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.