MOONLIGHTING ANIMATORS IN COMICS: Phil Monroe
In the summer of 1934, fresh out of high school, Phil Monroe accepted a job at Warner Bros. at the age of 17. He trained under Bob McKimson as his in-betweener and assistant before he became a full animator by late 1935. Monroe shifted from unit to unit throughout the mid-30s and early ‘40s, animating for the principal directors—Friz Freleng, Frank Tashlin, Chuck Jones, and Bob Clampett.
In 1943, Monroe enlisted in the Army Air Force, in the First Motion Picture Unit, under the tutelage of Disney animator Frank Thomas, animating and directing training films. Thomas offered Monroe a job at Disney’s, but went back to animate at Warners in 1946, and became one of Chuck Jones’ key animators. Gradually, Monroe was anxious to direct in his own unit, but nothing developed further from producer Eddie Selzer, or the other directors who claimed he needed more layout experience. He left Warners in 1950, and moved to John Sutherland Productions on their industrial films, which only lasted a year before he was laid off.
After Sutherland, he went into television commercials at Cascade and Sketchbook, before he became a full animator at UPA on such films as The Unicorn in the Garden (1953). He quit UPA for “political reasons” and went back to Cascade on commercials, where he was then offered a job at Ray Patin’s studio in 1954. Around 1959, during his time at Patin’s studio, Chuck Jones offered Monroe a chance to supervise their commercial department, among them featuring Charlie Tuna.
In the early ‘60s, directed on two theatrical cartoons, Woolen Under Where (1963) and The Iceman Ducketh (1964). He left in 1962, taking a position at Leo Burnett’s advertising agency and continued to work there by the mid-‘70s. He reunited with Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng, working on television specials and compilation features (The Bugs Bunny/Road-Runner Movie, The Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie, Daffy’s Fantastic Island) up until the early ‘80s.
Here is an animator reel of Phil Monroe’s scenes, most of them from his post-war stint in the Jones unit, in the mid-‘40s. In the early ‘40s, before he left for the Army, his scenes for other directors had a particular “Jones look,” evident in his animation for Freleng’s Pigs in a Polka and Tashlin’s Porky Pig’s Feat (both released in 1943).
Like the previous post related to the comics drawn by Hawley Pratt, it seems that Monroe hadn’t drawn many “funny animal” stories. Only four have been found, as of this writing. His drawing style for the Sangor/Davis comics appears much like his animation at Warners, especially with the Jones influence.
Interestingly, Tom Baron is credited with the writing in his earliest comic book story “The Worstest Wolf and the Baddest Buzzard.” Baron was one of the young artists Monroe recalled sitting next to at the in-betweener’s bullpen when he started at Warners in 1934. Two other stories drawn by Monroe, for Barnyard Comics, have a writing credit to Michael Maltese, one of the principal story-men for Warners who would later become Jones’ main writer.
“The Worstest Wolf and the Baddest Buzzard”—Goofy Comics #7 (December 1944)
“Popgoze’ de Weasel”—Barnyard Comics #12 (June 1947)
“Tuffy Terrier”—Barnyard Comics #14 (October 1947)
“Ted and Tom”—Happy Comics #27 (September 1948)