May 13, 2013

Bob Clampett, 100 and counting

I was just visiting one of the most important animation blogs on the 'net-Michael Barrier's, to catch up, and saw he'd done a lovely post marking the 100th birthday of Bob Clampett, on May 8th. Good grief, I missed it. Of course, every day is a good day to remember Clampett-that wonderful, nutty, brilliant and lovable cartoon genius.  Following is my Bob Clampett birthday post from 2006:

I volunteered to work during the ASIFA annual cel sale in 1981; Bob Clampett happened to be there signing these preprinted drawings; his wife Sody was with him. I introduced myself, finally, after years of wanting to really meet him. In addition to being a fan, I mentioned I'd gone to Third Street with his daughters, thus the way he signed this paper, which I treasure. All we spent our time talking about was what Ruthie and Cherie were doing--both their mom and dad were just nuts about them, so proud of them. I saw Ruth once after that, when she worked at H.G.Daniels, the old art store that supplied the old Chouinard school, then later Otis. Now long gone.

I mentioned before that I've had a long relationship with the great Bob Clampett. It was 99.9% all from me to Bob and not the other way 'round, but nevertheless he was a formative influence on my little psyche. And in one of those bizarre details life throws at you, I discovered that two of my schoolmates at Third Street in Los Angeles had a closer connection to him--they were his daughters, Ruth and Cherie. These girls were very notable for their gorgeous red hair and freckles--perfect colleens...and I'd occasionally see them with their dad or mom Sody shopping on Larchmont(Hancock Park and its environs in those days was what an adult friend of mine, Cammie King, called "a little Peyton Place"; you'd run into everyone on Saturdays at Safeway or the dry cleaners. Small town L.A.).

I was just nuts for Cecil the Sea Sick Sea Serpent as a wee--really wee--child; although we moved six times before I was in the 7th grade, I managed to salvage my Cecil soaky as a kind of talisman from my earliest memories.

So I knew Clampett as a famous God of bizarre and cheaply made cartoons before I knew him as the director of some of the weirdest, wildest and most appealingly hilarious cartoons ever made at Warner Bros, starring another of my baby heroes, Bugs Bunny. That took a good while because the Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner Show, the venue through which I first saw the WB characters, was limited to later cartoons made well after Clampett left. I was probably 12 or 13 before I finally saw "Book Revue" or "Corny Concerto" as part of the KTTV afterschool series--the one with the cheap, handmade intro featurning a plastic Porky toy held in front of a backdrop of some kind. Great stuff and good times.

I think Bob Clampett was nuts in the best sense. He was certainly brilliant, and different, and he managed to translate his own personality and essence so strongly and successfully into film and art--and at such a young age, that I'd also be plenty comfortable calling him a genius. He's the only person in cartoons I know of who can make violence and hysteria happy things. You have to see the cartoons--especially with an audience--to get the full impact of this weird melange.

So happy birthday, Mr. Clampett. You're missed.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Excellent tribute, Jenny! This is exactly what I love about Bob Clampett. He really had that sense of wildness in his cartoons but could control it and get the very best, appealing drawings out of draftsmen like Bob McKimson and Rod Scribner. Even his black and white cartoons are worth studying from drawing wise and those are the types of high standards every animation artist should aspire to. He's an influence on us all.

You should feel very lucky to have met greats like him from the past. I consider myself an 18 year old Millenial and I wish I could met guys like Johnny Gent, Frank Tashlin, and so on when they were still alive, but I have been very fortunate to have received a lot of drawing tips and advice directly from my heroes who are still working in animation to this day.