashlin as a person and his history at Warners, an interview of him has been posted by Micheal Barrier here.
- Redskin Blues: A Van Beuren Tom & Jerry short he animated for.
- Hook & Ladder Hokum: A Van Beuren Tom & Jerry short. His first directorial effort.
- I've Got to Sing a Torch Song: Presumably his first animation stint.
- Buddy's Beer Garden: Animator (credited by the nickname "Tish Tash").
- Honeymoon Hotel: Animator.
- Thicker Than Water: A Laurel and Hardy short he wrote for.
- The Fixer Uppers: A Laurel and Hardy short he wrote for.
- Tit for Tat: A Laurel and Hardy short he wrote for.
- Porky's Poultry Plant: First credited directorial effort at the studio. Also notable as the first Warner short scored by now-iconic series composer Carl Stalling.
- Little Beau Porky
- Porky in the Northwoods
- Porky's Road Race
- Porky's Romance
- Porkys Building
- Porky's Railroad
- Speaking of the Weather: First Merrie Melodies short he worked on. This short is the first of the "Tashlin Trio" of things-come-to-life cartoons that managed to singlehandedly destroy the genre due to their immense popularity.
- The Case of the Stuttering Pig
- Porky's Double Trouble
- The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos
- Porky at the Crocadero
- Now That Summer Is Gone. The first short produced by a restructured Tashlin unit now including notable animators Bob McKimson and Ken Harris, commencing a noticeable Animation Bump that would continue for the remainder of Tashlin's first directorship at Warners.
- Porky the Fireman
- Have You Got Any Castles?: Second in the "Tashlin Trio".
- Porky's Spring Planting
- The Mayor Lied Down 'Til Dawn
- Wholly Smoke
- Cracked Ice
- Little Pancho Vanilla
- You're An Education: The final member of the "Tashlin Trio" and the last cartoon he worked on during his second stint at Warner Bros; his unit would subsequently be inherited by an ambitious young animator known as Chuck Jones.
- The Great Cheese Mystery: First Columbia Cartoon he worked on. Did not direct, but wrote the story.
- The Fox and the Grapes
- The Tangled Angler
- A Hollywood Detour: Directed it.
- Under The Shedding Chestnut Tree: Supervised this and the following Columbia shorts.
- Wacky Wigwams
- Concerto in B Flat Minor
- Dog Meets Dog
- Wolf Chases Pigs
- A Battle for a Bottle
- Cinderella Goes to a Party
- Bulldog and the Baby
- Woodman, Spare That Tree
- Old Blackout Joe
- Song of Victory
- Tito's Guitar
- Red Riding Hood Rides Again: Was the producer.
- Toll Bridge Troubles
- Porky Pig's Feat: First short upon his return to WB, inheriting the lower-budget unit of the recently-drafted Norm McCabe.
- Scrap Happy Daffy
- The Goldbrick: One of Private Snafu shorts he directed.
- The Home Front:
- Puss N' Booty: Last black & white Looney Tunes short. Animator Shamus Culhane is rumored to have done uncredited work for the short.
- A Corny Concerto: Directed by Bob Clampett, but he wrote the story.
- I Got Plenty of Mutton: A one-shot cartoon that would be the inspiration for three Chuck Jones cartoon series made post-World War II: The Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote seriesnote , The Sam Sheepdog and Ralph Wolf seriesnote , and (if you can believe it), the Pepe Le Pew seriesnote .
- Swooner Crooner: Footage from his cartoon would be recycled for a cartoon sequence of the film "Two Guys From Texas".
- The Chow Hound: Private Snafu
- Brother Brat
- Censored: Private Snafu
- Plane Daffy
- Booby Hatched
- The Stupid Cupid
- The Unruly Hare: One of two Bugs Bunny shorts he directed (and the only one he was credited for)
- Behind the Meat-Ball
- Tale of Two Mice
- Nasty Quacks
- Hare Remover: Second of two Bugs Bunny shorts he directed but was uncredited. Last Warner Bros. short Tashlin directed during his third stint at Warner Bros; his second unit would subsequently be inherited by longtime master animator (including, coincidentally, under Tashlin in the late 1930s) Robert McKimson.
- The Lady Said No
- Choo Choo Amigo
- Daffy Ditties: Pepito's Serenade
- The Lemon Drop Kid: Helped finish directing it.
- The First Time
- Son of Paleface
- Marry Me Again
- Susan Slept Here
- The Face is Familiar: An episode of G.E. True Theater TV series.
- The Lieutenant Wore Skirts
- The Honest Man: An episode of G.E. True Theater TV series.
- The Girl Can't Help It
- Hollywood or Bust
- Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?. Arguably Tashlin's most well-known feature effort.
- Rock-A-Bye Baby
- The Geisha Boy
- Say One For Me
- Bachelor Flat
- It'$ Only Money
- The Man From The Diner's Club
- Who's Minding The Store?
- The Disorderly Orderly
- The Glass Bottom Boat
- The Bear That Wasn't: An animated short based on his book, directed by Chuck Jones. Tashlin receives a producer credit on the final short, although his involvement was allegedly minimal. Later disowned by Tashlin for its deviations from the source material.
- The Private Navy of Sgt. O'Farrell
Tropes Associated With Frank Tashlin:
- Art Deco: Tashlin really loved this art style and tried to use it often in his animated projects.
- Creator Backlash:
- Was not a fan of the animated adaptation of The Bear That Wasn't.Frank: Well, they destroyed the cartoon with one little thing. I saw that, I almost cried. I never talked to Chuck about it, I've never talked to him since. It was a terrible thing. This bear, he goes to sleep under a factory, when he wakes up they try to convince him he's a [man], as you well know, and he keeps insisting he's a bear, and that's the point of it. Up front in the beginning of this thing, when they are telling him he is a man and he is insisting he's a bear, they put a cigarette in his mouth. Now, the picture was destroyed there, because by the acceptance of a cigarette—you never saw where he got it—by putting a cigarette in his mouth, he was already a man. You know what I mean? Psychologically, the picture was ruined. It stopped working from that point on. So that was a terrible experience.
- He also hated being made to work on Porky Pig cartoons for the majority of his run on the Looney Tunes series, finding him an inflexible character.
- Was not a fan of the animated adaptation of The Bear That Wasn't.
- Fanservice: His live-action movies are full of this (his Warner Bros cartoons, also, but they weren't at the Tex Avery or Bob Clampett level).
- Genre-Busting: His feature films were radical and innovative comedies. The Girl Can't Help It was a pioneer in the rock musical genre, and gave audiences around the world their first glimpses of favorite rock acts of the '50s.
- Hotter and Sexier: The Private Snafu cartoon "Censored", which features Snafu's girlfriend, Sally Lou, who wears garters, pantyhose, panties, high heels, and no top. When Cartoon Network aired the short as part of their ToonHeads episode about Private Snafu's cartoons, most of the scenes where Sally Lou is topless (though not much is shown), such as her answering the door to get the mail and leaning over the vanity to decode Snafu's letter to her, was cut (though not the scene of her calling her mom about Snafu's letter or the stylized topless pin-ups in Snafu's sleeping quarters).
- Jump Cut: Tashlin's cartoons often had very fast timing, with some scenes lasting only a few frames.
- The Mentor: Tashlin was this to Jerry Lewis, becoming a big influence on Lewis's style as a writer and director.
- Recycled Premise: His feature Rock-a-Bye Baby features a hapless man (Jerry Lewis) in comical situations while babysitting, very much like his Porky Pig short Brother Brat.
- Renaissance Man: One of the few animation directors who transitioned to live-action. See Brad Bird for a modern equivalent.
- Take That!: The name of Van Boring, a newspaper comic he ran for a few years, was a jab at his old animation boss Amadee Van Beuren.
- The Voiceless: His newspaper comic character Van Boring had no dialogue from the protagonist—the humor was entirely done in pantomime.