Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tex Avery Speaks in 1933

I paid for a one-day pass to the archives of the Dallas Morning News and in the process of looking for something else, I found an interview with hometown boy Fred "Tex" Avery -- from 1933, when he was working on Oswald the Lucky Rabbit shorts. Some of the article is unreadable, but I'll attach it as an image file (click on it to see it enlarged) and transcribe some Tex quotes of interest:

"Sometimes when we are rushed or are behind on a picture we resort to cheating which means making a character do some one thing over and over. For instance, we'll make Oswald chase the dog for a longer stretch than usual. In this way we can use the same drawings over several times and save ourselves hundreds of drawings."

"Pooch the Pup is only six months old. He has lots of possibilities. But Oswald is about eight years old. Just now we are working for a bigger and better Oswald.'

"Every friday afternoon we have a gag meeting for the entire office force. We suggest a week beforehand in what locale the next picture is to be shot. The following Firday when each man comes to the gag meeting he has on hand all the gags he can think of to suggest as laughs for the next picture. Everybody in the office force passes on the gags to be used and we're a pretty hard bunch to please, because we always have more than we need. For each picture we have two such meetings.
"An example of thse gags was a bullet scene. It was a western and as usual the hero was shooting it out with the villain. The hero shot his gun and the villain shot his. There was a cut and the next scene showed a little bullet and a very large one running towards each other in mid-air. The little bullet saw the big one, squealed weakly and ran back into the barrel of the hero's gun. All of which was supposed to be good for a laugh."

"If a character is going to say 'hey,'" continued Mr. Avery, "We take a mirror and say 'hey' ourselves and see how our mouth looks and then draw him accordingly. Sometimes you'll see a fellow" (he calls them all kids or fellows for they're all between the ages of 24 and 30) "get up and start skipping down the aisle between the desks. We don't bother to even look surprised because he's just trying to see how to draw a character trying to skip."
"Do you have to be a finished cartoonist to be an animator?" we ventured timidly.
"Quite on the contrary. The secret in animating is first to have an everlasting sense of humour, next to be able to see the commonplace in a funny way and most important of all, to be able to sketch your idea so that the other person will think it's funny."

"Recently we've had the majority of our laughs as puns on the film stars. Of course, they're going to get enough of it soon and put a stop to it, but it's always good for a laugh while it lasts. I like drawing an animal with a mouth like Joe E. Brown or a nose like Schnozzle Durante."
"Do you ever see or work with any of the film stars?" (We had to ask the inevitable.)
"Oh, they come to visit all the time. They have as much curiosity as anyone and very few people know how animateds are really made. Nancy Carroll and Gary Cooper were in just a few days before I left [on vacation]. She's a cute trick and rather smart. Yes, Garbo has been in," and he laughed the I-knew-that-was-coming laugh. "They always create a little turmoil but it quickly subsides and everybody goes back to work."

"We had a heck of a time trying to get the sounds for a lone tree falling in one of the Pooch shorts. But finally we found that a bamboo pole slowly split would give the sound of the squeak that precedes a fall and then one of the boys stood on a chair and dropped another chair to the floor to give the crash as the tree hit the ground. It wasn't bad either. I do all the talking for Oswald in a little high squeaky voice and it ruins my throat for days. Another boy in the office who can throw his voice even higher talks for Kitty, Oswald's girl friend."

And the article also mentions his nickname:

Avery had on a [?] silver ring with "Tex" engraved on it, which brought forth a multitude of questions. It seems that as usual the Californians have dubbed him "Tex" so he was just wearing his hospital tag.


Thad said...

This is great, Jaime! Thanks so much for sharing this!

Larry Levine said...

Terrific vintage interview, thanks for posting it!

Anonymous said...

This is a magnificent find! Thank you Jaime!

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for this !!!

Anonymous said...

Really great!

WIL fan said...

Bravo, Jaime. One of the Avery books mentions this interview but I'm glad someone's posted it.

It's a revelation that Tex did voices at Lantz. Thanks a lot.


J. J. Hunsecker said...

What a great find! Thanks for sharing it. One thing that surprises me about this article is the usage of the term "animateds" for animated cartoon. "Animateds!?!"

Bugs said...

Jaime, you're an animation archaeologist. Nice woik!
This may be my favorite of all yer posts.

I love dis quote from Tex: "The secret in animating is first to have an everlasting sense of humour, next to be able to see the commonplace in a funny way and most important of all, to be able to sketch your idea so that the other person will think it's funny."

Truer woids were never spoken!

Tex knew this stuff better than anyone.

And very few cartoonists and animators have all three of those talents that he listed. If you want to make a funny cartoon, that foist one, "an everlasting sense of humor," is the key. Your drawing ability is less important than having a great sense of humor, IMHO, because somebody who can draw well can help you out with the sketches. Not everyone who can draw and animate well has a hilarious sense of humor. For instance, "Back In Action." We Looney Tunes may have been drawn okay, but the material they gave us just wasn't funny. I'm by no means blaming the animators on this's the suits running the show that made it so deadly. The animator would've made it funny if the material had been funny. But it wasn't.

Tex, we miss ya!

Tanks for this!


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this amazing find Jaime! To think that there are still historical facts and interviews to find about the greats is exciting.

Rich Arons