Animator. Nationality: American. Born: Frederick Bean Avery in Taylor, Texas, 26 February 1907. Education: Attended North Dallas High School, graduated 1927. Career: 1930–35—animator with Universal-Walter Lantz Cartoons; 1936–41—worked at Warners (4 films in Bugs Bunny series: A Wild Hare, Tortoise Beats Hare, The Heckling Hare, and All This and Rabbit Stew); before 1941 credited as Fred Avery; 1942—brief period at Paramount, 3 films in Speaking of Animals series then moved to MGM beginning with The Blitz Wolf; 1954–55—directed for Walter Lantz; 1955—quit MGM; 1956–78—made commercials for Cascade Productions; 1979–80—with Hanna-Barbera Cartoons. Awards: First Prize, Venice Publicity Festival, for Calo-Tiger, 1958; Television Commercials Council Award, 1960; Annie Award, ASIFA 1974. Died: 26 August 1980.
Films as Director (often credited as supervisor):
Golddiggers of '49; The Blow-out; Plane Dippy; I'd Love to Take Orders from You; Miss Glory; I Love to Singa; Porky the Rain Maker; The Village Smithy; Milk and Money;Don't Look Now; Porky the Wrestler
Picador Porky; I Only Have Eyes for You; Porky's Duck Hunt;Uncle Tom's Bungalow; Ain't We Got Fun; Daffy Duck and Egghead; Egghead Rides Again; A Sunbonnet Blue; Porky's Garden; I Wanna Be a Sailor; The Sneezing Weasel; Little Red Walking Hood
The Penguin Parade; The Isle of Pingo Pongo; A Feud There Was; Johnny Smith and Poker-Huntas; Daffy Duck in Hollywood; Cinderella Meets Fella; Hamateur Night; The Mice Will Play; Daffy's Romance
A Day at the Zoo; Thugs with Dirty Mugs; Believe It or Else;Dangerous Dan McFoo; Detouring America; Land of the Midnight Fun; Fresh Fish; Screwball Football; The Early Worm Gets the Bird
Cross Country Detours; The Bear's Tale; A Gander at Mother Goose; Circus Today; A Wild Hare; Ceiling Hero; Wacky Wild Life; Of Fox and Hounds (+ voice of Willoughby thedog); Holiday Highlights
The Crackpot Quail; Haunted Mouse; Tortoise Beats Hare;Hollywood Steps Out; Porky's Preview; The Heckling Hare(+ voice of Willoughby the dog); Aviation Vacation; All This and Rabbit Stew; The Bug Parade; Aloha Hooey; The Cagey Canary (completed by Bob Clampett); Crazy Cruise
Speaking of Animals down on the Farm; Speaking of Animals in a Pet Shop; Speaking of Animals in the Zoo; The Blitz Wolf; The Early Bird Dood it; Dumb-Hounded
Red Hot Riding Hood; Who Killed Who?; One Ham's Family;What's Buzzin', Buzzard?
Screwy Squirrel; Batty Baseball; Happy-Go-Nutty; Big Heel-watha
The Screwy Truant; The Shooting of Dan McGoo; Jerky Turkey; Swing Shift Cinderella; Wild and Woolfy
Lonesome Lenny; The Hick Chick; Northwest Hounded Police; Henpecked Hoboes (+ voice of Junior)
Hound Hunters (+ voice of Junior); Red Hot Rangers (+ voiceof Junior); Uncle Tom's Cabana; Slap Happy Lion; King Size Canary; Little Tinker
What Price Fleadom; Half-Pint Pygmy (+ voice of Junior);Lucky Ducky; The Cat That Hated People
Bad Luck Blackie; Señor Droopy; The House of Tomorrow;Doggone Tired; Wags to Riches; Little Rural Riding Hood;Outfoxed; Counterfeit Cat
Ventriloquist Cat; The Cuckoo Clock; Garden Gopher; The Chump Champ; The Peachy Cobbler
Cock-a-Doodle Dog; Dare-Devil Droopy; Droopy's Good Deed; Symphony in Slang; The Car of Tomorrow; Droopy's Double Trouble; The Magical Maestro
One Cab's Family; Rock-a-Bye Bear
Little Johnny Jet; TV of Tomorrow; The Three Little Pups; Drag-a-long Droopy
Billy Boy; Homesteader Droopy; Farm of Tomorrow; The Flea Circus; Dixieland Droopy; Crazy Mixed-Up Pup
Field and Scream; The First Bad Man; Deputy Droopy (co-d); Cellbound (co-d); I'm Cold (Some Like It Not); Chilly Willy in the Legend of Rockabye Point (The Rockabye Legend); SH-H-H-H-H; remakes of Wags to Riches and Ventrilo-quist Cat
Millionaire Droopy; Cat's Meow
By AVERY: article—
Interview with Joseph Adamson, in Take One (Montreal), January-February 1970.
On AVERY: books—
Kyrou, Ado, Le Surréalisme au cinéma, Paris, 1952.
Benayoun, Robert, Dessin animé après Walt Disney, Paris, 1961.
Adamson, Joseph, Tex Avery, King of Cartoons, New York, 1975.
Brion, Patrick, Tex Avery, Paris, 1984.
Canemaker, John, Tex Avery: Artist, Animator, & Director from the Golden Age of Animated Cartoons, North Dighton, 1998.
On AVERY: articles—
Doniol-Valcroze, Jacques, "Un Savoureaux Western animé," in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), February 1947.
"Le Dossier Tex Avery," in Positif (Paris), July-August 1963.
Canemakers, J., "The Hollywood Cartoon," in Filmmakers Newsletter (Ward Hill, Massachusetts), April 1974.
Kral, P., "Tex Avery ou le délire lucide," in Positif (Paris), June 1974.
Adamson, J., "Cartoonographies," in Film Comment, New York, January-February 1975.
Rosenbaum, J., "Dream Masters II: Tex Avery," in Film Comment (New York), January-February 1975.
Cohen, M. S. "Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies," in Velvet Light Trap (Madison, Wisconsin), Autumn 1975.
Cornand, A., "Le Festival d'Annecy . . . ," in Image et Son (Paris), January 1977.
Jones, Chuck, "Confessions of a Cell Washer," in Take One (Montreal), September 1978.
Gaines, J., "The Showgirl and the Wolf," in Cinema Journal (Evanston, Illinois), Fall 1980.
Dagneau, G., "Tex Avery: L'accléré à 24 images seconde!," in Cinéma (Paris), October 1980.
Beltrán, A., "Dos bitos del ochenta," in Contracampo (Madrid), January 1981.
Colpart, G., "Look at Me, Folks, I'm Just Tex Avery," in Image et Son (Paris), January 1981.
Lenburg, Jeff, in The Great Cartoon Directors, Jefferson, North Carolina, 1983.
Cinéma (Paris), no. 335, 24 December 1985.
Schneider, Steve, in That's All Folks! New York, 1988.
Skrien, August-September 1992.
Smith, Lane, "The Artist At Work," in Horn Book Magazine, January-February 1993.
Film en Televisie, March 1993.
Sight and Sound, October 1993.
Time, 8 August 1994.
Klein, Tom, "Apprenticing the Master: Tex Avery at Universal (1929–1935)," in Animation Journal (Orange), Fall 1997.
Floquet, Pierre, "Tex Avery's Comic Language: A Transgressive Interpretation of Hunting," in Animation Journal (Orange), Fall 1997.
Corliss, Richard, "Cartoons are No Laughing Matter," in Time, 12 May 1997.
* * *
The cartoons of Tex Avery represent a style of animation that is the absolute antithesis to the Disney school of filmmaking. Whereas Disney strove for realism (with such technical devices as sound, Technicolor, and the multiplane camera), Avery strove for the absurd and the surreal. Avery's "logic" had no bounds and his cartoons exhibited an anything-goes policy. The characters in Avery's cartoons not only behaved in a crazy way, but actually seemed insane. Among the cartoon characters that he created were Daffy Duck, Screwball Squirrel, Droopy, and his most famous character, Bugs Bunny. Avery gave Bugs his familiar phrase "What's up Doc?," which was an expression in Avery's home town in Texas.
The most striking feature of Avery's animation style is the breakneck pace of gags. Avery believed in having as many gags as possible. While at Warner Brothers, Avery did a number of cartoons loosely structured as travelogues or newsreels. This simple framework gave Avery the opportunity to string together as many "black out" (short, self-contained) gags as could fit into seven minutes. Cartons like Believe It or Else and Wacky Wild Life were short on plot, but bursting with Avery's sight gags.
Another trademark of Avery's cartoons is the elasticity of his characters. It would be fair to say that Avery puts his characters through a wider range of physical distortions than any other cartoon director. For example, in King Size Canary, the dog, cat, bird and mouse grow to absurd proportions. In Screwball Football a character literally yells his head off. Naturally, none of these physical distortions ever proves to be fatal.
Another source of Avery's humor is the medium of animation itself. Many times the characters in Avery's cartoons refer to the cartoon world in which they live. For example, in Porky's Preview, Porky Pig draws his own cartoon starring himself. In Screwball Squirrel, Screwy accidentally runs clear off the side of the frame of the film. In The Magical Maestro a hair keeps bobbing up and down in the projection gate until one of the characters finally reaches over and pulls it out. Avery rarely lets the audience forget that they are watching cartoons.
Another feature often associated with Tex Avery's cartoons are his jokes based on sexual innuendos. For example, Avery's character of the Wolf (who appeared in Red Hot Riding Hood and Wild and Woolfy among others) represents the most elementary of sexual beings. In these cartoons the Wolf cannot control his desire for Red; his eyes pop out of his head, his jaw drops open, his tongue rolls out on the floor, and he literally falls to pieces. His lust is in no way subtle, and in fact, Red Hot Riding Hood had some trouble getting by the Hays Office because of the suggestion of bestiality. Nothing in Avery's cartoons ever went beyond suggestion, but Avery subsequently adopted the habit of padding his scripts with extra and outlandish "no-no's," which could then be dropped, in order that a few innuendoes could slip by the censors.
During the latter part of his career, Tex Avery achieved an unusual degree of recognition in television even though his work was uncredited. He created a number of award-winning animated commercials with such characters as the Raid bugs and the Frito Bandito. The short 30- or 60-second format of commercial advertising was an ideal outlet for Avery's fast-paced gags. His work has certainly influenced a number of younger animators, although no one has yet been able to completely match Avery's achievement: the totally crazy cartoon.