Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Clampett's Drawing Style and Milt Gray on Clampett's Tale Of Two Kitties

Bob Clampett has a really appealing drawing style. I think the characters never looked better than in his cartoons. Many animators came and went in his unit, but the style was always there.

I remember when I first saw Clampett cartoons, I was really taken by this unique and lively drawing style. It was interesting that even though the animators used a wide leeway in drawing their own interpretations of the characters, there was still an overall style that held it all together.I especially noticed the way he drew eyes.

I worked with Bob Clampett and watched him draw. I loved his drawings but he, like Ralph seemed to like other artists to interpret his style their way.

When I knew him, he still drew in his late 30s, early 40s style, but he would get me to redraw his drawings in Friz' 50s style! I think he thought that's what modern cartoon fans were used to.

Jerry Beck also witnessed the master at work:

I eventually convinced him to let me draw in (what I thought was) his style.Then he would color them in with crayons. He would reward me with one of Sody's homemade cheese sandwiches!

Clampett had a style that was unaffected. He didn't try to make up a style. His style came out of his personality and the kinds of stories he wanted to tell. Some cartoonists might put their styles first and try to think up something obvious that makes them stand out. Then they are stuck with the problem of having to limit their stories to tales that fit into the drawing style. I tend to identify more with the styles that just come naturally, like Clampett's.

Anyway, animator and historian Milt Grey sheds some light on Bob's drawing prowess here:

Hi John,

I just read your post about Clampett's pacing in Tale of Two Kitties,
and I absolutely love it! I hope Eddie has told you how much I also
love your other recent posts that analyze Clampett's work. Right now
I can't think of any observations to add because you have been doing
such a thorough job of analyzing and describing this subject.

Who Did The Layouts For Tale Of Two Kitties?

But I did want to tell you that Clampett told me that on Tale of Two
Kitties he was temporarily without a layout artist, and so he drew
all the layouts on that cartoon himself, with no layout help from

He happened to mention that while telling me the chronology
of his creation of Tweety, beginning with the little bird he drew on
the MGM stationary to a traveling musician friend while Bob was
setting up work on the John Carter on Mars cartoons at MGM -- I'm
sure you remember those stories.

I don't know any other details about Bob drawing those layouts, except that he was creating Tweety's personality on the fly while drawing the layouts, since his main focus on that cartoon was to present the characters of the two cats, as Babbitt and Catstello.

I'm really eager to hear your reaction to the article that I just
recently wrote about Clampett. I think that my article and your
recent posts about Clampett are perfect counterpoints on Clampett's
career and virtuosities.

Phil Monroe
Another thing, before I close -- you mentioned in a recent post that
Greg Duffell mentioned that animator Phil Monroe was first with
Tashlin, then Freleng and then with Jones. But Phil Monroe told me
that he also worked for a short time for Clampett, between Freleng
and Jones.

And I just recently noticed that Phil Monroe has a screen credit as animator on Clampett's The Wise Quacking Duck. I believe -- but this is just an educated guess -- that Phil animated a few
scenes early in Hare Ribbin', where Bugs grabs the dog and slams him up and down on the ground and then throws him down into the rabbit hole. I think that is by Phil because in those scenes Bugs looks too much like the Freleng Bugs, not the Clampett Bugs.

Best regards,

Thanks Milt! I can't wait to read yur article. Where is it?

Here are some great Clampett eyes...

Clampett also had the best looking Bugs Bunny. There are 2 model sheets drawn in 1942'43 by Bob McKimson that are almost the same.

Clampett told me he went over McKimson's poses with a sheet of tracing paper and made suggestions to make Bugs more appealing. Clampett gave him eyes that were on angles for one thing.

McKimson was a great animator but didn't have a naturally cute drawing style, yet his Bugs looks much better in Bob's cartoons than in his own.

Here is a comparison of Bugs in Clampett's day, and then by McKimson without Clampett's influence.
What a difference!

Clampett at a different studio with different animators:This is Clampett's hand lettering too which is very stylish and cartoony, just like his drawings.

Clampett is Clampett even with different artists working for him.

Wouldn't it be great if we could draw cartoons this well today?