Tex Avery's first fairy-tale "Grandma," from GRANDMA'S PET (1932)
Every Avery fan knows this gag. But this was the first time Tex used it. From THE SINGING SAP (1930)
by Rachel Newstead
I’ve always been fond of essay-style posts, where I can discuss a cartoonist’s body of work, or even a single cartoon, in-depth. This one had been germinating for quite some time; originally intended for the old Orphan Toons blog back in 2008, this series will take a look at a period of Tex Avery’s career that’s often overlooked or glossed over by historians, the period from which the ideas that won him fame originally sprang. It’s my pleasure to bring the first part to you now.
It’s ironic, I suppose, that a man who disdained established, continuing characters as much as Tex Avery would be so inextricably linked to so many of them: the lecherous Wolf, the red-hot Red. The addlepated Egghead. The deceptively languid Droopy. George and Junior and Screwy Squirrel. Then, of course, there’s his long association with a certain rabbit.
No, not that rabbit.
If they bothered to take enough time to glance at the credits, theater audiences on Sept. 8, 1930 watching a fairly typical early sound cartoon called The Singing Sap might have noticed the name “Fred Avery”. And just as quickly forgotten it. Yet unknown to those unsuspecting theater-goers, a revolution was brewing, and young Frederick Bean Avery would one day be its standard-bearer.
To understand the Tex Avery of King Size Canary, Dumb Hounded, A Wild Hare and Red Hot Riding Hood requires us to carefully sift through the archaeological layers, back to a time when the studio he worked for was run by a fellow named Walter Lantz, and the rabbit he worked with was named “Oswald.” A time before he was “Tex.”
Tex Avery makes his mark on the world of animation--but not quite like this guy. From TOWNE HALL FOLLIES (1935)
Animation historians, with more than a hint of romanticism, often look for the source of Tex Avery’s humor in the tall tales of his Texas upbringing, and the backwoods hyperbole of his ancestor, Daniel Boone. It makes for good copy, all right. But those wishing to find the real source of his humor need look no further than his earliest days at the Walter Lantz studio. Continue reading