Here’s a prime example of Tex’s irreverent style and sensibilities.
Everyone who grew up in the 30’s, 40’s 50’s and beyond has been touched by the daffy creativity of Tex Avery. My first recollections of wanting to be an artist formed as I watched Daffy Duck as a kid trying to draw him as he raced across the black and white TV screen of my youth. The joy of watching Avery’s work peppered my youth and probably contributed to my anti-establishment behavior throughout my school years. Thank you Tex!
Frederick Bean “Fred/Tex” Avery (February 26, 1908 – August 26, 1980) was an American animator, cartoonist, voice actor and director, famous for producing animated cartoons during The Golden Age of Hollywood animation. He did his most significant work for the Warner Bros. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios, creating the characters of Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Droopy, Screwy Squirrel, and developing Porky Pig, Chilly Willy (this last one for the Walter Lantz Studio) into the personas for which they are remembered.
Tex Avery was born to George Walton Avery (b. June 8, 1867 – d. January 14, 1935) and the former Mary Augusta “Jessie” Bean (1886–1931) in Taylor, Texas. His father was born in Alabama. His mother was born in Buena Vista, Chickasaw County, Mississippi. His paternal grandparents were Needham Avery (Civil War veteran) (October 8, 1838 – after 1892) and his wife Lucinda C. Baxly (May 11, 1844 – March 10, 1892). His maternal grandparents were Frederick Mumford Bean (1852 – October 23, 1886) and his wife Minnie Edgar (July 25, 1854 – May 7, 1940). Avery was said to be a descendant of Judge Roy Bean. However his maternal great-grandparents were actually Mumford Bean from Tennessee (August 22, 1805 – October 10, 1892) and his wife Lutica from Alabama. Mumford was son of William Bean and his wife Nancy Blevins from Virginia. Their relation to Roy is uncertain though his paternal grandparents were also from Virginia. Avery’s family tradition also claimed descent from Daniel Boone.
Avery was raised in his native Taylor, and graduated in 1926 from North Dallas High School. A popular catchphrase at his school was “What’s up, doc?”, which he would later popularize with Bugs Bunny in the 1940s.
Avery first began his animation career at the Walter Lantz studio in the early 1930s, working on the majority of the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons from 1931-35. He is shown as ‘animator’ on the original title card credits on the Oswald cartoons. He later claimed to have directed two cartoons during this time. During some office horseplay, a paperclip flew into Avery’s left eye and caused him to lose use of that eye. Some speculate it was his lack of depth perception that gave him his unique look at animation and bizarre directorial style.
Although Tex Avery did not live to experience the late-1980s renaissance of animation, his work was rediscovered and he began to receive widespread attention and praise by the modern animation and film communities. All of his MGM shorts were released uncensored in a North American MGM/UA laserdisc set, called The Compleat Tex Avery, including the “politically incorrect” Uncle Tom’s Cabana and Half-Pint Pygmy (although these were removed from the Region 2 DVD release, now out of print). Several of them were released on VHS, in four volumes of Tex Avery’s Screwball Classics, and two Droopy collections, with many gags edited out for television showings left in. Screwball Squirrel, King-Size Canary and Little Rural Riding Hood were included on MGM/UA’s first non-Tom and Jerry tape of vintage animated shorts, MGM Cartoon Magic. Two other cartoons by Avery appeared on Christmas compilations. The Peachy Cobbler was part of MGM Cartoon Christmas, and One Ham’s Family was part of Tom and Jerry’s Night Before Christmas. Avery’s Droopy cartoons are available on the DVD set Tex Avery’s Droopy: The Complete Theatrical Collection. The seven Droopy cartoons produced in CinemaScope were included here in their original widescreen versions, instead of the pan and scan versions regularly broadcast on television. Also, some of his works could be found on tapes of Warner Bros.’ Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunesshorts, and the same is true of his few Lantz Studio cartoons. His influence is strongly reflected in modern cartoons such as “Roger Rabbit“, Ren and Stimpy, Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, Freakazoid, Tom and Jerry Kids Show, SpongeBob SquarePants, Rocko’s Modern Life, Phineas & Ferb, and the Genie character in Disney‘s Aladdin. In fact, an Averyesque cowboy character bore his name in the otherwise unrelated series The Wacky World of Tex Avery. His work has been honored on shows such as The Tex Avery Show and Cartoon Alley. His characters (particularly Bugs Bunny and the risqué antics of Red Hot Riding Hood) were referenced in the Jim Carrey film The Mask. In the mid 1990s, Dark Horse Comicsreleased a trio of three-issue miniseries that were openly labelled tributes to Avery’s MGM cartoons, Wolf & Red, Droopy, and Screwy Squirrel. It should also be noted that Tex Avery, unlike most Warner Brothers directors, kept many original title frames of his cartoons, several otherwise lost due to Blue Ribbon Reissues, and were recently[when?] sold on eBay.
In 2008 France issued three stamps honoring Tex Avery for his 100th birthday, depicting Droopy, the redheaded showgirl, and the wolf.
Today, the copyrights to all classic color cartoons directed by Avery at Warners and MGM are owned by Turner Entertainment, with Warner Bros. handling distribution. (WB owns the black-and-white cartoons directly.) Turner and WB are both units of Time Warner. The cartoons he directed at the Lantz studio are owned by their original distributors, Universal Studios. A few of Avery’s WB shorts are in the public domain, but WB and Turner hold the original film elements.