A Year: Day to Day Men: 21st of August, Solar Year 2018


August 21, 1906 was the birthdate of Isadore “Friz” Freleng, the American animator, cartoonist and composer.

Friz Freleng began his career in animation at United Film Ad Service in Kansas City, Missouri. There, he made the acquaintance of fellow animators Hugh Harman and Ubi Iwerks. In 1923, Iwerk’s friend, Walt Disney, moved to Hollywood and asked his Kansas City colleagues to join him. Freleng joined the Walt Disney studio in 1927 and worked on the “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit” cartoons and the “Alice Comedies”, a series with a live action little girl named Alice and her animated cat.

Freleng teamed up with animators Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising to try to create their own studio. They produced a pilot film with a new character named Bosko. While trying to sell the Bosko film, Freleng moved to New York City to work on the “Krazy Kat” cartoons. The Bosko character was finally sold to producer Leon Schlesinger, who would produce the series for Warner Brothers. Freleng moved back to California and worked on the “Looney Tunes” cartoons for Warner Brothers. While there, he introduced the studio’s first true star, Porky Pig, in the 1935 film “I Haven’t Got a Hat”.

The Warner Brothers Studio’s hands-off attitude toward its animators allowed Freleng and his fellow directors almost complete creative control and room to experiment with cartoon comedy styles, which allowed the studio to keep pace with the Disney studio’s technical superiority. Freleng’s style quickly matured, and he became a master of comic timing. Often working alongside layout artist Hawley Pratt, he also introduced or redesigned a number of famous Warner characters, including Yosemite Sam in 1945, the cat-and-bird duo, Sylvester and Tweety in 1947, and Speedy Gonzales in 1955.

Freleng and Chusck Jones would dominate the Warner Bros. studio in the years after World War II, with Freleng largely concentrating on the above-mentioned characters, as well as Bugs Bunny. He won four Oscars during his time at Warner Brothers, for the films “Tweetie Pie” in 1947, “Speedy Gonzales” in 1955, “Birds Anonymous” with Tweetie and Sylvester in 1957, and “Knighty Knight Bugs” in 1958. Six of Freleng’s other films were Oscar nominees.

Besides animating and producing the cartoon films, Freleng also was a talented director. He directed all three of the vintage Warner Brothers cartoon in which the drinking of Dr. Jekyll’s portion induces a series of monstrous transformations; “Dr. Jekyl’s Hide” with Sylvester the Cat  in 1954, “Hyde and Hare” with Bugs Bunny in 1955, and “Hyde and Go Tweet” with Sylvester and Tweety in 1960.

Leave a Reply