Monday, 8 August 2016

Virgil Ross and Bashing Bugs Bunny

Virgil Ross would be 109 years old today. In April 1930, he was living at his parents’ place in Compton, California, making a career as a commercial artist in advertising. That year, he decided to get into animation. Five years later, he, Sid Sutherland and Cecil Surry joined Tex Avery in moving from the Walter Lantz studio to Warner Bros. And he stayed for years (when the studio shut down for the second half of 1953, he got a job playing piano, then returned).

Ross spent the majority of his career at Warners in Friz Freleng’s unit, where he crafted some subtle, nuanced animation. One of his scenes I really like is in Ballot Box Bunny (released 1950), where there’s violent action—Sam clobbers Bugs Bunny with a club—but also expressions and gestures that may not have been noticed, but were certainly felt by the audience.

See how Sam thumps his chest, sizes up his club with a squinted eye, pushes up his sleeve, measures Bugs with one eye, wham! (Bugs weaves around and drops out of the scene), then changes his expression to scream that he loves babies.

Virgil died on May 15, 1996.

A few years ago, a great interview with Virgil was posted on-line. I can’t find it now. But here’s another one conducted 22 years ago. And watch some highlights from his Warners cartoon below.

Virgil Ross Animation Reel from Devon Baxter on Vimeo.


  1. Ross' characters probably had the most expressionistic arm and leg movements of any of the Warners' animators from the mid-1940s on -- you didn't just get what a character was thinking or feeling from his or her face, but the entire body conveyed what Ross (and Friz) were trying to do. It really added to the personality animation.

  2. One of the greatest ever! Virgil is probably my favorite Warner animator out of them all. Great tribute, Yowp.