TexasEscapes.com  
HOME : : NEW : : TEXAS TOWNS : : GHOST TOWNS : : TEXAS HOTELS : : FEATURES : : COLUMNS : : BUILDINGS : : IMAGES : : ARCHIVE : : SITE MAP
PEOPLE : : PLACES : : THINGS : : HOTELS : : VACATION PACKAGES
NEW
Texas | Columns | "Letters from Central Texas"

Tex Avery

by Clay Coppedge
There was a time when somebody from Texas who made a name in the wider world was invariably given a new nickname: Tex. We point to cowboy singer and actor Tex Ritter, boxing promoter Tex Rickard and jazz saxophonist Tex Beneke as prime examples.

Tex Avery was another and I dare say there are more people familiar with his work than with the other three combined. Ever watch a Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck or Porky Pig cartoon? Then you’re familiar with Tex Avery’s contribution to American culture.

Born in Taylor in 1908, Frederick Bean Avery was a direct descendant of Daniel Boone and Judge Roy Bean. The family was proud of its connection to Boone but took pains to hide their relation to Bean. Avery’s grandmother urged him to never tell anyone of the judge in the family closet because “he’s a no good skunk.”

Avery graduated from North Dallas High School in 1926 when the popular catchphrase for teens was, “What’s up, doc?” He studied art and drawing in Chicago for a summer but returned to Dallas that fall to work odd jobs. A couple of years later he took a road trip to California with some friends. His friends went back to Dallas but Avery stayed in California, unloading produce trucks by day, sleeping on the beach at night and trying to sell his cartoons to local papers.

A job at the Walter Lantz studio as an assistant animator for “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit” cartoon series led Avery to the realization that he wasn’t the best artist on the lot – far from it – but he took it upon himself to learn as much as he could about every aspect of production.

By the end of his stay at the Lantz studio, Avery had directed two full-length animated features and gained the nickname he would become known by: Tex. He also lost the use of his left eye during some playful office hijinks featuring paper clips and a game of catch.

In 1935 Avery went to work for Warner Brothers, where he produced much of his best-known work. Working from an office dubbed Termite Palace because of the heavy presence of said insects, Avery oversaw a team that included artists Chuck Jones and voice-over specialist Mel Blanc. From Termite Palace came Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and a whole new way of looking at animation. “What’s up, doc?” and “Th-th-that’s all, folks” became enduring catch-phrases.

The Warner Brothers cartoons produced by Avery and his team represented a sub-genre of animation. Disney had the realistic and the cute and cuddly market wrapped up, but Avery understood something very basic about cartoons that Disney did not; anything can happen in a cartoon.

In an Avery cartoon, an anvil might fall from a great distance onto the head of the main character, who is immediately reshaped as an accordion, every movement accompanied by an off-key note. In the next frame, the character is just fine and ready to get run over by a speeding locomotive if that’s what the story calls for. Generations of children and adults alike have praised this as “great stuff.”

Avery went to work at MGM after creative differences with his bosses at Warner Brothers and turned out features and shorts at a furious clip, but at the expense of his health and his family. A son died of a drug overdose and his marriage dissolved while he continued to experiment with the endless possibilities of animation.

In the 50s, Avery turned to advertising. His work in that realm included the Raid commercial where the cockroaches scream “Raid!” just before getting sprayed into oblivion. The Frito Bandito was also a Tex Avery creation.

Avery died in 1980 at the age of 72, just as the extent of his contribution to the art of animation was beginning to be recognized. Chuck Jones, who worked with him at Warner Brothers, said, “I was as ignorant of his genius as I suppose Michelangelo’s apprentices were oblivious to the fact that they, too, were working with genius.”



© Clay Coppedge August 14, 2014 Column
More "Letters from Central Texas"
Related Topics: People | Columns | Texas Town List | Texas |
Related Topics: People | Columns | Texas Town List | Texas |
Custom Search
TEXAS ESCAPES CONTENTS
HOME | TEXAS ESCAPES ONLINE MAGAZINE | HOTELS | SEARCH SITE
TEXAS TOWN LIST | TEXAS GHOST TOWNS | TEXAS COUNTIES

Texas Hill Country | East Texas | Central Texas North | Central Texas South | West Texas | Texas Panhandle | South Texas | Texas Gulf Coast
TRIPS | STATES PARKS | RIVERS | LAKES | DRIVES | FORTS | MAPS

Texas Attractions
TEXAS FEATURES
People | Ghosts | Historic Trees | Cemeteries | Small Town Sagas | WWII | History | Texas Centennial | Black History | Art | Music | Animals | Books | Food
COLUMNS : History, Humor, Topical and Opinion

TEXAS ARCHITECTURE | IMAGES
Courthouses | Jails | Churches | Gas Stations | Schoolhouses | Bridges | Theaters | Monuments/Statues | Depots | Water Towers | Post Offices | Grain Elevators | Lodges | Museums | Rooms with a Past | Gargoyles | Cornerstones | Pitted Dates | Stores | Banks | Drive-by Architecture | Signs | Ghost Signs | Old Neon | Murals | Then & Now
Vintage Photos

TRAVEL RESERVATIONS | USA | MEXICO

Privacy Statement | Disclaimer | Contributors | Staff | Contact TE
Website Content Copyright Texas Escapes. All Rights Reserved