Thursday 31 March 2016

Under Water, Over Acting

Someone would do the world a great public service by starting a blog to post Rod Scribner and Manny Gould scenes from Bob Clampett cartoons. There are so many great drawings that you have to stop the cartoons to admire them.

Here’s the dramatic pre-death scene from the only cartoon set under water for no particular reason: Hare Ribbin’. Yes, Bob McKimson gets the animation credit on screen, but you just know this isn’t McKimson’s work here. Teeth, floppy tongue, hammy histrionics, all animated on ones. These are lots of fun to view. The first frame below shows the dog (who, in Elmer Fuddish fashion, wails because he “killed” Bugs Bunny) spitting out bits of the sandwich he has just bitten into.

The dog, an imitation of radio’s “Mad Russian,” wishes he were dead. “Do you mean it?” asks Bugs, in his best Mad Russian imitation. Then this. These are consecutive frames.

And then....

He’s dead, alright.

Since we mentioned Scribner...

Roderick Henry Scribner was born in Joseph, Oregon on October 10, 1910, the middle of three children. When Rod was 11, his father had a bedroom built in the bank where he worked so he could fool around with different women. The Los Angeles Times lovingly listed the details in its coverage of the divorce trial (three years later, his dad married a cashier at the bank). Young Rod was fooling around with chicks of a different kind. Around the same time, he and his brother joined a poultry club at their grammar school in Burbank. Perhaps it was of assistance when, years later, he was called upon to animate Foghorn Leghorn.

Scribner wasn’t the only over-the-top animator at Warners. Gould turned out some beautiful work. So did Bill Melendez. It would seem Clampett accommodated, if not encouraged it, for when they were put until the directorship of Bob McKimson, Scribner was told to “calm down.” Gould escaped to Jerry Fairbanks Productions. Melendez bolted for UPA. Scribner ended up in a sanitarium fighting tuberculosis before returning for a few more years at Warners as the studio, as a whole, calmed down. There were still some good cartoons, but Warners’ best days were behind them.

Scribner bounced around. He animated for UPA and then Jay Ward. He worked on animated commercials in their heyday in the ‘50s. The fun “Cow Train” spot for John Hubley’s Storyboard, Inc. was his. His name is even in the credits at Hanna-Barbera on Yogi’s Gang, about as confining a job as any to someone like Scribner. He died on Boxing Day 1976 at the age of 66.


  1. This cartoon would confuse the heck out of me when I was a kid. Why is the whole thing underwater!!!

  2. It's interesting to look at the contrasts in the edited version of the cartoon to between Scribner's work and the inserts by McKimson, where Bugs gives the gun to the dog to kill himself (not sure if that was a request by the Hays office, J.L. or Leon to change the murder to a suicide), and earlier, shows he's bunched up at the top of the sandwich, so the kids in the audience won't think the dog's bitten his lower half off.

    In both cases, especially the first, we jump from Scribner's wildly expressive animation (but which never loses the design of the characters) to McKimson's classic look of Bugs as he's best remembered in the 1940s. Bob's speed as an animator might have been why he was picked to make the changes, instead of just giving them to Rod to do, but it also make's Michael Barrier's point that McKimson's work was the anchor which allowed Clampett and the rest of his crew to go wild, because Bob's drawings could always bring the characters back to where we expected them to be visually.

  3. Very interesting, J.L. I've never thought to compare the animation in the two versions.
    I don't know the actual story behind the two endings; there's been a lot of internet chatter but I don't know if Clampett was ever quoted on it.

  4. Bob Clampett commented to Mike Barrier [Funnyworld, Animal Farm issue, #23, '83] that one-time Three Stooges wannabe comic Sammy Wolf was the voice of the dog based on radio's "Mad Russian" [played by Bert Gordon] and [longtime Funnyworld columnist and "Encyclopedia of Animated Films",2000 author] Graham Webb says the same in the entry for "Hare Ribbin".SC This is one thing Bob Clampett has said that I DO believe, even if Sammy Wolf is not one of those normally heard in a Warner cartoon accoridng to most credits.