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Happy 100th Birthday Isadore Friz Freleng!1906-1995

Around the world today a blogathon is being organized by Check out his site as well as CartoonBrew to read more about Isadore Friz Freleng. Here are some of my recollections.

-Friz was one of Walt Disney's first animators. He as one of the guys Walt brought out to Hollywood from Kansas City in 1923. But after one year he quit. He told us " The politics there were unbelievable. I never regretted leaving and never wanted to go back."

-He drove himself to work in a new white Mercedes convertable coupe with the license plate FRIZ. Once as an older man he was waiting at a light when two beautiful women crossed the street. One noticed his plate and cooed:" You're not Frizz." Freleng shyly noted that he was. The girl then smiled:" No, you're bald!"

-He was the model for Yosemite Sam. Although the basic design owes a bit to the film Ruggles of RedGap(1935), in which the Charlie Ruggles character was based on the real Colonel Samuel Colt, who in his rich old age like to fire off his sixguns in the air in restaurants and courtrooms. But many mannerisms were pure Friz. Animators copied his temper tantrum at the moviola when a scene didn't come out the way he wanted. He would put his head down, stomp his feet and growl "oooooooooohhhhhhhhh!"

-Chuck Jones loved to tell us the story how he first met the Warner Brothers, the owners of their studio. Chuck said that Sam Warner came up to him and said:" I don't what the f*ck you guys do, only that we make Mickey Mouse!" Once Chuck told me the followup to that famous line. Chuck said before he could announce his astonishment at the mans ignorance, Friz jumped in:" Yes we do, thank you." Friz saw no reason to disturb the man's happy delusion, especially if it meant the brothers Warner continued to leave the cartoon unit alone.

-I later personally saw Friz's application of realpolitick. I was with English animator James Baxter at an event for John Halas at the Motion Picture Academy. I had just introduced James to an animator who although a fellow countryman of his, was a much more boisterous character. When Friz Freleng walked up to us this man announced "LOOK TOM, IT'S WALTER LANTZ!!"
Now, my mother taught me to always respect the opinions of my elders, and at times many of the elderly bald, bottle-brush mustachioed animators looked similar, but in this case I knew that was Friz because I had served with him on numerous judging committees. I said:" You know, I do believe that is Friz Freleng". The big fellow waved off my concern. Stomping up to Friz and pumping his hand vigorously, he declared:" NAH, I'VE KNOWN HIM FOR YEARS! TOM, I'D LIKE TO MEET WALTER LANTZ, CREATOR OF WOODY WOODPECKER AND CHILLY WILLY!" And then Friz, his weltanschaung unperturbed, answered with a twinkle in his eye" How do you do." We all giggled about it afterwards.

-It's hard to pick a favorite Friz short but I love Back Alley Oproar (1948). With Sylvester getting to torture Elmer by refusing to let him sleep. I also love You Oughta Be In Pictures (1940), a witty mixture of live action and animation where Porky has a contract dispute with boss Leon Schelsinger. Leon is really played by Leon, but the WB guard at the gate is storyman Ted Pierce, with his voice dubbed in by Mel Blanc.

Friz did the first Speedy Gonzales shorts. Speedy was based on a real man, animator Frank Gonzales. It seems that Warners had a daily quota of drawings you were expected to do before you could leave your desk. Frank always wanted to be the first up because he wanted to go flirt with the ink & paint girls. The other artists started calling him speedy. In 1953 the studio requested some new characters Chuck, Friz and designer Hawley Pratt came up with the design. Frank Gonzales married and had a long happy career, retiring in 1986. Although elderly and bent over, we still called him Speedy.

Birthdays: King Phillip II Augustus of France- 1165,Aubrey Beardsley, Count Basie, Wilt (Wilt the Stilt) Chamberlain, Bugs Bunny director Isadore "Friz" Freleng would be 100, Kenny Rogers, Matthew Broderick, Peter Weir is 62, Kim Catrall is 50, Carrie Anne Moss is 39

1887- Mighty (Dan) Casey struck out at his last at bat with the NY Giants. The poem was written by Ernest Thayer in 1906 and the Disney cartoon short in 1948.

1911- Ex -waiter Vincenzo Perruggia walked into the Louvre and stole the Mona Lisa. After trying to fence it for two years he tried to ransom it back. In 1913 he was arrested and the painting recovered.

1929-Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo marry.

1926- Pardon Us, the first comedy short featuring the new team of Laurel & Hardy. Studio head Hal Roach put the Scottish Stan Laurel and Georgia born hoofer Oliver Hardy together and they became one of the greatest comedy teams in film history.

1944- Moviestar James Cagney, star of Yankee Doodle Dandy, cleared of charges of Communism. The accusations probably had less to do with Cagney's politics and more to do with his union activism and his fighting in court the restrictive personal contracts studios put their stars under.

1968- RUSSIAN TANKS CRUSH THE "PRAGUE SPRING' -Soviet forces destroy Alexander Dubchek's experiment of "Socialism with a Human Face." The directors of the French Sci fi classic Fantastic Planet were having sequences animated in Prague. Because of the expense of flying they drove scenes back and forth through the border. The French director admited:" It was difficult explaining to suspicious Russian border guards exactly what an animation exposure sheet (dope sheet) was. We were stopped and searched frequently. "