Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Isadore "Friz" Freleng (August 21, 1905–May 26, 1995) was an animator, cartoonist, director, and producer best known for his work on the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons from Warner Bros. He introduced several of the studio's biggest stars, including Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, and Speedy Gonzalez. The senior director at Warners' Termite Terrace studio, Freleng is also the most honored of the Warners directors, having won four Academy Awards. After Warners shut down the animation studio in 1963, Freleng and business partner David DePatie founded DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, which produced cartoons, feature film title sequences, and Saturday morning cartoons through the early 1980s.
Freleng was born in Kansas City, Missouri, where he began his career in animation at Walt Disney Studios. He worked alongside other early animators, including Carmen Maxwell, Ub Iwerks, Hugh Harman, and Rudy Ising. Freleng accompanied Disney to Hollywood, California, where they worked on Disney's Alice Comedies and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit films for producers Margaret Winkler and Charles Mintz.
Freleng soon teamed up with Harman and Ising to try to create their own studio. The trio produced a pilot film starring a new Mickey Mouse-like character named Bosko. Looking at unemployment if the cartoon failed to generate interest, Freleng moved to New York City to work on Mintz' Krazy Kat cartoons, all the while still trying to sell the Harman-Ising Bosko picture. The cartoon finally sold to Leon Schlesinger, who soon secured Harman and Ising to star Bosko in the Looney Tunes series he was producing for Warner Bros. Freleng soon moved back to California to work with Harman and Ising once again.
Freleng as director
Harman and Ising left Schlesinger's studio over disputes about budgets in 1933. Schlesinger was left with no experienced directors and so promoted Freleng. The young animator would prove an able director, and he introduced the studio's first post-Bosko star, Porky Pig, in the 1935 film I Haven't Got a Hat. The film is notable for being one of the earliest examples of characterization in a cartoon. Porky is not the boring, cookie-cutter hero like Bosko or his replacement, Buddy; he is distinctive, and therefore, memorable.
In 1937, Freleng was moved away from Schlesinger and joined the fledgeling MGM cartoon studio headed by Fred Quimby. To Freleng's chagrin, he found he would be working on a series called The Captain and the Kids, a version of the popular comic strip The Katzenjammer Kids. The series failed to achieve much success, much as Freleng had predicted—though skillfully animated, the characters could not compete with the "funny animals" that pervaded at the time. Quimby's replacement, Harry Hershfield , was no better a leader, and Freleng happily returned to Warner Bros. when his contract ended in 1940.
Schlesinger's hands-off attitude toward his animators allowed Freleng to create several hilarious shorts, such as 1940's You Oughta Be in Pictures in which a fast-talking Daffy Duck talks Porky Pig into quitting Warner Bros. to find work elsewhere. Freleng and his fellow animators kept pace with Disney's technical superiority by making their cartoons funnier and zanier than anything anyone had seen before. Freleng's style quickly matured, and he became a master of comic timing. 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 Gonzalez in 1955.
Freleng and Chuck Jones would dominate the Warner Bros. studio in the years after World War II, Freleng largely confining himself to these few characters and Bugs Bunny. Freleng also continued to produce modernized versions of the musical comedies he animated in his early career, such as The Three Little Bops (1957) and Pizzacato Pussycat (1955). Freleng won three Oscars during his time at Warner Bros., for the films Tweetie Pie (1947), Speedy Gonzalez (1955), and Knighty Knight Bugs (1958). Birds Anonymous (1957) was nominated for an award but did not win.
After the Warners studio closed in 1964, Freleng rented the space to create cartoons with producer Dave DePatie . DePatie-Freleng Enterprises was soon commissioned to create the opening sequence to the film The Pink Panther, for which Freleng created a suave, cool cat. The character grew so popular that Freleng brought him back in 1964 in a short for United Artists, which won an Academy Award.
Jack Warner was uncomfortable with space in his studio being used so successfully to create films for a competitor, so DePatie and Freleng moved their operations to the San Fernando Valley. Freleng made a series of Pink Panther shorts, and in 1969 successfully transitioned the character to television.
When Warner Bros. later decided to reopen their cartoon studio in 1964, they did so in name only; DePatie-Freleng produced the cartoons until 1967. These cartoons lacked the old spark, however, and with the exception of the Pink Panther films, Freleng's later output was relatively unremarkable.
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