Bob Clampett (1913-1984) was a pioneer of American animation. While he was still in his teens, Clampett designed the first Mickey Mouse doll for Walt Disney based on the Disney cartoon “Steamboat Willie”. Shortly thereafter, Clampett went to work at the Harman-Ising Studios, where he animated scenes for the first Merrie Melodies cartoon ever made, “Lady Play Your Mandolin!”
In 1935, the studio was still looking for a star, and when Producer Leon Schlesinger suggested a cartoon version of “Our Gang”, Clampett created a fat little pig named Porky, and a black cat named Beans. Although Beans got top billing, Porky was the hit with audiences and became Warner Bros. first cartoon star.
That same year, Clampett was assigned as an animator and key gagman for newly arrived director, Tex Avery. Together they forged a new direction in their cartoons by displaying a wild, irreverent sense of humor. This was the beginning of what later became known as the Warner style. It was at Termite Terrace, their dilapidated studio in the middle of the Warner lot, that Avery and Clampett created Daffy Duck, a character that gave Looney Tunes some of their wildest moments. Later, Avery and Clampett would be two of the principle creators of Warner Bros. biggest cartoon star, Bugs Bunny.
In 1937, Clampett was promoted to Director, and for the next nine years would direct some of the funniest, wildest, and most memorable Warner Bros. cartoons. Some of these cartoons, such as “Porky in Wackyland” (1938), “Corny Concerto” (1943), “Coal Black and the Sebben Dwarfs” (1943), and “The Great Piggy Bank Robbery” (1946) are widely considered to be classics. Clampett also introduced Beaky Buzzard, in “Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid”. In 1942, Clampett introduced the beloved Tweety, whom he designed after his own nude baby picture, in “Tale of Two Kitties”, and would direct all of the Tweety cartoons until his departure from the studio.
In 1946, Clampett left Warner Bros. and three short years later, he created a live televised daily puppet show called “Time for Beany” that featured a sea serpent named Cecil, his best pal, a little boy with a propeller cap named Beany, and a likable villain, Dishonest John. The show would go on to win three Emmys for Best Children’s Program. In 1961, ABC debuted the animated cartoon show “Beany and Cecil”, which ran for five years straight and to this day can still be seen worldwide.
Clampett described what he saw as the magic of animation in the following way: “An artist can take pencil and brush in hand, and on a piece of paper can create a setting, be it an ancient city or a strange planet, and then animate figures doing anything at all that comes to his imagination. No other medium allows the creator to control every detail on every frame so completely.”