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?


Bitter Animator said...

Nice Clampett post. I love Clampett's happy faces and surprised faces in particular. Some of his faces, however, get a bit wrinkly for my own tastes but I love his cartoons.

He has been one of the most influencial I think. I mean, looking at a lot of more modern takes on the characters, I still see Clampett buried in there, especially in the eyes.

Although trawling through portfolios, I often see these triangular eyes that are really nasty and I think they come from a misinterpretation of Clampett's eyes in the way that he does the almond shape and overlaps the line at the top.

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...

Ya know, John, the big eye thing? That's when I realized that you had such a strong influence from Bob ( before Chuck Jones told me personally ), because I had seen Bakshi's Mighty Mouse and Ren and Stimpy, but was either not around or hip enough to watch the Beany and Cecil remake.

I remember also saying recently that I had never seen any Clampett original layouts, and with the exception of that famous photo of Bob drawing Porky free hand, the only time I'd gotten to see one of his drawings was in 'Bugs Bunny Superstar' where he drew the rabbit with a purple marker. I was seven.

Honestly, for a while, I just thought he let the animators more or less get on with it. I don't know why.

This post was particularly informative. I had been wondering about a lot of these things, including the scene in 'Hare Ribbin'' where the drawing style suddenly becomes 'weak', and suspected aloud while recording a commentary for the director's cut of that cartoon that the animation was by an outsider, because it sure didn't look like anyone from Bob's unit.

So thanks again! You're an encyclopaedia of cartoon knowledge and this time, it's like you were reading my mind. Creepy. Now if you can just do a post of two about your personal drawing style in the eighties, I might just wet my panties.

The Great Kricfalusi Posts Again!

- trevor.

Charlie J. said...

Hey John,
Your Bob Clampett posts have been great, always super informative.

Would you ever consider posting about Beany and Cecil, and what elements of Bob's theatrical cartoon style went into those?

hayden the wise said...

huzzah for Nathaniel

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...


Those wrinkles are usually the work of Rod Scribner. He was a big fan of them, and that's usually the mark of ol' Rod.

- trevor.

Hector G.M. said...

Hey John,
I've been watching a ton of clampett cartoons lately and these posts are a real treat.
Those early b&w clampetts crack me up too.
I sometimes try to get my friends and family into these films and it doesn't work! Im the only one who enjoys them. Oddly enough, they don't mind friz freleng or pixar stuff.
Anyway, great post.

Anonymous said...

Great, great post. One more thing about Phil Monroe: there's a rumour that he animated on Coal Black. The scene in question usually attributed to Phil Monroe, So White eating the apple, was actually done by Art Babbitt.

What's weird about Clampett's drawing style is that it was completly original, it wasn't based on purely Disney or purely rubberhose cartoons. He used alot of wrinkles, big eyes, big hands, angles, big eyes, blade shapes, tapers, contrast in limb and appendage sizes, and rounded corners and edges. When he got Disney guys to animate for him it looks like they couldn't "get it" and drew it too rounded and even.

This psot proves that Clampett was the main creative force over his own films. Anyone who says that Clampett didn't do anything on his own cartoons is an idiot. Simple as as that.

Firefly said...

bob definitely has the cutest bugs style. i love his big grin and giant bunny feet. bob's by far my fave from termite terrace.

Weirdo said...

Hey, what was that cartoon at the end you were showing? Through which studio was that released? Cool post as always.

Robert said...

Hold everything! What is this about "the John Carter on Mars cartoons at MGM" ?!?

Was there such a thing? Who at MGM was making John Carter cartoons?

Mitch Leeuwe said...

Wow great post. I really like that first bugs bunny, it looks so fun.

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

Are you gonna do more drawing lessons?

Larry Levine said...

Since Bob Clampett saved all his original artwork it would be great if Sody or Ruth could send John images of his personally drawn "Tale of Two Kitties" layouts to post. I'd really love to study those!

tanisha said...

Clampett drawings are great for sure.those big eyes really makes the character look more appealing.coz eyes says it all :)

David Nethery said...


you wrote:

"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!"

What you're saying here is very intriguing, that Bob preferred to have other artists (McKimson and Scribner would be two of the main ones I suppose)
interpret his style their way.

Do you have any good examples of uninterpreted straight-from-the-hand-of-the-master drawings by Bob Clampett ? I'd love to see those . (especially more of Bob's own drawings of the classic characters like Bugs and Daffy . )

PCUnfunny said...

I think the key reason Clampett cartoons felt so active and lively is because he never really left the thirties. In thirties cartoons, everything from a dog to a tin can would jump up and dance, or least feel rubbery and organic. Clampett took those great elements of the thirties and combined them with the more refined character acting of the 40's. In a 40's Clampett cartoon, if a character touches something, you know it's not going to stay still. Oh and another essential element of the thirties, the music. Pretty much all the Clampett cartoons in the 40's felt like musicals.

Julián höek said...

gret post john, your analisis on clampett are always mind blowing.
i would love to see more pencil drawings by clampett to purely see his style, sandly there aren't to many on the internet. by the way, do you have a bigger image from the bug's model to share? tell us more about him and what was it like working with him and what where you going!


Clampett was a great among greats. Yes, he had great appeal and a lot of fun in his drawing style too.

What about takes? Who do you think had the best takes? Clampett, Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, or another?

Next week, may I have 5 minutes of your time for some advice and your opinion on a young animators 2 minute demo reel?

Anonymous said...

"Hey, what was that cartoon at the end you were showing? Through which studio was that released? Cool post as always."
This link answers both of those questions, Weirdo. http://forums.goldenagecartoons.com/archive/index.php/t-4332.html
I remember John doing a post on this cartoon quite a while ago, but I can't find the link to it.

John, it's great to see some of Clampett's actual drawings. I was wondering when you were going to post some for quite a while, and now you have. Look how well drew, especially in the one with Daffy Duck in it.

Neat post, as always.

PCUnfunny said...

John PLEASE tell us more about your adventures with Bob Clampett.

Larry Levine said...

I second PCunfunny's motion!

I would also love to see more later photos of Bob.

pappy d said...

I remember seeing lots of "Kilroy" gags in cartoons as a kid. There was a graffitti face that went with it that was originally composed of electronic symbols. A GI might find himself in the most godforsaken shellhole in no man's land. He'd look up & see the goofy-looking character chalked on the remnant of a wall with "Kilroy was here" written underneath & he would know that the Signal Corps had been there already.

Mattieshoe said...
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Mattieshoe said...
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Howard Huxham said...


I am a producer with a studio in Montreal and I would like to discuss a possible spot production with you. I was told by ASIFA that this was the best way to reach you. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.


:: smo :: said...

where is that milt article he mentions? did it ever surface?

also on clampet eyes. one defining thing seems to be the massive demented dilated pupils! you don't really see massive pupils that much and they really add to the crazy!