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Robert McKimson, early 1930s
Robert Porter McKimson
October 13, 1910
Denver, Colorado, US
|Died||September 29, 1977 (aged 66)|
|Other names||Bob McKimson|
Robert Porter McKimson Sr. (October 13, 1910 – September 29, 1977) was an American animator and illustrator, best known for his work on the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons from Warner Bros. Cartoons and later DePatie-Freleng Enterprises. He was also well known for defining Bugs Bunny's look in the 1943 short Tortoise Wins by a Hare.
Born in Denver, Colorado, McKimson spent 10 years gaining an art education. He then worked for Walt Disney, stayed with Disney's studio for two years and then joined the Romer Grey Studio located in Altadena, California in 1930, a would-be animation shop started by the son of Western author Zane Grey, and financed by Zane Grey's wife. Several cartoons were animated at the Romer Grey Studio, but due to the Great Depression, the studio was unable to close a distribution deal. None of the shorts were released, with only a handful of them being completed (only one of them is known to exist today).
At the same time he began working for Grey, McKimson was hired by Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising, first doing the ink-and-paint duties for the very first Looney Tunes, then becoming an in-betweener before becoming an animator by 1931, when the Romer Grey Studio shut down. At that time he had an accident that gave him a concussion. As a result, he was able to visualize better, thus increasing his production and animation. He was the head animator and go-to guy in the late 1930s at the studio, which overwhelmed him. Eventually he worked exclusively with Bob Clampett. He was offered a directorial position by Leon Schlesinger in 1937, but declined, allowing the position to go to animator Chuck Jones. He accepted his own directorial position in late 1944, when Frank Tashlin left Warner Bros. to direct live-action films.
McKimson created characters like Foghorn Leghorn and the Tasmanian Devil, as well as directing every Hippety Hopper/Sylvester pairing. He also created Speedy Gonzales for the 1953 short Cat-Tails for Two and directed many others periodically (along with Freleng and other directors) for the remainder of his theatrical career.
McKimson's first directorial work that he finished, (Frank Tashlin left the cartoon incomplete upon departing) Daffy Doodles, Daffy draws moustaches on all the pre-drawn (and even some natural) faces in his sight, was released in early April 1946. His third cartoon entitled Acrobatty Bunny would be the first Bugs Bunny short Mckimson directed. It was released in June 1946.
In 1953, the Warner Bros. cartoon studio laid off most of its staff for a period of six months due to the 3-D fad at the time, which Jack Warner found to be too costly a process to use for animated cartoons. After the studio re-opened, Freleng and Jones quickly re-assembled their respective units, but McKimson discovered every member of his previous team, apart from writer Tedd Pierce and background painter Richard H. Thomas, refused to work with him again.[why?] At the start of this period, McKimson animated on three of his own shorts, The Hole Idea, Dime to Retire, and Too Hop to Handle. (in fact, he was the sole animator credited on The Hole Idea)  Soon, McKimson assembled a new team of artists, including layout man/background painter Robert Gribbroek and animators Warren Batchelder, Ted Bonnicksen, and George Grandpre. Tom Ray, Russ Dyson, and Keith Darling helped at various points. McKimson's better known efforts would include Hillbilly Hare, A-Lad-In His Lamp, Stupor Duck, The Windblown Hare, Walky Talky Hawky, and Big Top Bunny.
McKimson continued working at Warner's Cartoon Studio as it began to lose staff (including such key personnel such as Jones) in the early 1960s. Over this time, he directed his share of shorts and worked on the feature The Incredible Mr. Limpet. After the studio closed, he joined DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, co-owned by his old associate Friz Freleng and David H. DePatie, who had been a producer at the Warners studio. At DePatie-Freleng, McKimson directed several The Inspector shorts and worked on some of the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies contracted out to DePatie-Freleng by Warner Bros. In 1967, Warner opened its animation studio again, McKimson re-joining its staff in 1968, but the Studio was shut down again in 1969. His last Warner Bros. cartoon was Injun Trouble with Cool Cat. Injun Trouble was also the last of the original Looney Tunes or Merrie Melodies cartoon to be produced before the Warner Bros. cartoon studio was closed. McKimson was the one person to be at the studio from the start of the Looney Tunes series through its finish in 1969, first as an animator and then as a director.
After a sabbatical, he went back to DePatie-Freleng in 1972 to direct The Pink Panther Show shorts, among their other series.
On September 29, 1977, while having lunch with co-workers Friz Freleng and David H. DePatie, McKimson suffered a sudden heart attack and died at the age of 66. He had recently completed directing Misterjaw and had begun work on Baggy Pants and the Nitwits at the time of his death.
In addition to being an animator, McKimson was a skilled horseman and polo player, a dedicated bowler, and a Master Mason. He had two brothers — Charles McKimson (the younger) and Tom McKimson (the older) — who also worked as animators. Charles was frequently part of McKimson's unit at Warner Bros.