Last week, Jerry posted about David DePatie’s passing. I interviewed him 25 years ago by telephone, on September 6th, 1996, and I asked him about his theatrical work and especially about the ethnic humor in much of it. He was, I think, the second animation veteran I interviewed, and I’ll always have great respect for his openness about the use of ethnic caricature in his films.
On the Daffy Duck-Speedy Gonzales pairing: It was “a concept that Warners felt that they wanted,” “a mandate from Warner Brothers to us.” He explained that Warner Brothers wanted to make completely different cartoons and use different pairings for them. He revealed, “Friz and I never really cared for that particular concept, but everyone else seemed to like it.”
On the “Tijuana Toads” series: “We had an enormous contract with United Artists to fulfill.” It was for 156 cartoons. While thinking of new series ideas, “the Mexican, ethnic type of character, that had worked so successful in Speedy Gonzales, came to us.” John Dunn, a writer for the studio, came up with the idea of the “Toads” characters. He remembered, “It was a very successful series,” a “very, very great success.”
On the “Blue Racer” series character the Japanese Beetle: He said, “The beetle is Oriental—Japanese, no doubt, but Oriental for sure.” He reasoned, “Everyone felt that a lot of good gags could come from it [the ethnic caricature].” He noted, “It seems like poking fun at certain ethnic groups had always spelled success. Friz had always felt that way in his cartoons, especially with Speedy.”
On the “Hoot Kloot” series: After the “Pink Panther” short Pinto Pink (1967), “United Artists latched on to a Western motif.” He explained, “Our distributors felt that in their library, they’d like to have some type of Western character.” However, “Hoot Kloot” was “of our entire body of work, one of the least successful series we made. Nobody really liked it.”
I’m sorry he’s gone. Truly the end of an era. Rest In Peace, David H. DePatie.