Thursday, 8 November 2012

Flip the Wolf

What’s the difference between Tex Avery at Warner Bros. and Tex Avery at MGM? Well, in his first cartoon for Metro, “The Blitz Wolf,” he has his animators pull off stuff that I don’t recall seeing his Warners crew try, even though he had adept people like Bob McKimson, Virgil Ross and Rod Scribner.

There’s a nice-looking scene where Adolf Wolf (voice by Bill Thompson) does a reverse 270-degree turn in mid-air.

It starts with some standard ‘40s cartoon stuff—a pop culture reference (the Myrt line from radio’s “Fibber McGee and Molly”) and a hotfoot. Adolf hangs up the phone. He’s smug. There’s a nine-drawing hold on the wolf while the fire burns.

The wolf realises something (I’ve skipped posting two anticipatory blink drawings). Then a surprise look to the camera. Nice rubbery animation. These are on ones.

Adolf sees the fire.

Up he goes. Here are a few of the drawings to give you an idea. Notice the hands in perspective at the camera.

Avery’s timing couldn’t be better. The force of gravity slows down the wolf as he goes higher; the background drawing moves vertically at shorter increments. When the wolf reaches the apex, the background is only held for two frames but parts of the wolf are still moving.

Down he comes.

Ray Abrams did the flip part, according to an animator draft in the Mark Kausler collection. Irv Spence, Preston Blair and Ed Love also get screen credits. A fine crew.


  1. Averys cartoons at Warners seemed to be animated very slowly and delberately. Very solid drawings and live-action style timing.
    His MGM stuff is much more cartoony and what we think of as '40s cartoon animation.

    I like them both but his MGM stuff is great!

  2. Scrawnyc, you have to wonder if that was the result of having McKimson in the Avery unit at Warners.

  3. To me, the crossed eyes in the initial reaction have an Irv Spence look, but I'm the first to admit I'm not the best at animator IDs.

    The 1939-42 period at Warners (especially over in the Clampett unit in 1941) seemed to be a concerted effort to improve the drawing style so that the gags would work better. Warners' 1938 shorts are in some ways faster than the stuff they were doing two years later, but led by McKimson the animation was developing the perfect combination of solidity but at the same time lightness -- i.e. no excessive animation lines or detail that might give the character added weight, but didn't do anything to further the gag. Paired-down Disney, though Disney already had smoothed out the extra, unnecessary details on their main characters by 1940.

    MGM's animators didn't need the skills upgrade as much as the Warners crew did, but in some ways -- possibly due to Tex taking over the Harmon unit -- sometimes the animation would be too solid/heavy to match with the kind of body distorting/mangling gags Avery was moving more and more towards (and even before he left Warners, you had Bugs' flying apart reaction take after the log gag in "All This and Rabbit Stew"). Going to MGM with the Disney and H-I animators gave Tex a crew who could do a lot of things better than at Warners, but their Disney/H-I heritage also made Tex feel like he had to do some things to fit their expertise. His cartoons at Metro would get funnier the further away his animators got from the 'cute storytelling' roots of their former employers.

  4. The scene above is Ed Love. He always animated his characters with curled lips during dialogue. The wolf looks like a thin version of Pegleg Pete from Disney (which Love was the lead animator on prior to moving from Disney to MGM).