Commentary
October 13, 2021 posted by Jerry Beck

David H. DePatie (1929-2021)

It was announced today that Oscar winning animation producer David DePatie passed away peacefully on Thursday September 23rd. He was 91.

There is much to say about DePatie, but I’ll start with the fact he was the last producer of the Warner Bros. Animation Division in 1961-62 – the department that created Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies originally under Leon Schlesinger in 1930. He presided over the final theatrical Bugs Bunny, Tweety and Foghorn Leghorn shorts (directed by Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng and Robert McKimson, respectively); the ABC-TV Bugs Bunny Show, the pilots (turned theatrical shorts) The Adventures of The Road Runner and Philbert; and oversaw the in-house animated commercials division.

In 1963, he formed DePatie-Freleng Enterprises with Friz Freleng – DePatie the businessman, Freleng the creative director. One of their first jobs was creating the Pink Panther character and animated titles for the 1964 Blake Edwards feature film. The title sequence was so acclaimed, United Artists paid to produce a pilot (The Pink Phink) which won DePatie and Freleng an Academy Award for Best Cartoon Short. This led to a long running series of theatrical cartoons for UA, which begat numerous characters including The Inspector, The Ant and The Aardvark and Hoot Kloot (to name but a few).

DePatie Freleng thrived on these series, numerous TV commercials, movie & TV titles (including I Dream of Jeannie) and TV series (Super Six, My World and Welcome To It, Here Comes The Grump, MisterJaw, etc.). TV Specials included Dr. Seuss’ The Cat In The Hat and The Lorax. DePatie Freleng also produced a slew of After-School Specials – as well as group of 1960s theatrical cartoons featuring The Roadrunner, Speedy Gonzales and Daffy Duck.

When Friz Freleng decided to return to Warner Bros. in 1981, DePatie remained at the helm of the company under its new name – Marvel Animation – producing Spiderman and his Amazing Friends and The Incredible Hulk among others – until his retirement later in that decade.

I’ve met and interviewed David DePatie several times – and I’m happy to report he was open and honest about his career, his work, and the cartoons he had his name on. He was charming and sincere – and beloved by those who worked for him over the years. He was the last of the old-school cartoon producers – and he will be missed.

15 Comments

  • Great interview, thanks for posting it, Jerry.
    So Jack Warner fired Eddie Selzer? I didn’t know that.
    The “Sharpie” parrot commercials I’ve seen look more like Chuck Jones design than Friz. Maybe Abe Levitow designed them? They were done as negative images, white lines on black, and superimposed over boxing ring footage at break times.
    I love Dave DePatie’s concluding statement about his opinion of Chuck Jones! That’s worth sitting through the whole interview to here.
    “Here Comes the Grump” I remember as being not too bad for a Saturday AM show. They used a lot of stock animation, and re-used the scene of the Grump bouncing along the dragon’s scales many times. Very similar to “Knighty-Knight Bugs”.
    Dave DePatie, RIP.

    • Wouldn’t that have been John W. Burton? Selzer was long retired by the 1960s.

  • Rest in Peace, David. You are missed.

  • He was a unique voice all and all and we shall never look upon his like again. R.I.P.

  • DePatie-Freleng was the “class act” of Saturday morning TV. Their theatrical cartoons had their ups and downs like everyone else’s, but the Panther shorts were consistently both funny and stylish; and after Walter Lantz decided to retire, DFE pretty much had the first-run cartoon business to themselves.

    It was a unique studio where old-line veterans (like Friz Freleng himself) collaborated with younger, graphics-oriented artists (like Art Leonardi) and both groups benefited from it. They were a versatile bunch, able to handle such disparate designers as Dr. Seuss and Doug Wildey, and do it well.

  • My condolences to David DePatie’s family, friends and former colleagues.

    I grew up with the DePatie-Freleng cartoons and remember many of them fondly: the Pink Panther, the Ant and the Aardvark, Super Six, Dr. Doolittle, Here Comes the Grump, and the Dr. Seuss specials. The above interview was an extra on the “Here Comes the Grump” DVD set. That wonderfully fanciful and imaginative cartoon was a childhood favourite of mine, even though it began in media res and never came to a satisfactory conclusion: Princess Dawn and Terry never made it to the Cave of the Whispering Orchids to find the Crystal Key and use it to lift the curse of gloom that the Grump had laid on her realm. But as they say, it’s not the destination that matters, but the journey, and what a journey it is! Curiously, in one (and only one) of the “Grump” cartoons all the backgrounds are drawn in crayon! Maybe they ran out of paint.

    DePatie comes across as a really nice guy in that interview, and it’s good to see this impression borne out by the people who knew him.

  • Fascinating interview. I guess we’d call that last comment a “parting shot” at Chuck Jones. I can’t say I agree–others will, but I’m not sure why it was necessary. I’d go on but it’s not appropriate at this time.

    A slight lack of knowledge about what they did for Warners–no Bugs, and I’ll let sleeping Road Runners…go.

    RIP Mr. DePatie. Great recap of a wonderful career.

  • Sorry to hear of his passing. I had fun talking to DePatie a decade ago, asking him about his days at Warners and DFE. May he rest in peace.

  • Just this week I rewatched one of my favorite Pink Panther shorts on YouTube, “Pink-A-Rella”. I’d love to know who designed the gorgeous girl after PP transforms her with the wand he found. Was it DePatie himself?

    • Hawley Pratt designed her, the same artist who designed The Pink Panther.

  • RIP Dave DePatie..amd David..I agree on “Pinlk a Rella”
    ‘s design!

  • R.I.P, David. You and Friz made some great cartoons together.

  • I’ve seen some DFE cartoons in the past days and years like “The Inspector” and “The Ant and The Aardvark”…

    David, thanks for a lot of imaginative years!

  • DePatie-Freleng became stamped in my mind on seeing “The Pink Phink” in June 1965. Even at the age of ten I sensed a fresh bloom among animated cartoon producers, and that sentiment held firm all through the early Panthers and Inspectors, plus the “Super 6” TV show. Thank you Dave and Friz, and RIP.

  • I’d say David DePatie’s so-called “parting shot” at Chuck Jones was justified to some extent. It seems to me that in later years, Chuck Jones and Tex Avery were miffed at all the credit Bob Clampett was getting re: BUGS BUNNY, etc. and then Chuck Jones began to be praised as THE great cartoon director at Warners. Having worked with Friz Freleng and been good friends with him, I’m sure that DePatie was a little ticked off that Friz didn’t get more recognition by his peers and people beginning to write about the history of the Warner Bros. cartoons. So, the comment didn’t come out of nowhere!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *