Born in Arizona in 1914, Manuel “Manny” Perez started his animation career at Warners in 1934, with his high school friend, Phil Monroe. Perez animated for Friz Freleng’s unit throughout much of the 1940s—his first screen credit appeared in Porky’s Bear Facts (1941). As a member of the Screen Cartoonists Guild (SCG), he was one of the few Guild artists locked out of the studio when producer Leon Schlesinger refused to sign a contract and attempted to repel union organization, of which the strike lasted only six days in May 1941.By late 1947, when Art Davis was demoted from director to animator for Freleng, Perez was transported over to Bob McKimson’s unit, credited on two 1950 releases, Pop ‘im Pop and Dog Collared. When animator Gerry Chiniquy left Warners to take up another line of business altogether, Perez returned to Freleng’s unit. (Chiniquy’s new business interests are unclear, since city directories from the 1950s are currently inaccessible.)
Perez left Warners after it shut down its animation department, in the wake of the 3-D craze, in 1953. Phil Monroe hired him at Ray Patin’s studio, as an animator on several commercials. It’s unclear how long Perez stayed there, but around the late ‘50s, he went over to Hanna-Barbera, animating on The Huckleberry Hound Show and Quick McGraw McGraw. Later, he animated on Ed Graham’s Linus the Lion Hearted for a brief period, and went over to DePatie-Freleng, and remained there until the early ‘70s—though, occasionally, he animated for Bill Melendez’s Peanuts television specials (namely, Charlie Brown Christmas and He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown). According to Greg Duffell, despite Perez spending a majority of his career animating for Freleng at Warners and DFE, he had feelings of resentment towards him from his surly personality as a director. Virgil Ross also recollected to Greg that Perez was Freleng’s “whipping boy,” and felt Friz belittled him.
After his departure from DFE, Perez animated on several animated features including Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic, and The Lord of the Rings for Ralph Bakshi, Filmation’s Journey Back to Oz, and Bob Taylor’s The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat. By 1975, he worked as a sequence director on the Japanese-funded animated anthology film Metamorphoses (aka Winds Of Change), for Sanrio Productions. He continued to animate the Warners characters for several television specials with the Warners characters, working with Freleng and Chuck Jones. He moved to Ruby-Spears as a director in the late ‘70s, mainly as a director on The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show. Perez was credited on two animated features, Hanna-Barbera’s Heidi’s Song and Ralph Bakshi’s Hey Good Lookin’, both released a year after his death in 1981.
Admittedly, biographical information on Manny Perez is light, in that it seems that he hadn’t been formally interviewed about his career. In the mid-‘40s, Perez moonlighted at James Davis’ shop, like many other animators in the West Coast, drawing funny animal stories for Benjamin Sangor’s line of comics, with a brief return in the early ‘50s. Much of the drawing/posing in his stories appear much like his work for Freleng; Milton Mouse in Barnyard Comics #14 has a striking resemblance to the gray mouse in The Fifth Column Mouse (1943).
• “Oscar Owl”—Coo Coo Comics #23 (February 1946)
• “Windy”—Goofy Comics #13 (April 1946)
• “Of Mice and Menace”—Happy Comics #23 (January 1947)
• “Milton Mouse”—Barnyard Comics #14 (October 1947)
• “The Cub Scouters”—Goofy Comics #28 (August 1948)
• “Hunky”—Happy Comics #27 (September 1948)
(Thanks this week to Yowp and Greg Duffell for their help)