Avery Frederick Bean, american animator born in taylor, texas, on february 26, 1908. frederick bean (“tex”) avery, a distant relative of the notorious judge roy bean, “the law west of the pecos,” went to north dallas high school and graduated in 1927. after a summer course at the chicago art institute and several unsuccessful attempts at creating a newspaper strip. avery moved to california in 1929. the following year he joined walter lantz’s animation studio as an in-betweener and later was promoted to full animator status.
in 1935 avery moved over to the warner brother’s studio. during his stay at warners he directed a number of porky pig cartoons (“picador porky,” “porky the wrestler.” and especially “porky’s duck hunt,” in which the character of daffy duck first appeared, are among the more notable). he was also the artist most responsible for the definitive characterization of bugs bunny in the 1940 “a wild hare.” other notable avery-warners cartoons include the penguin parade (1938), thugs with dirty mugs (1939) and cross-country detours (1940).
tex avery’s most creative period came after he had moved over to mgm in 1942. the first cartoon he directed at his new studio was the blitz wolf, a retelling of the “three little pigs” fable in the context of the allied fight against hitler (who appears as the big bad wolf). this was followed by the creation of avery’s most lovable character. droopy the dog, who made his first appearance in the 1943 “dumb- hounded.” droopy proved more popular than such other avery characters as screwy squirrel, and the two bears, george and junior.
avery’s fame rests primarily on a number of cartoons which depend less on characterization than on inexhaustible gag building and frenetic action. these include who killed who? and red hot hiding hood (both 1943), bad luck blackie (1949) and, above all. king-size canary, a 1947 cartoon involving a cat, a mouse, a dog and a canary grown to giant size, which is widely regarded as avery’s masterpiece.
in 1954 avery left mgm for a short stint back at lantz (where he directed four cartoons). he has been directing and producing advertising cartoons (including, ironically, the bugs bunny kool-aid commercials) for cascade studios ever since 1955. looking back on his career in the course of a 1971 interview, he declared, “i do miss the theatricals, but i’d never go back to them.”
tex avery has been hailed as one of the most gifted and imaginative of american cartoon directors. he has been called “a walt disney who has read kafka” by some critics and blasted for the violence of his cartoons by others. walter lantz once admiringly stated, “the thing about avery is that he can write a cartoon, lay it out. time it. do the whole thing himself.” no avery cartoon ever received an oscar (an oversight for which the academy has been castigated time and again), although several of his films were nominated. avery has been honored at a number of international film festivals, and in 1974 he received the annie award for best cartoonist from asifa.
a book-length study of avery’s career, joe adamson’s tex avery: king of cartoons, was published in 1975 by popular library.
Reference: The World Encyclopedia of Cartoons, 1981