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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Poe’s Saturday Cartoon: Tex Avery Birthday Special

Today on Poe’s Saturday Cartoon we celebrate the birthday of animation legend Tex Avery with two of his funniest cartoons: Red Hot Riding Hood (1943) and Northwest Hounded Police (1946).

Next to Walt Disney, no other figure in the history of animation is as important as Tex Avery. Tex made cartoons funny, pure and simple. While the Disney product of the early to mid 1930s featured amazing animation and were entertaining and amusing, they rarely produced a belly laugh. It wasn’t until 1936 when Avery joined Warner Brothers and started making “looney” cartoons did audiences realize that they could laugh long and hard at an animated film. Avery sped up the pace of the animated short, injecting adult humor, wild takes and violent gags into his seven minute Looney Tunes. His work at Warner Brothers produced such legendary cartoon characters as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck and he helped inspire a whole slew of talented animators and directors. Greats such as Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett and Hannah and Barbera all learned from the Avery playbook and went on to produce some of the funniest cartoons of all time.

When Tex Avery left Warner Brothers and landed at MGM in 1942, his cartoons really took off. The wild takes and gags that one associates with an Avery cartoon really started to show in his MGM product. One of his earliest shorts at the studio was a spoof of the Red Riding Hood fairy tale called Red Hot Riding Hood. In true Avery fashion, he turned the familiar tale on its ear, transforming Red into a steamy showgirl and the Wolf into a horny playboy. The short was a smash hit with audiences, particularly with the armed forces, and today is considered one of the funniest cartoons ever made. The Wolf and Red went on to star in a series of sexy cartoons throughout the 1940s and inspired such latter day films as Who Framed Roger Rabbit and The Mask.

While the Wolf and Red were two of Avery’s most memorable creations, there was only one character that he created while at MGM that inspired a long running series of shorts throughout the 1940s and 1950s. Droopy was his name and he was first featured with the Wolf in a 1942 short called Dumb-Hounded. A deadpan look and delivery and a seemingly magical ability to outwit his enemies made Droopy a hit with audiences and he became Avery’s most popular MGM character. Northwest Hounded Police was Droopy’s fourth cartoon and is basically a reworking of Dumb-Hounded. Again co-starring the Wolf, the short features some of the wildest cartoon takes ever put on film. It was these kinds of takes that have inspired so many modern day animators and exemplify the Avery style.

So tip your hat to the man who made it acceptable for adults to laugh at a cartoon and enjoy two of his funniest masterpieces. Happy birthday Tex, thanks for all the belly laughs.

Red Hot Riding Hood (1943)

Northwest Hounded Police (1946)