Monday, 9 January 2012

The Elephant and Michael Sasanoff

Michael Sasanoff had a short but productive career at the Leon Schlesinger studio, though much of his work was uncredited.

Sasanoff, from what I’ve been able to gather, took over as the background artist in the Clampett unit when Johnny Johnsen left for MGM in 1941. Clampett, himself, had acquired the unit from Tex Avery not too many months earlier. Clampett finished up a bunch of Avery cartoons and then put his own into production. One is the charming “Horton Hatches the Egg” (released in 1942).

It opens like a number of Avery cartoons—with a pan over a background drawing. There is foliage on a foreground cell panned at a different speed than the background so I can’t snip it together. But what you see below gives you an idea of Sasanoff’s work on the cartoon, as Clampett tried to give a flavour of the designs in the Dr. Seuss book the cartoon was based on.

Sasanoff moved into management, according to The Film Daily Year Book of Motion Pictures, 1943 edition, and finished his career at Schlesinger’s with writing credits on several of Clampett’s cartoons in 1944 and 1945. Then, he vanished. It turns out he got out of animation and into the advertising business. Billboard magazine of April 3, 1948, tells us where he went:

Schenley Distributors, thru Biow Agency, this week signed to televise film commercials on a co-ordinated sked calling or simultaneous airing of identical spots over 11 video outlets daily. The 10 film strips, which plug Cresta Blanca wine, were completed in Hollywood last week by Biow’s tele production chief, Michael Sasanoff.
Sasanoff returns to Gotham next week to present finished series to agency toppers.
Sasanoff moved from agency to agency in the ‘50s and ‘60s, eventually opening his own firm. You have to laugh at this snippet of a story from a 1957 edition of Radio Daily-Television Daily:

MICHAEL SASANOFF, creator of Warner Brothers’ “Tweety Bird,” and partly responsible for “Bugs Bunny,” has been added to the copy staff of NW Ayer & Son, Inc., Philadelphia. He will be with the New York radio-television department.

Considering his ex-boss Clampett had a reputation for taking credit for creating almost every major pre-‘45 character at Warner Bros., it’s ironic Sasanoff took credit for a character Clampett did create (Tweety).

By the late ‘50s, the Sasanoffs had settled in New Canaan, Connecticut, where his wife Rose was involved in an amateur acting troupe along with Peter Van Steeden, Fred Allen’s ex orchestra leader. He died in Wilton, Connecticut on December 20, 1984, almost six months after becoming remarried. He was 81.


  1. Maybe Sasanoff DID create Tweety?

  2. Sasanoff managed to slip his name into the blueprint featured in "Tortoise Wins By a Hare" and the meat chart in "An Itch In Time" (the latter of which also mentions layout artist Earl Klein).