November 16, 2013 posted by Mike Kazaleh

The Last Warner Bros. Cartoons

keystone-copsAs an addendum to Jerry’s post last March, lets take a look at the last remnants of Warner Bros. animation in 1968-69, the Bill Hendricks years.

keystonekops-articleAs we all know, Warner Bros. shut down the original studio in 1962 after production on The Incredible Mr. Limpet. About a year later they had a change of heart and ordered more theatrical cartoon shorts (mainly featuring Speedy Gonzales, Daffy Duck, and The Road Runner) from DePatie-Freleng. In 1967, just as the studio was merging with Seven Arts Productions, the thinking was to revive the in-house cartoon department to make not only theatricals – but commercials, titles and industrial films. William L. Hendricks, the studio’s Director of Public Relations, was given the task of creating and running the new unit.

New characters were created – Cool Cat (a variant of the Pink Panther) was one. Bunny And Claude (a take-off of Bonnie And Clyde) were another. Merlin the Magic Mouse, Chimp and Zee, Norman Normal and The Red Baron were all tried – and failed. An update of Mack Sennent’s Keystone Cops were in development (click cel above to enlarge); Al Capp’s L’il Abner was announced as TV series (see trade announcements and model sheet below). The cartoon studio was abruptly closed in 1969 when the Kinney Corporation bought the studio and was looking to cut costs.




More attempts at creating wonderful new merchandisable characters.

SUPER SNOOPER was just a little behind the curve here, as detective shows were not a their peak of popularity at this time. The name had recently been used by Hanna-Barbera on the Quick Draw McGraw show. Maybe you could argue that WB had used the name for a cartoon title before that so they did it first anyways. Whatever, it doesn’t look too promising. Drawn by Jaime Diaz.


BUTCH CASSIDYOh brother! The Tasmanian Devil undergoes surgery to bring out his inner feline. Did the failure to put him into a cartoon deprive the world of a great new animated icon? Possibly not…


JOLLY ROGER appearss to be a rip off of Yosemite Sam. You may well ask that since they owned Yosemite Sam, why the heck couldn’t they just use Yosemite Sam? Also drawn by Jaime Diaz.


PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON – Probably negotiated when Paul Stooky (of Peter, Paul and Mary) was creating Norman Normal at the studio.

ROADRUNNER CALVACADE with the Bird Watcher – If DePatie-Freleng/Format Films Road Runner cartoons weren’t bad enough…

Below: An internal memo, whereby Mr. Hendricks assures his bosses that The Bugs Bunny Show can be combined with The Road Runner Show without making a lot of new animation.


Plymouth Spots: The Chrysler Corporation took out a license from WB to produce a car called the Road Runner. It was based on Plymouth’s mid-sized coupe body, with a whopping great V8 stuffed under the hood. It also had decals of the cartoon Road Runner stuck on it. WB produced new animation for the commercials, all directed by Bob McKimson. I’ve compiled some of the spots together here. (Apologies for the terrible picture quality.)

The Phynx (1969), considered one of the worst movies ever made (despite an all-star cast), featured an animated opening title by the Hendricks unit. There’s a few bits here that could be Ted Bonnicksen’s.

The Effects Of Drugs: In those hippy-trippy days of the late sixties, even defense contractors like Lockheed Aircraft must have had problems with recreational drug usage among its employees. WB produced a series of films for in-house usage at Lockheed in 1969. Why are the characters cavemen? I couldn’t tell you. The sparse bits of music almost sound like Bill Lava’s. The very limited animation in this segment appears to be by Ed Solomon and Lavern Harding.

What more can I say, but — “That’s All, Folks!”


  • The first Road Runner car commercial doesn’t look like the work of Robert McKimson. The rest do.

    • With the debut of the 1968 Plymouth Road Runner coming in the fall of ’67, given the advance time to devise the ad campaign and animate the short it’s likely the first ad came from the Alex Lovy unit at W7.

  • That’s enough! Didn’t miss much, did we?

  • The Phynx (1969), considered one of the worst movies ever made (despite an all-star cast), featured an animated opening title by the Hendricks unit. There’s a few bits here that could be Ted Bonnicksen’s.

    Not having seen the film at all, I don’t suppose the Ihop restaurant plays much a big role than an excuse for product endorsement in the opening alone. 😛

    Why are the characters cavemen? I couldn’t tell you. The sparse bits of music almost sound like Bill Lava’s. The very limited animation in this segment appears to be by Ed Solomon and Lavern Harding.

    There were several segments made of these. My favorite is the severed bloody head moment! You can definately pick out Bill Lava’s music in these.

    There’s one other made I noticed out there in InternetLand, though this time the caveman professor appears in the modern day as a lawyer or something.

    WB also made a training film (not sure if it was for Lockheed or the military) that I’m sure was a lot of rotoscoped procedures and such, showing helicopters in a jungle setting I think. It showed up on eBay a couple years back but I didn’t get it simply for not having the spare cash around. I’m sure it was of mild interest to those curious at what this studio did during those waning years.

  • Well….this explains why the cast of Li’l Abner, whose core readership predated the baby boomers, was prominently placed on the milk cartons I received in school during 4th and 5th grade (1969). The character I remember most from those cartons was Joe Btfsplk, as I have no way of relating him to my wife, when she has a cloud hanging over head, since she is several years younger.

    • Also floating around on YouTube is a 1966 pilot for a live action sitcom. Li’l Abner may have been ancient, but it was still pretty firmly entrenched in a lot of newspapers. In fact, name recognition may have been going up in the 60s since Al Capp had emerged as a conservative media darling (which may have made Warner nervous, although the animated show would probably be as non-controversial as the sitcom).

      Are “Sadie Hawkins” Dances still a thing? In the early 70s, everybody seemed at least approximately aware of the comic strip roots, and hillbilly costumes were still involved.

    • The LI’L ABNER comic strip would only have been around thirty-five years old when the cartoon series was proposed. By newspaper comic strip standards that’s far from ancient LI’L ABNER also spawned a theme park named DOGPATCH USA in the late 1960s. Located in northwest Arkansas, the park was reasonably successful as long as the newspaper strip was running, but did a slow fade after it ended in the late 1970s.

    • Nice to see they had a theme park too. My high school did the musical in the early 90’s that I so badly wanted to be in.

    • In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, in the town of Munising, there is a restaurant named Dogpatch. It dates back to at least the 1970s, and may have been part of a chain. It’s adorned with large wall hangings of all the Lil Abner characters. Drinks are served in Mason jars. The menu has items named after the characters. I remember (when I was a kid) it used to be a really great place, but last time I was there (maybe about eight years ago) I wasn’t all that impressed…

    • I remember (when I was a kid) it used to be a really great place, but last time I was there (maybe about eight years ago) I wasn’t all that impressed…

      That happens.

  • Warners closed in 1963. Chuck Jones and his publicity people were said to have started that myth because of his getting fired over “Gay Puree” (1962) since it was a moonlighting job at UPA and he’d later try to say that the Warner Brothers animation unit had shut down in 1962 so as to not blemish his public image. I wonder who would have voiced the new characters, especially the Joe Btfsplk/Li’l Abner one-I can see the Hanna-Barbera female voices (for Daisy Mae) Julie Bennett or Janet Waldo as Daisy and Hal Smith for some of the others..speaking of Hanna-Barbera themselves, cavemen were used in that ad maybe because “The Flintstones” were so well established that WB (in the ads) tried using their own for the ad.

    • Warners closed in 1962, as Mike Kazaleh stated. They later decided to order more shorts from De-Patie Freleng, the following year. Various sources dispute the ‘correct’ WB studio closure date but it was 1962. If anyone doubts this, they need to ask animator Milt Gray, who was there the day that it happened.

    • Butch:
      The hammer might have come down in 1962 to close the place (absolutely possible), but they were winding down production on the studio’s last project THE INCREDIBLE MR. LIMPET as late as April 1963. So Pratt, Chiniquy, etc. were still working for the Warner Cartoon Division in 1963, even if they weren’t making any more shorts.

      Also, Jim Davis, in an interview with Will Friedwald, said that he and his cohorts spent at least a year at the Warner Seven-Arts studio doing absolutely nothing, save the Lockheed short Mike embedded, and still got a paycheck. Nice work, if you can get it.

  • “Detective shows” weren’t at their peak..”? Hanna-Barbera was just unveiling those meddling kids and their dog Scooby (but that was a different remixzed, kids and dog….). The 1968 letter from Hendricks mentions “Jackie”, presumably a’s to a Joseph Butler.Butch Catsidy looks like a nemesis to replace Daffy Duck for Speedy Gonzales, which would have made more sense and no doubt would have a suitable Mel Blanc voice-Tasmanin Devil’s… I agree that the resemblance is real strong..but now the studio wasn’t just spoofing their own movies (“Bunny and Claude” in fall ’68” which did make it to two shorts) but now 20th Century Fox (“Butch Catsidy”, who could work either with established characters like Speedy or with new “prey” characters).Thanks for sharing.

    • Scooby-Doo was more of a whodunnit mixed with cheesy horror, and whodunnits were indeed on the road to becoming popular again, peaking around the 70s with the Peter Ustinov/Agatha Christie movies. Detective shows are a decidedly different flavor. However, they would indeed make a comeback in the form of the cop show and in turn the buddy cop formula.

  • I know it’s a small pic, but somehow the ‘Keystone Kops” image makes me think it was designed by cartoonist Bill Holman (Smokey Stover)

  • I love the anti-drug films from the 60s. They always came at it from a negative angle, or as the announcer says, ‘The Disaster’ of drugs. Why would people torture themselves if the effects were always so negative? I never knew anyone who saw Frankenstein monsters in the mirror because they had a few tokes of 1960s dope. This made the film makers lose all credibility.

  • 1972

    • hey, that ad is a lot of fun! much thanks for sharing! I especially liked the dancing girl sequence.

      I felt kind of bad for that competitor car, though … he really took a beating!

  • Wow, I was wondering who did that Lockheed short. Glad to know the answer now.

    Yeah, that scene with the severed head is a nightmare fuel.

    • I wish that was in a regular Looney Tune! 😛

  • Butch Catsidy looks like an early 1960s design … a potential “Tall in the Trap” adversary if McKimson had accepted that Tedd Pierce-Bill Danch story (which went to Gene Deitch).

  • And I had hardly even noticed Jerry’s March article..posted on it as well.though.

  • Reading about the demise of WB’s animation department always makes me sad. It’s so depressing, but at least Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng and a few others managed to still meet some success after the studio giant fell.

  • I wonder if the storyboards mentioned in Hendricks’ memo survive. And do you think they had any inkling the BB-RR combined intro they were assembling would still be airing in the early-mid 80s?

  • “You may well ask that since they owned Yosemite Sam, why the heck couldn’t they just use Yosemite Sam?”
    This samew question could be applied to Rapid Rabbit & Quick Brown Fox (just replace “Yosemite Sam” with “Road Runner & Coyote”).

  • Why did they completely stop using Bugs Bunny at this point? Has anyone ever heard an answer to that?

    • Just to save money-they wanted high budget films – thankfully no features like Space Jam or Looney Tunes: Back In Action, wasting money on the athletes or others mixed with animation like in 1996 and 2003, just short films of higher budget. Also there was the issue of this, uh, Saturday morning, erstwhile prime-time television program called The Bugs Bunny(/Road Runner) Show (Hour).:)

      That was why,:)

    • Television ruined everything pretty much.

    • It was actually due to Warner Bros having enough Bugs Bunny shorts to run on TV. They didn’t need to make more as they already fit their quota on the amount of shorts needed to be produced in order to make a show around him. They, however, didn’t have enough Speedy Gonzales, Daffy Duck and Road Runner cartoons at that time to make a show around them. They were also some of the most popular cartoon characters at that time, which is why we ONLY got those shorts in the Depatie Freeling era.

  • Very nice article on the late ’60s version of Warner Bros. Animation, Mike! (Big fan of your work too.)

    I remember Filmation’s cheesy “Daffy Duck and Porky Pig Meet the Groovie Goolies” from 1972 had a heavy Warner/Seven Arts look and feel to it (a few of the same animators like La Verne Harding worked on it, too.)

    At least Butch Catsidy would’ve made a better foe for Speedy than Daffy Duck did…

  • The plymouth win over beat road runner in 1967 warner bros.-seven arts,inc made for Chrysler Plymouth

  • Supersnooper looks like Roland from DePatie-Freleng’s Roland & Ratfink.

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Bunny & Claude,Cool Cat, or Merlin the Magic Mouse appeared in a future Looney Tunes series.

    I wonder if Fearless Fosdick would have appeared in the Li’l Abner cartoon series.

    • I could see Bunny and Claude appearing in a new episode of “Wabbit!” But since Pat Woodell recently passed on, I wonder who’d voice Bunny? I imagine Grey Griffin or Kath Soucie could pull it off, while Jeff Bergman would probably voice Claude and the Sheriff (With the latter, Mel Blanc basically used the same voice as Foghorn Leghorn!)

    • Great Idea Andrew Kieswetter, you can send a Email to Warner Bros Animation Studio to bring Cool Cat, Merlin the Magic Mouse and Bunny and Claude back to Looney Tunes for the New Looney Tunes Series and even Wabbit! We are not showing Daffy and Speedy for Warner, We are showing Cool Cat, Merlin the Magic Mouse and Bunny and Claude for Warner! Daffy and Speedy are the Worst Looney Tunes Cartoons Ever! Because it has a bad run!

  • Someone has posted the bumpers and openings to the Road Runner Show.

  • Let us not forget the time Coyote and Roader Runner were on the original ELECTRIC COMPANY (there was a reboot in 2009 mind you), where they were created by Chuck Jones at his organization, Chuck Jones Enterprises.

  • Heh, regarding “Puff the Magic Dragon,” I imagine Peter Yarrow would’ve been involved with that one rather than Paul Stookey, given his involvement with the 1978-82 TV specials made by Murakami-Wolf-Swenson for CBS. He probably would’ve done at least one character voice (he voiced Jackie Draper’s father in the 1978 special and a couple other characters) and would’ve composed the music score, like Paul Stookey did for “Norman Normal,” but it probably would’ve contractually credited to Bill Lava anyways.

  • Wait! That’s not all folks! After snooping around, I found EVEN MORE of those pitch boards! I put em all in a Google Drive folder here:

    Of note, this includes the original pitch boards for Chimp and Zee, Flying Circus, and Quick Brown Fox and Rapi-I mean, JACK Rabbit, alongside the pitch boards seem here, and new pitches for such “brilliant” subjects like:

    – Spin-offs for the Feudin’ Mountain Boys from Merlin and Spooky from Cool Cat, the latter of which is teamed up with a boy named… get this… BUDDY. Cue the dramatic lightning.
    – Similarly, Paddy O. the Leprechaun, who was set to debut in a Speedy/Daffy cartoon. Yes, they were gonna bring those back. Dramatic lightning again.
    – Lost Atlantis, an action series totally unlike everything else 7A was planning, but a lot like Jonny Quest and Sealab 2020…
    – Time Train, whose own pitch description keeps calling it “Space Train”. This is why we proofread.
    – The aforementioned Super Snooper, who was actually gonna be a spy parody.
    – Lovey Doveys, a more “mature” cartoon in the vein of Norman Normal, but with more boomer-style wife jokes.
    – The Villain Still Pursues Her(actual title), which is LITERALLY just Dudley Do-Right. But with less Canada. So, worse.
    – Innocents Abroad, a live action/animation special crossing Tom Sawyer with… Merlin the Magic Mouse
    – Toyland, which sounds like a crappy sappy mid 30’s one-shot, and The Big Top, which sounds like a semi promising Avery-style one-shot. Both of these were supposed to be series.
    – Lo the Poor Indian, which… just imagine all the Native American jokes of Hocus Pocus Powwow and Injun Trouble… for an entire series.
    – Jeanie the Genius, which sounds like a mix between Little Lulu and a prototype Dexter’s Lab
    – And I’ve saved the worst for last… Way Out West, which is a traditional western, but the characters all speak “now-type talk” e.g. then-modern slang, and ride motorcycles instead of horses. Sheesh, and I thought Cool Cat was dated.

    Click the link to see that I’m not making any of this up, and while you’re at it, take a gander at “Hobo Bo” or “Steamboat Phil”. The uncovered history is more fascinating than any cartoons that would have been made with these bozos.

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