-by Matthew Hunter and Robert McKimson, Jr.
Introduction: The following is an interview with Robert McKimson, Jr., son of
WB cartoon director Robert McKimson and nephew of animators Tom and Charles
McKimson. This serves to let readers to this site learn more about the McKimson
name in Warner Bros. cartoons, as well as promote a series of original paintings
and drawings from the McKimsons that Robert is offering for sale. Included below are the interview and 7 examples of the available
artwork. Obviously, these are only examples. If you have an interest
in any of the artwork below or would like to see more, please email Robert
1. MH: Thanks
for doing this. I think it is important that people hear your family’s story.
You probably will not find any greater fan of their work and that of other
Warner animators than I am. So my first question: can you give a brief overview
for our readers of what Robert, Charles, and Tom did (like when each one got
their start in animation and what each one’s primary job
RM: Tom, my uncle, was the oldest, and got
started, along with my father, with Walt Disney in 1928 as an assistant
animator. They both left after a short time to go, as animators, to The Romer
Grey Studio, Zane Grey's son, who was starting a new cartoon studio. After
a year or two the studio folded without producing a cartoon. In 1931 they
both went to Harman-Ising Cartoon Studio, as animators. Harman-Ising were
releasing their cartoons through Warner Bros. Leon Schlesinger was the
middle man between Harman-Ising and Warner Bros. In 1933 Harman-Ising and
Schlesinger parted ways. Tom stayed with Harman-Ising and my father
went with Schlesinger who started a new cartoon studio to release through Warner
Bros. Tom rejoined Schlesinger in 1942 and left in 1947.
father, stayed with Warner Bros. Cartoons, Schlesinger sold out in 1944, until
the studio closed in 1963. He became a director in 1944 and directed 175
cartoons and was the longest continual employee of Warner Bros. Cartoons.
Charles, my uncle, started as an animator in 1937 with Schlesinger.
He served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during the war and rejoined Warner Bros.
Cartoons in in 1946 as an animator for my father. He left in
2: MH: What
do you think your father’s best film is?
RM: I think my
father had three great cartoons. His first Foghorn cartoon in 1946, which
was nominated for an Academy Award - "Walky Talky Hawky". Another Foghorn
cartoon 1949 - "Hen House Henery". A Bugs cartoon from 1950 - "Hillbilly
3. MH: I
know Robert created Foghorn Leghorn, Speedy Gonzales, Sylvester Junior, and
others by himself. Did he ever say what his favorite creation was?
RM: My father created the following major characters: Foghorn
Leghorn; Hippety Hopper; Sylvester Jr.; Original Speedy Gonzales; and Tasmanian
Devil. In addition, he created the definitive drawing, as we know him
today, of Bugs Bunny in 1943. I think my father's favorite character was
Foghorn Leghorn. It was his first character and he loved Foghorn's
4. MH: What
has always interested me is how long the McKimson name lasted at Warner Bros..
These three guys were there for a time period rivaling Friz Freleng’s in length,
and Robert directed many of the very last Warner cartoons. Why did they stay so
long, and which of the brothers left first/stayed longest?
RM: As I stated above, my father stayed the
longest. He loved the Looney tunes characters and the ability to create
cartoons based upon those characters.
5. MH: I
have read several vintage Dell Looney Tunes comic books, and so many of the
character designs in them are the definitive McKimson style, I know they worked
some on those. Can you give some history on that?
My uncle Tom, when he left Warner Bros. in 1947, went to Whitman/Dell
Publishing as Art Director for comic books, coloring books and comic
strips. He stayed there until 1972 when he retired. Thus, you have
the McKimson "stamp" on those vintage comics. In addition, my uncle
Charles, after leaving Warner Bros. in 1954, went to Whitman/Dell as Art
Director for Comic and coloring books.
6. MH: What
has been the best-selling limited edition piece based on Robert’s
RM: We published many limited edition, hand painted, cels based upon my father's
cartoons or drawings. However, I think the best and the best selling was
"Vintage Bugs". This is the classic pose of Bugs leaning against a tree
with a carrot. My father drew the pose in 1943, as an advertisement for a
Los Angeles department store.
7. MH: Did
you ever meet your father’s colleagues (Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Art Davis,
etc.)? Any memories you have of them or stories about them?
RM: I met, on many occasions, Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng. I met them as
a young man and when I was doing limited editions. They were both great
cartoonists and a credit to the profession.
8. MH: I’ve heard many say that Robert
McKimson was one of Warner’s best draftsmen, but he is at times an
under-appreciated director, in my opinion. Even his worst films aren’t a total
loss…but which ones did he say were his least favorite? Which are yours?
RM: My father was perhaps the best draftsman and
also the most under appreciated director. He was a humble man that did not
"Beat His Own Drum". That is why I now do it for him. I do not know
what were his least favorite cartoons, but mine are those that do not have the
Classic Looney Tunes characters.
9. MH: What
do you think of the popularity of the Tasmanian Devil? It is amazing that this
character appeared in only five classic cartoons and is still one of the most
popular, when Foghorn, Speedy, Jr., and other creations starred in twice, even
three or more times as many films? I remember an early 1990’s, long after your
father had passed away, there was a
TV show called “Taz Mania”. Did you work on that?
RM: The Tasmanian Devil was the last character created by my father in
1954. I can only attribute his popularity to the fact that he is
different. I had nothing to do with "Taz Mainia". I only produced
limited edition artwork for 10 years.
10. MH: How
do you feel about TV censorship? Many cartoons that the McKimson brothers were
involved in are now edited for content or rarely shown at all. Do you think the
Cartoon Network is right to omit Speedy Gonzales from regular airings?
RM: The Warner Bros. Cartoons were meant for adults and not children.
They were meant to make you laugh and not to be taken seriously. To censor them
is ridiculous. It is just another example of "political correctness".
11. MH: In
the later 1960’s, Robert, along with Alex Lovy and others, helped create and
direct several characters like Merlin the Magic Mouse, Cool Cat, and Bunny and
Claude. What did he think of them? Your opinion of them?
RM: The characters that appeared in the 1960's Warner Bros. cartoons - Merlin the
Magic Mouse, Cool Cat, etc., were good characters but not up to par with the
classic Looney Tunes characters.
12. MH: One
of my favorite later series, which Robert directed on a lot, was the Daffy
Duck/Speedy Gonzales series. There have been many speculations…but can you solve
the mystery for us: why that combination and why the longevity of it? What do
you think of these films?
RM: I think the Daffy/Speedy series was great, but I have no idea why the
combination or the longevity of the series.
13. MH: Did
Tom and Charles always stay animating in Robert’s directorial unit, or did they
switch around to other artists’ direction?
RM: Only my uncle Charles animated for my father, from 1946 until
1954. However, he worked with my father on the creation and first cartoon
of the Tasmanian Devil.
14. MH: How
did the McKimson brothers learn to draw so well?
RM: All three McKimson brothers were natural born artists.
From the first minute they could pick up a pencil, they could draw.
15. MH: Now you personally: Any plans for the future with limited edition cel work or
animation in general? What else should readers know you for?
RM: I produced and marketed, under license from Warner Bros., limited
edition animation art. I did this for ten years and just stopped
recently. At this time, I have no further plans in the animation art
field. I now promote and sell artwork from the "McKimson Brothers".
16. MH: Any other information you would like to share about yourself, your father or
RM: The McKimson brothers accomplishments and wide range of talents, starting
in in 1928, has created a legacy no other three brothers have equaled in
their field. I can only hope that their places in the history of animation
and comic book art will continue to be recognized and appreciated.
17. MH: Comments?
RM: I thank you for the opportunity to make more people aware
of the McKimson brothers and their contributions to a true "Americana" art form
- Animation. Should anyone be desirous of purchasing an original McKimson
Looney Tunes piece of art, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please let me know of any further questions or comments.
Bugs and Marvin Martian: Tom McKimson
Sylvester Jr.: Tom McKimson
Bugs and Sylvester hockey: Charles McKimson
Taz football player: Charles McKimson
Sylvester: Charles McKimson
Bugs Bunny: Charles McKimson
Cowboy Foghorn Leghorn vs. Indians Henery Hawk, Tweety, and Speedy Gonzales: Tom McKimson