August 21, 1905
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
|Died||May 26, 1995 89) (aged|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery|
|Other names||I. Freleng|
|Employer(s)|| Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio/Walt Disney Studio (1927–1928)|
Screen Gems (1928-1930)
Warner Bros. Cartoons (1933–1937, 1939–1962)
DePatie-Freleng Enterprises (1963-1981)
Warner Bros. Animation (1981-1986)
Lily Schoenfeld Freleng
Isadore "Friz" Freleng (August 21, 1905 –May 26, 1995), credited as I. Freleng early in his career, was an American animator, cartoonist, director, producer, and composer known for his work at Warner Bros. Cartoons on the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons. In total he created more than 300 cartoons.
He introduced and/or developed several of the studio's biggest stars, including Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Tweety, Sylvester, Yosemite Sam (to whom he was said to bear more than a passing resemblance), and Speedy Gonzales. The senior director at Warners' Termite Terrace studio, Freleng directed more cartoons than any other director in the studio (a total of 266), and is also the most honored of the Warner directors, having won five Academy Awards and three Emmy Awards. After Warner closed down the animation studio in 1963, Freleng and business partner David H. DePatie founded DePatie–Freleng Enterprises, which produced cartoons (including The Pink Panther Show ), feature film title sequences, and Saturday-morning cartoons through the early 1980s.
The nickname "Friz" came from his friend, Hugh Harman, who initially nicknamed him "Congressman Frizby" after a fictional senator who appeared in satirical pieces in the Los Angeles Examiner , due to the characters strong resemblance to him. Over time, this shortened to "Friz".
Freleng was born to a Jewish familyin Kansas City, Missouri, where he attended Westport High School from 1919 to 1923 and where began his career in animation at the United Film Ad Service. There, he made the acquaintance of fellow animators Hugh Harman and Ub Iwerks. In 1923, Iwerks' friend, Walt Disney, moved to Hollywood and put out a call for his Kansas City colleagues to join him. Freleng, however, held out until January 1927, when he finally moved to California and joined the Walt Disney studio. He worked alongside other former Kansas City animators, including Iwerks, Harman, Carman Maxwell, and Rudolph Ising. While at Disney, Freleng worked on the Alice Comedies and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons for producers Margaret Winkler and Charles Mintz. Friz said in an interview with Michael Barrier that Walt had patience and remorse in letters prior to joining him, but did not show that attitude and instead Walt became abusive and he harassed him.
Freleng soon teamed up with Harman and Ising to try to create their own studio. The trio produced a pilot film starring a new Mickey Mouse-like character named Bosko. Looking at unemployment if the cartoon failed to generate interest, Freleng moved to New York City to work on Mintz' Krazy Kat cartoons,all the while still trying to sell the Harman-Ising Bosko picture. Freleng was very unhappy living in New York and made the best of it until another opportunity opened for him. Bosko was finally sold to Leon Schlesinger, who would produce the series for Warner Bros. At first, Freleng was reluctant to return to California when Harman-Ising asked him to work on the series. At the insistence of his sister Jean, Freleng soon moved back to California to work on Looney Tunes.
Harman and Ising left Schlesinger's studio over disputes about budgets in 1933. Schlesinger was left with no experienced directors and therefore lured Freleng away from Harman-Ising to successfully fix cartoons directed by Tom Palmer which Warner rejected. The young animator became Schlesinger's top director, and he introduced the studio's first true post-Bosko star, Porky Pig, in the film, I Haven't Got a Hat (1935). Porky was a distinctive character, unlike Bosko or his replacement, Buddy.
As a director, Freleng gained the reputation of a tough taskmaster. His unit, however, consistently produced high-quality animated shorts under his direction.
Friz Freleng directed the largest number of cartoons on the Censored Eleven, a group of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons originally produced and released by Warner Bros. that were withheld from syndication in the United States by United Artists (UA) in 1968 because the use of ethnic stereotypes in the cartoons, specifically African stereotypes, was deemed too offensive for contemporary audiences.
David DePatie, when asked about the Japanese beetle in Blue Racer in 1996, said this about Friz's view on race, "It seems like poking fun at certain ethnic groups had always spelled success. Friz had always felt that way in his cartoons, especially with Speedy."
In September 1937, Freleng left Schlesinger after accepting an increase in salary to direct for the new Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cartoon studio headed by Fred Quimby. Freleng served as a director on The Captain and the Kids , an animated series adapted from the comic strip, The Katzenjammer Kids . In November 1938, Freleng became a "junior director" under Hugh Harman but quit after 6 months in April 1939.
Freleng happily returned to Warner Bros. in mid-April 1939when his MGM contract ended. One of the first Looney Tunes cartoon shorts directed by Freleng during his second tenure at the studio was You Ought to Be in Pictures , a cartoon short which blended animation with live-action footage of the Warner Bros. studio (and included staff such as story man Michael Maltese and Schlesinger himself). The plot, which centers around Porky Pig being tricked by Daffy Duck into terminating his contract with Schlesinger to attempt a career in features, echoes Freleng's experience in moving to MGM.
Schlesinger's hands-off attitude toward his animators allowed Freleng and his fellow directors almost complete creative control and room to experiment with cartoon comedy styles, which allowed the studio to keep pace with the Disney studio's technical superiority. Freleng's style quickly matured, and he became a master of comic timing. Often working alongside layout artist Hawley Pratt, he also introduced or redesigned a number of Warner characters, including Yosemite Sam in 1945, the cat-and-bird duo Sylvester and Tweety in 1947, and Speedy Gonzales in 1955.
Freleng and Chuck Jones would dominate the Warner Bros. studio in the years after World War II, with Freleng largely concentrating on the above-mentioned characters, as well as Bugs Bunny. Freleng continued to produce modernized versions of the musical comedies he animated in his early career, such as Three Little Bops (1957) and Pizzicato Pussycat (1955). He won four Oscars during his time at Warner Bros., for the films Tweetie Pie (1947), Speedy Gonzales (1955), Birds Anonymous (1957) and Knighty Knight Bugs (1958). Other Freleng cartoons, such as Sandy Claws (1955), Mexicali Shmoes (1959), Mouse and Garden (1960) and The Pied Piper of Guadalupe (1961) were Oscar nominees.
Freleng's cartoon, Show Biz Bugs (1957), with Daffy Duck vying with Bugs Bunny for theatre audience appreciation, was arguably a template for the successful format of The Bugs Bunny Show that premiered on television in the autumn of 1960. Further, Freleng directed the cartoons with the erudite and ever-so-polite Goofy Gophers encountering the relentless wheels of human industry, them being I Gopher You (1954) and Lumber Jerks (1955), and he also directed three cartoons (sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation) extolling the virtues of free-market capitalism: By Word of Mouse (1954), Heir-Conditioned (1955) and Yankee Dood It (1956), all three of which involved Sylvester. Freleng directed all three of the vintage Warner Brothers cartoons in which a drinking of Dr. Jekyll's potion (of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ) induces a series of monstrous transformations: Dr. Jerkyl's Hide (1954), Hyde and Hare (1955) and Hyde and Go Tweet (1960). Other Freleng fancies were man at war with the insect world (as in Of Thee I Sting (1946) and Ant Pasted (1953)), an inebriated stork delivering the wrong baby (in A Mouse Divided (1952), Stork Naked (1955) and Apes of Wrath (1959)), and characters marrying for money and finding themselves with a shrewish wife and a troublesome step-son ( His Bitter Half (1949) and Honey's Money (1962)).
Freleng was occasionally the subject of in-jokes in Warner cartoons. In Canary Row (1950), there were billboards in the background of scenes advertising various products called "Friz". The "Hotel Friz" was featured in Racketeer Rabbit (1946) and "Frizby the Magician" was one of the acts Bugs Bunny pitched in High Diving Hare (1949).
Freleng was somewhat of a musical composer and a classically trained violinist who timed his cartoons on musical bar sheets. Freleng would time gags that best utilized Carl Stalling's, Milt Franklyn's or William Lava's music. He was one of a very few directors at Warner Bros. to have musical knowledge for making cartoons. Every cartoon Freleng directed from the late 1930s to 1963 was made with his creative musical technique.Freleng's directorial style differed from Chuck Jones and Robert McKimson.
Warner Bros. Cartoons was closed in 1964, leading Freleng to take a job at Hanna-Barbera Productions as story supervisor on their first feature, Hey There, It's Yogi Bear!Freleng rented the same space from Warners to create cartoons with his now-former boss, producer David H. DePatie (the final producer hired by Warner Bros. to oversee the cartoon division), forming DePatie–Freleng Enterprises. When Warner decided to reopen their cartoon studio in 1964, due to Freleng asking them if he can rent the studio, eventually settling for $500, they did so in name only; DePatie–Freleng produced the cartoons into 1966.
The DePatie–Freleng studio's signature achievement was The Pink Panther. DePatie–Freleng was commissioned to create the opening titles for the feature film The Pink Panther (1963), for which layout artist and director Hawley Pratt and Freleng created a suave, cool cat character. The Pink Panther cartoon character became so popular that United Artists, distributors of The Pink Panther, had Freleng produce a short cartoon starring the character, The Pink Phink (1964).
After The Pink Phink won the 1965 Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoons), Freleng and DePatie responded by producing a whole series of Pink Panther cartoons. Other original cartoon series, among them The Inspector , The Ant and the Aardvark , Tijuana Toads , The Dogfather , Roland and Rattfink and Crazylegs Crane , soon followed. In 1969, The Pink Panther Show , a Saturday morning anthology program featuring DePatie–Freleng cartoons, debuted on NBC. The Pink Panther and the other original DePatie–Freleng series would remain in production through 1980, with new cartoons produced for simultaneous Saturday morning broadcast and United Artists theatrical release.
Layout artist Hawley Pratt, who worked at DePatie–Freleng during the time, is credited with the creation of Frito-Lay's Chester Cheetah, on the Food Network show "Deep Fried Treats Unwrapped", though some sources say it was DDB Worldwide, while others credit Brad Morgan. The studio is also known for creating the color opening title sequence for the I Dream of Jeannie television series. DePatie–Freleng also contributed special effects to the original version of Star Wars (1977), particularly the animation of the lightsaber blades.
By 1967, DePatie and Freleng had moved their operations to the San Fernando Valley. Their studio was located on Hayvenhurst Avenue in Van Nuys. One of their projects, titled Goldilocks , featured Bing Crosby and his family, and had songs by the Sherman Brothers. At their new facilities, they continued to produce new cartoons until 1980, when they sold DePatie–Freleng to Marvel Comics, which renamed it Marvel Productions.
Freleng later served as an executive producer on three 1980s Looney Tunes compilation features, The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie (1981), Bugs Bunny's 3rd Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales (1982), and Daffy Duck's Fantastic Island (1983), which linked classic shorts with new animated sequences. In 1986, Freleng stepped down and gave his position at Warner Bros. to his secretary at the time, Kathleen Helppie-Shipley, who ended up being the second-longest producer of the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies franchise, behind only Leon Schlesinger.
In 1994, the International Family Film Festival presented its first Lifetime Achievement of Excellence in Animation award to Freleng, and the award has since been referred to as the "Friz Award" in his honor.
On May 26, 1995, Friz Freleng died of natural causes in Los Angeles, aged 89. The WB animated TV series The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries , and the Looney Tunes cartoon From Hare to Eternity (which was the last one directed by Chuck Jones), were both dedicated to his memory. After his death, Cartoon Network aired a variation of one of their station idents with the words "Friz Freleng: 1906–1995" (the birth year is disputed) appearing and an announcer paying tribute to Freleng and his works. He is interred in Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery.
Freleng is portrayed by Taylor Gray in the film Walt Before Mickey (2015).
Looney Tunes is an American animated comedy short film series produced by Warner Bros. starting from 1930 to 1969, concurrently with its partner series Merrie Melodies, during the golden age of American animation. The two series introduced a large cast of characters, including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig. The term Looney Tunes has since been expanded to also refer to the characters themselves.
Leon Schlesinger was an American film producer who founded Leon Schlesinger Productions, which later became the Warner Bros. Cartoons studio, during the Golden Age of American animation. He was a distant relative of the Warner Brothers. As head of his own studio, Schlesinger served as the producer of Warner's Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons from 1930, when Schlesinger assumed production from his subcontractors, Harman and Ising, to 1944, when Warner acquired the studio.
Robert Emerson Clampett Sr. was an American animator, director, producer and puppeteer. He was best known for his work on the Looney Tunes animated series from Warner Bros. as well as the television shows Time for Beany and Beany and Cecil. Clampett was born and raised not far from Hollywood and, early in his life, showed an interest in animation and puppetry. After leaving high school a few months shy of graduating in 1931, Clampett joined the team at Harman-Ising Productions and began working on the studio's newest short subjects, titled Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies.
Robert Porter McKimson Sr. was an American animator and illustrator, best known for his work on the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons from Warner Bros. Cartoons and later DePatie–Freleng Enterprises. He wrote and directed many animated cartoon shorts starring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Foghorn Leghorn, Hippety Hopper, and The Tasmanian Devil, among other characters. He was also well known for defining Bugs Bunny's look in the 1943 short Tortoise Wins by a Hare.
Hugh Harman was an American animator. He was known for creating the Warner Bros. Cartoons and MGM Cartoons and his collaboration with Rudolf Ising during the golden age of American animation.
Merrie Melodies is an American animated series of comedy short films produced by Warner Bros. starting in 1931, during the golden age of American animation, and ending in 1969. As with its brother series, Looney Tunes, it featured cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and Elmer Fudd. Between 1934 and 1943, the Merrie Melodies series were distinguished from the black-and-white, Buddy or Porky Pig–starring Looney Tunes shorts by an emphasis on one-shot stories in color featuring Warner Bros.–owned musical selections. After Bugs Bunny became the breakout recurring star of Merrie Melodies, and Looney Tunes went to color in the early 1940s, the two series gradually lost their distinctions and shorts were assigned to each series more randomly.
Buddy is an animated cartoon character in the Looney Tunes series by Leon Schlesinger Productions. He was the second star of the series, after Bosko.
DePatie–Freleng Enterprises was an American animation production company that was active from 1963 to 1981. Based in Burbank, DFE produced animation for film and television.
Sinkin' in the Bathtub is the first Warner Bros. theatrical cartoon short as well as the first of the Looney Tunes series. The cartoon features Bosko, and the title is a pun on the 1929 song Singin' in the Bathtub. The short debuted in April 1930, at the Warner Bros. Theater in Hollywood.
Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid is a 1929 live-action/animated short film produced to sell a series of Bosko cartoons. The film was never released to theaters, and therefore not seen by a wide audience until 2000 on Cartoon Network's television special Toonheads: The Lost Cartoons. The film was produced on May 29, 1929 and directed by Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising.
Beans the Cat is an animated cartoon character in the Warner Bros. Cartoons series of cartoons from 1935–1936. Beans was the third Warner Bros cartoon character star after Bosko and Buddy. He is voiced by Billy Bletcher and occasionally by Tommy Bond. He was created by director Friz Freleng. The character was featured in nine cartoons made in 1935 and 1936.
Warner Bros. Cartoons, Inc. was an American animation studio, serving as the in-house animation division of Warner Bros. during the Golden Age of American animation. One of the most successful animation studios in American media history, it was primarily responsible for the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of animated short films. The characters featured in these cartoons, including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig, are among the most famous and recognizable characters in the world. Many of the creative staff members at the studio, including directors and animators such as Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Robert McKimson, Tex Avery, Robert Clampett, Arthur Davis, and Frank Tashlin, are considered major figures in the art and history of traditional animation.
David Hudson DePatie was an American film and television producer who was the last executive in charge of the original Warner Bros. Cartoons studio and the longest-living until his death. He also formed DePatie–Freleng Enterprises, with Friz Freleng, and was an executive producer at Marvel Productions.
Hawley B. Pratt was an American film director, animator, and illustrator. He is best known for his work for Warner Bros. Cartoons and as the right-hand man of director Friz Freleng as a layout artist and later as a director. Pratt also worked for Walt Disney Studios, Filmation, and DePatie-Freleng Enterprises where he co-created The Pink Panther.
Germain Adolph Chiniquy was an American animator known for his work with Friz Freleng, at both Warner Bros. and DePatie-Freleng Enterprises.
Earl Duvall was an American artist and animator best known for his work on Disney comic strips in the early 1930s and for a handful of animated short films he directed at Warner Bros. Cartoons.
Bosko's Picture Show is a Warner Bros. Looney Tunes animated short directed by Hugh Harman and Friz Freleng. It was the last Looney Tunes Bosko cartoon produced by Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising for Leon Schlesinger and Warner Bros. The duo moved on to produce cartoons for MGM, the first of which were released in 1934. The music score was a work of Frank Marsales.
Norman McCabe was an English-born American animator who enjoyed a long career that lasted into the 1990s.
Manuel "Manny" Perez was an American animator and animation director whose career spanned 40 years, from the 1940s to the 1980s, and best known for his work on the Warner Bros. Cartoons animated shorts, working on such cartoons as Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd and Daffy Duck. Later in his career he worked on Fritz the Cat and The Lord of the Rings.
Robert Herman Givens was an American animator, character designer, responsible for the creation of Bugs Bunny. He was the leading character designer for Leon Schlesinger, creating over 25 successful characters for both Leon Schlesinger Productions and Warner bros. He also did the storyboards and layout designs. He worked for numerous animation studios during his career, including Walt Disney Animation Studios, Warner Bros. Cartoons, Hanna-Barbera, and DePatie–Freleng Enterprises, beginning his career during the late 1930s and continuing until the early 2001. He was a collaborator with the Merrie Melody/Looney Tune directors at Warner Bros. and Chuck Jones' production company.