Robert McKimson

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Robert McKimson (1910-1977) was an animator and director who is most known for his work at Warner Bros. on the Looney Tunes series. His "Hillbilly Hare" is generally regarded as a classic outing for Bugs Bunny.

McKimson was an animator at Termite Terrace from almost the beginning, and had a knack for detail. For an example of his work, see the start of "What's Cookin', Doc?" when Bugs performs all the celebrity impersonations. He also was one of the animators on the classic short "A Corny Concerto" directed by Bob Clampett. There's a professionalism to the animation, and the graceful movement emphasizes Bugs's likeability. He also drew the definitive Bugs Bunny model sheet in 1943 (which ironically he didn't use himself when he began directing; see below). McKimson's versions of the classic Warners characters generally seem rounder and fatter than most of the other directors' (though it was Bob Clampett who introduced the infamous "Fat Elmer"), with rather small eyes[1], at least in his earlier period.

McKimson began directing in 1946 with "Daffy Doodles", taking over Frank Tashlin's unit (Tashlin had left the studio in 1945). For almost fifteen years (1950-1964), he, Chuck Jones, and Friz Freleng were the main directors at Termite Terrace, and due to the post-1948 television package that many networks used during the '70s-early '90s, McKimson's work, like the other two directors, was often seen on TV.

Despite this, however, McKimson isn't recognized as much as the other two "big" directors at WB. Part of this may be the fact that he never had a feature length compilation film that highlighted his work; Chuck Jones had one film and Friz Freleng had three (it should be noted that two of Friz's movies featured McKimson's cartoons, however). Part of this may also be due to his post-1955 shorts, which featured slower timing, simpler animation, and less interesting direction than his pre-1955 output. (Explanation: WB briefly closed in 1953 and temporarily laid everybody off. Unlike Jones and Freleng, McKimson basically had to restart his unit from scratch when WB reopened its cartoon unit, so that certainly put him at a disadvantage for a while, not least because his new unit was mostly made up of the animators that Jones and Freleng didn't want.) He also gave few interviews before his death, which made it difficult to get an insight into his directing methods and philosophies. (Luckily, a recently-posted vintage interview on Michael Barrier's website somewhat rectifies that: http://www.michaelbarrier.com/Interviews/McKimson/McKimson.html )

McKimson created Foghorn Leghorn, Hippety Hopper (a recurring adversary of Sylvester whom he mistook for a giant mouse), and the Tasmanian Devil. In all three cases, he directed every outing for those characters, just as Chuck Jones directed every Pepe le Pew cartoon. McKimson also technically created Speedy Gonzales, though it was Friz Freleng's version which everyone knows and remembers today. Even as late as 1968, McKimson was creating new characters in the hope that they would catch on and become series. His Bunny and Claude (a parody of Bonnie and Clyde) and Rapid Rabbit are examples of this.

After WB closed its animation department for the final time, McKimson went back to work for DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, where he directed many Pink Panther shorts.

McKimson died of a heart attack in 1977 while having lunch with Friz Freleng and David H. DePatie. Unfortunately, he never lived long enough to see animation respected as an art form, which debatably occurred starting in the '80s.


Filmography[edit | hide | hide all]

1945[edit | hide]

  • The Return of Mr. Hook: An obscure Wartime Cartoon, which was his directorial debut.

1946[edit | hide]

  • Daffy Doodles: His debut for a mainstream audience.
  • Hollywood Canine Canteen
  • The Mouse-Merized Cat
  • Walky Talky Hawky
  • Acrobatty Bunny

1947[edit | hide]

  • Hobo Bobo
  • Easter Yeggs
  • A Horsefly Fleas
  • The Birth of a Notion
  • Crowing Pains
  • One Meat Brawl

1948[edit | hide]

  • The Up-Standing Sitter
  • Daffy Duck Slept Here
  • Hot Cross Bunny
  • The Shell Shocked Egg
  • Hop, Look and Listen
  • The Foghorn Leghorn
  • Gorilla My Dreams

1949[edit | hide]

  • Henhouse Henery
  • Hippety Hopper
  • The Windblown Hare
  • A Ham in a Role
  • Paying the Piper
  • The Grey Hounded Hare
  • Rebel Rabbit
  • Swallow the Leader
  • Daffy Duck Hunt

1950[edit | hide]

  • What's Up, Doc?
  • Strife with Father
  • A Fractured Leghorn
  • Hillbilly Hare
  • Hurdy Gurdy Hare
  • Boobs in the Woods
  • Bushy Hare
  • Dog Collared
  • It's Hummer Time
  • Pop 'im Pop
  • The Leghorn Blows at Midnight
  • An Egg Scramble

1951[edit | hide]

  • Sleepy Time Possum
  • Corn Plastered
  • Big Top Bunny
  • A Fox in a Fix
  • The Prize Pest
  • Leghorn Swoggled
  • Hare We Go
  • French Rarebit
  • Lovelorn Leghorn
  • Early to Bet

1952[edit | hide]

  • Thumb Fun
  • The Super Snooper
  • Fool Coverage
  • Who's Kitten Who?
  • The Turn-Tale Wolf
  • Kiddin' the Kitten
  • The Egg-Cited Rooster
  • Oily Hare
  • Sock a Doodle Do
  • Rabbit's Kin

1953[edit | hide]

  • Cats A-Weigh
  • Easy Peckin's
  • Upswept Hare
  • Cat-Tails for Two
  • Muscle Tussle
  • Plop Goes the Weasel
  • There Auto be a Law
  • Of Rice and Hen
  • A Peck O' Trouble

1954[edit | hide]

  • The Oily American
  • No Parking Hare
  • Wild Wife
  • Quack Shot
  • Little Boy Boo
  • Design for Leaving
  • Bell Hoppy
  • Gone Batty
  • Devil May Hare

1955[edit | hide]

  • The Hole Idea
  • Lighthouse Mouse
  • Feather Duster
  • All Fowled Up
  • Dime to Retire

1956[edit | hide]

  • Too Hop to Handle
  • Stupor Duck
  • The Unexpected Pest
  • Wideo Wabbit
  • Weasel Stop
  • Slap-Hoppy Mouse
  • The High and the Flighty
  • Half Fare Hare
  • The Honey-Mousers
  • Raw! Raw! Rooster
  • Mixed Master

1957[edit | hide]

  • Mouse-Taken Identity
  • Fox-Terror
  • Tabasco Road
  • Rabbit Romeo
  • Boston Quackie
  • Bedevilled Rabbit
  • Ducking the Devil
  • Cheese It, the Cat

1958[edit | hide]

  • Pre-Hysterical Hare
  • Now Hare This
  • Weasel While You Work
  • Tortilla Flaps
  • Don't Axe Me
  • Dog Tales
  • Gopher Broke
  • Feather Bluster

1959[edit | hide]

  • Mouse-Placed Kitten
  • China Jones
  • The Mouse That Jack Built
  • A Mutt In a Rut
  • Backwoods Bunny
  • The Cat's Paw
  • Bonanza Bunny
  • A Broken Leghorn
  • People Are Bunny

1960[edit | hide]

  • Wild Wild World
  • Mice Follies
  • West of the Pesos
  • The Dixie Fryer
  • Doggone People
  • Crockett-Doodle-Do

1961[edit | hide]

  • Birds of a Feather
  • Strangled Eggs
  • Cannery Woe
  • What's My Lion?
  • Hoppy Daze
  • Daffy's Inn Trouble

1962[edit | hide]

  • Mother Was A Rooster
  • Wet Hare
  • The Slick Chick
  • Bill of Hare
  • Fish and Slips
  • Good Noose

1963[edit | hide]

  • The Million Hare
  • Claws in the Lease
  • Fast Buck Duck: Co-directed with Ted Bonnicksen, one of his animators
  • Banty Raids
  • Aqua Duck

1964[edit | hide]

  • Freudy Cat
  • Bartholomew Versus The Wheel
  • A Message to Gracias
  • Dr. Devil and Mr. Hare
  • False Hare

1965[edit | hide]

  • Moby Duck
  • Go Go Amigo
  • Chili Con Corny
  • Suppressed Duck
  • Tease For Two
  • Rushing Roulette
  • Well Worn Daffy

1966[edit | hide]

  • Swing Ding Amigo
  • Sugar and Spies
  • Feather Finger
  • A Taste of Catnip
  • Daffy Rents
  • Astroduck
  • Snow Excuse
  • Mexican Mousepiece

1967[edit | hide]

  • Daffy's Diner

1968[edit | hide]

  • Bunny and Claude

1969[edit | hide]

  • Rabbit Stew and Rabbits Too
  • Shamrock and Roll
  • Fistic Mystic
  • Bugged by a Bee
  • The Great Carrot Train Robbery
  • Injun Trouble: The last cartoon ever released by the original Warner Bros. cartoon studio.

Robert McKimson's cartoons provide examples of:[edit | hide]

  • Art Evolution: Besides what was mentioned in the intro paragraphs, his first few shorts still had the visual "feel" of a Frank Tashlin cartoon, no doubt due to inheriting Tashlin's unit after he left the studio.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In "Cat's Paw", Sylvester is talking to his son about which birds to catch:

Sylvester: It seems like the smaller and more helpless looking they are, the tougher and scrapper they turn out to be. I just hope we can find a small one around here. (to audience) An anemic sparrow would suit me just fine.

  • Cassandra Truth: The repeated premise of the Hippety Hopper cartoons. Nobody believes Sylvester when he tries to tell them that he saw a giant mouse (although unbeknownst to him, Hippety was a kangaroo).
  • Deranged Animation: In his 1946-1949 cartoons especially. Things toned down a bit starting in the '50s, but thanks to Rod Scribner (a former Clampett animator) returning to the studio, there were still flashes of this.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: "Early To Bet" involves a cat going through Rube Goldberg-style punishments just for losing to a dog at cards.
  • Executive Meddling: McKimson was ordered by producer Eddie Selzer not to make any more Tasmanian Devil cartoons after the first one. However, thanks to fan feedback and orders from Jack Warner, McKimson was allowed to make more Taz cartoons.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: Hinted at in "The Hole Idea", when the devil actually throws Calvin Q. Calculus's wife out because she's so unpleasant.
  • Mickey Mousing: As with all Looney Tunes composed by Carl Stalling or Milt Franklyn.
  • Mime-and-Music-Only Cartoon: "Rabbit Stew and Rabbits, Too!" Also "Swallow the Leader" is mostly dialog-free, aside from the opening narration and a couple lines from the cat.
  • Odd Couple: Daffy and Porky in the shorts he directed.
  • Parody Episode: McKimson was fond of these, especially in the late '50s.
    • "The Honey-Mousers", "Cheese It! The Cat", and "Mice Follies", three cartoons parodying The Honeymooners.
    • "The Mouse That Jack Built", a parody of The Jack Benny Program, except the characters are mice.
    • "Boston Quackie", a parody of "Boston Blackie" starring Daffy Duck in the titular role.
    • "China Jones", a parody of "China Smith". Once again, Daffy stars.
  • Something Completely Different: "Bartholomew Versus The Wheel".
  1. his characters have a tendency to peer out through half-closed eyelids