Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Red Riding Hoodwinked Backgrounds

“Say, it’s a Honeymooner catchphrase, and, oh, what? The cartoon’s over? That’s it?” That’s how Friz Freleng’s “Red Riding Hoodwinked” leaves me.

The analogy has been comparing the toning down of rambunctious Warner Bros. cartoons as the post-war years rolled on to the toning down of America; how the fighting men of World War Two were, by 1955, relaxing with their pipe and slippers watching Arthur Godfrey on TV.

“Hoodwinked” demonstrates the slide of the Warners cartoons. The end gag has no punch (ironically, it’s about a punch) and you watch the cartoon thinking much of it is awfully familiar. And it has those block-headed human designs by Hawley Pratt that I’ve never liked. Still, it’s got a funny twist on a Tex Avery sign gag and Friz’s fine timing.

Irv Wyner handles the backgrounds from Hawley’s layouts. They’re not as stylised as what you’d find in the Chuck Jones unit but they’re not as literal as Paul Julian’s work for Freleng only a few years earlier. Here are some exteriors.

And some interiors of grandma’s house. The doors are on separate cels; they’ve been digitally removed from the bottom two drawings.

Getting the animation credits here are Artie Davis, Gerry Chiniquy and Ted Bonnicksen. Virgil Ross was playing the piano in Los Angeles when this was being made; Ken Champin had gone to work in commercial animation.

Bonnicksen soon ended up in the McKimson unit; whether Freleng didn’t like his work, I don’t know. The internet tells us he was born September 18, 1915 in Illinois to Hans Madsen and Marie Mathilda Bonnicksen, the youngest of six brothers and sisters. His father was a grocery clerk in Waukegan who died in 1918. His mother remarried but the sons kept their original surname. Ted was in Libertyville, Illinois in 1935 but apparently begun his career with Disney by 1940, as we find him in the census that year as “animator, motion pictures” (at $1800 annually) and living with fellow cartoonist Manny Gonzales. During the war, Bonnicksen was a private stationed at Camp Crowder, Missouri where he spent part of his time designing scenery for plays. It’s unclear when he ended up at Warner Bros.

He had a lengthy career in animation up until his death; he was suffering from leukaemia when he was working on “Fritz the Cat.” He died July 22, 1971.


  1. The redesign of Granny for this cartoon also is a major strike against it. Oddly for some reason, Friz's unit seemed to have the toughest time returning to form following Warners' 3-D connected shutdown than the Jones or even the McKimson units, both of which seemed to be reinvigorated story-wise in a "you don't know what you've got 'till it's gone" kind of way, at getting their jobs back.

    The fact that some of Freleng's crew, including Warren Foster, were never furloughed by J.L. might explain why the unit's late 1955-early '56 releases come across as so bland. By mid-'56, Friz had gotten back on stride, the worst of Hawley's pill-head designs had subsided, and thanks to that, 1957 turned out to be one of Warners' best-ever years for all three units, before the final decline started in 1958.

  2. Ted Bonnicksen re-appeared working for Friz when DePatie-Freleng came along a decade later.