Hans Perk’s wonderful blog, A. Film LA, lets viewers observe documents (known as “animator drafts”) that show, in simple terms, who animated what in particular shorts and features for Disney. Other historians have also shared this valuable information that has been safe-guarded over the years within the Disney Archives. Non-Disney studio drafts are a bit harder to find – scattered about, waiting to resurface (and hopefully be acquired by animation historians). Material like this from the Warner Bros. Cartoon Department is particularly hard to come by.
Animators Greg Duffell and Milt Gray recollected memories of the studio having an archive much like Disney’s, with everything housed and catalogued, floor to ceiling. “The Kinney National people came in after they’d bought WB from Seven Arts and asked what that building was where they stored the art,” Duffell said. “After being told they didn’t make cartoons anymore, they [Kinney National] decided to destroy everything, so it got either burned or buried in the desert.” However, not every piece of animation artwork, such as production drawings, layouts, preliminary lobby cards and model sheets, was gone. A decent number of drafts from the studio have surfaced, but mostly from Clampett and McKimson’s private collections.
Today, we’re going to look at the draft for McKimson’s Hot Cross Bunny (originally titled The Rabid Rabbit) that Mark Kausler graciously loaned me. The McKimson/Foster dynamic combined exaggerated characterizations with a brutal onslaught of heavy slapstick. Bugs has a hammy nature in this entry, with his bombastic vaudeville performance in the amphitheater in an audience of “sourpuss doctors” which possesses the middle of the cartoon.
What is interesting about the animation in this cartoon is that Anatolle “Tolly” Kirsanoff and Fred Abranz were not credited for their work. (Although Izzy Ellis had been credited in previous titles, the low footage count might have deterred it in this title.) McKimson’s Birth of a Notion, released a year earlier, credits Kirsanoff and animator Fred Jones (who is seen on-screen drawing Porky in Freleng’s You Ought to Be In Pictures) in its draft.
This raises a few questions on the matter. What other animators in different units were uncredited, besides animator Rev Chaney in Clampett’s? How long were Kirsanoff, Abranz and Jones in the studio? I’m uncertain of these answers and hope others might know.
Instead of a mosaic, I thought it would be best to look at the artist’s work in motion – I’ve embedded an “animator breakdown” video for this cartoon. The animation draft I worked from is posted below the video. Enjoy!