-by Matthew Hunter and Robert McKimson, Jr.

 

Introduction: The following is an interview with Robert McKimson, Jr., son of WB cartoon director Robert McKimson and nephew of animators Tom and Charles McKimson. This serves to let readers to this site learn more about the McKimson name in Warner Bros. cartoons, as well as promote a series of original paintings and drawings from the McKimsons that Robert is offering for sale. Included below are the interview and 7 examples of the available artwork. Obviously, these are only examples.  If you  have an interest in any of the artwork below or would like to see more, please email Robert at:  ronanent@bellsouth.net.

1. MH: Thanks for doing this. I think it is important that people hear your family’s story. You probably will not find any greater fan of their work and that of other Warner animators than I am. So my first question: can you give a brief overview for our readers of what Robert, Charles, and Tom did (like when each one got their start in animation and what each one’s primary job was)?  

RM: Tom, my uncle, was the oldest, and got started, along with my father, with Walt Disney in 1928 as an assistant animator. They both left after a short time to go, as animators, to The Romer Grey Studio, Zane Grey's son, who was starting a new cartoon studio.  After a year or two the studio folded without producing a cartoon.  In 1931 they both went to Harman-Ising Cartoon Studio, as animators.  Harman-Ising were releasing their cartoons through Warner Bros.  Leon Schlesinger was the middle man between Harman-Ising and Warner Bros.  In 1933 Harman-Ising and Schlesinger  parted ways.  Tom stayed with Harman-Ising and my father went with Schlesinger who started a new cartoon studio to release through Warner Bros.  Tom rejoined Schlesinger in 1942 and left in 1947.

        Robert, my father, stayed with Warner Bros. Cartoons, Schlesinger sold out in 1944, until the studio closed in 1963.  He became a director in 1944 and directed 175 cartoons and was the longest continual employee of Warner Bros. Cartoons.
        Charles, my uncle, started as an animator in 1937 with Schlesinger.  He served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during the war and rejoined Warner Bros. Cartoons in in 1946 as an animator for my father.  He left in 1954.
 

.2: MH: What do you think your father’s best film is? 

     RM:  I think my father had three great cartoons.  His first Foghorn cartoon in 1946, which was nominated for an Academy Award - "Walky Talky Hawky".  Another Foghorn cartoon 1949 - "Hen House Henery".  A Bugs cartoon from 1950 - "Hillbilly Hare".

3.   MH: I know Robert created Foghorn Leghorn, Speedy Gonzales, Sylvester Junior, and others by himself. Did he ever say what his favorite creation was?

   RM: My father created the following major characters:  Foghorn Leghorn; Hippety Hopper; Sylvester Jr.; Original Speedy Gonzales; and Tasmanian Devil.  In addition, he created the definitive drawing, as we know him today, of Bugs Bunny in 1943.  I think my father's favorite character was Foghorn Leghorn.  It was his first character and he loved Foghorn's attitude.

4.  MH: What has always interested me is how long the McKimson name lasted at Warner Bros.. These three guys were there for a time period rivaling Friz Freleng’s in length, and Robert directed many of the very last Warner cartoons. Why did they stay so long, and which of the brothers left first/stayed longest?

RM: As I stated above, my father stayed the longest.  He loved the Looney tunes characters and the ability to create cartoons based upon those characters.

 

5. MH: I have read several vintage Dell Looney Tunes comic books, and so many of the character designs in them are the definitive McKimson style, I know they worked some on those. Can you give some history on that?

RM: My uncle Tom, when he left Warner Bros. in  1947, went to Whitman/Dell Publishing as Art Director for comic books, coloring books and comic strips.  He stayed there until 1972 when he retired.  Thus, you have the McKimson "stamp" on those vintage comics.  In addition, my uncle Charles, after leaving Warner Bros. in 1954, went to Whitman/Dell as Art Director for Comic and coloring books.

6.   MH: What has been the best-selling limited edition piece based on Robert’s cartoons?

RM: We published many limited edition, hand painted, cels based upon my father's cartoons or drawings.  However, I think the best and the best selling was "Vintage Bugs".  This is the classic pose of Bugs leaning against a tree with a carrot.  My father drew the pose in 1943, as an advertisement for a Los Angeles department store.

7. MH: Did you ever meet your father’s colleagues (Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Art Davis, etc.)? Any memories you have of them or stories about them?

RM: I met, on many occasions, Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng.  I met them as a young man and when I was doing limited editions.  They were both great cartoonists and a credit to the profession.

8. MH: I’ve heard many say that Robert McKimson was one of Warner’s best draftsmen, but he is at times an under-appreciated director, in my opinion. Even his worst films aren’t a total loss…but which ones did he say were his least favorite? Which are yours?

RM: My father was perhaps the best draftsman and also the most under appreciated director.  He was a humble man that did not "Beat His Own Drum".  That is why I now do it for him.  I do not know what were his least favorite cartoons, but mine are those that do not have the Classic Looney Tunes characters.

9.   MH: What do you think of the popularity of the Tasmanian Devil? It is amazing that this character appeared in only five classic cartoons and is still one of the most popular, when Foghorn, Speedy, Jr., and other creations starred in twice, even three or more times as many films? I remember an early 1990’s, long after your father had passed away,  there was a TV show called “Taz Mania”. Did you work on that?

RM: The Tasmanian Devil was the last character created by my father in 1954.  I can only attribute his popularity to the fact that he is different.  I had nothing to do with "Taz Mainia".  I only produced limited edition artwork for 10 years.

10.  MH: How do you feel about TV censorship? Many cartoons that the McKimson brothers were involved in are now edited for content or rarely shown at all. Do you think the Cartoon Network is right to omit Speedy Gonzales from regular airings?

RM: The Warner Bros. Cartoons were meant for adults and not children. They were meant to make you laugh and not to be taken seriously. To censor them is ridiculous.  It is just another example of "political correctness".

11.  MH: In the later 1960’s, Robert, along with Alex Lovy and others, helped create and direct several characters like Merlin the Magic Mouse, Cool Cat, and Bunny and Claude. What did he think of them? Your opinion of them?

RM: The characters that appeared in the 1960's Warner Bros. cartoons - Merlin the Magic Mouse, Cool Cat, etc., were good characters but not up to par with the classic Looney Tunes characters.

12. MH:  One of my favorite later series, which Robert directed on a lot, was the Daffy Duck/Speedy Gonzales series. There have been many speculations…but can you solve the mystery for us: why that combination and why the longevity of it? What do you think of these films?

RM:  I think the Daffy/Speedy series was great, but I have no idea why the combination or the longevity of the series.

13. MH: Did Tom and Charles always stay animating in Robert’s directorial unit, or did they switch around to other artists’ direction?

RM: Only my uncle Charles animated for my father, from 1946 until 1954.  However, he worked with my father on the creation and first cartoon of the Tasmanian Devil.

14 . MH: How did the McKimson brothers learn to draw so well?

 RM: All three McKimson brothers were natural born artists.  From the first minute they could pick up a pencil, they could draw.

 

15. MH: Now you personally: Any plans for the future with limited edition cel work or animation in general? What else should readers know you for? J

RM: I produced and marketed, under license from Warner Bros., limited edition animation art.  I did this for ten years and just stopped recently.  At this time, I have no further plans in the animation art field. I now promote and sell artwork from the "McKimson Brothers".

16.  MH: Any other information you would like to share about yourself, your father or uncles?

RM: The McKimson brothers accomplishments and wide range of talents, starting in  in 1928, has created a legacy no other three brothers have equaled in their field.  I can only hope that their places in the history of animation and comic book art will continue to be recognized and appreciated. 

17.  MH: Comments? 

RM: I thank you for the opportunity to make more people aware of the McKimson brothers and their contributions to a true "Americana" art form - Animation.  Should anyone be desirous of purchasing an original McKimson Looney Tunes piece of art, please contact me at:  ronanent@bellsouth.net.

Please let me know of any further questions or comments.
Robert McKimson
         

examples:


Mvc-001s.jpg (27341 bytes)Bugs and Marvin Martian: Tom McKimson


Mvc-002s.jpg (19505 bytes)Sylvester Jr.: Tom McKimson


 

Mvc-004s.jpg (20939 bytes)Bugs and Sylvester hockey: Charles McKimson


 

Mvc-005s.jpg (21696 bytes) Taz football player: Charles McKimson


 

Mvc-006s.jpg (10906 bytes) Sylvester: Charles McKimson


 

Mvc-007s.jpg (18255 bytes)Bugs Bunny: Charles McKimson


 

Mvc-003s.jpg (23951 bytes)Cowboy Foghorn Leghorn vs. Indians Henery Hawk, Tweety, and Speedy Gonzales: Tom McKimson

ney.toonzone.net/index_files/Mvc-003s.jpg">Mvc-003s.jpg (23951 bytes)Cowboy Foghorn Leghorn vs. Indians Henery Hawk, Tweety, and Speedy Gonzales: Tom McKimson