Tuesday 21 March 2023

Out-Foxed Background

Tex Avery’s Of Fox and Hounds (1940) at Warner Bros. opened with a pan shot of a fox hunting club, with trees, a sign and a stone fence.

Avery’s Out-Foxed (1949) at MGM begins the exact same way.

The foreground trees, stone fence and sign are on an overlay which has been shot differently than the main drawing to add depth, so the frames can’t be clipped together. We’ll have to do them separately.

By comparison, here are some almost equivalent (and unrestored) frames from Hounds. It’s not the exact same background, but must have been used as an inspiration to the second one, which is longer on the right side to accommodate the hounds and the huntsman that arent in the Warner’s short.

Johnny Johnsen was responsible for both background paintings. He was a generation older than Avery. The Los Angeles Times published one of Johnsen’s sketches in its Sunday Arts section on August 6, 1905 with the explanation:

The interesting pen-and-ink drawing which we reproduce this week was done by John D. Johnsen, a young Norwegian-American, hardly twenty years of age, who is a student of the Los Angeles School of Art and Design. Mr. Johnson, who has been a student of the school only nine months, shows much more than the usual promise. His work is as vigorous and direct as his own personality. His aim is to become an illustrator, and his quick rendering of courtroom scenes, street; crowds, etc., show much aptitude for a most difficult branch of the illustrator's art. The art world of Los Angeles will watch his development with much interest—for he will soon prove himself a force to be reckoned with.

Johnsen also held a patent on a process to produce colour printing plates, according to the Times of August 30, 1917. You can learn more about him in this post.

Avery’s animators are Mike Lah, Walt Clinton, Bobe Cannon and Grant Simmons. This is the second of five shorts at MGM that Cannon worked on after coming from Disney and before moving on to UPA in 1947.


  1. Hans Christian Brando21 March 2023 at 06:57

    I never fail to marvel at background art.

  2. The OFAH opening was reused for Friz' Foxy by Proxy (1952).

  3. I always wondered how Avery was able to dip into the Warner’s catalog simply to reuse this background at MGM. I guess the answer was he didn’t.