Friday, February 16, 2007

From ASIFA's Archive -- Bob Clampett's Swimming Pool

Since we're big boosters of ASIFA's Animation Archive, what better time to link to their blog of treasures than this holiday weekend? Featuring Bob Clampett's swimming pool?

(The picture to the left comes from a February 1962 TV Guide, when "Beanie and Cecil" was in full swing at Snowball Productions and being broadcast -- if memory serves -- on ABC. Bob is shown in the H20 with his four-year-old son Bob, Jr. and his wife Sody.)

Bob C. at this time was in his late forties, and a long-time animation veteran who'd been in the biz since his teens. He'd started his career at Harmon-Ising and came to full flower at Leon Schlesinger's, which is where this short biographical piece comes from (circa 1939):

The first thing Bob Clampett said when we asked him to "tell all" was: "The story of my life to be titled, 'Failure At 26'". But let's delve into his background simply to disprove his theory.

Bob was born in San Diego. When he was two, the family moved to Hollywood. One of Bob's chief delights, when just large enough to walk and talk, was to accompany his mother to the band concerts given at an open-air park. The leader of the band wore a uniform that fascinated Bob. particularly the hat. He fashioned a baton of wood for himself, climbed the platform, and proceeded to aid the conductor throughout the entire program. Not only did Master Clampett steal each performance, but he stubbornly insisted on taking the bows afterwards!

In Eagle Rock, Bob started school, and among his first classmates was none other than Roger Daley, recently with Kats. Later, while living in Glendale, Bob joined the Junior Times. From the age of nine to twelve, he was a consistent contributor. One day, after a full page cartoon of his was published, a reporter from the Examiner came to his home and offered him a contract to study under Webb Smith and Charles Philippi, then heads of the cartoon department. This contract never expired, and was broken only when Bob decided to go into the cartoon business. At this time, he was going to Otis Art school, besides attending Glendale High, drawing cartoons, being sports editor of the school paper, and somehow finding time to usher at the Mjestic Theatre. It was during the ushering episode that Bob witnessed the first Looney Tunes, and decided that that was what he wanted to do.

Right after high school he worked in the Mickey Mouse Doll Factory, brushing off the kapok from each doll. This had to be done on a back porch. As it was then Winter, Bob developed a distaste for Mickey Mouse. Even when Roy Disney would come over to help load the dolls, and offered Bob a job, Bob decided to look elsewhere for a job. He went to Pacific Title and met Mr. Schlesinger who sent him to Mr. Katz, then production manager for Harman-Ising. After waiting 30 days, Bob received word to come into work. From inbetweener to director in five years- we leave it to you; would you say he was a failure at 26?

Bob Clampett left Warners after the war and immersed himself in television, where his puppet show Time for Beany became a major hit of early teevee. In 1959 the characters of Beany and Cecil made the transition to animation, where they became fixtures on network television for the next five years.

Mr. Clampett died at age 70 in 1984.


Jenny Lerew said...

What an incredibly neat picture. A typical Hancock Park backyard pool--w/cartoons.
If I'd seen this setup I would have thought it was heaven on earth(My own Cecil soaky was king of the toy box)

Looking closely, it seems like Bob had an ersatz Grauman's Chinese-style thing happening on the edge of the pool. Either he painted some fun whisker and ear prints himself or had his friends actually put their hand prints and sigs in there. I'm sure there are plenty of people who could tell us.

Jerry Beck said...

That pool was behind their house on Detroit Street (near Beverly). The pool was still there 15 years ago (animator Mike Kazaleh had rented that small house in the background which had been turned into a bachelor apartment). The etchings wee actually in the cement, and were still there in 1990.

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